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HP's Dragonfly Points the Way to the Laptop Future

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This week HP launched its Intel-based Dragonfly laptop, and it is a pretty amazing product. Husbanded by Andy Rhodes, who is a bit of a legend in the industry and left Dell to join HP around a year ago, it represents the closest thing to a no-compromise product, in my opinion, currently on the market. It is in the 13” class in terms of screen size but falls closer to a 12” laptop in terms of physical size and weighs in around 2.2 pounds making it one of the lightest laptops in the segment.

It has several optional and standard features that I think will define the next generation of laptops and, given it represents our near-term future, I thought it would be interesting to cover it this week.

1,000 Nits

One of the features I expect to be more common is a high nit screen. A typical laptop has around 350 Nits (this refers to the amount of light the screen puts out), and with anti-reflective coating you can painfully use it outdoors. But when you build a laptop designed to work outdoors, like the ones used by the military, the requirement jumps to 850 nits or better.

Millennials seem to want to work outdoors, and I think they’ll drive this interest into other age groups. Besides, the high nit screen comes with HP’s privacy feature. This electronic option allows you to electronically keep those sitting next to you from seeing what is on your screen, but it hurts our ability to see the screen that the high nit screen easily overcomes. With the high focus on privacy coupled with the desire to work outdoors I believe we’ll see a lot more of these high nit screens on products going forward.

24 Hour Battery Life

With the optional extended battery, this laptop will get up to 24 hours of battery life. These measurements are typically optimistic, but you should certainly get up to two days realistically which means you can leave your charger in your hotel room when traveling and not be one of the poor saps hunting for a plug while in meetings.

This larger optional battery is especially important if you want to work outdoors because they generally don’t put plugs in lawns or on picnic tables. Granted that high nit screen will pull down battery life but with hours of extra time you should still be able to spend more than full day working outdoors without going into a battery panic.

Surveys I’ve seen indicate that people seem to be valuing battery life over performance and that this has become a positive product differentiator so, I expect, we’ll see a lot more people demanding this kind of extreme battery life from their laptops.

Leather/Magnesium

One of the materials that HP pioneered is leather on a laptop. While this laptop instead has a unique and surprisingly attractive Blue-Black finish that repels dirt and feels kind of alien, it does come with a leather sleeve that makes the laptop far easier to carry and feels good in the hand. The Dragonfly also uses a magnesium alloy frame which helps make it very light while allowing it to pass Military Specification durability tests. I think we are going to see more of this use of natural finishes on the outside of laptops and Magnesium and Titanium increasingly used for frames to increase the robustness of laptops and to make them more comfortable to carry.

Wi-Fi 6 and WAN

Now while this laptop doesn’t have 5G yet, it does have a 4G WAN option, and it supports Wi-Fi 6 which allows for far more loading on the network and faster data speeds. Combined these technologies provide a more secure way to connect, and the 4G connection assures you can always get online when in the range of a 4G cell tower. I expect this to move to 5G with the next generation and both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G provide wireline levels of performance-critical if you want to load large files (think movies) between flights which many of us increasingly do. But the WAN connection is also more secure, and I know an increasing number of companies are talking about turning Wi-Fi off to prevent hackers from breaking into systems through rogue Wi-Fi hotspots suggesting WAN will become a must-have in the coming years.

Wrapping Up: Laptop Future

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that laptop uses want their product to be portable and to be able to use their chosen laptop outdoors. This outdoor emerging requirement means high nit screens, longer battery life, and WAN connections which are all in this cutting-edge Dragonfly offering. Natural materials are advancing because this makes the product easier to carry, and it just feels richer.

There is one other thing that the product has that I also think is going to become far more common, and that is a fingerprint-resistant finish. Now if the Industry could just come up with a better fingerprint-resistant touchscreen.

In the end, though this new Dragonfly product represents what may be the future of laptops and is worth checking out.

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