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HP Elite x3 speed showdown: Iris Scanner vs Fingerprint Reader

The HP Elite x3 is here and we're putting it through it's paces. The first thing I was immediately drawn to was the new fingerprint reader on the back, which with the Anniversary Update is supported on Mobiles. Since the HP Elite x3 is packing both an Iris Scanner and Fingerprint Reader, I was curious to find out which is faster.

From our tests, it appears the fingerprint reader is faster by a small margin. Assuming you get your finger to scan successfully the first try, using your finger to login to your phone is super convenient and faster than waiting for the Iris scanner to pick up your eyeballs. That's not to say the Iris scanner isn't fast however, from our tests we're blown away by how quick the Iris scanner logs us in on the HP Elite x3. We definitely think it's faster than the 950 and 950 XL.

So the fingerprint reader is faster, but which is better? It comes down to user preference. Personally, I find the fingerprint scanner to be more convenient, even though it's in a slightly awkward place for my liking. The Iris scanner is easily the better choice for those of you in colder areas who'd rather not have to take their gloves off to get access to their phone. And then, there's those of you who don't believe in biometric login and would much rather use a passcode. That's fine too.

Let us know what you think of the Iris and Fingerprint scanners in the comments area below.

Need more? Don't miss our other coverage of the Elite x3 including:

Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

116 Comments
  • Another video from zac. Well done!
  • how does it feel in the hand?? Does it have a good grip? Do i need to have a big hand to control it properly??
  • Big-hand master race! But seriously though... Some people have no hands and get by using their toes instead. I think you will be fine :)
  • Size is relative, so I don't know.
  • Well she told me it feels great in the hand. A tad on the large side but feels great non the less.
  • Now that's funny.
  • This size. That size. His size. And "she" said it feels great, and "in the hand" for that matter. Hmmm.......
  • Hi, i am using Lumia 1520 -6" screen..no problem if you like big screen phone .
  • Would love to see a size comparison between the 1520 and the X3.
  • Nice!!
  • Wow I'm impressed they are pretty much fast great job
  • Fantastic! You were very good this time.
  • Hi Zac, have you ever tried logging in via Iris scanner while your walking? It never works for me ☹
  • Walking has been fine for me, with the exception of being outside. The bright light in the day seems to impact the scanner quite a bit.
  • It has never worked for me outside. Not even with clouds.
  • Keep improving it in different light conditions . Works for me pretty well! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Same here, some samsuck fanboys have been telling me their note 7 can do it with their iris scanner. I am very skeptical though Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I wonder if our 950's will become faster? I don’t recall one update for it yet - even though it’s in BETA - unless updates only come via os updates, which I have not seen anything in the logs as of late. Of course, my mom threw me to the floor as a baby, so I may just not be remembering.
  • do you read changelogs ? on latest release ring build it is written that they improved facial recognition :) 
  • Iris scanner is not the same as facial recognition.
  • Thank you! Nor does it improve speed!
  • Like I said, mom threw me to the floor for snatching a cookie - injuries ensued. That being said, your comment says nothing about speed - does it? Your momma shoulda thrown you too.
  • The iris scanner is way faster on my 950 than when I first got the device.
  • Same here its always worked great on my 950 but after the Anniversary update it got even faster
  • Did you hit your head on the floor? If not, then I see no reason to suspect a mental compromise from that except of course yours was acquired later in life. Lol.
  • We miss those 'Zac from...' Videos...
    Nice one here btw!!
  • Zac is improving.. Nice hands on.. And the finger print scanner does seems to be fast enough.. Impressed so far.. And I'm pretty sure the camera will ruin the hype.. Sigh.. Fingers crossed
  • That was very interesting. Thanks!
  • When you tested the iris scanner, do you still have to hold the phone quite close to your face for it to authenticate like you do with the 950/950XL? Couldn't quite work it out from the video.
  • I don't have to hold my 950 or 950XL quite close to my face. They both unlock quickly from about a foot away from my face. Iris scanning has improved by leaps and bounds since the release of the 950 and 950XL. I haven't had to restrain the iris scanner either.
  • Just tried it again as haven't used it in a while but it still wants it about 15-20cm from the face. I think its too close. The surface pro 4 you can get away with being about 2 feet away maybe a little more. obviously have different cameras but the iris scanner does let the 950 down a little. I quite like the idea of being able to get in a car, put the phone in its holder on the widescreen, as I use it for sat nav, and it could unlock from there. failing that, it should at least be able to handle the same sort of distance that you would perhaps use your phone normally in your hand.
  • I don't know what to say. Maybe you should retrain it, looking at the Microsoft logo as a constant point of focus for your eyes while the scan completes. My phones scan from a foot away or more. I can keep my phone in my desk and it scans my eyes or I can hold it in my hand with my hand resting on the desk and it scans successfully. Variable such as angle and where you are looking matter. During the initial scan setup, make sure both of your eyes are visible in the scan preview. I hope this helps.
  • I need to hold my 950about 30 -40 cm away. Almost same as when I am normally using it and it unlocks in 1 second (aprox) 
  • How does the speed of the iris-scanner compare to a 950 with the aniversary update? Similar, faster or much faster?
  • judging by the video, my 950 is a tad slower. But not by a large margin .. 
  • My 950 xl is definitely slower than that.
  • Guys quit comparing 950 and Elite X3 you sound like a bunch of insecure teenagers.The Elite X3 is the best Windows Phone so far
  • Well, all except one area: the camera. For some, that is a very important feature to consider.
  • It's not that bad at all,I actually don't use the camera more often I'm actually interested in it's performance when it comes to multitasking and battery power.Im willing to drop my 950xl.Elite X3 is my upcoming daily driver.
  • Don't forget screen size. That's also important for some people as well.
  • Being a fan of large screens myself.The EliteX3 is the perfect size for me,just have to update it to the Anniversary update and have the best windows experience ever!
  • Yes. I would never buy a flagship smartphone with a worse camera than the iPhone.
  • The Elite X3 do not have a worse camera phone.
  • Exactly!
  • I find it funny that, since the camera isn't quite as good as the 950, it must be truly awful.  Folks, truly awful described the camera in the HTC One M7 (great camera if you liked all your pictures in various shades of purple). 
  • I have high standards when it comes to smartphone cameras. I was actually disappointed in the 950, because it didn't offer any new camera tech that Nokia was known for. OIS, resolution, sensor size, aperture, autofocus, were all evolutionary and pretty standard. I like the RGB flash and the much improved performance and image processing, but I was looking for more hardware improvements. Worst of all, Samsung is arguably now the king of smartphone photography, which means there isn't much Lumias have to offer at this point, both in hardware and software.
  • You mean you don't like shades of purple? blasphemy I say! Every picture you take you always know you will get purple. Now that's consistency, purple, purple, purple, and purple. I like consistency... always know what to expect. Except for those odd curveballs when a picture turned out in a shade of yellow...
  • Lol.
  • @Summer_Moon. LOL!
  • Wait is there a worse camera than the iPhone?
  • Bingo
  • Nice video, looking forward to see the full review.
  • Yes
  • I prefer the iris scanner, but it does need refining. I find it doesn't adjust well to differing light settings or the automatic tinting of my glasses. If I flip them up, it's fine.
  • Still under development right ?
  • Not to be a downer, but after I finish pointing and laughing at everyone else who has to take off their gloves to unlock their phones in the winter while I just look at mines to unlock it, I take off my gloves too because I actually want to use my phone. And because MS was kind enough not to include supersensitive touch on their newest flagships.
  • for most functions, that is where Cortana comes in.....Hey Cortana, call so and so, Hey Cortana, text so and so....etc.....Hey Cortana, whats the temp for tomorrow, etc... I agree, would be nice to have the supersensitive touch back that allowed screen to work with a log of gloves.
  • I can wear gloves with my XL.
  • this OS need a huge upgrade visually it looks like version 1.0 
  • If you are reaching that conclusion from the homescreen used in the video, Zac clearly states that he has not setup his homescreen yet. The video he posted is about the iris scanner vs the fingerprint scanner
  • No this conclusion is a result of upgrading from WP8.1 to M10W and ending up seling my phone and jumping to a  different OS
  • Then your comment is off topic, and also make absolutely no sense whatsoever
  • offtopic or intopic this OS need a HUGE design upgrade as soon as possible.
  • Why do you care?, you have moved to a different OS. Just enjoy yours and we shall enjoy ours. I think the W10M design is head an shoulders over its rivals
  • because if they kept listening to you they will never move forward you will always agree with what ever they do they need to listen to people who switched 
  • I could care less what you think of the GUI. I personally love it. Too bad for you if you don't. None of what you post is on topic in this thread anyway.
  • then why did you reply multiple times if you could care less :P
  • Why did you is the more pertinent question. This thread has nothing to do with the GUI. Even a total dolt should be able to work that out, they should not need it pointed out to them
  • Alright. I hope you have the "Microsoft feedback app" installed on your droid. Oh my bad. I forgot it's a droid!
  • Many Android users admire Windows 10 Mobile's design/user interface.I use 950xl and my colleagues mostly use androids/ios and they like how neat Windows 10 mobile is.The App gap is what keeps them on their androids
  • I think he now needs to spend more time on Android central or apple ish. Apparently he can't let go off completely.
  • I hope the different OS broke your fall.
  • Snigger
  • Hurry up and post a very long video which we can say we will all use to buy or go with the cheaper 950 XL.
  • This should have been tested after the Anniversary update, as my 950xl is faster after the update, for windows hello.
  • AWESOME!
  • Thanks for the video! Is the back cover removable?
  • Can we compare it against the Note 7
  • The note 7 has a rather inefficient implementation of the Iris scanner. You have an extra step involved in activating the iris scanner. With the Lumia and the Elite, you just turn the phone on, or double tap the screen, and the iris scanner activates, ready to scan your iris
  • They are NOT both pretty fast. With the fingerprint reader, you don't even see the lockscreen. With the Iris scanner, you see the lockscreen for a good 1-2 seconds. That's VERY slow when it comes to unlocking.  
  • I do not see the lock screen for 1 to 2 seconds on my Lumia 950xl, the iris scanner starts its search for my irises (irides). If there were a 1 to 2 second delay before the scan commenced, that would make the feature next to useless
  • yeah but you have to hold the phone in a specific distance and angle and I didnt mentioned poor lighting conditions. Its faster to unlock with a PIN code or with finger than iris, iris is good for NSA = they will collect many infos as usual :D
  • I don't see the "making sure its you" step which seems to be the difference in speed between the Elite and the Lumia. I love everything the elite stands for, I'm just not sure I want a third party phone at this point. I am guaranteed support for the 950 xl and first dibs on updates. I am also sure that the developers in Microsoft are testing new software on my device. That matters to me
  • Tad faster? What a joke! With the fingerprint sensor, unlock is near instantaneous. Even the Iris scanner is much faster than the 950XL. The 950/XL is not so slow to see your Iris, as much as the animations are. This one feels like a rocket in comparison. Must control urge....
  • Regardless of whether we're talking about the 950, 950 XL or HP Elite x3... we're talking milliseconds in difference between each device.. Of course speed is a "tad" faster, it's not REALLY VERY MUCH FASTER. It's a tad faster.
  • Tell me why can't we save more than one iris on our phones but more fingerprints?
  • Maybe because they never thought of that (I sure didn't). Send MS feedback through the feedback app.
  • Fingerprint is much better to iris.
    Iris can be used at some limited distance from face. You can unlock the phone with fingerprint as far as your fingers can end.
  • Why the HP Elite X3 and the Samsung Note 7 have a faster iris scanners than the lumia 950/Xl,MS implemented the Iris scanner almost a year ago and it has not improved at all,still beta,it is very disappointing
  • iris scanner has definitely improved a lot since they implemented it (I have the lumia 950xl). 
  • Mine has improved noticeably on my 950XL, so I do not agree it has not improved at all
  • "Why is this newer hardware better than last year's hardware?" kind of a silly question TBH
  • The difference for me (between my Nexus 5X with fingerprint and 950 XL with iris scanner) is that you don't have to press the power button first (which you can see in this demo as well). That means that as you're grabbing the phone you can already place your finger on the scanner and it will unlock by the time you bring the phone up. With the iris scanner you have to press the power button and position the phone a certain distance from your face in an akward way.  Of course there are some advantages to the iris scanner as well (usage scenarios like wearing gloves in the winter) so being able to set up both options with the Elite X3 is great.
  • You quickly learn how to pick up your 950 or 950XL and press the power button at the same time so that by the time the phone is in front of your eyes, it is already in scanning mode.
  • It's really cool that you can actually use both. And add more fingerprints. Damn. Surface Phone already got stiff competition.
  • Yea, if the "Surface Phone" doen't come with an iris canner, fingerprint reader, and active screen with pen/ink support (work to be done in Win 10 Mobile for this) and killer camera, Satya might kill it for the same reason we don't have a Surface Mini. What's the point? It's no better than what's out there. Thanks HP, for making the Surface Phone irrelevent ;)
  • Haven't really looked at this phone much... it looks fantastic! Certainly a true flagship device, well done HP!
    Now I just hope it sells more than a few dozon units :/
  • I wanted this phone so much... And I'll maybe pick one up sometime in the future. But things have changed, and if I succeed in the three months training I'm taking part in at Vodafone now, I can pick up a 950XL as a corporate phone with deep discount. So I think I'll be fine with it for some time :D Anyway, this is an amazing flagship device ;)
  • I don't have an X3, but I do have a 950XL, 950, iPhone 6s and Nexus 5x. The iris scanner is nice, but I much prefer the fingerprint reader. I like the placement on the back of my 5x over the front on the iPhone. Didn't think I would, but it has become very natural and convenient. I suppose the size of the phone and placement would make a difference. My problem with the iris scanner is consistancy. When it works it is great. It does seem to have been getting better over time, and it is very impressive how litte it seems to care what glasses I'm wearing. I can do most things sans glasses but have some for distance and some for reading. (wait till you get old).  When iris scanning fails, it just takes forever, looking, looking, can't find you, can't recognize you, swipe up to unlock. That whole process takes twice to three times as long to get in, as just swipping and pinning in the first place. It doesn't happen a lot, but enough that I often just swipe and pin and bypass the scan altogether, because I want to get something done and don't want to wait to see if the scan is going to work. Both my fingerprint reading devices seem to just work, every time.
  • People need to realize that the iris scanner has a Kool little smiley face animation that takes a fraction of a sec to wink at you. If the unlock is any faster you will miss that. I personally like the speed of the iris scanner and I find it more convenient that my finger. Hands are always dirty. Also I like the animation. I would suggest however doing what is needed to get the feature out of beta.
  • They both work awesome on my note 7. I hope Tmobile carries this phone Posted via
    Trump 2016
  • That was fast!!
  • Finally we can see HP Elite X3 in proper action! I think both Iris and Fingerprint will get faster as you use it more. At least that is what I hope it is. I do notice some lag (or loading time) navigating around the Settings. Example when tapping the Sing-in option (2 seconds!). It should be snappy. Or at least give some UI cue that it is loading.
  • Even android does that on some part of the settings menu without showing that it's loading
  • Awesomely fast. Love it! For me to buy this phone I need to know the bundle cost with the extender slash laptop thingy. I also have reservations because I'm desperately looking forward to the Surface phone that I still believe in.
  • You know, I've been rocking this 640xl since Xmas and it's awesome for the price. On the fast ring, updates and all it almost never fails me on all levels. Have all the apps I can handle ans then some. It would be a massive shame if MS didn't bring the Surface Mobile :)
  • No multifactor authentication (yet)?
  • Can you guys confirm if the so called passive stylus is anything more than a narrow tipped capacitive stylus. HP or anyone haven't been clear on this so far.
  • I like this guy
  • Hi Zac, I need some more information about this phone - a screenshot of AIDA64 in System Catagory. It contains the detail of manufacturer name and model name. It only contains the info of device itslef and no any identifier information included. I need these information to complete my website's model recognization. Could you please give me a favor? My E-mail address is hikaricalyx#hikaricalyx dot com (replace # into @)
  • It's good news that the iris scanner is an improvement over what's onboard the 950s. The iris scanner is good in principle but leaves a bit to be desired in practice. The issue I have with a fingerprint reader is that it becomes less useful on the back of the phone. It's fine for when your phone is in your hand but I have my phone sitting flat on a charging plate at work so I would have to lift it to access the scanner. It would be more useful to me on the front, like Apple and Samsung do it, but that doesn't really go with the aesthetic of most Windows phones. Obviously the iris scanner is no use in that scenario either because your eye won't be in its field of view.
  • After they ever going to have a smaller version of this thing? 6 inches is too large for me...
  • Compatible with Nokia CR-201?
  • I want to.know if the Elite X3 has a double tap to wake up the phone?
  • Since Greece is not cold the most of the year iris scanner is not very usefull..It is not very quick, too..  I wish i had a fingerprint reader on my 950...  
  • I couldn't wait for the x3 anymore. I took the 950 dual sim for 299,99€ today. And it feels great with the latest firmware.
    Iris scanner really works now.