HP has been involved with Microsoft's mobile platform since the days of the Pocket PC and the HP Jornada) devices. The company has a reputation for delivering solid devices, and the HP Elite x3 is no exception. Recent price cuts brought the cost of the Elite x3 within reach for me, so I took the plunge to see what all the excitement was about.
My current daily device is the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. It is a Windows 10 Mobile phone that gets more right than it gets wrong. The Elite x3 also gets a lot right and is an attractive device in many ways. However, the Elite x3's downsides ended up being too significant.
What I like about the HP Elite x3
My initial impression of the Elite x3 was good. The device is packaged in a style befitting a premium laptop, and out of that box the Elite x3's solid build quality is obvious. In fact, the Elite x3 sets the standard for build quality the way Nokia did with the Lumia 900.
While it's a larger phone than the 950 XL, HP did a good job masking that size with polished and rounded corners and distributing the extra ounces throughout the form factor. The positives range from the gorgeous 5.96" AMOLED screen to the powerful Snapdragon processor and the tremendous battery life. The Elite x3 has a lot to offer a Windows 10 Mobile user, and it's a fresh breath of hope for the struggling platform.
However, as impressive as the Elite x3 is, the device needs a little polish.
What I don't like about HP's Elite x3
The camera is OK but pales in comparison to the Lumia 950 or 950 XL. I found issues with white balance, sharpness, and metering. The hardware seemed to be fine and while these issues could be corrected with editing software, HP should be able to tweak the camera software to improve overall performance.
The Elite x3 has the Tap-to-Wake feature, but it is unreliable. It is my understanding that this feature is based on the device's motion sensors and not the screen's digitizer. That makes the Elite x3 susceptible to waking up while in a car charger due to the bumps and bounces, for example. It can also be tough to wake the device while it's in hand.
The screen is sharp-looking but noticeably more sensitive than other Windows 10 Mobile phones. There were too many times a slight glance launched an unwanted app. I have also heard some users say the automatic brightness control was too bright, but in my experience, it seemed too dim.
Other areas of concern include the lack of a Glance feature, no physical camera button and the lack of an independent storage expansion card slot. While the missing camera button and the inability to use a second SIM card and the microSD card at the same time are issues that are not easily resolved, the Glance feature could be a different story.
The Elite x3 is the first non-Lumia Windows phone I have owned since the days of Windows Mobile 7, and I did not realize how dependent I have become on the Glance screen. If the Glance software is Microsoft's to license, they need to offer it to HP, and HP should jump on it. The Glance screen helps set the mobile OS apart and should be a standard feature on all Windows 10 Mobile devices.
Why I chose the 950 XL instead of the x3
In the end, after bouncing between the two devices, I found myself missing the Lumia 950 XL more than I liked using the Elite x3. The 950 XL is by no means a perfect device, but it gets more things right for my needs than the Elite x3 does. If you could take the best from both phones, you may have the perfect Windows 10 Mobile phone. Until that happens, the Lumia 950 XL is my phone of choice.
Do you use an x3 or 950 XL? Let us know in the comments why you chose one over the other.