This is my second review of the HP Elite X3 Lap Dock for Clove. I have now had the opportunity to use the Lap Dock for productivity tasks whilst on the move.
Firstly, it’s difficult to separate the various technologies to isolate my experience to the Lap Dock only, as the reason for its existence is to deliver the Windows Mobile Continuum experience and so any review must take this into consideration. I will try to stick with the Lap Dock.
I run a business employing fifty members of staff, all using a mixture of desktop and laptop computers, the cost of deploying and managing so many devices means that I am interested in this technology. I believe that leveraging the power of mobile phone technology through a Continuum type environment will eventually reduce the need to work with so many individual items of equipment. My business could eventually issue each member of staff with a capable mobile phone along with dumb equipment such as monitors, keyboards and mice. I’m not suggesting that the HP Elite solution is anywhere near ready for such a lofty application, however it is an extremely interesting step in that direction.
So onto the actual tech. The Lap Dock performed well for me on two separate trips away from home. On both occasions I also took a laptop with me but did not need to use it.
The actual Lap Dock unit is extremely well constructed and a real pleasure to use. Structurally the unit is heavy enough to be stable in most environments. The hinge between the keyboard and the screen is firm and does not shake, even when used on a train. The smaller footprint of the device also makes it more convenient than a full sized laptop when working in a tight environment.
The keyboard is a pleasure to work on, I’m not a touch typist; although I can type quickly, and found it comfortable to work on for prolonged periods of time and have now typed some 15,000 words using the unit on trains and desks. The backlit keyboard is useful, although I’ve not had much reason to use it. The keyboard is nicely angled once the clamshell is opened. The keys are nicely spaced even for my fat fingers. The layout of the keys is natural; I didn’t need to look for specific keys. There are a number of special keys across the top of the keyboard to control volume etc. these are pretty standard for most laptop type keyboards.
Where the unit opens, the heel of the screen hinges downwards to raise the rear of the keyboard, this creates a significant valley between the rear of the keyboard and the bottom of the screen. Whilst this is a logical arrangement I did drop a pen into the valley on one trip which could have been a problem if I’d closed the unit quickly. The valley is not deep enough to hide a pen or pencil but a paperclip could easily become hidden. Not a criticism, more of an observation.
The display is clear and bright, I didn’t detect much reflection; even with the varying sunlight presented on a train. One journey started in the dark and ended in daylight, I didn’t detect any issue whilst using the Lap Dock across these varying lighting conditions. The resolution of the screen is good and easy on the eye. It’s worth noting that my experience has mainly been using business applications rather than gaming or video.
The trackpad is probably the weakest element of the package, although I didn’t have too many issues. If precision cursor control is required, then an add on mouse or trackpad would be a better option. I used a Microsoft Arc Mouse linked by Bluetooth to the phone for some of the time, although a wired mouse connected into the Lap Dock by USB also worked well.
A colleague wanted a demonstration of the Bang and Olufsen speakers, I have to say that I was really quite impressed, the sound was better than I had expected. The speakers direct the sound downwards so if the unit was being operated on a lap then the sound would undoubtedly become muffled. I don’t consider this type of equipment to be suitable for playing music to an audience, but the speakers are certainly good enough for watching a TV program or music whilst working.
Battery performance was good and whilst I wasn’t confident enough to run it all the way to flat; I needed it as a productivity platform throughout the day, I think that the published battery performance time is probably accurate. The weak link here is the battery level indicator. There are four white LED’s on the side of the unit that show the battery level. Whilst I have no reason to believe that these are not accurate; being a regular mobile worker, I rely upon battery indicators to ensure that I can keep going. I didn’t feel confident in running the Lap Dock down in the same way that I would my normal laptop. Maybe my confidence will grow with use.
Using the unit attached to the phone by the provided cable is by far the most stable of the two means of connection. There is no perceptible delay in the keyboard or track pad and the screen scrolls fluidly. I also found that battery performance was better when used with the cable. In this configuration the Lap Dock gives the phone a charge, this would lead one to expect the battery performance of the Lap Dock to deteriorate, it doesn’t seem to though, I think that by eradicating the wireless connection the battery of both devices is depleted more slowly, indeed when I arrived at my destination the phone battery was still comfortably charged. When using the units wirelessly I needed to charge the phone a little during the day to retain comfort that I would still have power for my return journey. Wirelessly the Lap Dock did hold sufficient charge for both directions of my train journey.
There is no dedicated charging indicator, pressing the charge status indicator button when the unit is connected to the mains lights the LED’s and under some battery charge conditions an additional charge light will flash, but it is not clear that the unit is charging at all. This does cause me a problem as I’ve plugged into a non-functioning power point on a train before, thinking that my device was charging when it wasn’t. I now check, which was not easy with the Lap Dock and involved me having to plug another device into the power outlet first to see that power was available.
One final gripe about the charging experience is that whilst the power supply brick is not huge, it is another thing to carry and employs a 3 pin mains cable, so the small kettle lead type cable that I carry in my bag for other devices is not suitable for the Lap Dock. I really think that HP should have considered portability more carefully.
I have not used the HDMI output from the unit but I have no doubt that it will perform well.
As mentioned previously, the most stable way of operating the phone and lap dock is through the cable, although I cannot complain about the wireless experience, I wrote a 3,500-word report wirelessly and made some modifications to a reasonably complicated spreadsheet without any difficulty. On a couple of occasions, I had some difficulty in selecting text using the trackpad, although I’m not completely sure that was wholly down to the Lap Dock or the wireless connection, I was working on a train and so subject to jolting movements.
I have had trouble using the NFC facility to wirelessly connect the, my understanding is that you should be able to connect the Lap Dock to the phone wirelessly by holding the phone over the keyboard to the right of the trackpad. Certainly this does make the connection between the devices, the phone screen comes up on the Lap Dock, however the keyboard and trackpad on the Lap Dock do not work when connected in this way. I might not be operating the equipment correctly, but I can’t see how.
My final word on connection between the phone and Lap Dock is that you need to keep the phone live to maintain the connection. HP supply an app on the phone that effectively raises a screen saver that displays the time on the phone display. The problem is, if you close the phone case and put the phone to sleep then the connection to the Lap Dock disappears. Because I’m used to working on trains and in public places I’m very careful about making sure that I don’t leave my phone exposed on tables, this should make the wireless connection an ideal solution; one can place the phone in a pocket, unfortunately the phone then disconnects from the Lap Dock. I’m sure that this small issue is particular to me.
Now for my experience in using the unit as a Continuum delivery device, as previously mentioned, performance here is absolutely reliant on Continuum and the mobile device delivering the Continuum experience and so does not necessarily reflect the capability of the Lap Dock.
I’m using the HP Elite X3 mobile phone; the Lap Dock can however be used with other Continuum enabled devices, this combination of equipment should be the best experience currently possible. I used the Lap Dock both connected by a cable and also wirelessly and found both experiences to be satisfactory.
Whilst there are limitations to Continuum applications, I rather liken it to the limitations presented by a tablet computer, the trouble is people think that they need a mobile or tablet device to offer the same functionality as a full operating system. There are of course occasions where I need the complexity allowed by a modern desktop operating system, however for many general applications a limited subset of functions is more than adequate. Certainly for some of my colleagues the limitations presented by current mobile equipment would be too restrictive, but I venture that probably as many as 75% of my colleagues would not be troubled by the limitations of Continuum applications. Power users will for the foreseeable future exceed the capability of a tablet or Continuum, but does that make it wrong for everyone? I personally like the uncluttered display and subsequent simplicity of the interface, especially when working on the road. To me, Continuum, Android and IOS interfaces are much better for mobile operation; which is of course what they are designed for. At the moment many users will still need access to a fully capable desktop or laptop for more demanding tasks, but I’m confident that will eventually change.
Before I leave this point, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop application works very well and does give access to remote computers, providing that you have a solid network connection.
For most general word processing, email, web browsing and similar tasks Continuum works extremely well and is a much better solution than a tablet either with or without a keyboard. The integration with other Office features such as OneDrive is seamless. Some applications still need to port to Continuum but hopefully that will happen over time. I also understand that Microsoft is delivering an emulator through which other desktop apps will be delivered through handset devices, I’m not sure that this will work on the Elite X3 but the Lap Dock as a device will work with future devices.
In conclusion, I am extremely happy with my purchase and praise HP and Microsoft for taking a bold step in this direction. I understand the opposition to Windows mobile but I wish that people would stop blasting it without really understanding where it’s going. Yes, Android and IOS are extremely impressive and there will always be winners and losers, I just think that Microsoft is moving in a very useful direction and providing that the computing press do not put it down before it has matured, I think that the future of integrated personal computing is possibly already in your mobile phone.
I have increased my star rating to 5 stars, previously I'd marked it down to 4 stars due to the price, I do believe that the Lap Dock is worth the money based on build quality and user experience. That doesn't mean that I'm happy with the price, just that it is a quality product.
Finally, I think that it might be helpful for you to know that I am by nature an Apple enthusiast, not a Microsoft fan-boy.