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Microsoft Continuum Display Dock unboxing and hands-on

Continuum is without question the most exciting new feature of Windows 10 on phones, but you need one crucial piece of hardware to make use of it, the Microsoft Display Dock.

We were able to get out hands on one, unbox it, rig it up to a new Lumia 950 and see what it could do.

What’s in the box?

The Display Dock box contains the all-important box itself, which is surprisingly weighty, with a nice metal finish, a shiny Windows logo embossed into its plastic top and a rubberised base for grip on your desk or table top. The front face of the dock features a single Type-C USB port to connect to your Continuum-ready smartphone and an LED light to indicate power and connection status.

Microsoft Display Dock box contents
Everything that comes inside the box.

The back of the dock is really the business end. Along the top sit three full-sized USB 2.0 connections, one of which supports high-current, whilst the lower row features another Type-C USB connection for power, a full-sized Display Port output and an HDMI out, so you have options when connecting to different types of displays.

Microsoft Display Dock rear ports

Along with the dock you’ll also find a foldout paper user start guide, a metre-long double-ended Type-C USB lead and a hard-wired Type-C USB power adapter. You’ll have to source a mouse, keyboard and HDMI or Display Port lead and supported monitor yourself, naturally. It’s a pretty small box after all.

Setup & hands-on

The Display Dock itself is easy to connect up and attaching the phone should be the last step, once you peripherals and power are already wired in. Once you connect the phone to the Display Dock, it automatically detects that an external display is available and soon thereafter automatically initiates Continuum.

Microsoft Display Dock connected

After an initial scaling screen, to ensure the full screen Windows 10 experience is correctly displayed on screen, you’re presented with a remarkably familiar Windows desktop interface. As Microsoft itself has said, Continuum creates a ‘desktop-like’ experience, in that you’re able to scale the company’s own universal apps and other content into a big-screened interface, but you can’t install desktop applications as you’d be able to on full-blown Windows 10 devices like the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

The UI isn’t dissimilar from Windows 10 desktop’s tablet mode, with a Start button leading to a Start menu aping your Windows Phone’s live tile arrangement, a Cortana button and the task switcher.

The Display Dock outputs content at Full HD resolution and at 60fps, so moving the mouse around, scrolling and typing all feel as fast and as fluid as if they were taking place on a conventional PC. Rigging in a hardware keyboard also means you have access to conventional shortcuts like Alt-Tab and if you wish, you can move the cursor on the screen by swiping around on your connected smartphone.

Continuum in use
It’s pretty impressive to think that such an experience is powered by a phone.

The real beauty of Continuum is that you can continue to use your connected Windows Phone as normal, essentially giving you a second screen experience.

The Display Dock costs £79.99 and works with Continuum compatible smartphones like the Lumia 950, 950 XL and the forthcoming Acer Jade Primo. If all you need a computer for is checking emails, browsing the web, streaming media and basic office work, then picking up a Display Dock instead seems like a very sensible move.

Read next: What is Windows Continuum?

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