A while ago I wrote a piece on my employers blog (Link – In Swedish) about how I tried to work a week with nothing but my Microsoft Lumia 950XL and the Continuum dock that came with it. My conclusion of that was that this probably is the future (and apparently Samsung believes that as well), but that the phone, peripherals and apps still had a lot to improve. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to try both the Nexdock and now the HP X3 and it has given me a bit of a new perspective.
This review will focus on it as a business phone and a work device only – because it’s in this are I believe this device will have an impact.
Since I received the X3 with its docks I’ve been using it as much as possible. I have the desktop-dock at a desk in my office and the Lapdock is always with me. Of course I were quick to exchange my Lumia 950XL for the phone itself, and this is absolutely a huge step in the right direction. BUT something I never would have known I would miss to this extent is the camera button. I’ve had a dedicated camera button for as long as I can remember on my phones, and now when its gone I understand why. I would easily pay up to 1000 SEK (about 100 euros) to get that feature back.
Otherwise when it comes to the hardware, I’m truly impressed. The battery life is extraordinary for a modern phone. I usually charge mine every second day or something like that, but that’s when I’m not using any of the docks. And I believe that’s an important part of it as well. With this device you will have so many possibilities to charge it without thinking about it. The USB-C does of course help a lot and gives you the impression that you always have power.
I have always liked Windows Hello and used the Iris-scanner or the Lumia a lot. But it makes more sense with the fingerprint reader from a usability perspective. I do however know that fingerprint is probably the weakest authentication method with Windows Hello, and therefore I like that HP have kept the Iris-scanner as well. The fingerprint reader is quick and I rarely have issues with it not working for me.
I won’t mention the size of this phone in detail, but it is huge, and that won’t suit everyone. I can live with it, and the battery life does make the size a bit easier to live with. But, to be fair, I wouldn’t have chosen a device in this size if there were any similar once in a smaller size. I don’t find that I use the screen of the phone to that extent that I benefit from the larger size.
Moving on to the docking solutions:
The desktop dock is what Microsofts equivalent should have been. Its good-looking, it don’t require any extra cables, its well thought trough for when you use extra cases for the device and have the connections that I require. I do not miss the HDMI-port at all, Display-port makes much more sense from a Enterprise-device point of view. I would like two more USB-ports, but that’s mostly because I have an USB-headset, which seems to be unsupported by the phone anyways. A pass-through for 3,5mm audio would have been handy as well.
The Lapdock does really draw attention. Several of my colleagues have tried it and love the format. The battery life is decent, but I haven’t clocked the performance so far. The screen is great for this kind of device with thin bezels, good enough colors, resolution and light. So is the keyboard, which I enjoy and prefer over my Surface Pro 4 keyboard.
The touchpad is its weak spot, and unfortunately is something that makes me look into buying a wireless mouse again. It’s not good, its usable but not more than that. A way of solving it would be a touch screen, but that would of course make the device more expensive and thicker. The lack of touch on the large screen is something I miss, but again, I’m used to the Surface Pro 4.
When it comes to software, not much have changed. I do enjoy the HP Display Tools for the phone screen, and that’s a great feature and something that sets it a part from the Microsoft phones. I know there are alternatives for the Lumias, but none of the once I’ve tried has been as good as the HP.
Of course there are a few more apps now then the last time I tried to use Continuum, but two things I really, really do miss are:
Skype for Business – this is without doubt the one reason to why I won’t be able to ditch my Surface for the HP. Yes, its possible to use if on the phone and it works well enough. But when it comes to viewing and presenting content this is something I need to be able to do, and to do it on the large screen.
The other app I miss in Continuum mode is the Citrix Receiver. As I wrote in the blog post I did for my employer – to be able to fully get a benefit from Continuum you need some kind of virtualization solution to back you up. This may not be the case moving forward, but with many organizations still being dependant on legacy applications this is what really gives this kind of devices an edge.
I know for a fact that Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop as well as VMware View works great in the browser using HTML5, but most organizations I work with usually haven’t enabled this feature. RDS works good and that apps is Continuum enabled. But to be fair, most organizations do not run RDS. So, not being able to run the Citrix Receiver on the large screen is something that prevents me from doing some things that I’m still required to do.
Something that did surprise me is how great the combination of phone and Lapdock works when using Miracast. In most cases this is as fast as the wired connection, and that’s how mostly use it. I doesn’t seem to draw that much in terms of battery and its a much nicer and modern solution then the cable-connection.
Small things matter
There are still some small, but annoying things with the Continuum solution. Some may be due to the software, some with the hardware and some with apps. The once I’ve encountered so far are:
– Calender app functionality. I would like to view my colleagues calendars in the app and also the “New time proposals” do not work as they are supposed to. In this case I use the portal.office.com site instead which have most of the functionality I need.
– When I use Spotify on my phone, the sound gets interrupted (and turned off) when I receive a notification in Edge for example. It’s very, very, very annoying.
– Drag-to-mark with the mouse do not work and to be able to mark lines and parts of text gives me headache. Its possible, but the combination of the horrible touchpad and the OS creates challenges.
– I would like to change the keyboard-language from the large screen, and not being able to do this from the phone. This is, I believe, an important feature for us that writes in more than one language.
– The ability to view Visio-files (which are coming to Edge soon) is something that I lack today with the Windows 10 Mobile OS as a whole.
– And, several of the “Desktop” features I love with Windows are still missing. To be able to open the start-screen on the large screen and start writing to find the app you want is something that shouldn’t be too hard to implement. The lack Window-management and true multi-tasking (which I know they, Microsoft, are working on) forces me do use a few more clicks than on a desktop for normal tasks etc.
To conclude, I do love the X3. I do my absolute best to use it as my primary device. I see so many use-cases out there that would benefit from this configuration. I think HP has come a long way with the hardware and I feels premium in so many ways – a part from the touchpad. Its a business device as it should be.
There are challenges with it, and I won’t be able to leave my Surface behind until at least Skype for Business works in Continuum mode. But, as I’ve been writing this post using the Lapdock and I actually sometimes have forgotten about it being a phone, I believe that Microsoft have something great going on. The closer partnership with Citrix in Azure, will probably solve some things and the new Skype clients that will roll out during the spring will solve others.
This isn’t something that Microsoft will solve by themselves, and HP will probably play an important part in making the Windows Mobile platform great, as it should be. The introduction of Windows on Arm shows that we may see new devices that will benefit from Continuum – and will be able to run full x86 applications shows that this concept is far from dead.
In short, I do recommend the X3 and I hope that organizations will take the opportunity to evaluate it.
Also – stay tuned for my review of HP Workspace – coming up in a few days. Is that the missing piece of the Continuum story?