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Review: HP's Elite x3 is too much smartphone, not enough PC

Galen Gruman | Oct. 28, 2016
We've seen this 'one device for everything' movie before, and it ends just as badly this time

Nor is the full-screen app display as cool as it might be. For example, if you directly launch an app on your Elite X3, then enable external-display control, the app running on the phone is not moved to the external display. Instead, you have to separately launch the app from the external display's Start menu. That's an unintuitive UI choice, though it does let you run one app on the smartphone and another on the external display.

When you enable external-display control, the Elite x3 functions as a trackpad for the external display, similar to how Apple's Remote app lets you control an Apple TV for iTunes playback. As with the Apple Remote app, the experience is initially awkward and unnatural, though it works if you find yourself mouseless when working on the big screen. It gets easier over time, as you mentally map the touchscreen's virtual canvas to the external display's screen real estate.

The high-cost workaround for app access

You can access the full Windows apps (for which you have licenses, of course) if you pay for HP's subscription-based Workspace service, which is basically a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) where the real clients run on HP's cloud and users access them remotely. You can also use other VDI systems. But what a wasteful way to get the real Office and other Windows apps.

VDI can be slow and requires a strong broadband connection, which is not always available to mobile users. In the case of Workspace, HP manages the back end, so it won't be as painful as deploying on-premises VDI, but it's still another link in a chain to monitor and manage.

Also, the virtual desktop is separate from the local device. Although this serves to keep corporate documents from leaving your back-end servers, it creates a confusing duality of local versus remote work. HP Workspace allows users to connect to corporate Dropbox accounts (Google Drive and Box access is in beta), to which they could then be permitted to access directly from the Elite x3 smartphone for mobile usage. Oddly, HP Workspace doesn't support the Microsoft OneDrive or SharePoint services that a Windows-centric organization is likely to have in place.

Because HP Workspace doesn't function unless the Elite x3 is docked to an external display, it's only useful for scenarios where users will assuredly be working at a Desk Dock-equipped office. Other VDI systems can run apps on a smartphone screen; if your users work on the go and you want to keep some apps restricted to the back end, HP Workspace isn't the right choice.

Rather than mess with the overhead and complexity of VDI, it's typically better to issue users a Windows laptop or MacBook, which also ensures your users have all the capabilities they need, when they need them, on devices you manage like your others.


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