Microsoft has just recently begun shipping the Lumia 950 and 950 XL around the globe and offered with it (for many) is the Microsoft Display Dock. The Display Dock is a docking station for your Windows 10 Mobile device currently only supported by the 950 and the 950 XL.

It has a HDMI port as well as a Display Port and three USB ports for connecting mice, keyboards, storage devices or whatever else W10M currently supports.

The idea behind the docking station is that soon your phone can replace, for a lot of people, the need for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. Aligning quite well with Microsoft’s strategy for Windows 10, the Surface line and in general the hardware evolution we’ve witnessed on the phone side.

Early this December month I got my hands on the Lumia 950 XL and have been using it as my main device since, and I got the Display Dock for free shortly after. Until now I’ve not been able to fully test the Display Dock itself and give Continuum a run for it’s money.

I just started my Christmas vacation and when I packed my bags to fly back home to my parents’ place I only packed the Display Dock, my Logitech K810 Bluetooth Keyboard, the Microsoft Sculpt Mouse and the cables I would need to hook this up to a monitor, power etc. For the first time ever I did not pack my laptop. Scary, but, now I have sort of forced myself to use Continuum and my phone as much as possible to achieve the same things I would do with a laptop.

The team here at ViseGuys.com love to share the experiences we have with technology and since it’s going to be a whole two weeks given that I do not throw the Display Dock out the window in frustration we thought it would be cool to blog somewhat continously.

Let’s just jump right onto the first day..

Tasks for the day

To give you, the reader, a sense of context throughout this little journey I will list out the tasks or goals that I have for a particular day. For the first day this what I wanted to achieve:

  • Find a monitor and connect the Display Dock
  • Connect my bluetooth mouse and keyboard and fiddle around with Continum
  • Write this blog post

Now that we all have a sense of context how did the Lumia 950 XL and the Display Dock fare in each point?

Hooking up the Display Dock

One of the first things you will notice about the Display Dock is that it is quite small, compact and heavy. The appearance vs weight ratio is quite deceiving. The weight in combination with the rubber-like padding underneath will ensure that it stays in place when connecting the phone or other devices through USB.

Connecting the Display Dock is pretty straigh forward. Plug in the power, then your monitor via HDMI or DP and at last hook up your phone using the USB-C to USB-C cable that is bundled with the Display Dock.

In a second or two you should see a familiar Windows 10 like experience. In my case the whole image seemed to stretch beyond the monitor it self. There is no scan/scale settings in Windows 10 Mobile so I had to adjust the settings on the monitor itself to «Scale to fit». Seems weird. I had a similar problem when I connected the Display Dock to my living room TV, but when connecting wirelessly it scaled/stretched fine without any adjustments. If anyone has a good tip, clue or know why there would be a difference then let us know in the comments.

The only thing I notice is that some elements are a bit blurry which could be caused by the scaling effect or the monitor itself.

Using Bluetooth peripherals and Continuum

The Display Dock has three USB ports available which you can use to connect your favorite mouse, keyboard and perhaps an external storage device. I tend to favor wireless technology (except for my workstations at home), so I pack with me a BT mouse and keyboard. I bought the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard, but it takes time to get used to the split in the middle as well as it’s not very «lapable».

Connecting Bluetooth devices is no hurdle in Windows 10 Mobile. However there has been reported that the Bluetooth stack in the current builds are not as stable and good as it should be.

I notice some issues with my BT mouse. Sometimes it freezes for half a second before input is restored. Not sure if it is the mouse itself or Windows 10 acting up. My keyboard seems to work pretty good and continously with no problem however.

When it comes to Continuum itself things work pretty good. The start menu is the exact replica of your phone, and you can’t use the start menu and the start screen on your phone at the same time. I notice a slight delay when clicking the start button before the menu appears.

Users familiar with Windows 10 will feel somewhat at home here. The current version provides a task switcher which is the same found in Windows 10, as well as the Cortana/Search experience. Like the tablet experience in Windows 10 there is a on-screen back button next to the start button. The action center is also present, and is located to the far end of the task bar.

The difference between the desktop experience and this is that we now have the phone’s status bar at the top which displays the date, battery indicator and other notification icons which would otherwise be located in the far end of the task bar.

There is no multi-tasking enabled in this version of Continuum other than being able to switch back and forth between open apps. The apps themselves takes up the whole screen and at the moment you can’t snap apps side by side like you could in the Windows RT days. Hopefully Microsoft will improve on this and bring side-by-side or even better: windowed mode.

One cool aspect with Continuum is that you can use your phone while using it as a PC on a second screen. In a sense you could multi-task that way, with a «two-monitor setup» at your hand. Why this is useful is that not all apps in the Store are Windows 10 Universal Apps. Many are still Windows Phone 8.1 apps, and those are not supported in Continuum. Hopefully more and more developers will bring their apps over to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Why? Because seeing the app scale beautifully up and down is amazing.

An issue I seem to have occasionally is that the phone experience lags after connecting to the dock. This is not consistent though, so there might be some among many software issues Microsoft has to fix and improve upon.

Speaking of lag there seems to be some performance issues with Continuum. Not everything is as snappy as one would want in a connected experience like this. Opening up tabs and switching between pages in Edge can sometimes be painful to watch. There is definitely a lot that can be improved performance wise.

Writing this blog post

You probably already have read many articles and posts that have been written while using Continuum. It has been the goto thing to do when testing Continuum. No exception here either because it is the strongest use case for Continuum: productivity. When writing this post I am using the Word which is bundled with the phone. It scales beautifully to full screen and looks good. It’s the lightweight version of the desktop app, but quite functional indeed.

I do not have anything to say about Word or the typing experience. It is as one expects from opening up Word on any computer.

There is some issues that I have encountered while writing however:

  1. The phone has crashed multiple times over the course of writing the post. Not sure what happens as it seems random. The two most recent crashes happened while I opened Edge when I wanted to look up something when writing in Word. The other was opening the Action Center with Word open.
  2. Scrolling with my BT mouse. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. When it works there is also issues with the speed at which it scrolls. Sometimes it scrolls normally and other times it hardly moves at all.

Summary

To summarize it has been exciting to test this feature out. I have already on my first day been able to make my phone crash multiple times, but also been able to surf the web using Edge, install app updates with the Store app and of course wrote this post in Word. All of this is powered by the phone. Even in its infancy it’s amazing to see how well it works.

Stick around for the next post when I will look at transferring pictures from a digital camera to the phone.