For a long while now, the concept of an all-in-one computing platform was the ultimate dream of people on the go—to have a device you could plug into a multitude of displays the would offer a full working experience, and once done, pick it up and take it home. While it could be argued that this concept in itself is flawed, it did not stop Samsung from diving in and giving a valiant effort to make this a reality with DeX. While it does not fire on all cylinders, DeX is a marvel and one that any road warrior should consider for their mobile work setup.
DeX is a visually unremarkable puck shaped device that reveals a spot to plug in your phone when you push the top. Realistically, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for one of the many Qi chargers currently on the market. Yet if you have a Samsung S8, DeX becomes so much more than a charging dock.
The back of the device hides all the needed ports you will use when setting up your mobile workstation. These include two USB ports, HDMI out, an Ethernet port, and a USB-C connector that is used for power. DeX really could not be simpler to set up. You connect the HDMI to some form of monitor, the USB ports are used to connect your pointing device and keyboard, and the USB-C plugs into the wall. Once it’s all hooked up, you simply drop your Samsung S8 into the dock and you are off to the races.
One notable gripe I had with DeX was the position the phone sits in the doc and the lack of any speaker out. If I am using DeX for media, the fact my speakers of the phone are facing down into the dock means I am obviously not getting the best audio. The simple ability to output the audio would have fixed this, but as it stands right now it limits the ability to enjoy media on the device.
Once you are all set up, you will finally find yourself in the DeX interface, and if you’ve ever used Windows you will feel right at home here. It is at its core an Android environment, but Samsung has done some real work to ensure DeX feels like a workstation rather than a phone.
There is a full start-like menu, with a list of all the installed apps. There is the ability to run multiple apps at once, all in their own windows, and you can dive into the play store to find all the apps you may need. The beauty of DeX is that it works with most Android applications, so you will not be at a loss for things to run on the platform.
Now in testing, while most apps will run within DeX, not all work as intended. Most will work, but many just do not adapt to the different screen size or the fact they are not on a phone. This is not a deal breaker, but if you were hoping everything would run similar to a full-fledged desktop, you may be disappointed.
Games like Fallout Shelter, Hearthstone, and a range of others all worked and ran as you would hope, using the horsepower of the Samsung S8 to power through anything I threw at it. That being said, I could not get some games to run at all, with others causing random crashes and to not fully load. Judging by the newness of the platform, it may take some time to fully optimize apps to work in DeX, although as it is right now, most major games worked as intended.
Even apps you think would run smoothly managed to face a few hiccups. Chrome and YouTube caused a series of slowdowns, one time fully quitting the application—nothing I would describe as earth-shattering bugs, and all in all I would say most things that worked on DeX worked very well.
The things DeX does, it does well. When using Chrome, I felt at home in the DeX environment. It has no issues loading web pages quickly, with all needed content (ads and rich media included). It was a pleasure to browse the web on the device and I managed a considerable amount of research work using DeX exclusively.
Doing some light work was also not a problem, pulling up Google Docs, I wrote a series of articles using just the DeX system and the fact Google Docs feels like a native application within DeX, it was a joy to use. It was one of the better writing experiences I have had in a while, and the fact it was all done using a cellphone at the core is astounding.
DeX is a unique little device. On one hand, it is a fascinating piece of technology that blends mobile and desktop into one device. On the other hand, it is hard to see who it is built for. While DeX manages to transform your Samsung S8 into a mobile desktop, you will still need to have all aspects of the desktop setup ready to go. On the other hand, it was a joy to use and was a fun way to interact with a phone. Overall Samsung has done well with DeX, and as the platform matures it should be a good choice for people on the go that don’t want to use the desktop—but at $249 CAD it is not for everyone. DeX is a wonder of technology but will need a killer app or reason to use it before it can be recommended to everyone.