Just recently I purchased a Microsoft Display Dock for my Lumia 950 from Amazon. After a pain in the arse getting the item delivered, along with a cheap Samsung TV to go with it, I’ve had a few uses of it and thought I’d give my opinions on it in a blog post, seeing as I’ve already reviewed the 950 here. If you haven’t seen my review of the phone you might want to do so before continuing.

Ideal Setup

first thing to bear in mind is that you can’t just go and get a Lumia 950 and a Display Dock and expect to have everything you need, obviously you also need a monitor (I’d recommend a TV with speakers), as well as a keyboard and mouse (I’d recommend a keyboard with integrated trackpad, more about that below).

I did have just 2 monitors on my desk, both connected to my home PC, one is DVI and one is VGA, so neither are suitable for connecting to the display dock as it requires HDMI. I initially had it connected to by DVI monitor using a HDMI to DVI cable. That worked well enough but I missed having my 2 monitor setup for my main PC so I purchased a cheap Samsung TV to plug it into instead.

My choice of TV turned out to be less than ideal as the display dock seems to need some kind of firmware update, no sound is currently getting to my TV, although if I plug it into my main TV sound does go to it. This could only be a firmware issue as far as I can tell as I have an NVidia Shield tablet which outputs sound to it over HDMI fine. Hopefully Microsoft won’t take too long getting it sorted.

For they keyboard and mouse, I picked this, I thought for less than £30 it seemed like a reasonable choice, plus I had seen quite a few photos of Continuum setups using this exact keyboard.

First Impressions

After connecting for the first time you are greeted with a welcome video, introducing Continuum. It was pretty cool, and a nice thouch I thought. After that I connected up my keyboard and then opened Edge,

Please note, if you get the same keyboard as me there is a small power switch at the top right that is not obvious, I only found it by accident.

First thing I noticed when Edge opened is that I had about 80 odd tabs open! Now I know Edge on the phone doesn’t actually keep the page loaded in memory, it just remembers the URL, but still, it made my skin crawl, I hate having more than 3-4 tabs open at any one time on the desktop, I’d rather have a new browser window open. It’s worth remembering how Edge handles tab switching because it will fuck with you if you don’t, for example, if I’m filling in an important online form and switch to google to check something, then go back, the fucking page will reload, losing all your important shit. Yes this is very very annoying!

That asside, I navigated to YouTube, and played a high-def (1080p) music video, it was pretty much exactly the same as watching it on the deskop version of Edge, bar a few minor glitches. Quite impressive I thought.

After I done that I fired up Word and typed some meaningless garbage into a new word document, that wasn’t before I had to sign into Office 365 in order to create a new document. I must have misunderstood regarding the licensing of Office for tablets / phones, as I thought it was completely free, but it isn’t it’s free for reading stuff, not creating stuff, and to be fair if you can use your Lumia 950 in this context anyway, I’m not surprised it requires an Office 365 license. You can try the same version of Word on any Windows 10 desktop / laptop by installing it from the app store, this one.

I also tried Rainierland just out of curiosity and that works fine in Continium mode, although I can imagine your device being a little toasty after watching a whole film (more on that below).

It Burns!!

There’s no denying it, my phone was fucking hot after, I contribute that to one major reason, the screen does not turn off, if it did it would use less power, instead it outputs to the phone and the TV at the same time, this is stupid IMO and shoould be optional. Locking your phone also turns off Continuum mode, so you can’t even tab the power button once to solve this, maybe they will fix it in a future version.

Expect your device to get hot every time you use Continuum, and for that reason alone I do not recommend using it for long periods, unless you’re loaded and can afford a replacement phone every 6 months as I hazard a guess that the wear on the phone will be increased by this. The Lumia 950 XL is supposed to have liquid cooling, but from reports I’ve read thus far, even that won’t help it in Continuum mode.

Real World Uses

Now as a developer who is very keen on utilising Continuum for something, I’ve been trying to rack my head around real world uses. The only 2 that spring to mind, are either keyboard orientated, or large screen orientated. So that would mean either, office work via the Microsoft Office mobile apps, or watching films on your big TV, possibly even giving presentations too. I’m sure the use cases will increase over time as the features develop, and developers start creating some cool stuff… that’s assuming that they do.

I’ve been working on something that I plan on taking advantage of Continuum mode, and although I’m not giving the game away as to what I’m creating, below are some photographs (bad photographs) showing the same app running in all 3 contexts.

Windows 10 Desktop

Windows 10 on Desktop

Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 on Mobile

Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 on Continuum

As you can see, the app happily runs on all 3 platforms, if you ignore the fact that it doesn’t look particularly exciting, that’s primarily because this is prototype code running that I still have a lot of work to do on.

A Glimpse Of Things To Come

There’s no doubt in my eyes that this is a sight of the future, others are convinced enough to make their version of Continuum for Android, called Maru. Although to be fair, Ubuntu were the first to do this, but they have no phone user-base, and who wants to use Linux in those 2 contexts anyway? (enter angry Linux fanboys).

Of course Apple in their infinite wisdom of keeping OSX entirely separate from iOS are going to have a hell of a time getting anywhere near an experience like this, massive lolz in their general direction, they have some catching up to do and everyone knows how volatile the tech industry is, leaders can chop and change all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I actually want to see Apple do something, they just need to get started as I’ve seen no evidence of OSX getting any kind of Touch support to make it usable in smaller formats.

One Last Thing

One last thing, and not really of much relevance, but I ran the old Futuremark Peacekeeper benchmark in edge on the phone when in phone mode and in continuum mode, the results were as follows,

Phone - 598 4/7 Continuum - 414 5/7

More variation than I was expecting but then I know jack shit about this benchmark and if it has any part in todays web browsing playground.

Anyway, so that’s my take on it all, exciting times!