Can one mobile device really do it all?
The HP Elite X3 is a smartphone that wants to be your desktop & laptop, too.
It's hard to deny that Windows Mobile has had a pretty drastic fall from grace. Microsoft's smartphone business has gone from being one of the biggest brands in the industry to losing the company millions each year, and although it retains a small following of rabidly loyal fans, it has slipped off most consumers' radar altogether.
There is one area, however, in which Windows Mobile retains its appeal, and that is the enterprise sector. For many companies looking to roll out a company-issue smartphone, the appeal of a phone that's already covered by existing service contracts and management tools is understandable. The fact that it runs Windows 10 means that it's also guaranteed to be compatible with Microsoft's business software packages like Office 365.
Into this environment comes the HP Elite X3 a 3-in-1' device that wants to be all things to all people. As a smartphone running Windows 10, it uses the software's Continuum feature to transform into both a laptop and a desktop. The idea behind it is that the Elite X3 should be the only device you need, providing maximum productivity both in and out of the office.
As something of a die-hard Android advocate, I must admit that I was a little bit skeptical when it came time to test the HP Elite X3. After all, I've had less than satisfactory experiences with Windows phones in the past. However, the X3 intrigued me. The prospect of not having to flip between multiple devices was an undeniably attractive one, and I was curious to see how HP's considerable hardware experience has paid off.
The first major hurdle the X3 has to overcome is design. Windows phones always tended to be made of tacky, primary-coloured plastic, with a distinct Fisher-Price My First Smartphone' vibe about them - not really an ideal aesthetic for something that wants to be taken seriously as an enterprise grade device. One of the most important things about a business device is that you don't want to be embarrassed to pull it out at a board meeting or client visit.
Thankfully, Elite X3 is much nicer-looking than previous devices, with a sleek, rounded design that borrows the best elements of modern flagship handsets. The main body is matte-black, banded by a strip of silver at the bottom that houses the Bang & Olufsen-certified speaker. It's also stamped with HP's elegant new logo, rather than a Windows 10 badge. My main gripe with the X3 is that I wish it was made out of metal or glass rather than plastic, but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, and overall it looks very attractive indeed.
Another striking element is the screen, which is absolutely huge. The mammoth 5.96in display is clearly built for maximising productivity, and it seems ideal for editing Word documents or PowerPoint decks. Web browsing is perfectly pleasant too, and any Outlook gurus are sure to find the large-format screen well-suited to demolishing their inbox.
The HP Elite X3 runs Windows 10 out of the box, which brings with it some headline features. As I already mentioned, there's security, monitoring and management capabilities that will make it attractive to businesses, but there are also features that may make the X3 slightly more attractive to consumers.
First of these is Cortana, Microsoft's answer to AI-powered digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Integrated into Windows 10 by default, Cortana can handle all the tasks you'd expect her to - weather queries, answering search questions, playing music and the like. However, what you may not know is that Cortana also has heaps of enterprise functionality that can help you be more productive.
She can integrate with Office 365, for example, which can help you prepare for your meetings, organise upcoming work trips and schedule your day. Even more impressive is her integrations with Microsoft's Azure Active Directory. This enables Cortana to work seamlessly with your business' email logs, employee lists and more.
Naturally, the Elite X3 is also compatible with Windows Hello, Microsoft's biometric login and authentication technology. This is provided by both a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and iris recognition. It's an incredibly convenient combination, meaning that your phone is almost invariably unlocked by the time you pick it up.
The big-ticket item here, however, is Continuum. A headline feature of Windows 10, Continuum is a thin-client technology that enables you to use your Windows 10 phone as a desktop computer, complete with external keyboard, mouse and monitor. This is the Elite X3's big knockout punch - by being able to act as both your work computer and your work smartphone, it's a potential game-changer for enterprise IT.
The Elite X3 comes with its own docking station, which features one DisplayPort, two full-size USB-A ports and one USB-C port, as well as an RJ-45 Ethernet port for networking. Simply slot the X3 into this dock, and it can suddenly take advantage of all these peripherals, with no setup or configuration required.
The X3 already felt well-suited to work tasks thanks to its gigantic screen, but the ability to slot it into a dock and have it instantly launch into a desktop-style environment elevates it to a new level of productivity. Basic work tasks that would take several minutes on mobile can be breezed through in no time at all, thanks to the use of a more capable mouse-and-keyboard interface.
After spending some time with the HP Elite X3, my first impressions are that it's a device best-suited to enterprise use. Combined with Microsoft's suite of business and productivity services, the X3's versatile nature makes it a formidable tool for any mobile workers who need to get the most out of their device both in and out of the office.