Your phone, your PC
Turn your Galaxy S8/S8+ smartphone into a personal computer with the Samsung Dex.
TECHNOLOGY may have come a long way but there will always be a time when you find that you are held back by the simplest of problems.
One challenge that you may have faced many times is having a file, like a photo, on your laptop when you need it on your mobile phone.
While you can resort to Cloud services to solve this – and I do hope you do – it can never be as smooth as using a single device for everything.
Many manufacturers have tried it before by introducing a desktop dock for the smartphone so it works as both your phone and personal computer but that didn’t quite catch on.
Now Samsung is taking a stab at it and the South Korean electronics giant seems to have picked the right time, as the smartphone has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of features and raw power.
In the dock
First off, you will need a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ to use the Dex – I used the S8+ for this review.
The Dex looks like an oversized hockey puck and is portable though I don’t foresee carrying it around because you need many more components – keyboard, mouse, monitor – before you can start using it.
So it’s best left parked and permanently connected.
At the back of the Dex are two USB ports – you can use them to hook up a wired keyboard and mouse but you are better off using Bluetooth models.
It’s not only more elegant and clutter-free but you will also be freeing up the ports for connecting an external drive or thumbdrive.
There is also an Ethernet port for Internet connection, which is great because WiFi isn’t always reliable, and a HDMI port for connecting it to a monitor.
The top of the Dex slides up smoothly to act as the backrest with a fan to keep the phone cool.
Before you dock your phone you will probably have to remove the casing first. For you to use it with a casing you will have to find one with a cutout for the USB port that is at least an inch wide.
Otherwise you are good to go.
Once you dock the phone, prepare to be impressed. You will be greeted by a desktop, fully powered by just your phone.
If you have been using Windows or Mac – and who hasn’t? – the desktop interface will look instantly familiar.
You’ll find a taskbar at the bottom with the “Start” button on the left and the notification bar on the right – popular apps will be pinned on the taskbar while the rest can be accessed by clicking on the button.
I had no trouble working on it like I would on a “regular” desktop. I launched several apps, fired away e-mail messages, opened multiple tabs on the browser and the phone did't buckle under the pressure. I even watched videos and the Dex was still snappy but the sound plays on the phone. And because the headphone jack is hidden under the phone and not accessible when using the Dex, you can’t hook up your headset.
You can change this but you will need Bluetooth speakers, or a monitor with built-in speakers, which I didn’t have handy.
Better with browser
However, to really take advantage of the Dex, you’ll have to start using it like a desktop. If you are going to access Facebook, don’t do it from the app – instead use the browser because the app is still the mobile version that doesn’t take advantage of the larger screen real estate.
Same goes for Instagram, Pinterest, e-mail. Basically if the service can be accessed from the browser, do so. Just make sure you tick the option “Request desktop version” on your browser.
In fact, we recommend using two different browsers, otherwise you will have to keep ticking the option on and off when you switch between phone and PC.
There are apps that are optimised for the Dex. Microsoft’s apps like Excel and Word, for instance, will automatically switch to the Dex version so they are much nicer to use.
Having said that, I find it much easier to do some things on the Dex than the phone, especially when it involves a lot of typing – with or without Dex optimised apps.
If you own an S8 or S8+, the Dex is an interesting gadget to get, especially if you already have the required components.
It works amazingly well though with a few caveats, but it’s nothing you can’t get past.
I am hoping most things will get fixed with future updates. In particular, that it will support a wider resolution instead of just full HD.
If anything, the Dex proves that the S8+ is a powerful phone with potential, and it’s great that you actually get to take advantage of it with the Dex.
But with great power comes great responsibility – having all your files in one device means you have to be even more careful when it comes to protecting your phone. And always ensure it’s backed up ... I can’t emphasise this enough.
No PC, no problem. The Galaxy S8/S8+ can function as both phone and personal computer, thanks to the Dex. — Samsung