Thanks to the way smartphones have been marketed, these handy devices have now become an indispensable part of our lives. Which is why it isn’t surprising that researchers have been attempting to figure out how to turn our smartphones into the ultimate device — a desktop replacement. Samsung is the latest tech firm to have a go at this ambitious goal.
Enter Samsung DeX — a small smartphone dock that looks pretty much like a small plastic circle with a cover that folds out to serve as a resting spot for your phone. More specifically, DeX is compatible with Samsung’s latest flagship phones — Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. It’s an accessory that enables these phones to be used as a desktop PC complete with a monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The DeX is priced at $150. At the back of the device are several connection ports including two USB 2.0 ports, a USB-C port for power, HDMI out for video and an ethernet port.
As pointed out by CNET, using DeX will require the following peripherals: an HDMI cable, a monitor or a TV with an HDMI port, a wired or bluetooth keyboard, and a wired or bluetooth mouse. As an optional accessory, you can also purchase an ethernet cable for a wired internet connection so you need not reset everything every time you’re going to use it. Take note that all these items do not come with DeX; you’ll have to purchase them separately.
Setting up DeX for the first time will take only a few minutes. All you gotta do is plug your phone in, wait for a few seconds until the Samsung logo appears on the screen, and a few seconds after, you’re ready to work on your ‘desktop’.
The DeX interface works just like other operating systems. On the bottom right, you’ll find its settings. On the bottom left is an app launcher. In between, you’ll see a taskbar showing which programs are currently running.
Because it’s essentially a new device, not all apps have been optimized to work with DeX yet. When you open such apps, they will default to using either the standard phone version or the tablet version. But just like a regular desktop, regardless of whether it’s optimized for DeX or not, each app runs in its own window with the usual back, close, minimize and maximize buttons.
Still, being able to open many apps at once doesn’t exactly mean it can effectively multitask. Because even if an app is still visible on your screen, if it isn’t the one being used (active window), it won’t receive any updates until you switch back to it. It also isn’t capable of playing two videos at the same time. So if your FB page happens to be open and there’s a video playing on it, the YouTube video you’re watching might stop playing or not play at all.
Other weaknesses include not being able to remember your preferences for stuff like window placement, size and position, which means every time you open it, you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments; apps that don’t support DeX mode close as soon as the phone is docked, possibly causing you to lose unsaved data; and most notably, the lack of support for most third-party apps, especially the commonly used ones like Facebook and Spotify.
All in all, it seems many who have already tried out the device agree that the DeX is more than satisfactory when it comes to using it for basic tasks like browsing the web, playing videos, or writing email. And of course, it works best when you’re using Samsung’s built-in apps which have DeX’s full support as they should. For more complex tasks, however, it still cannot compete comparably with a desktop. Not even close. For Samsung, that means far more work ahead before DeX can truly live up to its name.