Blue magnesium alloy laptops: Premium price, plastic feel, but lightweight

Magnesium alloy casing is being pitched as a core feature for premium laptops and it does cut weight. The big question is whether tech buyers will pay up for a plastic feel.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Blue magnesium is being pitched as a premium laptop casing that's lightweight and durable. The big question is whether tech buyers can get over that mental hurdle that comes with a plastic feel.

In 2019, HP launched its Elite Dragonfly laptop, which is billed as a premium device that's all business and can make a statement. HP Elite Dragonfly falls under Intel's Project Athena, which is designed to give laptops more battery life, fast charging and features found on smartphones.

A few months earlier Dynabook launched its Portege x30, which also had an Onyx Blue magnesium alloy casing. Like Dragonfly, the win was the lightweight and travel friendly laptop.

But the mental hurdle is that blue magnesium doesn't quite feel premium. It feels a bit like plastic. Rest assured, there will be plenty of other PC makers pitching blue magnesium laptops. The move to magnesium alloy makes you value weight vs. feel. 

As luck would have it I was testing the Dynabook Portege x30 just as Mary Jo Foley was taking HP Elite Dragonfly for a spin. The chat at the pub went like this.

Mary Jo: Oh, that looks like the Dragonfly.

Me: Yeah, it's light and I like the laptop.

Mary Jo: It's kinda plastic though.

Me: Doesn't feel premium but feels premium in the laptop bag.

A few days later (after all IPAs were far more important than magnesium alloy at the time), I asked Mary Jo to elaborate on the blue magnesium conundrum. Here's what she said:

I've been using the new HP Elite Dragonfly convertible for the past week or so, which HP provided me as a loaner device. I was really expecting to be bowled over by this device, since I've been a big fan of HP ultrabooks for the past couple of years. So far, I can say I like it but don't love it.

I am not enamored with the blue magnesium material of which it's made. On the plus side, this material is a big part of what enables the Dragonfly to be so light and portable. But after using the new Surface Laptop 3 (I have the aluminum Sandstone metal model), the Dragonfly feels plastic. Both the Surface Laptop 3 and Dragonfly have a coating designed to keep them fingerprint/smudge free, but I feel like the Laptop 3 delivers more and better on this promise.

I can't say I disagree. Blue magnesium would be great for a laptop that tops out at say $1,300. Is it a material that'll command $2,000 or more? Probably not. Will blue magnesium make a statement as HP hopes? Probably not. Why? Most people will just think the casing is blue plastic.

Now all of these concerns could disappear once the masses pay up for blue magnesium and PC vendors go premium. For now though, the jury is out. Ultimately, laptop buyers will decide.

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