Alright, so what is DeX?
DeX stands for Desktop Experience – allowing your Android phone to be used with a big screen through an HDMI cable connected with either the DeX Station or the DeX Pad.
In a way it’s similar to Microsoft’s Display Dock for the Windows 10 phones. Which was not a great success a few years back…
Will Samsung’s DeX really give you a good Desktop Experience? Can we throw out our laptops?
This review consists of 2 Parts: we’ll check out the DeX Station that came out with the Galaxy S8, followed by the even handier DeX Pad that was announced with the Galaxy S9.
Let’s run through the hardware of the DeX Station
The DeX Station design is very similar to Samsung’s wireless charger in looks, only about twice as thick. Still reasonably portable to chuck in your bag. The top flips out and up, giving your phone a 45 degree angle for good visibility whilst docked. The USB Type-C in the base handles charging and data transfer.
At the back of the base we see the following connections:
• 2x USB 2.0
• USB Type-C for power input
In reality you only need an HDMI cable to a monitor for the Station to work. But things become easier when you connect a keyboard and mouse either via USB or Bluetooth.
This unit’s ethernet connection allows cheaper internet access.
Setup is easy. We used the Galaxy S8 as test platform. I have the original flip cover normally but it’s better to insert the phone without any case or cover.
You’ll need to use the charger that came with your phone. And rustle up an HDMI cable.
Upon insertion the DeX software starts up quickly and the monitor presents a desktop-like screen. Max resolution for this Station is 1080p. Most apps on your phone will play nicely, but the Samsung apps are of course DeX optimised.
You’ll find an app launcher in the bottom left corner of the screen with the Home button plus Recents and Back key of your phone as well as a task bar along the bottom showing all running programs. On the bottom right you’ll have the notification panel (with a handy screenshot icon) and top left there are 5 big icons, showing MyFiles, Internet, Email, Gallery and Settings.
From the app launcher you can also drag icons onto the big screen. This is easiest done with a mouse. Either through USB or bluetooth. Using my MX Master 2S from Logi I can easily switch between the DeX screen and my laptop.
Your phone can also become a touchpad and the phone screen is divided into 4 equal rectangles for some mysterious reason, but probably just to indicate it’s a touchpad now.
You can also switch to the Screen Mirroring function. You’d think that this might work great for showing landscape photos from the Gallery, but only if you hold the Station horizontally. Of course, the better way is to use the DeX mode and click on the Gallery icon. Works beautifully.
If you were excited about having a split screen capability on your phone, you can now run different programs at the same time and have many browser tabs open. You’d think your phone would struggle having to deliver all that power but it doesn’t lag a bit and gives us a good performance. It shows us how powerful our computing companions have become!
Not every app will play nicely but Sammy made sure that key mobile versions of programs from Microsoft and Adobe for instance run very well. Spotify also runs even though it comes up with a message that not all functions are currently supported.
Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Kudos to Samsung for trying to make the phone be like a laptop. The big phablets already are halfway there but apart from the fact that you can now see everything on a big screen, there are not many great advantages that jump out at you of using DeX. It’s great to organise your phone, particularly the Gallery. When you travel you still need to source a monitor as well as toting a screen and keyboard plus mouse together with the DeX Station makes you look like McGyver who doesn’t know that laptops have been invented in his absence! A small laptop or Chromebook is always handier when travelling.
However, there’s still a place for the DeX: on your desk, either at home or at work. And that’s where it feels best at home.
When the DeX Station first came out it sold for $199, a bit prohibitive for massive uptake. Right now the price is under $160 and I’ve even seen it around the 100 bucks mark. Finally it seems that the price is right to see whether this setup will make your laptop nearly unnecessary to tote around on your travels.
The big question is: have Samsung improved the DeX functionality in the new DeX PAD?
Check out MobileZap here.
Check out our hands on review shortly. And there are a few pleasant surprises!
In summary, Yes, DO try this at home but before you do, read our Part 2 !