Review

Published on February 8th, 2016 | by Yasser Masood

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Smartphone PC with Continuum on Windows 10

Microsoft has taken a unified cross-device approach to bringing all devices under one umbrella with Windows 10. One of their nifty features – Continuum – allows you to carry a PC-like environment on your Windows mobile device without any extra setup. Imagine you start something brief on your phone, but you need more space to get it all done. With a Microsoft Display Dock and a Lumia 950 XL, I gave it a spin to see if it lives up to the promise.

Plug and Play like USB

Set-up is quite straightforward and easy – just connect the smartphone to the Display Dock using the bundled USB3 Type-C cable. It also doubles up as a charging point for the phone, so bonus points for reducing cable clutter.

The rear part of the Display Dock comes with some of the standard ports you’d find across laptops/desktops (USB, HDMI, and DisplayPort) accompanying the standard power outlet. You can choose to connect PC peripherals (keyboard/mouse) via the USB port, or pair them via Bluetooth with the Lumia phone.

Just plugging the Lumia phone into the Dock, and the monitor powers up with a desktop interface… with no desktop icons. It’s the standard background image, along with familiar taskbar with the Start button. There isn’t even that much of a slowdown when navigating on a big screen while simultaneously using the phone. The mouse cursor easily appears and hides whenever you switch between mobile and the desktop view.

 

Another surprise is that you can use the USB ports to connect storage devices as well. My own experience saw an exFAT formatted USB drive easily recognized when plugged in. You can open up the File Explorer and easily browse the files stored on the USB drive.

Windows desktop multi-tasking… with a catch

You’d think that having a desktop-like environment in your pocket would mean one thing – a near-identical setup to a PC. That’s where you’re wrong, as Continuum does have some drawbacks to fit the mobile environment.

Not every app can work with Continuum – they have to be Universal apps for Windows 10 to support it. This is not restricted to just the official apps, but also extends to games. When you try to open it using the desktop interface, you’ll see the option of opening the app on the Lumia device. With the push of having Windows 10 released as a free upgrade (FYI, it’s ending July 2017), this should spur more app developers to support it.

In addition, you can’t run the same app simultaneously across 2 screens. Open up Word first on the phone and then open it on the desktop with Continuum, you’ll see the mobile version close and head back to the home screen.

There’s no drag-and-drop tasks nor even right-click with a context menu. It’s likely meant to reduce complexity with respect to the mobile-based foundation for using Continuum from a mobile device.

As of now, the only Windows 10 mobile devices in the Middle East market that allow you to use Continuum are the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Even if you do upgrade your current Lumia phone to Windows 10, it would still have to meet the minimum specs to support Continuum.

Desktop with Continuum powered by Windows 10 Mobile - same as a PC but excluding certain features

Desktop with Continuum powered by Windows 10 Mobile – same as a PC but excluding certain features

Potential of Continuum

The concept is a great opportunity of unifying productivity, as it combines portability with desktop familiarity and the cloud to keep us connected seamlessly. Continuum could be the bridge of having a ‘Smartphone PC’ in your pocket, even with the current multitasking limitations.

In my opinion, it’s off to a great start but I can imagine it improving with every major update to Windows 10. Maybe we could see desktop-like multi-tasking and potentially play our favourite games from it.

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About the Author

Who am I? Some say I’m a walking breathing Wikipedia in Qatar, knowing anything from the obscure to the mainstream. I’m just a tech-savvy gadget loving and dissecting geek, juggling a day job with some community passion work. You can follow me on Twitter: @YasserM86



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