What is Samsung DeX? Turn your Galaxy S9 into a makeshift desktop

Samsung DeX transforms your Galaxy S8, S9 and Note 8 phones into a desktop PC

Thomas McMullan
27 Apr 2018
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Samsung's DeX asks the question: Can a phone replace a PC? The docking hub lets a user slot-in their Galaxy S8, S9 or Galaxy Note handset and uses that same Android operating system to run a full desktop experience. You'll need a monitor, keyboard and mouse, plus your smartphone. 

An updated Samsung DeX was released alongside the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, called the DeX Pad. Whilst the older dock – now called the DeX Station – is a puck-shaped device, the DeX Pad is flat. It's due to begin shipping from May in the US, with a UK release to follow. Somewhat confusingly, the DeX Station listing on Amazon uses a picture of the DeX Pad.

READ NEXT: Galaxy Note 8 preorders and Galaxy Note 8 review 

The device is also compatible with a GNU/Linux PC. At its recenty Developer Conference in San Francisco, Samsung said it's developing an app called Linux on Galaxy that will let owners and developers work on Dex via Linux. Samsung also used that event to announce more games for DeX including Vainglory, and Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition.

So will DeX replace your PC? That very much depends on what you use a PC for, but it is certainly a capable device. Samsung are not the first to create a mobile-hybrid desktop. In 2011, for example, Motorola created something pretty similar to the DeX, though the Atrix was hardly met with commercial success. Just because Motorola failed before doesn't mean you should ignore Samsung's hybrid – Apple didn't invent the tablet, but the iPad was the first to go ultra-mainstream.

Below we explain everything you need to know about the Samsung DeX.

Samsung DeX: What is Samsung DeX?

Multitasking has been possible on a smartphone for a few years now, but multitasking tends to still be much easier on a full desktop compared to a small handset. Even bigger smartphones like the iPhone 8 Plus or Galaxy S9 Plus can't offer the same experience as a desktop on their own, sometimes leaving you longing for a mouse and keyboard. The DeX Station and DeX Pad are designed as a way to do exactly this – essentially acting as a dock for your phone to be connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

The puck-shaped DeX Station comes with the following connections: 

  • USB 2.0 x2
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet
  • USB Type-C

The newer DeX Pad has the same loadout, minus the Ethernet port. That means you'll need to use Wifi if you're planning to connect to the internet.  

Slot in your Galaxy S8 or S9 and a desktop will appear on your connected monitor. All the PC features you'd expect are there; including the added simplicity of right-clicking, something you just don't get on a smartphone. Drag-and-Drop plus all your standard keyboard shortcuts are there too, so don't expect a watered-down experience in that respect.

An apps tray can be accessed in the bottom left corner of the screen, much like a Start tab in Windows. You'll also have the option to make shortcuts on your desktop – again, much like Windows or iOS. If you get a call while working, a notification will drop down on the right side of the screen. 

Not all apps are compatible, and Samsung is working with developers to increase the range of options, but many of the most popular services can be used with Samsung DeX. This includes all of Microsoft's Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote) as well as Skype. Google's cloud-based tools, including Drive and Photos, make the cut. As do Adobe's range of software. Elsewhere there are games, such as The Tribez, and Lineage2 Revolution. Samsung DeX users can also access the Google Play Store to install additional apps and only those available for DeX will appear when using the dock. 

A nice little extra is being able to still use the S8/S9 as a phone even when it's docked, so you won't miss important calls just because you are doing some desktop work. You can accept the call via the desktop, meaning you don't need to undock your phone to have a conversation. If you do want to pick up the phone, simply undock it from the DeX and carry on as normal. 

Samsung DeX: Who should buy it?

The DeX isn't designed for everyone but it is there to improve general productivity of the Samsung Galaxy S8 by allowing users more flexibility with their work. On a mobile, you can work anywhere, but integrating a mobile and desktop office into one can make life much easier. No more carrying around a heavy laptop if all you're looking to do it reply to Slack messages and browse the web.

Smartphones tend to have many of the apps we need for work, but it can be difficult to complete tasks with the precision you'll find on a full desktop, be it formatting long work emails or viewing images – sometimes you need a bigger screen and precise controls to get the job done. When it comes down to it, whether the DeX is right for you depends on the kind of work you do. DeX isn't a super-powered PC by any means – it uses the Galaxy S8 or S9's innards to work – but if you mainly use the Office suite, Google Docs, and Slack, it might be a cheaper alternative to investing in a new laptop or home PC. Adobe has also worked to ensure Lightroom Mobile works with a keyboard and mouse. All that said, if you do need to do design-heavy work with tools such as the Adobe suite and Photoshop, this probably isn't the product for you. 

Samsung DeX specs

The Samsung DeX is pretty straightforward when it comes to specifications. There are USB Type-C and USB 2.0 ports, and on the older dock you'll find an Ethernet port – although this is absent in the new DeX Pad. The DeX does charge your smartphone when its docked as you'd expect, there is also the option to use an HDMIi to power instead. Although, Samsung is slightly sneaky here asking that you buy that cable separately if you want HDMI charging for the DeX. Nevertheless, the option is there if you want to simplify things even further.

The Samsung DeX is minimal apart from the access ports, though there are some nice touches. It has a cooling fan to prevent your mobile from overheating when it operates, so there shouldn't be an issue with ventilation. The DeX Station is also very portable weighing just 230g, with the DeX Pad weighing 135g. This is much less than a laptop, and given the Samsung Galaxy S9 is about 200g, you'll be getting a desktop PC experience to carry round with you for less than half a kilo in weight. Not bad.

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