Alongside its new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus smartphones, Samsung also unwrapped a new docking accessory designed to harness the power of the Galaxy S8. Called Samsung DeX, it’s meant to allow you to use the Galaxy S8 as a replacement for a fixed desktop computer.

Does it deliver on its promise? Is Samsung DeX the future of smartphones and computing, or is it just another attempt to use smartphones to kill the PC industry? Find out in our Samsung DeX review!

See also:

Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus review: Almost to Infinity

April 18, 2017

Samsung DeX isn’t new, but it’s a new take on an old problem

samsung dex

Companies have tried different methods to make the smartphone a viable PC replacement for years

For years, companies have tried different methods to make the smartphone a viable PC replacement. In 2011, the Motorola Lapdock was the first dock to do this, and provided connections for physical keyboards, a mouse, and other peripherals. Apple then tried to use AirPlay to accomplish something similar, although it acted like little more than screen sharing. Then there was HP’s Elite X3, which ended up coming close with its Desk Dock before also failing to be widely adopted.

The biggest challenge plaguing these solutions were that they all tried to mirror the smartphone screen to the desktop, Samsung’s previous mobile docks for the Galaxy S4 and Note 2 included. Samsung is hoping that the time is ripe for another attempt and in the DeX station, we have an accessory that’s mostly well thought out and has some very smart features as well.

The DeX station

DeX works only with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, which is a shame as it would have been nice to have support for older Samsung (and other Android) devices as well. That said, the dock comes with an Ethernet port, two USB ports for connecting peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse, and a HDMI port to connect to your desktop monitor.

The top of the DeX station flips down to reveal the USB Type-C port, where you’ll plug in your Galaxy S8. This also acts as a fan to cool your Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 Plus in DeX mode. Also, thanks to the USB Type-C port, it charges your phone at the same time as powering the DeX experience.

Samsung disables the display on the Galaxy S8 when using DeX, meaning you’re reliant on the keyboard and mouse

It’s not perfect however, as Samsung disables the display on your Galaxy S8 when using DeX, meaning you’re completely reliant on the keyboard and mouse. It would have been nice to be able to use the phone at the same time but this is a trade-off to having the desktop experience.

DeX as a desktop

The number of apps compatible with DeX is pretty small, and, short of Microsoft Word, lacking in any depth of quality

Samsung DeX has a lot of potential, but in its current form, it’s certainly a little raw. The number of apps compatible with DeX is pretty small, and, short of Microsoft Word, lacking in any depth of quality. At the launch of the Galaxy S8 – where DeX was made official – Samsung confirmed that Adobe would bring Photoshop and Lightroom to DeX, but at the time of writing (a few days before the US release of the Galaxy S8), these apps weren’t available to test.

Of course, you can open all the apps that exist on your Android phone but most retain their mobile equivalents. For example, WhatsApp shows up as mobile (which is to be expected), but pressing the enter key doesn’t send a message, and there’s no keyboard shortcut to do so. This means you have to move the mouse and select the send key every time. Similarly, Google Chrome only displays in mobile mode, and often crashes. If you do want to browse the internet and don’t mind using a different browser, Samsung has optimised its own internet browser to offer the full website experience.

The browsing experience is seemingly on-par with Microsoft’s Edge browser and Google Chrome, although there is a touch of latency when scrolling as DeX seemingly struggles to support resource-intensive websites. When resizing a window, Samsung’s browser does well to resize the content accordingly but to get the full experience (and not a responsive version of the site), you need to go into fullscreen mode before resizing the window down.

Samsung DeX works in a similar way to Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform where the same apps could run in both mobile and desktop depending on whether docked to a PC. DeX takes the same premise but without widespread support for apps, it proves to be a little limited. However, what Samsung does have going for itself is that the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are likely to sell in more volume than most, if not all, of the Lumia Windows Phones that Microsoft managed to shift.

The biggest challenge facing Microsoft at the time was persuading developers to adapt their apps to support UMA, or in most cases, even develop their apps for Windows 10 Mobile in the first place. For Samsung, this should be a much easier bridge to cross. Plus, if the additional development resources required to develop for DeX are minimal – either via ease of software or incentives from the company – we will hopefully see developers flock to adapt their apps for Samsung DeX.

In DeX mode, the phone follows the same security settings as when not docked

When moving away from your docked phone, you might be wondering how security works, especially if you only want to move away from it temporarily. The answer is pretty simple: in DeX mode, the phone follows the same security settings as when not docked. So in my case, a press of the power button instantly locks the phone. It then requires you to enter either your password, PIN, pattern, or use biometrics such as iris recognition or fingerprint scanning to unlock the phone.

See also:

The best way to unlock your Samsung Galaxy S8

April 21, 2017

The latter is quite awkward with the fingerprint sensor on the back, making it even more difficult to unlock. When you use iris recognition, though, the DeX dock props the Galaxy S8 up at the right height to make iris scanning a breeze. In fact, in our Galaxy S8 review, I found that the iris recognition can be a little hit and miss. While you still have the same issues in terms of recognising you through glasses, DeX does at least solve the issue with needing to position the phone at a certain angle.

In desktop mode, Samsung DeX offers the same button configuration you’ll find on your Galaxy S8 with the apps menu, home and recent apps keys on the bottom left and a taskbar containing notifications, quick shortcuts and other useful tools on the right. In multi-tasking mode, you have the same layout as the Galaxy S8’s native multitasking, except horizontally and you can also close apps from the bottom status bar, although you then need to shut them from the multi-tasking menu as well.

Overall, the performance doesn’t scream high end PC but rather, reminds me of early netbooks, albeit with a little more power. There’s certainly enough grunt under the hood to handle most tasks but once you start running multiple applications and have several windows open at once, there is a noticeable slowdown, although this could also be said of any Android smartphone. The experience of DeX is intrinsically linked to the performance of the Galaxy S8 and if you have noticeable performance issues on your phone – which is only likely to happen after months of usage – these will be even more prevalent when using DeX.

The verdict: should you buy DeX?

Overall, Samsung DeX shows a lot of promise, but without the widespread adoption of apps and optimization of all apps for the desktop experience, it’s difficult to determine just how useful it is. In its current state, it doesn’t do much better than other solutions out there, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge it just on this basis. DeX is unique as it aims to present a solution to a problem that not many users face – namely, being able to be truly mobile and work from anywhere – but for those who need a solution, DeX is certainly one of the most portable out there.

Should you buy DeX? For most users, the answer will be an easy 'no'

Should you buy DeX? For most users, the answer will be an easy ‘no’ as it doesn’t solve a problem they’ve faced. However, if your job takes you to multiple work places and you need an easy way to dock and undock for light work without carrying an additional computer, then Samsung’s DeX could be a potential solution. The biggest challenge to it being truly useful is that your use case has to be very specific – you need the guarantee of a computer monitor you can dock into, as well as a workload that doesn’t require Windows/Mac specific applications and isn’t resource intensive.

Samsung DeX would be ideal in developing countries for small businesses, but the cost of owning a Galaxy S8, monitor, DeX station and all the peripherals will probably be as expensive, if not more expensive, than an all-integrated desktop computer or powerful laptop and a more affordable smartphone. If Samsung could find a way to make DeX more affordable for developing markets then it would certainly have a place, especially for agriculture industries where business owners are already using their smartphones to do a lot of tasks we associate with traditional computers.

With all of that said, DeX is a rather cool accessory and it’s testament to the future of technology that you’re able to power a desktop-like experience from a smartphone. It’s not perfect, and it remains to be seen whether it’ll ever be widely adopted, but it certainly has the potential to be useful. Ultimately, the future of DeX depends on Samsung, and specifically whether it can make it affordable for the users who it would truly benefit and whether it can get developers on board to offer optimized apps.

What do you think of Samsung DeX? Would you buy one? Does it fit your use case or do you think it’s a fad that will fail to achieve widespread adoption? Be sure to speak up in the comments below!

Nirave Gondhia
Nirave is one of the Managing Editors and a fan of travel. He's worked in technology for over ten years (including stints at two carriers in the UK) and reported on it for nearly nine years. In my spare time, A big football (soccer to those over the pond) fan and avid supporter of Man United for over 20 years, he reads a lot, loves a cocktails and blogs about travel.
  • Anthorama

    Why don’t you mention Continuum from MS ?

    • Pool.. Dead


    • Andrés

      and what’s the point? Windows is going downhill full speed.

      • Anthorama

        They introduced this a year and half ago with W10 mobile. It’s not because it’s going “downhill full speed” that you need to ignore it.

        • Andrés

          After all, it’s Android Authority…

  • mark

    I think you mean Universal Windows Platform, not Universal Mobile Apps? And while it’s taking time to port from Win32 to UWP, the 700,000 is not tiny, and I’d be surprised if the number of Dex supporting Android applications exceeds that – though it may happen if doing is easier (e.g., just adding keyboard support to an existing Android application).

    Regarding the Whatsapp example, does it have the same problem when using a Bluetooth keyboard on a regular Android device? If so I’d say it’s a bug in Whatsapp, not a Dex issue.

    • daftrok

      The point is that DeX should have support from major applications at launch if its intentions are to be a desktop replacement. I have no doubt that a fix in the future will happen but the main takeaway I get from this review is that it is a solid first attempt but first attempt it is and users should be vary of becoming a first adopter if they aren’t ready to deal with the rough beginings.

      • You’ve nailed the sentiment of this review on the head – it mostly feels like a first attempt albeit it’s better than other first attempts.

  • Zabih Cino

    Is very unlikely

  • Mahtab Masood

    In my Opinion, Samsung Dex really has some potential of replacing the Home desktop/laptop systems (Not the Work systems though, due to limited processing power of mobile) . I’m anyway using a smartphone. If I can get functionality of a laptop for just $200 (including Monitor, keyboard, mouse etc) I won’t have to buy a laptop which will easily cost me $500. Now the only barrier is the availability of apps for desktop screen. If I’m able to get at least my “most used” apps properly adapted for large screen, It would be great. To be honest, now a days at home, I mostly use Google Chrome on my laptop. So my requirements are really lean in order to adapt Samsung Dex. Also I believe Samsung should open use of Dex for At least S7, S7 Edge & Note 5 (now that most of them have moved to Nougat) and should bring down the cost of Dex.

    • Jey

      Replace a pc? I think it depends on the user, for me the answer is no since I game on my pc (gtx 1080ti sli), do video editing, and make music which involves alot of processing power where a mobile phone can’t deliver.

    • John Doe

      Maybe look at the Chromebook (or Box) then ..

      • Mahtab Masood

        yeah will look into it. So far I am happy with browsing on my Office Laptop. #SavingforNote8

    • Fred Hinson

      Unless the “work system” is Citrix, then ur $$$$!! DeX is beast!!!

  • Daniél Lecoq

    For $149… No. For $29.99, sure, a cool gimmick which may or may not be useful.
    Similar docking stations already exists and there is no point paying that much for having SAMSUNG stamp and limiting it to two phone models.

  • Jey

    Replace a pc? I think it depends on the user and his needs, for me the answer is no since I game on my pc (gtx 1080ti sli), do video editing, and make music which involves alot of processing power where a mobile phone can’t deliver.

    • Andrés

      It is obvious that for programmers, heavy gamers, artists or savvy information workers a decent laptop is a must. For the rest, who primarily consume content, it’s a viable alternative (maybe 50% of users?) especially on snapdragon 835 and upcoming 845.

      but with minimum 6GB memory – because 4GB in S8 is intended programmed obsolesce.

  • Christopher Harding

    I think its great but limiting it to s8 only line was stupid for sure. I could see myself getting use out of this in its current state tho. In fact I’m considering getting this.

    • wshwe

      Samsung probably didn’t want to put a USB A or microUSB port on Dex.

  • RacerRick55

    I think it’s funny how they used an LG monitor in the DeX setup….they might have considered using a SAMSUNG monitor……lol.

    • yardie

      Maybe you can buy them one next time

  • Keith Ian

    First, kudos to the author. This was a very well written and informative overview. Probably the best I have read to date.

    For me, it was all about convenience and footprint. I work from home a lot. I have an L shaped desk. On the right part of the L is my work laptop, its keyboard, monitor, mouse, paper to write on, etc. On the left side was a clunky oversized 3 year old gaming laptop with a Power Supply the size of a brick. I wanted to make more space. I moved my gaming to the living room where my Virtual Reality headset is located (Oculus Rift) and a new gaming desktop from Falcon Northwest (Tiki). Having the DEX will clear up so much space on the left side of my L shaped desk. I already had an excellent 27″ monitor sitting around as well as an extra keyboard and mouse. It will look so much cleaner without that clunky laptop which I sometimes connected to the 27″ monitor.

    Finally, I like having some files on the phone without them being in the Cloud and this allows me to use my phone as a protected device on a larger screen with its secure folder and the Iris Scanner.

    I realize this is the first attempt by Samsung, its a bit overpriced, and maybe not as perfect as I would like performance wise, but for me its the perfect fit for low performance tasks and browsing. I also realize my situation probably isn’t the majority use case :-)

    • Andrés

      But at the end of the day, DeX is just a marketing name for Android on the desktop alternative, which enables to charge a certain premium.

      The question is whether any more or less potent ANDROID phone with USB-C and connected monitor, mouse and keyboard actually serve as a windows PC replacement?

      I guess this year the question is YES for many cases (as a lot of users primarily use web browser + video player), on phones with 6 GB RAM and more..

  • icemanchilled

    I don’t see the point, as a media center replacement it’s mostly redundant due to smart tv capabilities and lacking when it comes to software support for anything productive.

    It’s certainly a good example of what can be done with phone hardware but beyond that not very useful right now.

  • icemanchilled

    If Samsung are serious about having a desktop alternative, this is what they need to do.

    Dual boot with Android(Mobile) and Windows(Desktop).

  • MrHK777

    Microsoft is working on X86 programs on a ARM-Chip powered phone, they actually can run real x86 programs on a smartphone with a QSD835, so it will be possible in the near future

  • Greg Worley

    What is wrong with everyone??? “Desktop Replacement” is being taking way too literally. I’ve been working IT for over 10 years now and not “everyone” plays games, edits videos, or makes music on their PC’s. The most average things people do with their PCs is surf, watch YouTube, Facebook, order on Amazon, pay bills, and mess with Office docs. Most of my residential customers don’t even use a PC anymore, just phones and tablets. This will probably be just fine for most people. Gamers, quit worrying, no one is trying to replace “your” PCs. I do agree, the price point should be lower for the dock, all the technology is in the phone. Let’s at least give the damn things a chance to get in the wild then judge it.

  • Methix

    Looks like a remix of RemixOS