For as long as there have been smartphones, hardware enthusiasts the world over have been fantasising about the day where those phones are powerful enough to replace desktop and notebook computers entirely.
That would leave people with just one device to carry around, able to present and create information, create and consume content and adapt to any imaginable use-case scenario, both on the go and when at a desk.
Until Windows Phone, that idea was nothing more than a fantasy. Sure, Google, Apple and BlackBerry all tried hard to provide a “converged” experience that brings work and play together on their respective ecosystems, but none of them managed to achieve anything resembling the “one device for everything” fantasy.
Microsoft, meanwhile, was working hard behind the scenes on its Windows Phone operating system with that aim very much in mind. After several false starts, some truly awful UI design and phone performance that a POS till would laugh at, Microsoft finally brought out a smartphone operating system worth its salt in Windows 10 Mobile.
Based on Windows 10, and clearly designed to seamlessly inter-operate with it, this new operating system made its way onto Microsoft’s own Lumia phones, themselves based on technology gained from Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia back in 2014. Core to the OS’s appeal has been its close integration with Windows 10 and something Microsoft calls “Continuum”, a feature of the OS that allows the phone to mimic the Windows 10 desktop environment when connected to a special docking station.
So far, results have been a bit mixed, with Continuum performance not impressing enough to sway people away from Android and iOS (or to ditch their laptops). Happily, over the last 18 months or so both the underlying hardware driving phones and Windows Phone itself have matured significantly.
And in 2017, HP has brought out a phone that takes full advantage of those advances. It’s called the HP Elite x3, and it’s a Windows 10 Mobile phone that comes as close as ever to the geek dream of “phone and computer in one”. It offers a combination of cutting-edge mobile phone technology that includes more RAM than seen in a lot of 2016’s flagship phones (4GB vs. 3B), stunningly sleek looks that’ll impress in even the strictest of corporate environments and a specially-designed “lap dock” docking station that is thinner than a modern-day Ultrabook and driven by the Elite x3’s innards.
Essentially HP found a way to showcase everything that Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile environments have to offer. The x3 has an iris scanner and fingerprint reader for quick (and secure) access to the phone, its desk dock lets it connect to USB desktop peripherals so it can function as a Windows PC as well, and small (but significant) touches like Bang & Olufsen sound and a gorgeous 16MP rear-facing camera show some incredible attention to detail. In fact, it could be argued that the x3 is borderline over-engineered; but between that and seeing cut corners, over-engineered is by far the better scenario.
There are two standout features of the x3 that make it the go-to Windows phone for business users – Continuum that turns it into a Windows 10 PC via the two dock options, and the presence of HP’s Workspace “Business App Virtual Desktop Service” that allows the phone to run 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications in a virtualised environment. That means users get access to the full suite of their business applications, and don’t have to run mobile equivalents that aren’t necessarily as fully-featured as their desktop counterparts. The only catch is that Workspace on the x3 comes with a 60-day trial; if it proves to be useful, a subscription is required for continued use.
On top of all of this, and speaking to the over-engineered argument, the x3 is very tough. It can handle the rigours of everyday use, including a drop of up to 4 feet, submersion for up to 30 minutes and resistance to dust.
Of course, nobody offers all of this without asking for a significant sum of money in return, and that’s exactly the case here. In the US, the phone alone goes for $699 at retail, and with the lap dock you’re looking at $1200. South Africans can expect to pay those prices converted to to Rands and with import duties and various other taxes slapped on top, for a total outlay similar to that of an actual laptop. That’s sad, as it undermines the x3’s appeal quite considerably.
Price aside, there is no better Windows 10 Mobile phone out there. The x3 is as close as anyone has come to making the Continuum dream a reality, and the fact that HP is offering all of its premium finishes in the device is icing on an already-delicious cake. Should you want the best, and your business runs on Microsoft’s software, this is undoubtedly the phone to go for.
- Simply amazing build quality
- Powerful hardware under the hood
- Switching to Windows 10 desktop mode is easy
- Two docking options
- Ruggedised and waterproofed
- HP Workspace lets the phone run Win32 applications
- This amazing quality doesn't come cheap
- HP Workspace is just a 60-day trial