Continuum is one of Windows 10's headline features, meant to turn your smartphone into a portable PC to do basic tasks on the go. Provided you have a monitor and peripherals handy, of course.
However, since it requires some serious computing power, few Windows phones support it. Well, the Acer Liquid Jade Primo is one of them.
To take advantage of Continuum on the Primo you need its matching dock, model name Acer D01. It's unclear yet whether one will be bundled with the smartphone, or you'll need to get it separately, or maybe some regions will be luckier than others. Either way, we have one.
The dock is made specifically for the Jade Primo and has a design to match it. The brushed metal theme continues with some glossy black plastic thrown in for good measure. On the left side, you have an HDMI port for connection to a monitor and a USB 3.0 port while on the right there are 2x USB 2.0 ports and a dedicated DC input.
You need to connect the dock to a monitor, add power, keyboard and mouse and you're good to go. The UI you'll see on the monitor won't just be a 1:1 representation of the handset's screen. Instead, the phone is turned into a makeshift PC. Wireless Bluetooth peripherals work too, but of course, you connect them to the phone, not the dock.
Yes, it's a Windows Desktop, the same one you see every day on your Windows 10 PC but without the icons and a right click action on the mouse, except in some apps. Upon connection you see your phone's Start screen on the left side of the monitor, but if you open a universal app that will take over the whole width of the monitor. So you'll have no wasted space, and you'll be able to do some work in a much easier way than if you were to glance at a representation of your phone's screen.
The taskbar is there, Cortana, Task View, and the Start Menu making much more sense now as it's your phone's screen. You can continue using your Primo, while it's connected to the dock, for phone calls and what not. Alternatively, you can use it as a touchpad though we don't see upright trackpads as terribly practical.
Furthermore, all the usual PC keyboard commands work in this mode, so you can use Ctrl+C for copying, Ctrl+V for pasting, and so on. Microsoft says it wants to let smartphones scale up to a full PC-like experience, and they've done a great job out of it.
So, is Continuum worth it? Sure, but there are lots of limitations you should be aware of.
For example, you can't install Win32/Win64 desktop apps, just ARM-compatible from the Windows Store.
Once you hook all the necessary cables to the dock (the phone, the charger, the HDMI cable, keyboard (optional) and mice (optional), you are ready to go. There is no need of drivers or additional app installations; the Continuum app launches up automatically, and your screen will light up with a Windows desktop.
As promised, you can still use your phone while you are using the Continuum screen. You can make calls, check emails or write messages. You can explore photos or shoot with the camera. You can't open the same app twice, though, so if you have Photos open in Continuum and try to open it on your Lumia screen, it will just move to your phone display.
There is no actual desktop to put app shortcuts and files on it. It's just a static picture needed to fill the blank space. Your actual desktop is the Start menu, which doubles your phone's default Start homescreen. All apps pane is available as well.
Most of the default apps are Continuum-enabled, but most of the Store app aren't. They need to be updated for Continuum to work, but we hope the devs will do sooner rather than later. The incompatible with Continuum apps are grayed out.
When you are running in Continuum mode, most of the essential shortcuts you are used to in Windows work just fine - copying, paste, explorer (launches the phone's file manager, though), but not Show Desktop as there is no desktop to show.
Side by side snapping of windows is not possible, neither is multi-tasking. The apps, which are automatically minimized upon opening another, just go in suspended mode.
The Edge browser, Word, Excel, and One Note ran smooth and looked a lot like their Desktop counterparts. You can indeed do more with Continuum and replace some of your Desktop functionality, but not all of it.
In Edge, for example, you also get right click functionality, as well as middle-button click to open a link in new window or close a tab.
Windows Continuum works fine and with the expanding app portfolio, it will find its loyal users and probably expand the Windows user base and market share.
The Acer Liquid Jade Primo comes with a Snapdragon 808 chipset inside, which may not be too impressive in today's Android world of Snapdragon 820's and Exynos 8890's. Among its Windows peers, however, it sits very high up the ladder. Microsoft's Lumia 950 XL packs Qualcomm's top dog from last year (S810), while the plain 950 has the same chip as the Primo. Come summer, the HP Elite X3 will join the race, Snapdragon 820 blazing, but that's a pretty long wait.
The Snapdragon 808 is a perfectly capable SoC, though, don't get us wrong. It does a fine job inside both the Lumia 950 and LG G4 from last year.
One slight hiccup with measuring benchmark performance on the Liquid Jade Primo is that not all of our usual tests can run on it, the limited app selection on Windows being the culprit. We did subject it to a few runs of Antutu 6, and it did alright. For reference, Acer's phone scores about 60% higher than the Lumia 650 (entry-level Snapdragon S212).
Higher is better
In Basemark OS II 2.0 the Primo even manages to beat the Lumia 950, if only barely. The Nexus 5X gets the highest score here from a device with a Snapdragon 808 heart.
Higher is better
Graphics performance isn't overly exciting, The Nexus 5X with the same chipset and resolution delivers 16fps vs. the Primo's 12fps in offscreen 1080p rendering, and the difference stretches to 17 vs. 11 fps, then those frames need to be displayed. Both The LG G4 and Moto X Style perform better in the offscreen test though they're hampered by higher resolution in the onscreen run.
Higher is better
Higher is better