It’s tough to craft a business-class notebook for executives that pleases everyone. You need to keep the looks stylish so you’re not that guy when you’re working out of a Starbucks yet veer away from any flourishes that might be viewed as unprofessional or less than appropriate for the boardroom.
Portability and performance are key, as is battery life – goals that seem to be at odds with each other. Striking the balance is an elite set of premium, enterprise notebooks like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the Dell XPS 13 Plus and HP’s latest Dragonfly G4, the 13th Gen Core i7/32GB memory variant ( ₹2,36,494) of which is in for review. Like its peers, the Dragonfly G4 commands a steep price of admission, but what’s it like to use on the daily and more importantly, is the premium justified?
Clad in a silver or the grayish blue ‘slate blue’ chassis, the Dragonfly G4 is an exercise in understated design, with clean lines and subtle HP branding coupled with the magnesium/aluminum body lending a premium yet mature air to the device. At 0.99kg, it’s lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air and Dell’s XPS 13 Plus and the rounded corners make it comfortable to hold and carry. You will have to contend with smudges on account of the matte finish on the lid and body.
Even though it’s thin and light, the lid and the base exhibited minimum flex and the build felt sturdy in use - HP puts the Dragonfly G4 through 19 durability tests for common environmental conditions like shock, vibration and strong temperature variations, so it needn’t be babied around.
What I found even more impressive was the assortment of ports on the G4 – a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port on each side, an HDMI port and a headphone jack, plus a full-sized USB 3.2 Type-A port inside a drop-down hinge. Power is via a USB-C, so even less reason to carry a bunch of adapters and dongles around everywhere. There’s even a nano SIM slot for on-the-go 5G connectivity, and it’s a surprise more laptops haven’t joined this bandwagon.
Inside, HP packs in a 13.5-inch, 1920 x 1280-pixel resolution display for the unit we tested, and there’s a model with a higher resolution (3000 x 2000 pixel) OLED panel which will be pricier. We’ve seen many productivity laptops shift to the taller 3:2 aspect ratio (instead of the widescreen 16:9) for more vertical real estate in the browser, spreadsheets and word documents, and while the G4 is no different, it does well with the skinny side bezels to fit this screen into a form factor this compact.
The screen on the laptop is vivid, sharp and rated up to 1000 nits of brightness - it does well even for darker scenes while watching HDR content on Netflix or YouTube. Four speakers – two top- and two bottom-firing speakers tuned with Bang & Olufsen – are loud and sharp, if a little lacking in bass, and round out a capable media consumption package. For a productivity-focused laptop for enterprises, the Dragonfly G4 is no slouch while using it to watch content.
Getting the keyboard right is crucial in thin-and-light laptops, as I’ve seen far too many (including Apple laptops of the past) compromise on the typing experience in favor of thickness. On the G4, the keys are well spaced out and large with sufficient key travel, and my only complaints were with the tiny function row at the top and the use of half height cursor up/down keys stacked in between full-size left and right keys. The buttonless touchpad is rather roomy as well, and the glass surface was great for Windows 11 gestures.
Now, one doesn’t realize improvements on webcams on laptops, but the number of times friends and colleagues observed how much better the video was on my end on Zoom calls tells me HP’s 5-megapixel webcam is doing a lot right. There are a lot of software enhancements HP applies on video calls, many of them genuinely useful. For instance, if you have a separate webcam plugged in, you can enable face tracking to let the laptop decide which one you’re looking at and auto select that camera.
Another neat feature is keystone correction, which crops or straightens an off-center/crooked view of a whiteboard or a notebook/document on your desk – much like how a projector can correct its image on the wall even if it is not placed dead center. There’s also provision to adjust your video if there’s a strong backlight, or you’re taking a call in a darkened, dimly lit room, and both work as advertised. HP also has an all-encompassing security suite (HP Wolf Security) that has a bunch of security features, plus an app for fine-grained power/battery management.
Using the Dragonfly G4 for everyday tasks that are to form its core use cases – PowerPoint, Excel, email, video calls and a lot of web browsing, the laptop didn’t show any signs of letting up, although there were times where the performance on the Core i7-1365U felt a tad held back to keep the laptop fans from firing up and making a lot of noise. That’s not going to impress performance nerds, but I actually think that’s a wise product decision for something that’s going to live its live on office desks and meeting rooms.
Also, with its Intel Iris Xe graphics, this is not ideal for gaming or graphics heavy software, although it can handle casual games. No first-person shooters or graphics heavy workloads, please. It’s also good to see HP has optimized the laptop performance to eke out more battery life - with my mixed usage, the G4 yielded about 10-11 hours of battery on a single charge, and that is before I used the Windows/HP power management settings.
As ultraportables go, the HP Dragonfly G4 checks a lot of boxes – great display and speakers, attractive slimline design, a good keyboard and webcam, plenty of ports and all those neat little software tricks that come in handy during use. It runs quiet too, and lasts all day long, although it’s not the pick of the lot if it's raw performance you seek.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.