Travelling with Continuum: How easy is it to get set up in a hotel room?

To be clear, I didn't leave my laptop at home. At this point in time I wouldn't ever go on a work trip without it, and everything else I'd usually take on such an excursion. But it is the first time I've really travelled since having my own Lumia 950 XL and as a result, access to Continuum.

So I've brought some extra bits and pieces with the intention to try and see how much I can get done using my phone while on the road. There's a time in the future I could foresee this being how a lot of work could be done away from home, or the office. Especially with such things on the horizon as the HP Elite X3 and its bevy of accessories, or the much more affordable NexDock.

Part of the nervousness is getting set up in a hotel room. Because until you arrive you don't really know what you're going to get.

Here's what I brought with me:

  • A USB-C hub
  • Wireless mouse
  • Wireless keyboard
  • USB 3.0 hub (a bonus item)
  • HDMI cable

The last of those is important to remember, because in many hotel rooms (in my experience) you can't just rip out a HDMI cable to use. Indeed, in the hotel I'm staying at in Hong Kong, one end of the cable vanishes into a sealed unit where I can't access it. But I can unplug the other end and use my own cable connected to the USB-C hub.

Continuum

The hub I'm using isn't a Microsoft Display Dock. I wanted to see if something cheaper could do the trick, so I picked up this one (opens in new tab) from Amazon for £21. Less than half the price of the Microsoft offering. It doesn't have as many connections as the Display Dock, with only a solitary HDMI output, a USB 3.0 port and a USB-C in for power. It doesn't require the power, but it does act as a pass-through to keep your phone charged.

It's very compact and I'm OK with the connections. For the most part I wouldn't (yet) be planning to plug many things in to access from my phone, but if I did need to access a USB stick I could happily go back to using the phone as a mouse so I could take out the wireless receiver. But I have a fairly compact USB 3.0 hub at home which I packed as well, mostly because it also has an SD card reader on it. But even then, all of the items combined take up less space in a bag than a laptop and its charger. Even my own super-compact XPS 13.

In this particular hotel I had few issues getting set up. The HDMI ports on the back of the TV are easily accessible and I have power close at hand to plug in to keep the phone charged. As it happens, had I packed an adapter that allowed a VGA connection, I could have just plugged in to a port in the room designed to allow guests to plug their laptops into the TV.

But, while getting the equipment set up was a doddle, getting the Continuum experience was a little less so. I'm not sure whether it's the cable or perhaps the connectors on the TV that have seen better days, but every so often the screen would go black and claim there wasn't a signal. Unplugging, re-plugging in and jiggling the cable have all worked to reinstate it, but it'll be pretty rough if I'm working and that happens. I've also had to fiddle with the TV settings to get the Continuum display to fit properly. An identical experience to the almost identical Samsung TV I have at home.

Continuum

If only I'd brought a VGA adapter

The only other thing that's of inconvenience is actually getting comfortable and working. This will vary from hotel to hotel, but here I have a round table up by the window and the TV is square on in the middle of the room facing the beds. I don't have the space to manoeuvre to an ideal spot in front of the TV with the table, and working from the bed is awkward with a mouse. I'm using a magazine as a makeshift mouse pad, which is surprisingly OK.

So, I've managed to get set up OK, which means I didn't drag extra gear half way around the world for nothing. I'll be following up with another post once I've actually had chance to work with it a little. Having watched an industry colleague struggle to get work done on an iPad Pro already at this event, I'm most curious to see how I fare trying to use Continuum. So far the only thing I'd do differently would be to invest in a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. For the purposes of this little experiment I brought an older set from home that has a USB receiver, and are both larger than I could have found.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

162 Comments
  • Yeah feels funny in front of a tv
  • Another option I think people should look into is using the Surface's Type Cover with along with the bluetooth adapter.  Then you have an extremely lightweight keyboard and mouse combo. Easy peasy.  
  • Has that worked with the last few generations of type covers? I recall there being compatibility issues...
  • It works quite well with the bluetooth keyboard of my Asus T100 Chi.  The tablet and included keyboard cost a fraction of the newest Surface but well, that's for another thread.
  • Continumm needs a higher resolution, it hurts my eyes with all the jaggies.
  • Just bringing a laptop seems the better option to me instead of bringing along all the accessories.
  • Thats what I've always said: if you have to bring along a keyboard and a slew of accessories, why not just pack a slim ultrabook?  Continuum technology is interesting, but in this type of scenario it's a solution looking for a problem.
     
  • You said it right my friend, in this case scenario it is a lot of trouble. On the other hand Nadela is aiming emerging markets, where the mobile is the only computer in the house, this is going to be a huge thing and in time. Maybe in the future hotel rooms will have one of those adapters as well and you'll don't have to bring your own (it's just a bet, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing first in the business hotels in the US).
  • "Maybe in the future"? In the article it shows the hotel room having those adapters set, granted its got VGA and old connections, but they'll surely change them to USB-C and HDMI sooner than later!
  • LOL THAT'S RICH!
  • Isn't a continuum adapter U$60 or something? If it's a business guy he will probably use his own phone loaded with the apps for his work and the demanded security for this kind of costumer. 
  • A complete PC, cheaper than an adapter ? Ridiculous, if not for Rasberry PI class "PCs"... There's the issue of doing maintenance and support on those which may be prohibitive though. Really, those TVs should have Miracast or some other wireless way to connect, seems to me the way to go.
  • nearly 100% of the guests won't feel comfortable using a generic PC in their hotel room for work. People are more security conscious than that nowadays. It's either our own computer, or no computer
  • Sure a PC in every room, say 300 PCs, and no support staff. That ought to go well. Better solution would be to have Display Docks and stick/NUCs PCs as payable options for your room; hotel won't need to buy one for each room, just enough to supply the demand. Or, you know, just Miracast/Widi to the TV.  
  • Or the hotel doesn't waste their time with something no one is looking for. People carry laptops. Hotels also don't want people connecting their devices to the TV. It keeps then from collecting fees for on-demand content. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • True, there's probably not a market for that stuff, at least not now. As for connecting devices to the TV, guess you didn't see the picture in the article with those connectors for the TV, in the hotel. Must be for not connecting stuff to TV.  
  • That is in China. In the US, many hotels attempt to block you from accessing the inputs on the TV. Even if the inputs are available, they don't provide you with a remote capable of switching inputs. They want to make money from their on-demand content.
  • What if they sell you a 200$ 2-1 laptop that is optional with the phone? Great display with a great keyboard, USB-C and 14h+ of battery life that can charge your phone?
  • well... for 200USD you can get a decent china tablet, if you spend more you can get many better options. Good idea with the phone acting as a PC but it needs more improvement
  • For $200 you will not get a "great display" ;)
  • I use it, and it's not a gimmick. Some people will have no use for it, some will.
  • I was trying to say that I use it and find it quite useful. By definition, if people do find it useful, then it is not a gimmick. Presuming of course you've actually used Continuum - I'm thinking perhaps not - then you may not find it useful. Fair enough. Some people don't find cars useful. Doesn't instantly mean they're all gimmicks either.
  • 1. I do understand the definition, but how you used it implied that Continuum is merely something designed solely to gain attention. I was countering that by saying that Continuum has a real practical use and a future, and therefore it's sole purpose is not as a marketing stunt but as a real productivity feature and a key part of MS's vision for computing. It may grab attention as a result, sure, but it's not doing so in a gimmicky way - at least, not now it's available for people to use. 2. It was a comparison of principle, not numbers. To break it down to the specific basics; it was an identifiable way of stating that a productive, useful device can be found non-productive by some users. Same with Continuum. Numbers were not my point, I think you've looked too far into it. Look, this shouldn't really be an argument here. I'm all for getting along. :)
  • He isn't, he is the comments section provoker. Don't know why they don't ban him.
  • That's my take on tablets and phablets. Big phones are bothersome to carry and if you need a Laptop a Tablet doesn't work as well.
  • Yep & the important part of has the TV been modified for only use with the hotels cable/sat vod service. A gamble most aren't willing to take
  • Yes, you could use laptop in this scenario, if you have one around.  What happens if you don't.  You don't necessarily carry a laptop when you are on vacation.  Continuum would give you the flexibility to cope with all kinds of different scenarios.  Whether there is PC or laptop around or whether there is wifi available.  With Redstone 1, you can project to any screen.  But I would use the MS Display Dock instead of the cheap Hub.  Display Dock always scale perfectly to all HD screens.  I use Continuum a lot at home to browse and watch entertainment sites on HDTV.  It has been a very satifying experience.  
  • But what if you don't have or want a laptop?
  • then you are unlikely to own a TV or need to do work in hotel rooms...
  • Would be stupid to spend hundreds of $ on a laptop if you allready have the mobile, and you need to do some word or excell work in a hotel room. I have a giant laptop at home that I do serious work on. I'm not dragging that monster with me when all I need is my 950.    
  • It might be different from case to case, but in the scenario described in the article it is not just a phone, but also different accessories he brought along.
  • All the extras could have been pared down to a Bluetooth keyboard and a Miracast adapter. I know a lot of people would rather use a mouse, but that is their preference. (Example, the laptop user on my commuter bus who pushes a mouse around on the seat next to him, despite that fact that he's got a perfectly good trackpad right in front of him.)
  • The actual argument in favour of continuum is that it can be used wherever there is a dispay (that supports miracast), Places like conference halls, the living room, hotel rooms; all without actually requiring a keyboard or a mouse or a laptop. You CAN do work in it -- using a physical keyboard or mouse is just preference. It makes it POSSIBLE.   Of course, it reduces usability, but that's not its benefit. It's never meant to increase usability. It's just there to create a possibility where there is none.   In my case, I use said continuum for my college presentations, miracasting to the projector. I don't need to carry around my files in a pen drive and connect to another's laptop, or carry my own, or mail them, etc. It's just there on my phone the minute I close the Office Powerpoint app on my laptop at home. I don't even need to transfer the damn file, because one drive does that for me. It's so convenient, you can't even..!
  • Those people astound me.
  • Not everyone uses a laptop for just that some maybe are into graphics intensive MMOs for example
  • I'd wager more people own T.V.s than laptops so I'm not sure how not having one means they're unlikely to own a tv
  • Plus he said he doesnt want a laptop either.  Again, how this relates to someone not having a TV is known only to you apparently. And besides, as pointed out, this is a transistion time, meaning in the future we would not even bother purchasing a laptop because all we need is our phone and a cable/hub that easily packs away in a bag.  At least Theoretically. Microsoft seems poised to allow 32/64 bit OS for Windows mobile over the next year. We'll see how it goes, but Continuum can only get better and more convenient.
  • a smartphone can not fully replace a notebook. What if I need to edit videos? What if I want to do something more CPU/GPU demanding? Smartphones can do basic tasks but not everything
  • "Smartphones can do basic tasks but not everything"
    For today. What about in 3 years. What about when the mobile tech catches up to basic and advanced computing tasks today. Interestingly, what we do today on PCs in terms of processor demand has not increased over time. At some point, the power of mobile technology will catch up to PC computing demands. When that happens, which company will be there first with a solution and ready-made ecosystem to leverage it?
  • Nothing will catch up. A larger device will always be more powerful (relatively of course). So while future phones will be as powerful as todays PCs, the PCs of the future will also be more capable. But the accessory and display problem is not solved.
  • Daniel said mobile will catch up to "PC computing demands" not to PCs in general. Posted from my Nexus 5X
  • do you also abort your child because it might have a rare mutation?
  • That is fine and good, but likely to be fairly small subset of people who would buy a fairly high end phone to begin with. The discussion for me is more about whether Continuum makes a compelling business case for MS and a use case for a considerable number of people. At this point, IMO, it doesn't for either, but it will evolve of course. Making it work on more phones and  fast and reliably competely wirelessly will make a big difference.
  • I use continuum daily at the office in place of my Surface. It is a remarkable experience.
  • What i would like is a display-dock for my Lumia. I plug it in and have a full notebook. Then I take it out, go outside and continue to work.
  • it is called DELL S2317HWi http://www.amazon.com/Dell-S2317HWi-LED-Lit-Wireless-Charging/dp/B01D63U9YE Compatible Miracast and with a Qi charger at its base.
  • The tech at this point, for consumers, is probably limitedly useful for things like media sharing and playback, say, a holiday party, using a similar set up for playing back a Spotify Christmas songs station or something along those lines. Then again, you can also just use a cheap Android tablet, and connect it wirelessly or via auxiliary to a speaker. Yeah, at this point, Continuum is fairly niche and gimmicky, but who's to say what it evolves into five years down the road.
     
  • My guess is that, if you don't have a laptop, then you're also just as unlikely to connect a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, display dock and high end smartphone to an HDTV, and work on an Excel spreadsheet.
  • This feels like the razer core discussion again.
  • For those commenting on having to bring so many accessories, you're right, this is not the best use for Continuum. It's not intended to replace your laptop, that's what the Surface is for. Continuum is a way you could go to a different workspace (that has keyboard, mouse, screen) and just connect. This will allow people on the go to easily control their experience. Also, if the concept catches on, internet cafes and the like could offer these workstations that you could just connect to.
  • Yeah people that do not understand what continuum is have probably never been in an IT enterprise. If they knew that each worker has a desk, a chair, a screen, a docking station with keyboard and mouse and ethernet and that each worker needs to plugin his laptop just to access outlook and the virtual machines were the actual work is done.....well they would probably stop saying this is useless, this is simply great and I hope this becomes standard. In other words people should just trust us IT workers and believe that laptops are already used as phones with continuum, i.e. we don't even use their keyboard and screen, they are just a CPU that we plugin to bigger screens every morning just to connect to the enterprise network. This is exactly what HP is trying to do, continuum plus remote connection to VMs.
  • LOL Guess you missed the part were many enterprises just use the physical device (i.e. the laptop, today) just to connect to virtual machines plus some small tasks. Let me explain (not that I have any hope that you are willing or able to understand): the typical usage at work is... Enter the building with your laptop and connect it to the docking station, you don't even have to open it, you just have to power it and keep it closed. Then you'll login with the docked keyboard and mouse and screen. When in the physical PC you'll: 1)browse internet 2)browse outlook mail 3)use a chat with coworkers 4)connect to virtual machines to do the actual work in a safe environment ...guess what? All that can already be done with continuum even if they stopped developing UWP apps today...
  • And yet, they would need a phone too. Yet again, we are adults talking about how things may evolve in the near future based on what we see today while you just have fun trolling everywhere, so from today I'll stick to the only answer you seem to understand: A big LOL
  • LOL
  • Do you really have a problem wpkevin about people finding some good use cases of Continuum today + being optimistic that it will only get better with time ? For instance, I can now work from home on my file, read my emails, do Skype for business conference call and enjoy a big scree / mouse / keyboard that I have anyway for my Surface when docked while avoiding to have to carry every day at home my 1,5kg corporate laptop. Isn't it great ?
  • Let him be, he looks butthurt but we don't know why, many people just ignore him, I decided to start today, he is the typical "village idiot": harmless but ridiculous and sometime annoying.
  • Yep. I tried Continuum in a hotel one week for work travel. What a fiasco. Never again. SP3 thank you very much. It's a gimmick IMO. Lugging all the gear required and praying the hotel TV's HDMI port isn't disabled is a ridiculous thing.
  • If I understand correctly, you tried to use continuum, but couldn't because the hotel TV's HDMI port was disabled. How can you say then that continuum was a fiasco?
  • It would be pretty cool to be able to use continuum on a plane, if they had a USB-C port your could plug straight into, it would take up less space than a laptop on the tray table and could use the entertainment screen for display (These are quite good on newer planes, and from what I've seen the first/business class displays are pretty large) I'm also interested in some sort of Continuum solution in my car, if it works with touchscreens (Apparently coming) I could write my own app (or get somebody elses) that runs on a screen dedicated to being used for in car entertainment - Not so much for working on documents.
  • Very nice ideas bro
  • If you are carrying around a Bluetooth mouse, Bluetooth keyboard and cables, would it not be easier just to carry a laptop? These things will have much more potential when all hotels and other venues have dumb terminals with screens and keyboards where you carry the 'brain device' and then interface via NFC or similar. It is the future, but needs venue support to really get going.
  • I mean, I carry cables and a mouse usually when I travel anyway. Doesn't really make much difference to me. But yes, you have a point. But if no-one ever tries these things how do we know they're bad? A Microsoft foldable keyboard and that touch mouse of theirs plus this tiny dock takes up way less room than any laptop. And you already have a phone charger with you.
  • and if no one ever does try it? how will ms know what to fix and improve first?(i mean insiders are what shape most of windows these days and feedback from someone trying this out would be a lot of help for MS to develop it)
  • Microsoft Display Dock = 230 gram & $99
    Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse = 90 gram & $70
    Microsoft Foldable Keyboard = 180 gram & $100
    HDMI Cable = 25 gram
    USB C Cable = 25 gram
    ------------------
    Total 0.55 kg and costs $269
    Macbook weight 0.92 kg
    ------------------
    If Microsoft could do a 12 in "lapdock" at 1 kg and $200 that would connect wirelessly over Miracast UIBC to the phone and possibly also charge the phone wirelessly, that would m