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Microsoft Display Dock review: Want your Windows phone to (almost) work like a PC? Then this is the accessory for you

Want to get the most from Continuum on your new Windows 10 smartphone? Then consider grabbing the Microsoft Display Dock.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
3 min read

The Microsoft Display Dock is a very niche accessory. It's a palm-sized adaptor with one (and only one) use: Turning your Lumia phone into a makeshift PC with the new Windows 10 Continuum feature.

Microsoft Display Dock

The Good

The Microsoft Display Dock has a sturdy and clean design. It's extremely intuitive set up and small enough to be easily taken on the road, where it'll be the most useful.

The Bad

Like most Microsoft accessories, it's the not the cheapest. Continuum, the feature that it's designed to work with, still isn't the most essential component of your Windows 10 Mobile experience.

The Bottom Line

If you want to get the most out Continuum, spending the extra bucks on the Display Dock is a no-brainer. But Continuum has a little way to go before it becomes the new killer app.

The much-hyped Continuum is one of the big new features on Microsoft's Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Continuum is the point where the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 10 meet. It's a baked-in feature that allows you to put your Windows 10 smartphone into a PC mode to be used in conjunction with a larger screen.

The first and most basic of using Continuum is with the screen mirroring functionality on a large-screen TV. The Lumia screen will work as a touchpad and keyboard, while the tiled look of Windows on your smartphone gets turned into the more familiar tablet mode of Windows 10 on the big screen.

Or you can use the Microsoft Display Dock. This tiny device has a USB-C port at the front to connect your Lumia. On the back, given the 64.1mm width (just 2.5 inches), is an almost dizzying array of ports, including three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI out, DisplayPort out and another USB-C connection to provide power.

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USB, HDMI and DisplayPort: The gang's all here.

Dave Cheng/CNET

That means you can use a USB mouse and keyboard, rather than mucking around with Bluetooth. However, I'm the kind of guy who likes to muck around. I tried using my HDMI-connected monitor with a USB mouse and keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Both options were basically the same, though the wired peripherals were faster to set up and a little more responsive.

All of this was written using Word on the Lumia 950 XL, an experience that was pretty much identical to doing it on a Window 10 PC or laptop. Swapping between open apps is simple, as they'll appear in the bottom toolbar just the same as on a desktop. I had a few instances where Word shut itself while I was using other software like the Edge browser, but after opening it back up I'd lost none of my work and was put straight back into my document. However, not every Windows App is supported and you'll find a lot of greyed-out programs in your Start menu.

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Despite the small size, the Dock packs in some solid weight.

Dave Cheng/CNET

A quick note on the Dock design: It actually weighs in at 230g (around half a pound) which seems surprisingly heavy for something just 64.1 by 64.1 by 25.6mm (2.5 by 2.5 by 0.96 inches). But that weight, presumably deliberately engineered, stops the Dock from being dragged off a table by the collected mass of the cables coming out the back.

I've been very impressed by the combination of the Display Dock and Continuum (although my colleague Jessica Dolcourt was much less enamoured.) Assuming Microsoft continues to support the feature, Continuum should build beyond just web browsing and office applications. It's certainly not cheap -- the Dock will set you back around $99/AU$149/TBC in the UK. But I'd suggest it's a great investment to get that extra bit of usefulness from your new Lumia.