As smartphones have become more powerful, the need to resort to a desktop or laptop computer for general computing tasks has become far less.
Modern smartphones are very capable computers and Samsung are taking advantage of this with DeX.
The DeX Concept
The theory is that your smartphone becomes your main computer.
When coupled with a Samsung DeX Docking Station as well as keyboard, mouse and monitor, you get a desktop-like experience all powered from the phone.
DeX gives you just what’s needed from a desktop experience: big screen for multitasking plus a full-size keyboard and mouse.
Just plug your phone into the DeX Station to use apps, review documents and set or check notifications.
See Samsung DeX in action
The video below shows off how Samsung DeX can be used
The DeX Docking Station
The DeX dock is a round black unit with a pebble/puck shape. The top slides back to reveal a USB Type-C connector, whilst providing a stand for the connected Galaxy smartphone.
When you place a compatible handset inside the dock, power and data are transferred through the Type-C port.
On the exterior of the docking station, which weighs in at 230g, is an Ethernet port, 2x USB 2.0, USB Type-C and HDMI ports. The dock requires power to function.
You can use the Type-C power adapter that came with your phone, or invest in a spare just for the dock.
HDMI connects the DeX dock and the monitor. You’ll need to supply your own HDMI cable.
The 2x USB 2.0 ports are for peripherals. Use wired or wireless keyboards or mice, or connect other items including external storage.
The Ethernet port is available for a reliable high-speed Internet connection. Without this, you’ll be relying on the phone’s built in Internet connection, be that Wi-Fi or mobile data.
What smartphones support Samsung DeX?
To date, only the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will support the DeX solution.
It is likely that future Samsung devices will also benefit from DeX. There could well be a limit on this to the more powerful ranges.
Whether Samsung offer the technology as a platform to other Android device manufacturers remains to be seen.
What do you need to use DeX?
You need a few things to make DeX work.
- Compatible smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8 Plus as of April 2017)
- DeX docking station
- HDMI enabled monitor
- HDMI cable
- USB Type-C power cable
- Wired or wireless keyboard & mouse
The DeX Docking station comes packaged on its own. No cables or peripherals are supplied in the box.
The Samsung DeX desktop experience
The concept behind DeX is to provide a desktop like experience.
Now simply plugging a Galaxy into a DeX docking station and monitor won’t provide the ultimate computing experience. After all it is your (admittedly very powerful) phone that is powering all of this, not a high end desktop processor.
This will however provide a graphical user interface that is more powerful than just the phone screen. The multi-window approach also improves multitasking and is familiar to desktop users.
Samsung believes that there is a need for this type of computing and I would agree. Now it’s definitely not for everyone. Yet there are times when a traditional desktop setup is much more suitable than using a phone.
The solution that Samsung have come up here is all powered by Android. It is not Windows or any other equivalent.
When docked and powered, the display on your monitor is a clever tweaking of Samsung’s Android for Galaxy phones. The core Samsung Galaxy apps are all scaled for the big screen along with several others.
The whole interface feels very similar to your phone and you have access to all the same apps.
At launch, Samsung’s own Android apps have all been designed to work seamlessly through DeX. Microsoft’s Office apps and some Adobe apps have also been optimised for the desktop experience.
Now it’s important to state these aren’t the full traditional desktop versions of these applications you would get on Windows or MacOS. However you do get benefits including multi-window support, right click and keyboard shortcuts.
With multi-window a web browser can be open in one window, YouTube in a second and Microsoft Word in another. You can drag, move and resize windows around the screen just as you’d expect.
Apps which support DeX will automatically run in the enhanced mode. For example, the web browser will automatically give a desktop browsing experience when docked rather than mobile. Web pages and content are therefore displayed in a way more fitting of a larger screen.
More apps will get support for DeX over time. It is of course up to developers to code their apps for DeX and Samsung will be working hard to encourage them.
Performance is fairly snappy and you will have to be doing a lot to see any lag or slow down in the performance.
If you have to write a long report for your boss, edit images, reply to emails or complete research, DeX makes this far easier than just using a phone. When you are done, simply disconnect the phone and carry on. All the content is on the phone!
And because your device is a phone, you can still take calls, reply to messages and see notifications when docked. Calls can be made hands free and the DeX interface lets you respond to messages and notifications from the desktop. Your phone screen is turned off when you are docked.
Using Classic Desktop Applications
If you want to run or gain access to classic desktop applications then there is a solution. It is more technical and might not be practical for all though.
So it is possible solution to run full Windows applications via DeX, although this is all virtual/hosted (subscriptions required) and not powered directly by the phone. For business users this could be an excellent solution.
Please note: The dock and DeX provides support for multiple windows on one screen, but there is no support at this time to run multiple monitors.
The primary intention of DeX is to switch from mobile to a desktop interface. If needed though, you can simply mirror the screen of the Galaxy smartphone.
In this mode you see everything just like you would if the phone was in your hand, but you can control it via a keyboard and mouse on a bigger screen.
This might be best for running certain apps, replying to some messages or even controlling camera settings.
Can I still use my phone when connected?
Yes and no.
When docked, the screen of your smartphone is turned off and will not respond to touch. You can handle all your notifications, calls and messages via the desktop user interface. So although you cannot interact with the phone directly, you do through the desktop.
Why would I want Samsung DeX?
Everyone will have their own reasons and the primary one is to provide a more productive work-space. When you have a lot to do, a full desktop set up is far superior for multitasking than just a phone screen.
If you need to write a few longer emails, a letter, or engage in a task that would be much easier with a larger screen and keyboard/mouse then this is the main appeal.
A smartphone is now powerful enough to run the daily tasks many of us encounter. Shopping, emails, catching up on news, even TV and gaming – for some a smartphone is enough. Yet some tasks will always be best performed on a bigger screen.
If you don’t want the cost of a full computer that only gets used minimally, DeX is a neat solution.
Let’s say you want to research your next holiday. Doing it through a smaller screen is not always ideal. Consider needing multiple web pages to compare agents, hotels, flights, destinations and restaurants. Perhaps a spreadsheet is open to balance costs. Then you want to fire off some emails to get answers not immediately obvious.
Now sure you could do all of this on a smartphone. It’s certainly possible. But it’s not easy and after a short while probably not very comfortable either! With DeX you can quickly connect to a larger screen with keyboard & mouse and have a much better setup for effective research and planning that trip.
If you are a business user on the go, just take your keyboard, mouse, DeX station and an HDMI cable. As long is there a monitor or HDMI equipped TV, you can work more productively in hotel rooms, conference spaces and regional offices. You no longer need to lug a heavy laptop around with you.
Samsung DeX Pros
- Provides desktop like experience
- Works from your compatible smartphone
- Portable – take it with you!
- USB Type-C power connectivity
- Ethernet port
- 2x USB ports
- More reliable than a wireless solution
- Gives a blend of practicality and performance
- All content remains on the phone
Samsung DeX Cons
- Not suited for everyone
- Requires a dock, screen, keyboard and mouse
- Phone screen off – cannot be used independently when docked
- Wired rather than wireless solution
- Requires dedicated hardware
- Realtively expensive
Buy Samsung DeX docking station
The DeX docking station was announced at the same time the Galaxy S8 and S8+ were launched.
It is available to purchase from Clove for £129.99 including VAT here.