HP thinks freelancers want a sturdy premium Chromebook. Okay, let’s unpack that: the computer maker cites a projection from Statista indicating 86.5 million workers — or 50.9% of the US labor force — will be juggling gigs by 2027. And because Hewlett-Packard likes to go where the wind blows, it wanted to have a spotlight product that can reliably play hard and work hard, while remaining easy to maintain and troubleshoot. Apparently, that’s all in a Chromebook — specifically, the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.
It’s the follow-up to last year’s Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, which appealed to suit-and-tie office dwellers that could afford to spend more than $1,400 on a computer that doesn’t have “Windows” or “MacBook” printed somewhere on it. The twist here is that there aren’t any real customization options in the hardware besides a choice in color of Ceramic White or Sparkling Black; it’s just one SKU, it costs $999, and that’s your lot. Simplicity. And one of the best Chromebooks you can get at this price level.
Full disclosure: HP gave me a Dragonfly Pro Chromebook unit to review in mid-February and then sent out a replacement unit that included updated hardware among other changes within the past two weeks. I'll be basing my experiences off of the latter device except in one area which I'll touch upon when we get there.
The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook might share part of its name with last year's Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, but it has come with a change in dress code from formal to business-casual. Unlike its kinda-predecessor, it goes with one well-equipped SKU with a 12th-gen Intel Core i5 and 16GB of RAM for a price of $999, beating even the Core i3 Elite Dragonfly with 8GB of RAM by $250. It's a well-built machine with streamlined looks, a classy RGB-backlit keyboard, and a super-bright display. ChromeOS acts as the biggest wild card here — it's grown up with a determination to be more useful to every sort of Mac and PC user, but the overall experience can still leave a lot to be desired for some. At the end of the day, we're pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable of a Chromebook this is.
- Brand: HP
- Color: Ceramic White, Sparkling Black
- Storage: 256GB NVMe
- CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U (Up to 3.67GHz, 2 + 8 cores)
- Memory: 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- Operating System: ChromeOS
- Battery: 4-cell 51.3Wh w/ 96W adapter
- Ports: 4 × USB-C (USB4, Thunderbolt 4)
- Camera: 8MP webcam
- Display (Size, Resolution): 14" 2560 × 1600 touch LCD, up to 1,200 nits
- Weight: 3.33 lbs
- GPU: Intel Iris Xᵉ Graphics
- Auto Update Expiration (AUE): June 2030
- Form: Laptop
- Dimension: 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.7 in
- Network: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
- Speakers: Bang & Olufsen quad speakers (up- and down-firing pairs)
- Price: $999
- Board: Brya
- Model: 7Y645UA, 7Y649UA
- Finish: Magnesium alloy base, aluminum cover
- 1,200-nit display can outdo sunlight
- Bang & Olufsen speakers deliver on power
- Ventless cooling design that's effective
- Thunderbolt 4 all the way
- Built to last and with recycled materials
- The display's got poor viewing angles
- RGB keyboard is wanting of a few more colors
- Fan can be a little loud at full bore
- ChromeOS might not have the apps you want
- Battery life isn't as long as we'd like
Price and availability
The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is available as of press time direct from HP in Ceramic White and Sparkling Black for $999. It'll also be coming to other retailers and enterprise distributors shortly.
At this price point, you'll find its contemporaries in the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition, a similarly performant machine that focuses on modularity, repairability, and sustainability, and the more conventional, perhaps underwhelming, but super-versatile Asus Chromebook Flip CX3. We think HP's entry definitely beats the others in terms of industrial design and is highly competitive on the media and performance fronts.
Design, hardware, and what's in the box
The Dragonfly Pro’s streamlined, understated looks shouldn’t be mistaken for plainness or laziness on the part of HP’s designers. The base is made of a magnesium alloy while the aluminum-based cover and keyboard frame surfaces have been given a matte treatment — sliding your fingers across it produces a nice, frictive feel and lends substance to its mass at 3.33 lbs (1.51 kg). The company claims 65% of the build’s metallic content and 15% of the plastic in the keycaps, speaker box, and battery come from recycled sources. In my eyes and hands, I wouldn’t have been able to tell.
I’m most impressed by this laptop’s speakers. There are four total with a stereo pair of tweeters firing on high and a couple of woofers taking the low road. Bang & Olufsen was responsible for tuning the audio and the results have been superbly rich with a wide soundstage and lots of headroom for loudness without overwhelming distortion. They’re definitely drivers worth rocking — just don’t be surprised if you receive a noise complaint from your neighbor.
All four USB-C ports are up to USB 4.0 standards and support Thunderbolt 4, so it’s more than ready for your display docks. Plus, because there are two on each side, you won’t need to worry about your charging cable having to snake around to the other end of the laptop. If you’re still using your trusty old accessories with full USB jacks or want a microSD card slot, you might not love this setup. At least there’s no need to complain about the lack of ports.
Unfortunately, we’re stuck with last year’s Intel Core i5-1235U as its processor. Thankfully, it’s nowhere near mediocre with 10 cores, a base power rating of 15W, and a turbo rating of 55W with clock speeds reaching 3.67GHz — a lower maximum setting than the manufacturer-prescribed 4.4GHz. Paired with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 256GB SSD, however, it’s still plenty zippy for a $999 Chromebook. I also feel the need to point out that 2022’s Elite Dragonfly had 12th-gen Core i3 configurations and they started at $1,149. I guess that’s the difference a year can make.
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 are both supported on the Dragonfly Pro. There will be a future release that’s cellular-capable via eSIM, but we don’t know when exactly we’ll hear about it. My main review unit had a T-Mobile eSIM installed, but I could not access a network connection with it. Weirdly enough, HP has integrated the Titan M.2 security chip featured on Google’s Pixel 6 and 7 series — you’ll learn more about a couple other Google touches further on.
Other than the laptop and some documentation, the box also holds a 96W gallium nitride (GaN) power adapter and a 6-foot USB-C to USB-C cable. I have a similarly-sized 48W charging block from a few years ago lying somewhere at home, so that just shows you how much of an impact the integration of GaN has made.
Touchscreen, keyboard, and trackpad
The touch display is what I’d call in the “good-to-great” range. It’s a 14-inch 2560x1600 LCD panel and while it does serve up pedestrian HDR alright, there are no special color gamuts at play. The highlight is how mighty bright its backlight can be: at a maximum typical brightness of 1,200 nits, you can blind your eyes pretty quickly. I spent most of my time with the laptop indoors between 30% and 50%, but it fared quite well at higher levels in a sun-drenched apartment lobby. Sadly, my New England winter has brought the bulk of its brutal cold and snow late this season, so I haven’t had a proper spin with it outside where solar rays have their full effect.
That said, the viewing cone on this screen is pretty small. Perceived luminance drops off a cliff starting at about 5° off center with a floor at around 15°. You might need to be conscious of your lid’s tilt as you adjust your brightness settings. This isn’t a convertible or a 360° device, by the way — the screen’s tilt maxes out at around 135° and the force needed to lift the lid from its closed position is surprisingly more than I’d thought. The “touch” part of the display should behave as you’d expect it to for up to 10 simultaneous touch points.
Right above the display is the webcam and HP has taken great pains to promote it as the first 8MP webcam on a ChromeOS laptop. The company says it has worked with Google to optimize image and video quality. I’m not entirely sure that translates through to others in a video call where you might be seen waving from a tiny box in a large array.
If you’re more concerned about one-one-one chats, you’re definitely getting proper detail that you wouldn’t at, say, 5MP, and the color representation is accurate. Yay for Google on this one.
It feels like a lot of press took the juxtaposition of an RGB backlit keyboard on a Chromebook (another Google-HP collaboration) that’s supposedly not explicitly meant for gamers as headline bait during the initial publicity run at CES. In reality, the keyboard is just a bit under-equipped to be full-blown customizable: you’ve got options for white, red, a yellow-ish orange, green, turquoise, blue, purple, and a rainbow gradient featuring every color but white and turquoise. You can also set the backlight’s color to match the prevailing color of your wallpaper in ChromeOS’s Personalization Hub, but don’t expect to gain any nuance in your QWERTY-dom with this trick. I put up a pink wallpaper and the keyboard came up with white. As to whether it’s comfortable to type with, it is. The key pitch is a standard 19mm and the chiclets give my fingers a nice bounce to keep the momentum up. Good keyboard, would type again.
Next to the power button in the top-right corner is the fingerprint sensor and it doles out pretty snappy reads. HP has confirmed to me that users will only be able to authenticate with a fingerprint read when they unlock the device and not during an initial login from a cold boot, restart, or logout. I expect to hear more on why this is the case and, if I do, you’ll see an update to this review. However, in adding to my overall judgment on this Chromebook for now, I have to give it a knock as other Chromebooks with fingerprint sensors do allow you to login with a quick scan.
The Dragonfly Pro features a generously-sized trackpad with haptic feedback. This is not the haptic trackpad that was on HP’s Elite Dragonfly Chromebook (see a review from our sister site XDA-Developers for more details on that) — pushing down on this pad does actuate a switch to register a click. The pad gives a reassuring buzz when you're docking windows on your workspace, but it's not like 3D Touch on an iPhone. There’s also the option to tap to click, but, sadly, no hotkey to disable the trackpad if you’re using a mouse instead. If you’re like me, you’re definitely missing out on that key. But otherwise, it's a decent trackpad with some brownie points.
Software, performance, and battery life
Forgive the soapbox, but I think ChromeOS has simply not been in a hurry to grow up. From its birth, it’s always filled needs that were worthy of serving — in most cases, primarily as a portal to WolframAlpha for grade-schoolers. I’ve been told in the past and while reviewing this device that paying more than $500 for a Chromebook is just wrong. If you need the productivity tools without the fuss, you’ll probably go where your boss tells you to go. If you’re enough of a nerd with the right priorities, you’ll know to pick an actual Linux distro. And if you’re gaming, you’ll end up buying a console or building your own rig.
ChromeOS wants to become the jack of all trades that macOS and Windows are. But when the realization only comes after a world-changing pandemic and the fallout from it, no change can feel like it can come fast enough. Even as new programs like LumaFusion and Photoshop on the Web and use cases such as cloud gaming come into the fold, the result is that people are hopping between web apps, Android apps, and Linux apps with some unease. Discovery, installation, and operation — especially with certain Android and Linux apps — can take a lot of arm grease and smooth sailing isn’t guaranteed.
Score on battery
Score on AC
Geekbench 6 for Android
1,649 / 5,106
1,671 / 5,090
I was able to do a bang-up job editing a simple podcast with Audacity for Linux, but I sure did miss using Adobe Audition’s more familiar controls all along the way and it took more time for me to get a show out. The program also flashed random white boxes at me sometimes, putting me on pins and needles waiting for a crash (that never came). Hanging out with my Discord friends in voice chat took a little finagling once I realized that the Android and Debian apps didn’t have a way to interact with my audio gear — I wish I realized the browser client worked as nicely as it does earlier on.
2D games like Moonlighter and Omori on Steam, even still in beta, run nicely without even so much as a single hitch. But as ChromeOS continues to run on machines without a discrete GPU, there’s only so much more you can expect. One of my favorite 3D co-ops, Deep Rock Galactic, can be streamed on Xbox Game Pass at decent quality and low latency, but it requires a controller to play on that platform and I’m just no good at using one for this game. I was able to get the Steam version of Deep Rock running, but it was a pretty miserable experience. Everything from installation to the painfully lengthy wait during the initial start-up to the visual murder that passed my eyes as I had to down-spec every graphical setting felt insufferable… and I still ended up freezing out of the game mid-mission. And that was on my first review device — the second one never even made it to the start screen and I don’t know why.
That might have been asking for too much out of this spec set and not every distribution platform or game will constrict you in the ways I’ve illustrated. But if you’ve got triple-A games spread across Epic, 2K, GeForce Now, and the rest, you’d be wondering if this machine would let you play them. All I can say at this point is that your mileage may vary and that’s not all the hardware’s fault.
I will give credit to ChromeOS for Phone Hub. As someone whose work is centered around Android phones, being able to pass along screenshots to the Dragonfly Pro is incredibly helpful. In theory, having my phone’s notifications also come through is great. In actuality, when I try to delete a message in Gmail right from the notification, it takes a moment of looking like it’s doing absolutely nothing before it actually happens. It’s not perfect, but I’m glad to have the hub nonetheless.
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Google’s prescribed power load test for Chromebooks, which tends to produce inflated battery life ratings. In my personal experience with the screen staying below 50% brightness, a wireless mouse constantly connected, and switching between the speakers and wireless earbuds, I end up in the ballpark of 6 to 7 hours when it comes to text entry, web browsing, binging YouTube, and some light gaming. Heavier tasks can bring it down to either side of 3 hours. That’s the bad news; the good news, and I can verify this, is that it only takes half an hour to get from zero to 50% with the included charger and the device staying off. But the big picture on endurance is that it might get you through a full day off the wall plus a little overtime with a snack or power nap.
To my surprise, I did have a couple of points where the device’s single fan would spool up in lighter testing. Of course, it ran faster and a little loud as I drove the machine crazy. In addition to the fan, the ventless Dragonfly Pro relies on a copper vapor chamber as a heat sink and a lower lining of graphite to insulate the heat from the user’s lap. For me, it got about as warm as a down comforter (feet out, if you need to know) after a long night, but not much more than that.
One particularly unfortunate bummer is that because the Dragonfly Pro is running a board from last year, ChromeOS’s automatic updates are set to expire in June of 2030, the same as other Chromebooks running 12th-gen Intel Core processors released last year.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that HP offers a free year of its 24/7 Pro Live service. With it, you can type or call into HP’s dedicated call center and ask questions about whatever problem you may have with your Dragonfly Pro (either Windows or ChromeOS flavor), no matter how big or small it is. There’s also the option to subscribe to Care Pack for $11 per month which provides coverage against accidental damage once every year for three years plus the expanded customer support after year one. I made a call to 24/7 Pro Live to ask about the fingerprint sensor issue I mentioned above, the customer rep ended up telling me that this was the intended behavior, and the company's PR later confirmed this.
Should you buy it?
I’m still not sure if ChromeOS is tailored to fit a $999 device profile.
I have to say ChromeOS is the most capable it has ever been. The kind of person that enjoys such an operating system, though, would require a sense of adventure to find software that they can get along with. And even with a 256GB SSD, that makes for pretty light living, so you do have to nestle one of your limbs firmly into the cloud to make this lifestyle work. That or purchase a bunch of portable drives, depending on what you’re doing. Still, this platform is coming out of its chrysalis and that’s an achievement Google can be proud of. The thing is, most people want their wings sooner rather than later.
The HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook was made with a lot of care (the engineers told me how much) and is definitely an enjoyable computer. It types well, it screens decently, and it sounds magnificent. And as a freelancer who’s got a grip on technology — this product’s target audience, I remind you — it most certainly intrigues me. But at $999, this is a serious investment into something that I expect to serve me over five extremely active years at the very least. If this was a Windows machine (and HP is selling the Dragonfly Pro with Windows, too), and it came with even a low-end Nvidia graphics card, I’d definitely tell you to buy it, full stop. With ChromeOS in particular, it’ll take more of a commitment. That will scare a lot of people off, no doubt, but I think there are plenty of explorers who are ready and willing to try something (and a lot of subsequent things) new.
For those brave peeps out there that are ready to grow with ChromeOS into the Dragonfly Pro, this isn't just going to be a workhorse, but a shining stallion worthy of a long journey.