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.
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 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.
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.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. 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 steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine