7 min

HP gives the Chromebook an “Elite” status. If you’re looking for a laptop at the higher end of the price spectrum, HP now gives you a Chromebook option too. What is the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook like to use in daily working life? And what is the target audience for this machine? We took this ChromeOS laptop for a spin and found out.

For a long time, Chromebooks were mainly inexpensive devices. Especially in education, they were and are very popular. Not only because of the price, but also because they are relatively easy to manage. You can “color outside the lines” much less on them than on a Windows machine.

However, a high-end Chromebook was and is a white raven. That is, they’re very rare. Google tried it with the Pixelbook, the successor to the Chromebook Pixel, which it marketed for $1,000. After about five years, the company decided to take the device to the famous Google graveyard. There it still lies.

HP wants to move into the higher end with Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Google’s failure to successfully bring a more expensive Chromebook to the market does not mean it is not possible. That is, Google is now not exactly known for its wide distribution channel for the hardware it makes. For this, just look at the Pixel phones. For a long time, those were only available in a select number of markets. The same was true of the Pixelbook.

HP, as one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world (it is in a continuous battle with Lenovo as to who is No. 1), is of a totally different caliber. This company has a huge distribution channel and can also normally always handle the market demand, no matter how big it is. In addition, it has been successfully targeting the higher end of the business market for years with its EliteBook line.

In other words, if there is one vendor that should be able to make a success of a somewhat more high-end Chromebook, it is HP. That’s what the company is trying to do with the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook. Priced at over 1600 euros (including VAT), this is also an outlier within HP’s Chromebook portfolio. The second most expensive in the company’s online store in the Netherlands costs 599 euros at the time of writing.

The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is clearly aimed at a new audience. This laptop should make Chromebooks interesting for the higher segments of organizations. Think of the C-suite, but also the layers just below. In other words, the people for which organizations have always been in the market for an “Elite” machine.

HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a true Dragonfly

To some extent, the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is similar to the Dragonfly offerings that run on Windows. The Dragonfly with ChromeOS also has a 13.5-inch panel with a 3:2 screen ratio. This is very nice as far as we are concerned, as it gives just a bit more height than 16:9 or 16:10. The Dragonfly naming also further suggests that some thought has been given to environmental impact. Laptops in this line use recycled materials.

The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a bit older and not based on the HP Elite Dragonfly G4 Windows machine body, but on the Dragonfly G3. Thus, this Chromebook does not have an OLED panel with 3000×2000 pixels like the G4, but a FullHD (1920×1280) IPS panel. Furthermore, there is a 12th-generation Intel processor in the Dragonfly Chromebook, not a 13th-generation one. A similar difference can be seen in the 6 GBs of memory: DDR4 vs. DDR5.

Hardware of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook: best Chromebook ever

The above might suggest that we are only moderately satisfied with the external features of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook. However, that is certainly not true. This is easily the best Chromebook we have ever used. The casing is of high quality. At 1.2 kilograms, it is nice and light, yet sturdy. The keyboard is of high quality. The same goes for the nice big touchpad. Unlike the “regular” Dragonfly, the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a model with a 360-degree hinge. So you can flip the screen completely.

In terms of connections, we especially like the fact that there is a Thunderbolt 4 (Type-C) connector on either side. That makes the connection options quite flexible. Charging can now take place on both sides as well. Handy, because on the go you don’t always have the option to optimally set up your physical workspace yourself. In addition to the two Type-C connectors, HP also added a USB-A connector to the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook. We also see a fullsize HDMI connector and a 3.5mm jack. Finally, there is provision for a microSD card slot and, on our test model, also a slot that can house a SIM card. The latter, by the way, is not on the only variant of the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook that HP has in its Dutch online shop.

Not unimportant to mention, by the way, is that this HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook has vPro support. This makes it the first Chromebook to have this as far as we know. For business environments, this is very important, as it gives the necessary management capabilities, among other things. In use, it is the excellent quality of the speakers and the good webcam that stand out. The way ChromeOS handles the battery also deserves praise. Whereas a Windows machine drains pretty quickly when turned off, you can put the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook away for three months with a full battery and restart it after that time with a full battery.

Software of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook: ChromeOS is not ready for business use

With the hardware, we’ve had the (very) positive side of the story. Now it’s time for the software. We can be brief about that. ChromeOS is not currently suitable for business use. There are simply too many things wrong with this operating system to recommend it.

Of most apps, only a “smartphone version” is available, which therefore does not scale on larger screens. Making a PWA of the website of these apps is often a solution, but not always. Some apps are also not suitable for Chromebooks at all, so they are not available in the app store. Also, apps do not always perform well on a Chromebook. Delays in notifications sometimes occur, for example.

The apps that run on a Chromebook also have rather sparse integration options with the native apps of ChromeOS. Consider the Box app, for example, which we use quite often. That doesn’t look pretty if you use the Android app for this anyway, because of the lack of scaling. But there is also no integration with the underlying OS. Whereas you can make Box part of the folder structure in a Windows environment, that’s not the case with ChromeOS. That means you can’t just drag and drop a file from the Box environment to the ChromeOS environment and vice versa. You have to download and move or manually upload that to Box first. And this is just one of many of these rather annoying ‘features’ of ChromeOS.

The integration between the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook and our Google Pixel 7 Pro was a bright spot on the software front. For example, you can easily unlock the Chromebook via the smartphone. In addition, it is also possible to display your full smartphone screen at the bottom right of the Chromebook’s screen. Then you can use the smartphone from the Chromebook.

Laptop for a limited target audience

The above is just one example of the workflow issues you’ll run into if you start using ChromeOS in a production environment. There is a workaround for almost everything you encounter, but that’s not what you want when you’ve just spent 1,600 euros for a high-end laptop that should make you work faster rather than slower.

The lament about the software above doesn’t mean that the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is of no interest to anyone. Organizations that are truly fully into the Google ecosystem will not be affected by most of the above. Those will almost exclusively use native Google functionality. However, one can wonder how big this market is. Furthermore, this machine may be of interest to developers. There is a Linux development environment available within ChromeOS where you can run IDEs and Linux tooling. This is not enabled by default, by the way.

In addition to a good couple of month’s experience working on the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, we also had a look here and there at the recent HP Amplify Partner Conference to discuss the success of Chromebooks in general. We spoke there with some people familiar with the matter. When asked about the penetration of ChromeOS, they immediately admitted that they see little demand for Chromebooks in our region. Of course, this is also because it is simply easier for partners to sell Windows machines. Still, it is telling that even after so many years of availability there is still not much demand. We don’t expect the expensive HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook to change this.

Mind you, at the moment HP does have other things on its mind besides Chromebooks. It’s all about AI PCs now. Now that has to be a success first, became abundantly clear at the Partner Conference in early March 2024. Be sure to read this article to get the full story on this.

Conclusion: beautiful laptop, ramshackle software

HP has a truly excellent, albeit expensive Chromebook in its lineup with the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook. The company has gone to great lengths to make it interesting for the higher echelons of organizations to get a Chromebook as well. HP could not have done much better as far as we are concerned. However, ChromeOS in general is not suitable for business use, even though it is already much better than it was in the past.

Only if an organization is 100 percent into the Google ecosystem can you consider buying Chromebooks for the people in the organization. Then everyone has to switch over immediately, because as soon as you start using something different in terms of hardware, but also software, you are going to run into issues. Especially for over 1,600 euros, you should expect more.

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