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HP Elite x3 - The New Windows Superphone First Impressions

[fa icon="calendar"] 26-Aug-2016 10:29:27 / by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie Vassallo

While we here at Entropy are predominantly Android and iOS users, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to test drive the latest 'superphone' for the Windows platform - indeed, the phone that many are touting as the most important Windows Phone ever released - the monstrosity known as the HP Elite x3. 


Let's get this out of the way immediately - this thing is huge. So huge in fact, the box it arrived in was larger  than most laptop boxes. No joke. I almost rejected the delivery as I was convinced Clove Technology had sent the wrong item. 

Take a look at the box as it stands on a normal desk (mind you, that's a 34-inch monitor behind it). This has to win the award of largest smartphone box in history (apologies to the mid-90's Nokia 9000 Communicator). 


But this baby warrants the box as it comes with more adaptors and leads than the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift - and those devices have multiple base stations and cables! I counted around 5 separate USB-C leads, three different dock attachments, headphones, chargers, and more. Lots more. The dock itself is actually an extremely attractive slab of metal and plastic that proves the Elite x3 means business - as it should, as the device is squarely aimed at the mobile business professional (think Sales Rep on the go) as the ability to to use Windows Continuum (effectively beaming a PC-like experience from the x3 to a full size monitor and keyboard) means less devices, better centralised files and applications, and an all together cleaner experience.

Rather than bore you with the text explanation, have a look at HP's promotional video below:

After only 24 hours in, I have to say the device is definitely capable of formally entering the Entropy Daily Driver Challenge, something its predecessor the Microsoft 950XL simply could not manage (as we had to abandon it entirely in just a few hours). 

That's not the say the x3 is without issues. For one thing it looks like HP forgot to bundle any software to allow you to record and use your fingerprint (taking advantge of the device's rear-mounted fingerprint reader). I have searched and searched, and there appears to be absolutely no way to activate this feature - causing me to settle for the Iris-scan of Windows Hello, which surprising works really here. As you recall, we were pretty skeptical about Iris-scanning on the 950XL (well, it kinda just sucked) - but the x3 performs admirably with this gimmicky biometric feature. 

There are also a few annoying bits - like the ever-present 'missing SIM2' notification if you opt to insert only one SIM into the dual-SIM capable device. It's small - but super distracting. Again, the software simply doesn't allow for removal of a second SIM notification (even if like me, you are using the second SIM slot for a microSD card anyway!). 

And on the subject of half-baked software, the device ships without the WIndows 10 Anniversary Edition update for mobile - and although there is a minor upgrade available at startup - the Anniversary Update is curiously not available. 

Then there's the usual 'app gap' of Windows Phone - but I'm not really sure the intended audience will feel this as much as Android or iOS stalwarts. In fact, I've been rather pleased with the Windows 10 versions of Slack, Wunderlist, WhatsApp, and others. RSS reading is taken care of with Nextgen Reader, and there are a number of slick Twitter Apps (with Tweet It! my current favourite). All this to say, if you can manage a little shift in some of the 'name brand' apps, and search for some basic replacements, you really can be just fine. 

It's also fast - lightening fast for a Windows Phone - moving through screens quickly without hiccups, and launching and swapping apps with aplomb. 

And talk about specifications - this baby is absolutely loaded - a lovely QHD 5.96-inch AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB RAM, wireless charging, and a whopping 4,150 mAh battery. Specs-wise, this is a premium flagship and stands against any Android handset (or iPhone for that matter). Sadly, what continues to let down (all) Windows Smartphones is the software. That said, after just a day with the x3 I'm definitely excited for more - and will continue to post updates and thoughts as we go.

Oh - and on the 'special sauce' of this phone - the Continuum feature - I've not had a chance to try this on a monitor, but I'm really holding out for HP's Lap Dock accessory, which would make the most sense for my use case of Continuum on the go.

Sadly, HP has targeted October for this 'must have' accessory. 


It's been a while since we've had a proper 'Entropy Daily Driver Challenge' so as hard as it will be to shelf my beloved Samsung Galaxy S7 for a few weeks, I'm moving forward on the x3 full-time.

Stay tuned for more updates over the coming weeks to see if it can win a place in my pocket for good...(which may be a serious stretch - no pun intended - given the size of this thing!).


Topics: Windows

Eddie Vassallo

Written by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie is Founder & CEO of Entropy, former Head of Mobile for Discovery Channel, regular Guest Contributor on GigaOm and has been featured on Daring Fireball, CNN, and Strategy Eye.