Review: HP Elite x3 Windows phone

Incredible hardware, Win32 apps, Continuum: the HP Elite x3 is the first Windows phone your friends are going to envy.

The HP Elite x3 is simply the best Windows phone ever made. Microsoft bet billions on phones that could replace your PC, but it's HP that's succeeded in spectacular fashion.

Virtually everything about this phone feels marvelously over-engineered, beginning with the iris scanner and fingerprint reader that quickly logs you in. A 1440p, 6-inch display sits on top of a premium Snapdragon CPU and 4 gigs of RAM, all hallmarks of today's flagship phones. Battery life topped out at an amazing 9 hours and 23 minutes -- that's three hours more than its competition.

This is also the first Windows phone to be ruggedized and waterproofed, just like its Android rivals. It feels and looks great in the
hand, but it's an enormous phone even for phablet lovers: I couldn't quite reach the other side of the display with my thumb.

But the Elite x3 is designed to be used on the desktop as much or more than in your hand. Windows 10's Continuum feature projects your phone onto a monitor in a PC-like experience, and we've seen some somewhat generic offerings from Acer and Microsoft.

HP, though, goes the extra mile. The Desk Dock is solid, weighty, and includes sleeves to dock the phone with a case either on or off -- your choice. HP actually includes a helpful display utility to prevent your phone's screen from turning, as well as several other utilities that are actually useful -- even a throwback calculator Easter egg of sorts.

HP even has a Lap Dock, a "dumb" ultrabook powered by your phone, that it will ship in early ships separately. HP tells us the Lap Dock will ship by the end of October.

But it's the Workspace app that's HP's secret weapon: a virtual cloud environment where you can run legacy Win32 apps. Want to run Chrome on a Windows phone? Sure. A full-fledged Word or PowerPoint app? No problem. If Windows phones have a future, this is the way they're heading.

Two things are worth thinking about, though: the OS, and the price. This is a Windows phone, significantly lagging behind Android and iOS in its app selection. And the Elite X3's price climbs quickly: $699 for the phone, $799 with the Desk Dock, and a whopping $1299 with the Lap Dock. Workspace can run you $939 per year on top of that.

The Elite x3 is a business phone, pure and simple, and based on Windows' miniscule market share, one with an uncertain future. This a great Windows phone -- let's just hope it's not the last.