HP Elite x3 review: Yep, this was the last great Windows phone

For now, the Elite x3 stands alone as the embodiment of Microsoft's PC-as-phone vision.

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Because it’s virtualized, HP keeps an eye on your usage. Go idle for more than nine minutes, and it logs you out. Windows itself will turn off the screen after five minutes by default, so if you don’t have HP’s own Display Tools configured properly, you’ll have to log in again, then navigate to the Workspace app. And if you happen to close down all the Workspace virtualized apps, there was no obvious way to get back to the main Workspace environment, aside from a small Settings icon.

hp elite x3 workspace youtube Mark Hachman

Workspace limits your frame rate to about 15 frames per second—acceptable for static apps like Word or accounting software, but absolutely useless for high-bandwidth applications like video editing or even YouTube.

The real kicker, though, is the monthly usage: 40 hours per user for the Essential tier, and 80 hours per month for the Premium tier. Granted, that’s a solid workweek for the Essential user. Still, I’d hate to be the mobile worker who comes to depend on Workspace and then runs out of their allocated time while on the road.

The best Windows phone

Windows phones are now the wild-eyed prophets of productivity, preaching Microsoft’s “cloud first, mobile first” gospel to a largely uncaring world. If a review must end with a buy recommendation, for an individual, my answer is a regretful no.

For businesses with numerous Win32 legacy apps (and big IT budgets), it’s worth considering. For them, maintaining access to those apps affects total cost of ownership, which goes beyond just the price of the phone.

HP Elite x3 case Mark Hachman

Small details like this show HP’s pride of workmanship.

Let’s not forget Windows phone’s distinguishing feature, Continuum. The HP Elite x3 is the best example yet of this phone-to-PC mashup, and it remains a feature that Android and iOS just can’t match.

Speculation is flying about what’s next for Windows phone: A Surface phone? Maybe. For now, HP’s Elite x3 is the best Windows phone. Whether it’s the last great Windows phone is the unanswered question.

Updated at 10:45 AM to note that HP does not provide any of its own cloud storage from within Workspace. Updated again at 3:47 PM to correct that the phone's NFC capabilities do not include Wallet support.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Workspace virtualized apps are something special
    • Desk Dock provides an excellent Continuum experience
    • Two (not one!) ways to log in via Windows Hello


    • Extremely high price out of reach for most consumers
    • Workspace interface could use some ease-of-use refinement
    • Mediocre camera
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