Guest reviewer Anthony Fear brings us our first full review of the Alcatel IDOL 4S in Windows 10 Mobile guise, released at first as a T-Mobile exclusive in the USA and then SIM-free for North America. There's still no official release of a 'world' version, but MWC is just around the corner. In the meantime, here's Anthony's assessment of this latest premium Windows 10 Mobile smartphone.
Recent Reviews - Hardware
The review process for smartphones used to be simple - the device would arrive, I/we'd test it for a week or two, and then deliver an illustrated verdict. However, things are more complicated with the HP Elite x3. There's the long, drawn out initial availability cycle, there's the premature nature of early firmware and then there's the same all over again for the Lap Dock, such an integral part of the Elite x3 'vision'. So this isn't a true wrap up, a true verdict - yet. It's... a summary of the product(s) so far!
In part 1 of my HP Elite x3 Lap Dock review, I looked at the hardware proposition in detail, along with some initial impressions and teething problems. In part 2, I look at what it's like to use the Lap Dock with cables as part of a real world mobile computing set-up. And, yes, this entire review part is being written on the x3 Lap Dock, away from home, as a real world test.
Thinner than the thinnest netbook or ultrabook, very solid and made (almost) completely from premium materials and components, the HP Elite x3 Lap Dock is a curious piece of technology. Designed as a laptop form factor to function as a Windows 10 Continuum display, is it a glimpse of the future of mobile computing or an ultra niche accessory? Actually, a little of both. Does it work? Is it finished? Is it over-priced? These are questions that I'll be answering in my multi-part review here on AAWP.
I seem to have become synonymous with various things, one being smartphone imaging and another being power bank reviews, with the flexible and future-proof Lumsing Glory P2 Plus being the latest and best. Yet the OUTXE (OUTdoor Xtreme Energy, apparently!) Rugged Power Bank offers a totally different USP - it's fully waterproof (to a maximum of IP67) and pitches itself as the ultimate accessory for the outdoor enthusiast, with a seven LED 200 hour floodlight that's perfect for camping or emergencies.
That I've left imaging to part four of this multipart review is a clue as to the Elite X3's pretensions - it has an occasionally surprisingly good rear camera, but there are limitations. Everything else about the device is optimised for work and for productivity - the most an X3's imaging would typically have to cope with would be a shot of a building site, a white board, or a QR code. Having said that, you know me, I've been out and about shooting some lovely arty photos with it anyway.
In the previous two review parts, I looked at the positioning of the HP Elite X3 and who it's aimed at, plus I explored its phone hardware, and then I delved into performance and the Continuum-capable Desk Dock, but it's time now to break new ground, into the world of HP Workspace, extending the Windows 10 smartphone into genuine Win32 application space, albeit via a managed virtualisation service. But line up all your ducks in a row and it's possible to be 'using' Publisher, Access, Slack, Visio and many more popular desktop applications, using OneDrive as default storage and with hooks to Box, Dropbox and others.
Last week saw my first review part, looking at the HP Elite X3's hardware and where it's pitched in the world of mobile computing. And I'm very glad that both HP and myself waited until the device was on the Anniversary Update for the formal AAWP review - this is a very different device to that which we handled in June and then played with in initial retail form in August. The Elite X3 is now fast and stable - and I try to quantify this below, along with a look at Office, Continuum and the Desk Dock, using the phone as a true portable computer.
When most people think of 'smartphones', or even just 'phones', they picture sexily-advertised shiny high-tech in High Street manufacturer/carrier/network stores. The focus is on social activities, on imaging, on music, and so on. Even though it can handle most of that, the HP Elite X3 is a totally different beast - it's a three-in-one (hence the name), transforming mobile computer for professionals and the companies for which they work.
This is the latest marker in the sand for Microsoft with Windows 10 Mobile, a data point around which numerous third parties are pitching their own handsets running the OS. We've not seen too many flagships competing with the 950 and 950 XL, but the 650 sits in sub-£200 territory (in the UK), already available at £140 on pay-as-you-go, so we're in a much more competitive arena here. Happily, there are lots of positives here, not least a design language and materials that should have been used on the 950 flagships, plus a balanced set of components that will appeal greatly to businesses...