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Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

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Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

Introduction


Samsung had an idea: what if, instead of constantly juggling between a smartphone and a desktop, one could simply use their phone to do all of their daily work, simply plugging it into a dock when in need of a bigger screen? Okay, when we say “Samsung had an idea”, we actually mean something more in line with “a bunch of companies, including Microsoft, Splashtop, and Jide, had an idea which never really took off for a variety reasons, and Samsung is now trying it out as well” - but that sure isn’t as catchy.

And it’s easy to see why this would be an attractive proposition – a PC, even a low-powered one, isn’t particularly cheap, so why pay for one when you already have another stuffed inside your pocket?

The premise is simple: the Samsung DeX Station is a relatively small, puck-shaped piece of plastic, which, when opened up, becomes a dock for the Galaxy S8 or S8+. This dock can be hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, in order to ultimately become one of the most full-featured desktop experiences a smartphone can currently offer.

The hardware


You really can’t not like the device’s build – its puck-shaped exterior is small and unobtrusive, and can sit well on your desk, provided you are able to successfully hide all the wires protruding from its back. It’s heavy, but not really heavy enough – while this may not seem like an obvious problem, it can become one very quickly if you, say, accidentally tug on a cable or push the dock the wrong way. While we haven’t experienced any accidents just yet, there’s a constant fear that one is waiting just around the corner. So any users of the DeX Station should make sure to position it away from arm’s reach to avoid turning their shiny new smartphone into a metaphor for consumerism.

Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

Setting up the DeX Station is easy: just plug in an HDMI cable connected to your monitor, hook it up with a charging cable (no, this step isn’t optional, and no, there isn’t one included in the box), and connect a mouse and keyboard (via one of the USB ports or via Bluetooth, depending on what hardware you own). Then just push on its top below the Samsung logo to make it slide out, and plug your Galaxy S8 into the USB-C connector hidden inside.

Of particular note here is the opening mechanism, which wouldn’t under normal circumstances be particularly noteworthy, but oh my god it’s so smooth. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this is actually the best feature of the DeX Station, one that could easily turn it into a stress-relieving fidget toy when not in use.

The back side of the puck is dedicated to ports: a small USB-C one used for charging, an HDMI out, an optional ethernet jack, and two large USB connectors. And no, before you ask, there is no 3.5 mm audio jack.


Software


Historically speaking, Samsung has always made it extremely easy for people to egg on them regarding their software offerings, so claiming the company has made a good, full-featured desktop Android UI is something of a tall order. Surprisingly, the result seems to be better than we originally expected – this may actually be the best implementation of the general idea of using your smartphone as a desktop we’ve seen so far. That said, however, the DeX software still lacks in a number of key areas.

Plugging the S8 into the dock gives you two options: using it in DeX and screen mirroring mode. While the latter does pretty much exactly what you’d expect, which is simply displaying the phone’s regular UI onto your external monitor, the former is the “real” DeX experience, and also the one we'll focus on.

Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

Booting up DeX mode takes about ten seconds, after which you’re greeted with a somewhat familiar-looking interface: most of the desktop is reserved for pinned app icons, while the persistent bottom of the interface has a list of open apps, a notification panel, and a small panel containing Android’s Home and Recents buttons, as well as one bringing up a list of all installed apps. Much like on a regular desktop, every app runs in its own, separate window, each one of which contains the familiar minimize, maximize, and close buttons, while a back button for in-app navigation can be found on the top left.

However, exciting as it sounds, having multiple app windows visible at once does not actually mean having true multitasking. Here’s an example: upon losing focus, Facebook’s Messenger stops updating its UI, despite still being visible on screen, so even if you get a message, it won’t show up inside the app until you switch back to it. Or in other words, while DeX mode does its best to convince you you can run multiple apps side-by-side, this isn’t exactly the case. And remembering that Android’s built-in split-screen exists and manages to do what the DeX’s software can’t is just additional salt in the wound.


Another small problem is that it’s impossible to play two videos simultaneously – not a big deal until you remember that many websites are starting to shift towards autoplaying soundless videos – meaning your background YouTube video will stop at random while you’re, say, scrolling through your Twitter feed. Not a big problem, sure, but it’s very indicative of the fact that Android as an OS is simply not built for desktop use, and Samsung’s solutions to this problem are hacky at best.

Most of the time, light usage, such as web browsing, playing videos, or taking notes, handles mostly fine, with little to no visible stutter. But if you try to do some heavier work, you might find the DeX’s software struggling to keep up the pace. Opening up more than 8-10 tabs at once, for example, results in some of them being cleared from memory, which, at least for us, was a way too frequent and unwelcome occurrence.

Lastly, some power users might find the inability to remember state between mode transitions a bit annoying. That is, if you like a particular window placement for a given app, you’ll have to adjust it every time you start DeX anew, since the software doesn’t remember window size and position. Also, since some apps just flat-out don’t work in DeX mode, they’ll be forced to close immediately when docked, which may lead to losing unsaved data if the user doesn’t pay enough attention.

Some apps just don’t work in DeX mode - Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

Some apps just don’t work in DeX mode


Apps


Still, all of the above problems fall within the ‘fixable’ category – it’s 2017, and software updates are very much a thing, meaning there’s a fair chance they might get patched with a future release. But the real problem, however, is one that Samsung doesn’t possess the ability to fix: the lack of third-party support.

Here’s how apps work in DeX mode: most of Samsung’s first-party offerings, as well as many of Google’s apps, play nice with the mode, offering either a special-purpose desktop UI, or adequately scaling up the mobile one. Same goes for a few third-party ones as well, with Microsoft, which coincidentally sells its own version of the Galaxy S8, offering a good desktop UI for many of its popular apps (Skype, the Office apps, etc.)

YouTube plays nice with the DeX mode - Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

YouTube plays nice with the DeX mode


However, this is very much not the case with most other apps, launching which almost always greets the user with a “Some functions of this app may not be supported in Samsung DeX” message. Facebook, for example, despite being one of the most popular services in the world, doesn’t have a freely resizable interface, and only shows up in a small window. Spotify, another top Android app, simply refuses to launch, and so does Firefox, though most apps take the Facebook approach instead, launching in small, phone-size windows.

Facebook launches and works in a small, phone-size window - Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

Facebook launches and works in a small, phone-size window


Perhaps the most ironic missing functionality in DeX mode is the inability to use Samsung’s own, much-hyped virtual assistant, Bixby, in any capacity whatsoever. And there doesn’t seem to be much reasoning behind this decision, since most of Bixby’s abilities do not rely on voice recognition at all, so this particular omission doesn’t really make that much sense.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s quite a lot of good stuff in there, too – Samsung’s built-in apps work really well in DeX mode, offering the same functionality as on the small screen, but organizing it in a way that’s much more convenient for a desktop user. In other words, you can perform most of the everyday work you do on your smartphone – browsing, texting, emailing, and even calling people on the phone, but with the added convenience of a bigger screen and external mouse and keyboard.

Samsung DeX review: the S8 won't replace your desktop PC

As for the overall app problem – it is very much par for the course, considering how early we are in the product’s lifetime. And while Samsung does have the basic use cases mostly down, third-party app support is also essential to such a product’s success, so the company needs to find a way to get developers on board.

Conclusion


At the end of the day, it’s the small stuff that’s important in a product like this, and there’s just a ton of it that’s wrong here. Sure, you can perform basic, daily tasks on the DeX, but that’s about it – try to go any further, and all the tiny inconveniences start rearing their ugly heads.

So the question is – who would want this kind of device? Perhaps the most basic of users, who don’t use their PC for anything more than occasional web browsing, and to whom using just one device is a convenience, not a limitation. But then again, those same people are probably unlikely to own a Galaxy S8, which is the only device supported by the DeX Station so far.

So unless you’ve gotten yours for free in a promo, we really can’t recommend buying a DeX, or at least until third-party support starts trickling in, if it ever does. The $150 price tag just doesn’t support what is currently a lack of anything more than basic functionality, especially considering the fact that what you’re paying for isn’t really some high-tech gadget, but just a fancy-looking cable adapter and a piece of very limited software.

Pros

  • An instantly familiar user interface
  • Good desktop versions of Samsung’s apps, with an especially great web browser
  • Good for web, email, writing, social, and other basic tasks

Cons

  • True multitasking isn’t really implemented
  • Third-party app support is currently lacking
  • Cannot replace a PC for specialized tasks (e.g. image editing)
PhoneArena rating:
6.5 Good
User rating:
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28 Comments
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posted on 09 May 2017, 02:41 10

1. cnour (Posts: 1410; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


Samsung innovations are always NULL.

Samsung, don't innovate please. To do something important, please wait Apple and then imitate as usual.

posted on 09 May 2017, 02:44 22

2. maherk (Posts: 4820; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Although you're as terrible as Techie, I like how you keep your stupid remarks short and simple, that's the only thing that positively separates you from the likes of Techie and Mxy.

posted on 09 May 2017, 03:19 6

4. NoToFanboys (Posts: 2947; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)


[insert Mxy lame one-liner here]

posted on 09 May 2017, 09:42 2

17. sgodsell (Posts: 4767; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Con :True multitasking isn’t really implemented

I think the author really doesn't know what true multitasking really is. It can run multiple tasks simultaneously, and in different Windows as well. So yes that is true multitasking.

posted on 09 May 2017, 13:38

24. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14160; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


First off I'm not terrible, but you are entitled to you B.S. opinion.

At least when I post, I try to make sense and not troll.

I am nothign like Mxy, or you to say the least.

For starters, I don't have to reference other people to make a point.

I don't need support or a peanut gallery and I certainly don't need your vote of approval either.

Don't like my post? SKIP THEM! Its that easy bruh.

You rather hate on me vs hating on these trolls who come here who don't even like tech? HAHA. Shows how much credibility you have.

posted on 09 May 2017, 13:55

25. cnour (Posts: 1410; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


"Don't like my post? SKIP THEM! Its that easy bruh."

Seriously? With the length of your comments, we need to scroll about half hour to skip one of them.

Look, make your comments shorter and I assure you no one will remark that you wrote a comment.

posted on 09 May 2017, 06:13 2

9. piyath (Posts: 1006; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)


LOL....Nice one!!!

posted on 09 May 2017, 12:43 1

23. L0n3n1nja (Posts: 425; Member since: 12 Jul 2016)


No one has claimed this as Samsung innovation, they weren't first, and they had Microsoft's help.

Good joke about Apple, their innovation died with Jobs, they just follow market trends now as the ultimate me too company.

posted on 09 May 2017, 03:07 10

3. DBoss (Posts: 59; Member since: 18 Feb 2017)


"Good for web, email, writing, social, and other basic tasks" this is exactly why the DeX is introduced not to replace a 1000$ PC or laptop. If you compare a Basic car with a ferrari you will find 1000s of cons... it just meant to perform basic tasks and it fulfills...!

posted on 09 May 2017, 04:29 2

5. AlphaMale (Posts: 23; Member since: 03 May 2017)


Even for basic tasks it still unclear why anyone would buy DeX (a dock that pretty much useless without S8/S8+), a mouse, and a keyboard over an inexpensive PC or laptop.

posted on 09 May 2017, 05:02 1

6. trojan_horse (Posts: 4691; Member since: 06 May 2016)


The DeX is just an add-on, meant to add more functionality to the Galaxy S8, just like the Moto Mods. If people want a proper and fully-fledged PC experience, then they obviously know what to do.

posted on 09 May 2017, 08:37 1

12. AlphaMale (Posts: 23; Member since: 03 May 2017)


Please do not use moto mods as an excuse to justify Samsung DeX because Moto Mods is far more practical to use.
Yes you can get more functionality from S8/S8+ with DeX but it will be cumbersome to use than a Notebook/Laptop with similar price.
FYI not everyone who buys PC or Laptop wants to get fully fledged PC experience, but even for basic task there is no reasonable reason to buy DeX over an inexpensive PC or Laptop.

posted on 09 May 2017, 09:13

15. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14160; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


@AlphaMale - How is it cumbersome? You plug the dock into a display and attach the phone and it loads and you work.

You wont even have to carry a huge PC around no matter how small it is, it wont be smaller than DEX.

Its not for people who need a full desktop.

Its for people who use applications via a browser, who use MS Office and similar apps.

How is it cumbersome? Because you don't like it?

posted on 09 May 2017, 12:39

21. AlphaMale (Posts: 23; Member since: 03 May 2017)


Actually you have explained it yourself
"You plug the dock into a display and attach the phone and it loads and you work"
With a laptop/notebook you do not have to do all the troublesome process and you can keep working almost anywhere.

I usually carry a 2 in 1 notebook that weighs about 1 kg instead of my mid tower gaming pc, it's not as small as DeX but it far more easier to carry around than DeX + Keyboard + Mouse + Monitor and S8.
And if you looking for PC that is smaller than DeX you can try something like Intel Compute Stick.

It's cumbersome because you'll neeed extra effort to use it and without S8 it useless.

posted on 09 May 2017, 08:50 1

13. ph00ny (Posts: 1477; Member since: 26 May 2011)


I think it makes sense for TV or any limited space usage case

Same goes for hotel/public space where you don't want to use public workstation to access personal contents

posted on 09 May 2017, 11:05 2

19. AlphaMale (Posts: 23; Member since: 03 May 2017)


For such situations Mini PC and Intel Compute Stick is a better solution.
Most hotels do not provide a keyboard and mouse in their rooms can you tell me how you gonna use DeX without a keyboard and mouse in that situation?
With Intel Compute Stick you can turn your smartphone into wireless keyboard and mouse, so you only need a display with HDMI port.

posted on 09 May 2017, 05:08 2

7. dubaiboy78 (Posts: 269; Member since: 19 Sep 2014)


Thankful i got samsung DeX for $32 only here in UAE because of 80% off promotion from samsung uae!

posted on 09 May 2017, 05:36

8. TomMariner (Posts: 4; Member since: 14 Nov 2015)


Yeah, I like the idea of updating a PowerPoint, composing a note, or touching up an image on that big flat screen in front of me with a physical keyboard horizontally on a surface.

But what comes next? How about that big screen appearing in front of your eyes and your fingers virtually typing or mousing? And processors powerful enough for multiple videos and apps? Who better to surge ahead in AR than a company that has expanded the input and output of your SmartPhone?

posted on 09 May 2017, 06:24 2

10. MKeditor (Posts: 77; Member since: 10 Dec 2010)


The review omitted the Ethernet jack except mentioning it has one. Every review I've read doesn't address if the dex can see network drives and servers.

posted on 09 May 2017, 06:30 2

11. DBoss (Posts: 59; Member since: 18 Feb 2017)


Yeah..! u r ryt!! Every review is more like their personal opinion here... Only people who has a wider knowledge about products can make a proper review. These half boiled reviews only confuses or misdirect the way we think abt products

posted on 09 May 2017, 09:36

16. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14160; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


Because its Samsung. If this had been Apple, they woudl be trying to shove this up their butt like a hamster and getting off on it. But because its Samsung with a improved innovation that puts Apple even further behind, they have an issue with it.

posted on 09 May 2017, 09:10

14. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14160; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


The point of DEX isn't to compete or be a Windows desktop PC.

However it will work the same as a person who uses a Chromebook or would consider a tablet running Windows 10S.

For someone who needed to open a browser, use Office on the go and that is all they needed, then this is a good tool.

And if Samsung can get devs on-board, it will get better.

Microsoft has already brought X86 to ARM and this is a glimpse of what we can expect soon.

But the Galaxy Note could already do this and do it well, but it nice to see capabilities that are useful evolve.

posted on 09 May 2017, 09:48

18. jellmoo (Posts: 2000; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)


My issue with these types of convergence devices (I'll lump in Continuum and what Ubuntu was trying to do as well) is that the use case is really pretty niche. There just aren't that many situations where people have a monitor, keyboard and mouse lying around but no PC.

It's a neat idea in theory, but I can't see this being a terribly practical solution for too many people. Just about everyone already has a device that will do the same things, only better.

I feel that this is more of a proof of concept, rather than a fully fleshed out product offering.

posted on 09 May 2017, 12:04

20. kkmkk (Posts: 544; Member since: 06 May 2013)


if it was compatible with my s7 edge i would buy and connect it with my tv but nop not going to buy the a new phone just for it

posted on 09 May 2017, 12:41 1

22. L0n3n1nja (Posts: 425; Member since: 12 Jul 2016)


So $150 for DEX, or for under $200 you could just get a Chromebook, a computer stick, or one of Microsoft's new Windows 10S devices.

I don't think it's cheap enough to consider buying compared to what's on the market already.

posted on 09 May 2017, 14:31

26. Martin_Cooper (Posts: 1599; Member since: 30 Jul 2013)


Half ass rushed feature by Samsung. Hmm that's a surprise.

posted on 10 May 2017, 07:46

27. Crispin_Gatieza (Posts: 2085; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)


The obvious comparison would be to Continuum and from what I've read here and elsewhere, Microsoft's version of phone computing is the clear winner. Continuum doesn't do split-screen yet, but multiple apps run in the background. Also, a Windows phone can be used independently of Continuum and with the Creator Update the display can be turned off. This is one instance where Windows has more apps than Android but that could change if DeX becomes available for all Android users.

posted on 16 May 2017, 01:35

28. anvil21x (Posts: 1; Member since: 16 May 2017)


Try use DexMax!
it can resizeable for all apps

https ://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=xyz.masma​s.dexmax

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