Your phone, your PC

Turn your Gal­axy S8/S8+ smart­phone into a per­sonal com­puter with the Sam­sung Dex.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By MADHAVAN M bytz@thes­

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.

Decked out

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.

Dy­namic duo

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

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