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HP Elite Dragonfly review: Luxurious, professional, expensive

Light and striking —

This is a whole new look for the Elitebook line, and it starts at $1,549.


High-end notebook computer sitting on a white table.

Valentina Palladino

There are more ultra-mobile professionals now than ever before, which is why OEMs are developing increasingly thin-and-light laptops that will appeal to those users. No one wants to add heft to their bag, regardless of whether they’re going off on a 10-hour flight or a 10-minute commute to work, thus increasing the appeal of thin-and-light laptops. But the most mobile among us will only go as thin and light as our performance needs allow us to—if a laptop isn’t powerful or efficient enough to help you get work done, its svelte characteristics won’t make up for that.

Enter the HP Elite Dragonfly two-in-one laptop, which is HP’s answer to this problem. It’s an ultra-slim laptop with a MIL-spec-tested design that weighs just 2.18 pounds, and it has the power and security features of one of HP’s Elite series laptops. HP is betting on the idea that professionals will choose the thinnest and lightest laptop possible that doesn’t compromise the performance or battery life they need to get things done regardless of their location—and that they’ll pay top dollar to get it. We spent a few days with the Elite Dragonfly convertible to see how well-designed it actually is and to see if taking thin and light to the extreme hinders any necessities.

Look and feel

Specs at a glance: HP Elite Dragonfly two-in-one laptop
As reviewed Lowest Best
Screen 13.3-inch FHD (1920×1080) touchscreen 13.3-inch FHD (1920×1080) touchscreen 13.3-inch 4K (3840×2160) touchscreen
OS Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Home Windows Pro 64
CPU Core i7-8665U Intel Core i5-8265U Core i7-8665U w/ vPro
RAM 16GB 8GB 16GB
HDD 512GB PCIe SSD 32GB Optane Memory 256GB PCIe SSD 512GB PCIe SSD 32GB Optane Memory
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 620
Networking Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 5 (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x nano SIM, 1 x lock slot, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
Size 11.98×7.78×0.63 inches (304×198×16mm)
Weight 2.5 pounds (40 ounces) 2.18 pounds (34.0 ounces) 2.5 pounds (40 ounces)
Battery 56.2Wh battery 38Wh battery 56.2Wh battery
Warranty 1 year
Extras Fingerprint reader, IR camera, optional vPro, optional LTE, TPM 2.0, absolute persistence module, power-on authentication, HP DriveLock and Automatic DriveLock, HP Sure Click, HP Secure Erase, HP Sure Start, HP Sure Run, HP Sure Recovery, HP Sure Sense, HP BIOSphere
Price $2,169 $1,549 (available at this price point soon) $2,369

HP Elite Dragonfly laptop product image

HP Elite Dragonfly laptop

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Design and durability

Being part of the Elite family, the Elite Dragonfly laptop had to adhere to certain durability and performance standards that users are accustomed to from that line. We’ll get to the performance chops in a bit, but from a design perspective, the Elite Dragonfly surprised me.

Typically, laptops that pride themselves on being thin and light above all else tend to feel only a bit more durable than a precious heirloom that your kids aren’t allowed to touch. The Elite Dragonfly feels sturdier than most laptops that I’ve used that share the same size and weight class. Measuring 16mm thick and weighing between 2.18 and 2.5 pounds, it’s an easy backpack companion, and I was happy to see that neither its chassis nor its lid flexed at all when put under pressure.

That may be due to the extra layers of magnesium used in the laptop’s keyboard area, cover, and bottom portions that reinforce its design, along with other internal structures that keep it steady and durable. The Dragonfly passed 19 MIL-STD-810G tests, and HP placed particular emphasis on testing the machine for drops, shocks, and vibrations.

Many flagship laptops aren’t MIL-spec tested, or they only pass a limited number of tests, but this type of testing is standard for HP’s Elite line. While these are not “rugged” laptops by any means, adding this level of MIL-spec durability means that you can accidentally drop this or leave it in a precarious situation and it will most likely return to you unharmed.

The Elite Dragonfly gets its name from the “dragonfly blue” finish that coats its chassis. For now, the machine is only available in this color, which will inevitably make some users scowl. It’s most similar to navy blue but with a pleasant brightness that subtly comes through whenever light hits it. Whether the blue finish speaks to you or not, it’s a welcome change from the sea of silver, barrage of black, and plethora of pink consumer electronics that dominate the market now. The entire chassis is made from magnesium, but HP also integrated post-consumer recycled plastic (including some ocean-bound plastic material) into the speaker box. That’s not something that users will be able to see with their eyes, but it’s an effort on HP’s part to be a bit more eco-friendly.

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This alleged Bitcoin scam looked a lot like a pyramid scheme

This alleged Bitcoin scam looked a lot like a pyramid scheme

The world of cryptocurrency has no shortage of imaginary investment products. Fake coins. Fake blockchain services. Fake cryptocurrency exchanges. Now five men behind a company called BitClub Network are accused of a $722 million scam that allegedly preyed on victims who thought they were investing in a pool of bitcoin mining equipment.

Federal prosecutors call the case a “high-tech” plot in the “complex world of cryptocurrency.” But it has all the hallmarks of a classic pyramid scheme, albeit with a crypto-centric conceit. Investors were invited to send BitClub Network cash, which would allow the company to buy mining equipment—machines that produce bitcoin through a process called hashing. When those machines were turned on, all would (in theory) enjoy the spoils. The company also allegedly gave rewards to existing investors in exchange for recruiting others to join. According to the complaint, the scheme began in April 2014 and continued until earlier this month.

Matthew Brent Goettsche, Jobadiah Sinclair Weeks, and Silviu Catalin Balaci are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to offer and sell unregistered securities. A fourth defendant, Joseph Frank Abel, faces only the latter charge. Another unnamed defendant remains at large. Balaci’s name was redacted from one public version of the indictment, but appeared on another.

The scheme appears to have started as a relatively modest scam and spiraled dramatically in ambition. Internal messages between the conspirators give the impression of growing glee at the ease of taking advantage of investors, referring to “building this whole model on the backs of idiots.” The men allegedly described their victims as “dumb” investors and “sheep.”

“They were not wrong,” Emin Gun Sirer, the CEO of blockchain startup Ava Labs, quipped on Twitter.

In October 2014, a few months after BitClub Network was founded, Goettsche allegedly posted about the need to “fak[e] it for the first 30 days while we get going,” instructing a co-conspirator to do some “magic” on the company’s revenue numbers. They allegedly agreed on a method of cooking the numbers that would include inconsistencies to make sure they appeared real. The tricks swiftly became more daring. Later, Goettsche allegedly suggested the company “bump up the daily mining earnings starting today by 60%.”

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Ridiculous in the right way: Unmatched: Battle of Legends

Let’s get ready to rumble —

What if Sinbad, King Arthur, Medusa, and Alice started a fight club?

Charlie Theel

Ridiculous in the right way: Unmatched: Battle of Legends

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

The full name of this game is Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume One. That last bit is important because there is more Unmatched coming. This first set allows us to answer important questions like: who would win in a fight between King Arthur and Sinbad? What if Alice ventured out of Wonderland to carve up Medusa? The matchups in this absurdist fight club are bonkers, and we’re only getting started.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Restoration Games is the noteworthy publisher that has brought us new editions of classic games like Fireball Island and Stop Thief! Those designs were given a few nips and tucks, a couple of injections of Botox, and a new wardrobe. They’re fresh, but they’re also grounded in the past, and they know how to put nostalgia to good use.

Unmatched is something a little different. It’s a re-working of 2002’s Star Wars: Epic Duels, sans license. Without the power of such a massive intellectual property behind the game, Restoration had to be bold, and it partnered with Mondo Games to create a zany melting pot of fictional matchups. The result should put a smile on the faces of even the dourest of curmudgeons. Just try to frown while playing an epic battle between the first expansion characters of Robin Hood and Big Foot in Sherwood Forest. It’s too ridiculous and too enjoyable.

But Unmatched isn’t Epic Duels. It uses the same concept of a primary fighter accompanied by a sidekick (as we see with wonderful duos like Alice paired with the Jabberwock, or Arthur with Merlin), but Unmatched has a completely different feel with its own unique tempo and mechanisms. The asymmetric decks powering each hero are more tightly designed, creating a breakneck pace for each 20-minute showdown.

While the game supports three and four player bouts, it clearly is optimized as a two-player affair that’s lean and vibrant— in stark contrast to the six-player slug-fests that dominated my Epic Duel outings.

This streamlining editorial hand can be felt in all facets of play. The new battlefield, while small, feels dynamic due to a constant push for movement. The clever restriction of drawing cards only by performing a move action—as well as linking several character abilities to maneuvering—really pushes the design into creative places. For a two-player game where you throw down attack and defense cards against a single opponent, Unmatched never feels like a mere grind to whittle away at their health.

Finding your main

I had many concerns before playing Unmatched. I already love several strong entries in this genre, and I wondered if Unmatched could find a place alongside contemporary titles such as Warhammer Underworlds or Mythic Battles: Pantheon.

Answer: I think it can. Unmatched is a unique offering that manages to pair a straightforward ruleset with legitimate depth. It’s simple enough that you can play with your 10-year old but engrossing enough to capture your gaming group’s extended interest.

There’s no deck construction here, and since each character’s abilities and cards are preset, the typical card game path of creation to competition is short-circuited. For instance, much of Warhammer Underworlds’ play occurs before the match even begins. Experimenting with new cards and combos is at the heart of the design. But Unmatched allows you to explore your small deck in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Rick and Morty. By your second play with Sinbad, you should fully understand how to harness his unique Voyage mechanism and pull off electric combos.

The asymmetry here is also gripping. Each fighter has personality and some character-specific mechanisms. Alice changes size, Medusa can turn foes to stone, Sinbad grows in strength as more voyage cards hit the discard pile, and King Arthur utilizes the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur to great effect. Each character offers much to explore with an economical rules weight.

  • Some of the ability cards.

  • Medusa and some sidekicks.

  • Alice’s kit.

  • The game’s battle arena.

Unlike its peers, this feels more like a fighting game. While other designs try to create a stripped-down version of a larger miniatures battle, Unmatched wants to give you the feel of Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom. You pick a “main” and perfect your timing. All of those twists and tricks you hope to find in your deck actually materialize because you’re not tearing down your creation and rebuilding a new one after nearly every game.

This fighting-game format, however, is also  responsible for Unmatched’s weakest spots. There’s a strong focus on timing and counter-play here. Instead of deck creation, controlling the tempo and drawing out your opponent’s strongest moves at their least advantageous time is at the very heart of this design. This is captured succinctly with the “feint” card, which is quite the mixture of brilliant and awful. It works because it’s an elegant weapon to clash over tempo but it also stumbles because it can nullify some of the strongest moments in the game.

Imagine this: you just spent the past 10 minutes carefully nurturing your hand, building up a set of power moves that includes the shining Excalibur. You’ve baited your opponent into playing one of their own feints earlier; now is the time to strike. You place Excalibur face down on the table alongside a second card from your hand to boost the damage. Then you and your opponent both flip your cards—and the corners of your mouth drop.

The problem is that every deck has three feints. Their power to undo the most dramatic of plays is frustrating, and it feels like a net negative to the game’s momentum. It works, and the game still ultimately succeeds, but a more judicious use of feint cards might have injected more vigor into the experience.

The pre-constructed nature of the decks also provides an occasional feeling that the game is actually playing you. Card draw is incredibly important, and the lack of a proper mulligan rule is a bit shocking. The abbreviated play time obscures this weakness somewhat, though.

Some players will also take issue with the sidekicks, which are presented as round plastic discs instead of full-blown miniatures. I threw side-eye at this concept initially, but it didn’t take me long at all to embrace the idea. The hero is mechanically divided from the sidekick, and this difference in presentation focuses the spotlight appropriately.

Watch out, Medusa! King Arthur's right behind you...

Enlarge / Watch out, Medusa! King Arthur’s right behind you…

The entire package is visually stunning, with some of the most effective artwork ever placed on cardboard. Even the abstracted spaces that obscure most of the board fit the overall aesthetic. (Of course, they also perfectly convey line of sight, as they’re lifted straight from Fantasy Flight’s now defunct Tannhauser miniatures board game.)

Unmatched may not have the extended life of the malleable Warhammer Underworlds or the explosive drama of Mythic Battles, but it’s a smooth game that should have wide appeal. It’s not overly random yet it’s still dramatic. It’s simple yet it doesn’t sacrifice all personality.

If you give this game a shot, you may find yourself blinking at how quickly the first match is over. So you play again, and soon “just one more” becomes your maxim. Later you will blink once more as you look at your watch and wonder where the night went in such a hurry.

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A sobering message about the future at AI’s biggest party

A sobering message about the future at AI’s biggest party

More than 13,000 artificial intelligence mavens flocked to Vancouver this week for the world’s leading academic AI conference, NeurIPS. The venue included a maze of colorful corporate booths aiming to lure recruits for projects like software that plays doctor. Google handed out free luggage scales and socks depicting the colorful bikes employees ride on its campus while IBM offered hats emblazoned with “I ❤️A👁.”

Tuesday night, Google and Uber hosted well-lubricated, over-subscribed parties. At a bleary 8:30 the next morning, one of Google’s top researchers gave a keynote with a sobering message about AI’s future.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas praised the revolutionary technique known as deep learning that has seen teams like his get phones to recognize faces and voices. He also lamented the limitations of that technology, which involves designing software called artificial neural networks that can get better at a specific task by experience or seeing labeled examples of correct answers.

“We’re kind of like the dog who caught the car,” Aguera y Arcas said. Deep learning has rapidly knocked down some longstanding challenges in AI—but doesn’t immediately seem well suited to many that remain. Problems that involve reasoning or social intelligence, such as weighing up a potential hire in the way a human would, are still out of reach, he said. “All of the models that we have learned how to train are about passing a test or winning a game with a score [but] so many things that intelligences do aren’t covered by that rubric at all,” he said.

Hours later, one of the three researchers seen as the godfathers of deep learning also pointed to the limitations of the technology he had helped bring into the world. Yoshua Bengio, director of Mila, an AI institute in Montreal, recently shared the highest prize in computing with two other researchers for starting the deep learning revolution. But he noted that the technique yields highly specialized results; a system trained to show superhuman performance at one videogame is incapable of playing any other. “We have machines that learn in a very narrow way,” Bengio said. “They need much more data to learn a task than human examples of intelligence, and they still make stupid mistakes.”

Bengio and Aguera y Arcas both urged NeurIPS attendees to think more about the biological roots of natural intelligence. Aguera y Arcas showed results from experiments in which simulated bacteria adapted to seek food and communicate through a form of artificial evolution. Bengio discussed early work on making deep learning systems flexible enough to handle situations very different from those they were trained on, and made an analogy to how humans can handle new scenarios like driving in a different city or country.

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Ars Technica’s ultimate board game gift guide, 2019 edition

Ars Technica’s ultimate board game gift guide, 2019 edition

It’s that time of year again—time to buy more board games than you possibly have time to play.

To aid you in your quest, we’ve once again updated our massive board game buyer’s guide for the year by adding new entries, pruning some old ones, and bringing things in line with our current thoughts. This isn’t necessarily a list of our favorite games of all time; it’s just a big list of games we’re recommending in 2019. The list is divided into sections that cater to different audiences, and we think there’s something here for just about everyone.

Whether you’re looking to pick up your next cardboard obsession or need a gift idea for your weird cousin who’s always going on about “efficient resource trade routes,” you’re in the right place.

Table of Contents

For fun, here’s a giant gallery of the box art for every game in this guide:

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.