Go big: When does matter
It won’t beat a traditional desktop PC, but it’s worth checking out
that my S8 would not dock unless I removed the protective cover. No biggie, but as the only three phones that work with the DeX are clad front and back in glass, you’ll need to take extra care when docking and undocking them.
Once connected, the user interface is remarkably like a traditional desktop user interface. The DeX software – downloadable as a free app from the Samsung store – transforms the portrait-oriented view of your smartphone display into the familiar PC landscape view.
This illusion of a desktop experience is maintained until you open an app other than the 20 or so optimised for DeX, whereupon it’ll be displayed in portrait mode just as it appears on your phone, but much bigger on your monitor or TV screen. Most of these apps still work fine, but not as seamlessly as those tailored for DeX.
The good news is that the latter category contains some of the most useful apps – including the mobile versions of Microsoft’s office and various Adobe products. And the list is growing as more developers come on board.
I was easily able to use the Chrome browser to log onto the various content management and webmail portals I use for work as well as open and edit Word and Excel documents.
There are limits, however.
Open too many browser windows and you start to experience some lag. Also, apps and games that depend heavily on the phone’s touchscreen will be pretty much unusable on DeX.
Another limitation is that there’s no audio out jack to connect DeX to a pair of headphones or speaker. And with the phone docked flush with
DeX, you can’t use its headphone jack. This means you need to rely on the phone’s speaker and microphone to conduct hands-free interviews and listen to music.
This was particularly annoying when watching YouTube videos, something you’ll naturally want to try when connected to a 55-inch TV. Perhaps a set of Bluetoothenabled speakers would solve the problem, but that wouldn’t have been necessary if Samsung had simply included a headphone jack.
Nevertheless, for the most part, I found using DeX a surprisingly similar experience to a traditional desktop PC, especially once
I’d got used to the quirks and idiosyncrasies that accompany any new interface.
To return to the question, is it a replacement for a desktop PC? That depends.
If you hardly ever use a fullsized computer and do most of your work on your phone, the DeX would make an excellent addition to your repertoire, allowing you to supersize the screen to answer those long, complicated emails and even create and edit spreadsheets and text documents.
If you’re currently a pro desktop user, however, the DeX probably isn’t powerful or flexible enough for your needs, although it may make a useful secondary device to keep at home. If you do a lot of work on the go in airport lounges, remote offices and coffee shops, a laptop is still the best way to go although, again, the DeX may make a useful backup device.
All this presumes you already own, or plan to buy, a Galaxy S8, S8+ or Note 8 and you have the peripherals needed. If so, at a cost of around R2 000, the DeX is definitely worth checking out.
I was sorry to see it go, although the rest of my family were happy to get their TV back.
Follow Cooper on Twitter @alanqcooper.