HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook Review: Worth Every Penny
And it's a lot of pennies. But the Dragonfly Pro is now the premium Chromebook to beat.
Matt ElliottSenior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Many Chromebooks are small and plastic and low cost. The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook isn't like most Chromebooks. This 14-inch machine is among a rare breed of higher-end Chromebooks that also includes the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 and the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. It's most similar to the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook we reviewed a year ago, losing some of the enterprise features for a slightly lower price. And I mean slightly: The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is $1,000. It's too spendy for most consumers looking to pick up a Chromebook as a cheap alternative to a Windows laptop or MacBook. It makes more sense for its target audience of always-connected freelancers and contract workers who'll use it day in and day out.
The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook boasts the same stellar chassis and awesome haptic touchpad as its enterprise predecessor, along with a slightly larger, 14-inch display with a finer 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution that's rated for an incredibly bright 1,200 nits. HP also outfits the system with an 8-megapixel camera, which it says is a first for a Chromebook. It all adds up to one of the best Chromebooks we've ever reviewed and a fantastic ChromeOS experience. The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook won a CNET Innovation Award last year, and this year's Dragonfly Pro Chromebook wins our Editors' Choice Award.
Dragonfly Pro Chromebook specs
Price as reviewed
14-inch, 2,560x1,600 IPS, 1,200 nits
Intel Core i5-1235U
16GB LPDDR5 5,200MHz RAM
256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (2x2) and Bluetooth 5.3
Android 11 Chrome OS 113.0.5672.134
The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is still the best Chromebook for most buyers, but the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is worth the added cost if you want the best among Chromebooks and are willing to spend a premium to get it. After all, a $1,000 Chromebook is still relatively affordable in the larger laptop category, especially for a top-of-the-line model.
HP sells one, and only one, model of the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. It checks in at $1,000 and features an Intel Core i5-1235U processor, a generous-for-a-Chromebook 16GB of RAM and a spacious-for-a-Chromebook 256GB SSD. The Core i5-1235U chip is from Intel's previous 12th-gen chip series, with two performance cores and eight efficiency cores. It's a member of the U-series of 15-watt chips that prioritizes efficiency over power. The only choice you have when buying the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is choosing the color: black or white. My review sample was black. The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook isn't available in the UK or Australia. In both regions, you'll find only Windows-based Dragonfly laptops.
The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook performed well on our ChromeOS benchmarks. It finished tops among a group of premium Chromebooks based on Core i3 or Core i5 processors on our 3DMark test, while finishing behind only the gaming-focused Acer Chromebook 516 GE on Google Octane 2. It also lasted more than eight hours and 30 minutes on our demanding battery drain test, a span that trailed only the exceptionally long runtime of the Acer Chromebook 714.
In anecdotal testing, it felt peppy during a variety of multitasking scenarios. I wish it had a CPU from Intel's current, 13th generation of Core chips. But the previous-gen Core i5 CPU, alongside an ample 16GB of RAM, gives the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook more than enough muscle to power Google's lightweight ChromeOS and the gazillion Chrome browser tabs you're likely to leave open.
The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook looks more like a premium laptop than the typical Chromebook does, and for good reason. It features the same magnesium-and-aluminum enclosure as its Windows doppelgänger, the HP Dragonfly Pro. It's a gorgeous, matte-black affair. The lid, keyboard deck and bottom panel all have a matte-black finish with a keyboard to match. It's minimalist and beautiful. And it feels very sturdy -- much more rigid than the typical Chromebook -- and features a display hinge that feels both strong and smooth. I haven't come across a Chromebook with a better fit and finish.
The design is unmatched, but the sturdy chassis requires you to tote around some extra weight. The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook weighs 3.4 pounds, which is heavier than the 14-inch Acer Chromebook Spin 714 at an even 3 pounds. Meanwhile, another high-style Chromebook, the slightly smaller 13.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, is a hair under 3 pounds.
Along with the premium design, the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook delivers a premium display that's crisp, spacious and bright. It's a 14-inch panel with a tall 16:10 aspect ratio that makes it feel roomier than a traditional widescreen 16:9 display. And with a 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution, text looks exceedingly crisp, and images look exceptionally sharp, with accurate color.
The display is also insanely bright. HP says it's rated for a jaw-dropping 1,200 nits of brightness. That's three or four times as bright as the usual 300- or 400-nit display of most Chromebooks or laptops. In my own testing with a lux meter, I measured a peak brightness of 950 nits, which falls short of HP's estimate but is still an impressive figure. It was viewable in direct sunlight, and even the touchscreen's glossy coating wasn't too reflective, making outdoor computing a viable option. Despite offering pen support for the touch display, the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook doesn't come with a pen.
The keyboard is marvelous. The flat keys offer a firm response with shallow-but-not-too-shallow travel and are quiet when pressed. A flimsy, clacky Chromebook keyboard it is not. The typing experience is aided by the rigid chassis, which didn't offer even a hint of flex under the fingertips of a heavy typist like this reviewer.
I would've given the keyboard top marks without the surprising and fun inclusion of RGB lighting. It's not per-key or even multiple-zone RGB lighting like you get with a gaming laptop, but the single-zone RGB lighting allows you to customize the look of the otherwise monochrome and matte black Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. And you can set the RGB lighting to match the color of the wallpaper you chose for the display, which really dials in the Chromebook's look.
The touchpad is also best in class. It's the haptic touchpad we first experienced on the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, and it's awesome. The haptic feedback creates the perfect click response no matter where you press on the touchpad. I hope haptic touchpads become a larger trend because I want all laptop and Chromebook touchpads to feel like this one.
The good times keep rolling with the webcam. It's an 8-megapixel camera that produces a razor-sharp image that's well balanced. I've not encountered a better webcam. If you spend a large chunk of your work week working remotely and on Zoom calls, then you'll appreciate looking crisp and clear on videoconferences with your boss, co-workers or clients. It isn't an IR camera, however, so you can't use facial recognition for easy, secure logins. Still, there's a fingerprint reader next to the power button at the top-right of the keyboard that allows you to log in without needing to key in a password.
HP found room for quad speakers on the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, and they deliver rich, full sound. This is one of the few laptops and the first Chromebook on which I've been able to listen to music and not turn it off after half a song. The bass response won't blow you away, but I could detect some bass, while the mid and high tones remained separate and clear.
The port selection is minimal. You get a quartet of Thunderbolt 4 ports -- two on each side -- and nothing more. You'll need to carry an adapter with you for connecting to HDMI or Ethernet or an older USB Type-A device. The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook charges via one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports. The system's luxurious design extends to the charger. It features a small, square power brick and a braided cable that resists getting twisted or knotted. And it weighs a scant 0.6 pounds, which helps mitigate the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook's slightly heavy weight for a 14-inch laptop.
A $1,000 Chromebook defeats the purpose of buying a Chromebook for many people who view such a purchase as a way to obtain a low-cost laptop. If you spend the majority, if not the entirety, of your day working via Gmail and Google Drive inside the Chrome browser, however, then the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook will hold great appeal. Instead of working on an undersized, flimsy Chromebook, the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook lets you spend each day sitting at a meticulously designed system with a gorgeous display; a fantastic keyboard and touchpad; an unmatched webcam; and ample power and battery life. It's pricey, but it's worth every penny.