The Samsung DeX Could Turn The Galaxy S8 Family Into A Productivity Powerhouse
At the end of March 2017, Samsung officially unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphones. However, this article is not to discuss the new Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ device but instead I’m going to take a look at one of the accessories Samsung introduced at the same time: the $150 Samsung DeX. The two new smartphones combine the best of currently available technology for Samsung. This includes the latest Samsung Eyxnos or Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, depending on the market. Other headline features include 4 GB of RAM, and a gorgeous AMOLED panel, but this time it’s presented in a new 18:9 aspect ratio. This gives the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ family a relatively tall, narrow look.
The Samsung DeX is a dock for either Galaxy S8 model that connects to a number of peripherals including a monitor, and purports to convert your smartphone into a desktop computer. The dock, which is powered via a USB Type-C port, includes an Ethernet port, two USB ports plus a HDMI output. The unit will also charge the Galaxy S8 and includes a cooling fan, as under use the Galaxy S8 smartphone will be working hard. The device also comes with the necessary cabling to connect to a monitor.
In use, the DeX takes the Galaxy S8 display and sends the video output to the external monitor or television, but it is not quite this simple. The Samsung DeX has it’s own user interface rather than simply adjusting the Samsung Galaxy S8 interface for landscape use. Samsung has provided shortcuts on the left hand side of the display and notifications appear at the bottom right. The interface looks similar to Microsoft Windows 10 and it’s easy to have multiple applications showing on the screen at the same time. This is something Samsung are keen to demonstrate.
How well the monitor works with the DeX device varies according to the display and how well it copes with the 1,080 by 1,920 pixel resolution (also known as FHD or “full high definition”). You can connect a wired keyboard and mouse to the Galaxy S8 via the DeX’s USB ports, or you can go down the Bluetooth route. As the display shuts down when the Galaxy S8 is connected to the dock, if you do decide to go down the Bluetooth route you may need to connect devices first to the smartphone as, curiously, the Samsung DeX does not allow access to the Bluetooth menu.
In terms of application support, one of the core applications for this sort of hardware is already fully supported: Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft has already optimized their flagship product for the Samsung DeX. You will need an Office 365 subscription in order to utilize all features, but this isn’t the fault of the Samsung DeX. The Google Drive productivity suite may also be resized to fit the window but as the Galaxy S8 is running the mobile version of these applications this is still a limiting factor. It’s the same with the Google Chrome browser; this can be resized to suit the monitor, but you’re still using the mobile browser in a desktop environment. Samsung has optimized its own application suite for the DeX product and for somebody who simply wants to produce content on his or her smartphone, this makes a good argument for using the Microsoft and Samsung applications. Let’s hope Google step up their game and include better DeX optimization in the future. It's also possible that Microsoft will be looking at Samsung's solution especially as there are rumors of new Windows Phone devices.
The Samsung DeX is a big step forward in the concept of running a desktop environment from a smartphone. It is not perfect but many of the issues are associated with converting the Android platform to work on a desktop. Samsung aren’t the first to try this and they won’t be the last, but the DeX looks like it’s the closest solution yet as you can see from the gallery below. Let’s hope Google is watching, listening and already designing a comparable technology for the next generation Google Pixel smartphone.