HP Elite x3: A Look at the Desk Dock

Posted on October 25, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows Phones with 35 Comments

HP Elite x3: A Look at the Desk Dock

While I’ve used Continuum in the past, wirelessly and wired, and with and without a dock, the HP Elite x3 Desk Dock is the best experience I’ve had so far.

And it’s hard to know if that’s because of the phone, the dock itself, or some combination. But I’ve had positively horrific Continuum experiences with my Lumia 950 over the past year, in every possible configuration imaginable, with laggy performance and an unresponsive mouse cursor when using the phone as a pointing device. And that’s when it connected at all. It usually didn’t.

dock

The HP Desk Dock is … different. Physically, it is a big, heavy, and imposing device, and it dwarfs the Microsoft Display Dock I’ve used with the Lumia 950. It is also of much higher quality, and has the feel of a weighted metal ball.

compared

I would have recommended some changes to its expansion options, however. For reasons I do not understand, the Desk Dock features a full-sized Display Port for video-out, rather than the far more common HDMI. And it offers two full-sized USB ports (one USB 3.0 and one 2.0, I believe) for expansion; three would be better. But there is a USB-C port, too, and 1 Gbps Ethernet. So it can give you the basics of a full desktop experience, assuming you can figure out a way to get Display Port out to your display.

ports

Like the Microsoft Display Dock, the HP Desk Dock features a rubbery micro-suction bottom, but because the HP device is so much heavier, it actually works to keep things in place. The top of the dock, where you sit the phone on a USB-C jack, is removable, I assume to accommodate different viewing angles or perhaps phone cases. But there is also an adapter that lets you use HP’s wireless charging option for the phone too.

The Dock also supports fast charging and is, in fact, the fastest way to charge the x3. It can charge the phone from 0 to 80 percent in about an hour, compared to 90 minutes for the normal phone charger. And to 100 percent in about 140 minutes, vs. 160 minutes. According to HP, that is.

excel

As noted, this dock provides a rock-solid Continuum experience, and while I will opine on the Elite x3’s software experiences at a later date, I’d like to stress how unusual that is. Everything works immediately and works well.

And that changes things, now doesn’t it? A lot of my opinion about the viability of Continuum have rested on—wait for it—my real world experiences using it, and those experiences were decidedly negative. Granted, alot of my opinion about the viability of Continuum is also based on the fact that Windows phone has a terrible apps ecosystem. And the quality of the Desk Dock won’t help there.

This bowling ball of a peripheral will, however, help deliver desktop applications to the Elite x3 virtually, from a datacenter. That’s something I’ll be looking at next week, when I get back from my pending Las Vegas trip.

Long story short, it’s already clear that the HP Desk Dock provides a superior Continuum experience, and that is something I’d never seen before. That alone makes this device—and the usage scenarios it enables—a bit more interesting.

 

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23 Comments
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  1. 6 | Reply
    Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 month ago

    "For reasons I do not understand, the Desk Dock features a full-sized Display Port for video-out, rather than the far more common HDMI."

    You don't understand it because you don't understand business computers.  Business-class monitors use DisplayPort, NOT HDMI.  HDMI is a consumer port.

    1. 0 | Reply
      the_zeni - 1 month ago
      In reply to Waethorn:

      I don't know any business using HDMI... but somehow I also don't know many consumers using HDMI. All Business are either still on VGA (combined with their Windows XP) or DP. Consumers I know mostly use DVI. HDMI is for TV.

       

      Don't know if this is because of some country specific differences in popularity or just my somewhat limited sample size.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 month ago
      In reply to the_zeni:

      HDMI is on any new consumer computer and video card.  I see it everywhere.

    3. 0 | Reply
      plettza Alpha Member #1558 - 1 month ago
      In reply to the_zeni:

      I believe licensing costs associated with HDMI make DisplayPort more prevalent. HDMI is also a multimedia connector rather than a PC connection. DisplayPort can be coffee configured to send audio though but it needs ti be supported by the PC.

    4. 0 | Reply
      joeaxberg Alpha Member #1896 - 1 month ago
      In reply to the_zeni:

      Ive worked for two different big corporations.  In both cases, all hp displays and laptops had display port connectors. My guess is hp didn't make the display connector decision blindly.  They probably had big customers in mind who would probably want DisplayPort.

    5. Paul Thurrott
      0 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 1 month ago
    6. 0 | Reply
      Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 month ago
      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Well, you did say that HP is switching gears to business use only.  All HP Business and Elite monitors support DisplayPort, and have for quite some time.  They don't use HDMI.  This is the way business monitors have been for years.  Also, audio is not a big concern for business monitors.  DisplayPort has supported multi-monitor hubs since, well, practically forever.  Accounting and investment firms use them all the time for those big 2x2 and 4x2 monitor arrays.

      I figure the name "Elite x3" is no coincidence, but the B&O speakers tell a different story.  I can only imagine that HP designed this a while back with consumer features in mind, but when they heard about Microsoft's plans to go the "Plays4Sure route" on W10M, that's when HP decided on the name and changed their marketing message.

      "Elite" is the high-end business line from HP.  "Pro" is for small business.

  2. 5 | Reply
    tbtalbot Alpha Member #152 - 1 month ago

    I've on my second week using Continuum on my HP Elite x3 - the experience was delayed by the need to order a DP to HDMI cable.     I understand all that about the app ecosystem as far as a phone is concerned, but may be missing the point.   I've got Edge, Office apps, onedrive, dropbox, maps, twitter/tweetium, my bank (USAA), readit, VLC, cortana and the UWP mail/calendar.    Interestingly, 90% of the apps I use work in continuum.   Is there something else in the way of apps that I need and dont have?  If so, I don't know what that app is.     Windows does not have a freshbooks app, but I do that through the web browser.  So, what are these apps that I need? 

    Although continuum improvements are expected in future redstone releases, including windowed apps, I do find the one file/one app thing limiting for heavy work.  I often run remote desktop on the phone.  I remote to either my home machine (east coast) or another machine in my west coast office.  The nearby remote desktop is snappy.

    1. 0 | Reply
      Markld Alpha Member #349 - 1 month ago
      In reply to tbtalbot:

      You are exactly who I want to hear from. In the next two years my new business will need just want the Elite x3 offers, however, Paul has influenced me greatly that it wasn't a viable option. 

      I think he expressed correctly in a comment a couple of hours ago, that this device is still bigger on promise than reality.

      I'm somewhat changing my mind and I'm opening to the possibility to it as an option. As the owner i will need portability, flexibility, and use practically all MS apps for all our employees.

      Your comment about the one file/one app open would really affect the productivity...need at least 2 files/2 apps at time in order for this to be viable.

      I do value yours and all input from users of this device, thanks!

  3. 4 | Reply
    JeffP Alpha Member #2323 - 1 month ago

    I suspect that it has DisplayPort instead of HDMI, because that is much more common on the displays used in Enterprises and large business (at least in our case).

  4. 2 | Reply
    EnterMegatron99 Alpha Member #189 - 1 month ago

    You sound pleasantly surprised Paul!  (And I'm pleasantly surprised at your surprise.)  Still an enterprise device...so no go for me, but yeah, is there promise of better things to come with Continuum?  Hopefully there's an ember left in the ashes of W10M.

    1. Paul Thurrott
      1 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 1 month ago
      In reply to EnterMegatron99:

      Continuum is still bigger on promise than reality. The culprits are many: UWP in general, the UWP apps that don't run full screen, the lack of windowed apps full-screen (yes, will be fixed), and the whole desktop app thing.

  5. 2 | Reply
    MacLiam Alpha Member #229 - 1 month ago

    The point of the alternate covers for the dock is that the wells in which the phone is placed are sized slightly differently to accommondate phones that are wearing either the HP wallet case or the rugged case. The holes that accommodate the standing USB-C plug are of different sizes in the different dock tops so you can tell them apart at a glance. The thing that surprised me is that the naked x3 resting in the default desk dock top actually wobbles a little from side to side -- or at least mine does; I suppose manufacturing variation might turn out misfitting devices from time to time. That's easily fixed with a strip of folded paper on either side of the fixed plug, but still...

    The base not surprisingly works just fine charging a 950XL, even if the XL is wearing a Spigen case. The XL also functions well with the HP implementation of Continuum. Just for grins I used the dock to push the display originating from the x3 to a 4K 49-inch Sony TV and used a wireless full-size keyboard and trackball on an easy-chair workboard to move around my usual programs. This is an enormously comfortable arrangement, but perhaps not ideal for productivity. I need to see if there are subjective differences between the x3 and XL experience in this arrangement; so far I have just goofed around with the potential.

    I agree that Microsoft's Display Dock has some features that are less than they might have been. (I also pretty much hate the similar Surface Dock, but that's a different story.)

    I'll never know how the x3 works with the $600 per annum per user HP Workspace subscription, a capability that is one of its major selling points in the enterprise market, but I am pleased enough with the phone just as a basic tool to have turned it into my primary mobe. I completely understand why someone who is not hopeful for the future of Windows Phone might prefer an iPhone or Nexus/Pixel, but as a standalone the x3 isn't bad. I have even convinced myself with some photo comparisons that the camera is not as weak as I first thought it was (though it is still outclassd by the optics in the 950 series cameras).

    1. 0 | Reply
      bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago
      In reply to MacLiam:

      Omg. The camera was awful for me on the X3. I just returned mine, becuase I just couldn't live with those problems day to day: lagging firmware and awful camera. I have all the firmware updates installed, everything is the latest... and the OS just struggles to keep up with the hardware. W10M has a long ways to go yet.

  6. 2 | Reply
    bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago

    Awesome! Glad you think so, Paul. I think so, too. My Elite X3 with Desk Dock arrived earlier today, and after a day of updates and downloads, I am finally enjoying. I just love it. Continuum works so much better and the OS is much snappier on this phone. Fingerprint scanner is awesome. The camera is subpar, so be prepared for that, but otherwise, best Windows Phone ever. I agree that fast Ring is a must on W10M. This whole package (dock and phone) is just built so much better than the 950. My one lingering thought after playing around with it today is that it just missing the camera from the 950 XL. If it had the 950 xl's camera, it would be a true dream Windows phone.

    1. 0 | Reply
      bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago
      In reply to bbold:

      Update: After a few days of living with the Elite X3 in 'real life situations,' I found that the phone kept restarting when I had it in it's HP leather folio case. I don't know why that matters but it would only happen when in the case. The battery and screen were awesome, but the OS just struggled to keep up with the great hardware. This thing is sporting some massive specs, so it should be blazing fast, which it isn't. The fingerprint reader failed to recognize my prints time and time again, had to keep resetting it. Ane the camera... Wow. It's truly awful. I can take better pictures with a 5 year old Apple iPhone or a bottom of the line Android phone. So, alas, I returned it... because just nothing beats the 950 XL at the moment. Nothing. The X3 is a stunningly designed device, but the cons just outweighed the pros for me. Not an app problem, just a phone firmware and camera problem. Which is enough to tip the scales for me.

  7. 0 | Reply
    Patrick3D Alpha Member #994 - 1 month ago

    DisplayPort supports a higher bandwidth than HDMI allowing for higher resolutions and refresh rates, not to mention added benefits like AdaptiveSync. With 4K becoming the new target resolution for workflows and entertainment it's no surprise to see vendors going with the better option. Eventually, the port itself will be phased out and everthing will just use USB-C ports for output with whatever dongle you prefer. Of course, the single biggest benefit for the manufacturer is no licensing fee for DisplayPort. On the monitor side of things, vendors have only offered DisplayPort on their high-end models, pushing DisplayPort will help them boost revenue forcefully. In the real world, we just spend the $8-$14 it costs for a "DisplayPort to anything else on Earth" adapter.

  8. 0 | Reply
    skborders Alpha Member #1309 - 1 month ago

    Paul, will the 950 fit into the dock? This would clarify if it is the dock or the phone that makes the experience better. I really want a display dock for my 950, but it would just be for playing with continuum and not for anything serious. Therefore I cannot justify the price of the dock.

    I was hoping the nexdock would not be a joke, but being that you only mentioned it in passing, it must not be a very good solution. 

    1. 0 | Reply
      RonH Alpha Member #149 - 1 month ago
      In reply to skborders:

      I have a 950XL. My neighbour's Ativ died on her and she bought an XL, and it came with the dock. She didn't know what it was and she gave it to me.

       

      It has worked perfectly from the first time I used it. I have my wife using it now in the kitchnen with the keyboard, mouse and 22" screen from the kitchen PC that I replaced last spring with the surface dock (we have SP4s).

      Every morning she plugs the phone in to goes through her email and texts using Continuum. With fast charging, the phone gets a full charg as well. (now I never have to get in trouble for not making sure HER phone is charged!)

      I use the Surface dock for music on my sound system and for streaming movies.

    2. 0 | Reply
      mmcpher Alpha Member #245 - 1 month ago
      In reply to skborders: 
      I don't know if PT will review the nexdock or not, but he seemed to be leaning against a review in comments he made in an earlier podcast.  I have a nexdock and the build quality is dollar-store poor and it's got an odd array of connecting accesories (no USB-C) that didn't work without an elaborate workaround for my stuff, which kind of defeats one of the points of a "convenience" device. My work around was so clanky that I couldn't tell if the lagging was inherent in the nexdock or a product of the setup. The manufacutrer suffered the tortures of the damned in getting it to market at all and while I am rooting for them, they have a long way to go yet. The HP Lap Dock looked to be of a much higher build and design quality (and at a much higher price).  

       

    3. Paul Thurrott
      0 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 1 month ago
      In reply to mmcpher:

      Yeah, the Nexdock is so crappy I'm not sure it warrants a closer look. It also doesn't come with everything you'll need as a Windows phone user, as you note. That it is a wired solution is also problematic, of course.

    4. 0 | Reply
      tbtalbot Alpha Member #152 - 1 month ago
      In reply to skborders:

      There are several tops for different spacings.  There is also a cover with a cable that allows you to hook things up like the 950's dock.  I'm told the HP dock does work with the 950 series.

  9. -2 | Reply
    Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 month ago

    I saw a HILARIOUS ad from Taboola (scourge of the Internet) today on a computer.  The ad link said: "See why consumers are giving up their PC's for this smartphone" with a picture of a Windows 10 Mobile phone with Continuum.

     

    What consumers?