Continuum on the Lumia 950 LX is a bit awkward. You think you’re actually using Windows 10 desktop and then the bits of the UI you were expecting aren’t there. Neither are floating apps, Gigabit Ethernet USB dongle support and, the one that keeps catching me out, my taskbar with the Google Chrome icon. It’s not that fast either but here I am. on a Lumia 950 XL connected to my full HD screen, keyboard and mouse via the docking station writing this article. I’m using the Edge browser access my WordPress back-end and it’s not bad. I’m writing without any sort of latency between key-press and characters appearing on the screen and I feel like I’m using a desktop quality browser. Here, let me grab a screenshot using the Windows key and the Print Screen button on my USB-connected keyboard.
That screenshot was as easy as it is on a Windows PC. As I move to try to right-click on the suggested word corrections I’m met with a block. I can’t find any way to auto-correct the underlined words and now I’m annoyed. Oh wait, there they are, showing up on the bottom of the phone screen, way out of my view and absolutely useless as I have to take a hand off the keyboard to use them.
It’s things like this that will really annoy the average Windows 10 user trying to get to grips with Continuum and that’s not all. Consider the 950 XL, one of the most powerful smartphones on the market, as a poor performer when it comes to desktop operations. Expectations are high as you communicate through what you think is Windows 10 desktop but when things slow down, you feel like you’re on a 2010 netbook. As I start-up Groove Music and Twitter the experience degrades to frustrating. The scroll button on the mouse has stopped working, my background music has stopped too. Groove Music crashed.
I’m using Windows 10 version 10.0.10586 here and I don’t really know if its Windows 10 that’s the problem or the Lumia 950 XL which was heavily criticized for instability when it launched. I’ll carry on. I’ll continue to work through a number of ‘situations’ and report as I go along.
YouTube (Via Edge browser.)
Before I start I save my draft here and check my Internet speed via Speedtest which downloads easily through the Store. It doesn’t open on my desktop screen as it doesn’t support Continuum but having the phone as a second screen allows me to continue writing here as it performs the test. 15 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up. No issues there. Big Buck Bunny at 1080p is quick to load and quick to reach a full buffer and 1080 playback resolution. Perfect. Searching on the YouTube website is quick. The 1080p 60 fps version works smoothly too. At the end of the test I feel like I’m on a slow laptop with a good video decoder, a bit like the experience you get on the cheap Windows 10 tablets, which, it has to be mentioned, are cheaper than this Lumia 950 XL
Google Docs (Via Edge Browser)
As I access Google Docs everything looks OK. I switch quickly between two docs and the web app stops responding. It’s crashed the tab. I try again and discover that the trick is to wait until the document is completely loaded before trying to edit. That can take 10-20 seconds which isn’t good if you’ve got something you want to edit.
Powerpoint with Groove Music
I’m using the Powerpoint Mobile and Groove Music apps and editing a recent Powerpoint. Editing works smoothly (smoother than I expected) as does sideshow playback. Success, at least in this short test. I assume Excel and Word Mobile will work without performance issues on smaller files.
Lumia 950 XL heat.
A quick heat check at this stage reveals something more than skin temperature. It’s getting warm under the 950 XL. I wish I had access to task manager to check CPU usage but that’s not possible. Groove and Tweetium are still running in the background.
This very heavy web-based application works well. It’s slower than on my Ultrabook but still usable; possibly faster than a Windows 10 tablet. Impressive. Groove Music still running in the background.
I have some problems here. The built-in editing apps don’t support Continuum so my only choice is to pick up the phone and edit using apps there. I try OneDrive in the browser but it’s slow. I give up with the ‘not responding’ tab. This is a big disappointment that I’ll have to track, unless you have tips.
I’m so pleased that TuneIn have finally updated their Windows Store radio streaming app. The old one was broken in a big way but the new one works well. 100% success as I access my favorite streams. 7 streams from my playlist worked quickly and fuss-free.
I’ve had some issues with the Bing News app in the past but the curation in my region (English, UK) has improved recently. Nextgen, my choice for RSS feeds, doesn’t work on Continuum. I switch to my Google News account and it’s smoother than I expect.
My apps that don’t work.
I have 71 apps on my Lumia 950 XL. 30 of those don’t support Continuum but of the 41 apps that support continuum only 7 are third-party apps and only 3 of those (TuneIn, Xing and Tweetium) are apps that I believe are truly independant of Microsoft’s partnerships and subsidies. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for example, are apps that are likely to have been supported by Microsoft. Note that Netflix does not work in Continuum mode. Even Microsoft’s Skype doesn’t work in Continuum although I admit there’s an issue of camera positioning there.
Gaming in Continuum
The only game I’ve downloaded so far is Asphalt 8 Airborne and that doesn’t work on the big screen. As I write this I’m downloading games…
Only three of the top ten games in the Store are PC capable. Candy Crush Soda Saga, one of the ‘PC games’ works on the big screen, the others don’t. There’s no ‘Continuum Enabled’ section of the Store and if you search for “continuum” you’ll find one company, Academ Media, dominating the search results due to titles that include the word ‘continuum’. The games I tried worked but were very basic. Some were fun and at least it’s an indication that someone is working on Continuum-enabled games.
I conclude here with one major recommendation to Microsoft – You need to include a Continuum-enabled filter in the Store.
I’m now 2 hours into this article and the Microsoft 950 XL isn’t any warmer than it was an hour ago. It’s being charged as it provides data through the USB-C port and this WordPress browser tab on Edge is stable and working well. No problems with Edge. I noticed some latency as I downloaded a series of 20+ apps but that’s to be expected on this low-end PC.
As I finalise this article everything appears to have locked up. Wait…it’s back. Mouse scrolling wasn’t working and that’s something that has happened again and again through this test across the browser and across Windows Store apps but…
Summary of Continuum.
In my 3 hour test Windows Continuum and Continuum enabled apps worked well. I was really, really annoyed at the lack of photo-editing ability and surprised that Microsoft hasn’t enabled a ‘Continuum enabled’ section in the Windows Store. I was annoyed at the lack of split-screen Continuum apps and, Microsoft, I don’t want to be looking at my phone as part of my desktop UI.
Windows 10 has, in general, a big problem with app quantity and quality and it’s very obvious in Continuum mode where popular apps don’t work.
Final note: I could not find a way to upload camera images via SD card to the 950 XL. These images were uploaded via the WordPress website and it took way too long. Everything you see, however, was created using the Lumia 950 XL in Continuum mode on a Full HD screen with USB keyboard and mouse. It wasn’t a barrier-free experience but faster and smoother than I had expected.
There’s SO MUCH POTENTIAL here but, alas, SO FEW APPS. Performance is easy to solve, The app problem is a bigger one.