Why the HP Elite x3 is the best Windows phone I have ever owned
HP really hit a homerun with the Elite x3, powered by Windows 10 Mobile. This is a powerful productivity device that can shift into different modes for different use cases, allowing you to get work done no matter where you are. HP graciously provided OnMSFT with a review unit several months ago and I’ve been using this phone as my main communication device since then.
Before I get into my personal experiences with this phone, let’s take a look and see what this device is all about.
The HP Elite x3 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with a 5.96-inch WQHD (2560×1440) AMOLED multi-touch display with 494 PPI and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 keeping the screen strong. The screen also features an anti-smudge coating, but it’s too bad the rear plastic part of the device doesn’t have that feature.
The device also features 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, 64GB of internal storage, front-facing audio speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen, with noise canceling omnidirectional mics for superior audio performance. There is a 16MP rear camera (f/2.2) that takes amazing photos, as well as an 8MP front-facing camera for video conferencing, taking those amazing selfies you love to take, and other tasks that require a front-facing camera.
The HP Elite x3 also features dual biometric authentication with Iris camera and a fingerprint reader, so you can utilize Windows Hello in all its glory. The phone comes in either graphite and chrome or a special all-gold color which is not available in all countries.
The phone features one USB 3.0 Type-C port, as well as 1 3.5 mm headphone jack. A powerful 4150 mAh Li-ion polymer battery powers this beast, offering up plenty of juice to keep you going all day long.
It’s a 6-inch phone made by HP that doesn’t look cheap and runs Windows 10 Mobile. Honestly, that was my immediate thought when I saw the device for the first time. Having reviewed numerous Lumia devices in the past, I was expecting something similar — cheap and somewhat decent in performance. I was mistaken.
The HP Elite x3 is a pleasure to use and is by far the most powerful Windows 10 Mobile device I have ever owned
The HP Elite x3 is a pleasure to use and is by far the most powerful Windows 10 Mobile device I have ever owned. You’re still not going to see a lot of the popular recreational apps you may find on Android and iOS (like Pokemon GO or Snapchat), but let’s face it, if you are even looking at this device you are more of a productivity user. In that case, Windows 10 Mobile has the productivity apps you require.
The Snapdragon processor makes this phone work fast and I rarely experienced any slowdowns when switching between apps. Let’s face it — this is an important aspect of any phone. Thankfully, HP utilized a powerful chip to power the device and it is definitely noticeable when you are using your phone.
I’ve also enjoyed using Windows Hello to unlock my phone with ease via the Iris scanner. It’s crazy fast too. All I have to do is hit the power button to turn on the phone and Windows Hello instantly logs me in. On rare occasions, it will tell me it was unable to recognize me, but after a second attempt, I was able to successfully log in. At times it was easier just to log in via PIN.
The camera on the device is also really good and comparable to most of the top Lumia devices out in the market. Honestly, you can get down to the fine details and be nitpicky about how the camera could be better compared to a Lumia, but either way, the phone takes amazing photos. I took some sample shots which you can see below.
One of the biggest features of this device is the long battery life. Using the phone during a typical day, including surfing the internet, making calls, sending texts, listening to Spotify, and I still didn’t need to plug in my phone charger. If you plug the phone into the Desk Dock, you can take advantage of Quick Charge 3.0 to charge up your phone quickly and get back to whatever you were doing! Within 2 hours, the phone charged from 0% battery to 100% battery. The HP Elite x3 is one of the best phones out there when it comes to long battery life — I was super impressed in this area of the device.
And it makes perfect sense. A phone like this, which has the capability of being a desktop and a laptop, should have a powerful battery that lasts all day. HP accomplished this by adding a powerful 4150 mAh Li-ion polymer battery into the device. Well done, HP, well done.
The Desk Dock
One of the key features of this phone is the ability to plug into what HP calls the “Desk Dock.” This device allows you to charge your phone while docking it into the Desk Dock, as well as offers up the ability to turn your phone into a desktop powerhouse.
The Desk Dock allows you to transition from a handheld to a desktop experience, all while having an external display and keyboard or mouse accessory connected to the dock. This device basically allows you to use your phone as if it were a desktop computer. Imagine transitioning effortlessly from one location to the next, from a call to a presentation without having to switch devices — you get to do just that!
Basically, you can talk, text, and run Windows 10 Mobile apps on your docked HP Elite x3 device while simultaneously multi-tasking with your Windows and corporate apps on a connected external display using Microsoft’s Continuum technology. You can connect to a wired network through the HP Desk Dock’s Ethernet port and utilize the 2x USB-A or 1x USB-C ports to plug in accessories.
The dock is a bit heavy but very sturdy and allows your phone to sit at an angle so you can continue to use it while it is connected. In fact, the phone can be used as a trackpad once docked, allowing you to interact with the external display — a really neat feature.
My only complaint about the Desk Dock is the connector in the middle that allows you to dock your phone and charge it. The connector can be a bit flimsy at times, preventing your phone from properly connecting and charging. Often times, I found myself adjusting the phone to ensure it was connected properly.
The Lap Dock
The HP Elite x3 Lap Dock is a really neat accessory that allows you to utilize your phone as a premium notebook. You can connect to the Lap Dock wirelessly with Miracast or via the USB-C cable (as pictured). The Lap Dock features a 12.5-inch FHD display, full-sized keyboard, and clickpad. It’s also fanless and features reinforced polycarbonate and stamped aluminum allow design, making the accessory ultrathin and ultralight for easy portability.
The Lap Dock features a micro-HDMI connector and two USB-C ports. There is a 46.5 WHr battery which lets you continue working, and even helps power your phone back to full battery power with the USB-C charging. This accessory typically runs for $599 and is an essential component in making your Elite x3 a 3-in-1 device.
In order to use the Lap Dock, all you need to do is plug in the power cable from the laptop to your power outlet, and plug in the USB-C cable from the phone to the laptop. The laptop turns on within a few seconds and you are given the ability to use your phone as a laptop. The screen on the laptop isn’t touch-friendly, so you will have to rely on the trackpad or on your phone to maneuver around.
Overall, using the Lap Dock is a fantastic experience, allowing you to use Windows 10 Mobile apps and surf the internet with ease. There was literally no setup needed, just plug in the phone and you are all set to go. Think of the laptop as an extension to your phone. The clickpad is a bit cheap but it works. The keyboard isn’t anything fancy, but it lets you get your work done. The display actually looks decent and does the job fine when you are working on a document or a presentation, just don’t expect anything fancy like you would with an expensive notebook.
You can check out some of the images of the device below.
Continuum and HP Workspace
Continuum is a cool technology from Microsoft that lets you use Universal Windows Platform apps on a full screen with mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, you can only view one app at a time, given the current limitations. This will be fixed in the near future when Microsoft rolls out the Windows 10 Creators Update, allowing you to use these apps like you would a 32 or 64bit application.
If these apps are not your thing, there is HP Workspace. Thanks to HP’s Workspace, you can literally virtualize any 32 or 64-bit Windows desktop application, allowing you to have quick access to the tools you need on your phone. This means you can use desktop applications on your phone, or while in laptop mode using the Lap Dock, or while in desktop mode using the Desk Dock.
Think of it this way — HP Workspace basically connects your HP Elite x3 to a remote computer that runs desktop apps, so you can remotely do work using these 32 or 64bit applications. I was able to run Microsoft Office and a few other popular desktop applications with ease, but watching videos or doing anything intensive will result in lag.
HP Workspace isn’t free and requires an expensive service charge that ranges from $500 to a little over $2000 depending on your needs. It’s a great tool for those who require quick access to desktop applications while on the go. You can check out HP Workspace in the video below.
Is it worth it?
The HP Elite x3 is a unique 3-in-1 device that lets you use it as a phone, as a laptop, or as a desktop computer. But in order to utilize these three categories, you will need to take advantage of certain accessories like the Desk Dock and Lap Dock. A plethora of cables also come with that idea and you’ll find yourself having quite a heavy bag. Is it worth it?
It all depends on what you need. If you are a diehard productivity user who depends on Microsoft’s ecosystem, then this device is perfect for you. It has everything you will need. A powerful phone that can be used as a powerful PC or laptop depending on your need. In my opinion, the HP Elite x3 appeals to the hardcore Windows fan, as a typical technology consumer will find this device far too complex for on-the-go use. You will have to carry the docks and wires just to get connected and it can become frustrating getting everything plugged in when you rather spend your time quickly getting to work. Good luck carrying all the necessary items in a bag or backpack and fumbling around trying to connect everything when you really need it the most. But if you know what you are doing, then you should be fine.
HP did an amazing job creating the first 3-in-1 device and the quality of the hardware is superb. But the problem lies with Windows 10 Mobile. With all the negative press on Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft’s questionable commitment to its mobile cause, one can wonder if this is one of those devices that will die off in six months to a year due to lack of support. But who knows, perhaps companies will see the benefits that are offered by the HP Elite x3 and the 3-in-1 category flourishes with better hardware and easier to use technology.
Should you buy the HP Elite x3?
If you have the money and you are a Windows fan, absolutely. The device is well worth the penny. However, if you are simply a productivity consumer looking for a tool to make your work life easier, the HP Elite x3 might be too complex for you and will likely overcomplicate things. I found myself rarely using the Lap Dock, Continuum feature, or HP Workspace because I own a full-fledged desktop PC. Why would I bother with a phone to do a job that can be done with a powerful PC? I personally do not have a use case where I need to work on or showcase presentations, or a use case where I require productivity on the go with just my phone. The HP Elite x3 appeals to a niche user base. I highly recommend going to a Microsoft Store or to any store that carries the device so you can check it out for yourself and see if it’s something that you fancy.
The HP Elite x3 is by far my favorite Windows phone
The HP Elite x3 is by far my favorite Windows phone (yes, even better than any Lumia device I have ever owned) and it has offered a fresh breath of air to an ecosystem that really needed it. I love the quality and feel of the device, I love the long battery life, I love the capability of using it as a 3-in-1. I love this phone and plan to continue using it for as long as I can. It truly is my favorite Windows phone ever.
You can purchase the unlocked version of the device, bundled with the Desk Dock for $599 at the online Microsoft Store.
We plan on doing shorter, in-depth features for each of the HP Elite x3 categories (phone, desktop, and laptop), so stay tuned for that. If there is anything specific you want to know about the device, ask away in the comments below and we’ll likely feature it in the upcoming feature stories.Further reading: HP, HP Elite x3, Microsoft, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone