Samsung DeX: the convergence between mobile and PC is something like this

Alas, the promise of convergence between mobile and desktop! We have been listening to it for many years and along the way there have been projects by brands such as Motorola (Atrix), HP (Elite X3) or Microsoft and its Continuum, although none have finished consolidating. That is why, when Samsung announced its DeX as one of the main novelties next to the launch of the S8, we were filled with skepticism and, above all, with the desire to test it on a daily basis beyond first impressions.

Taking advantage of its launch in Spain, I have been using Samsung DeX to work and this has been my experience:

First steps

Samsung DeX costs 159 euros and in the box comes the workstation itself, the power adapter (USB-C) and the instruction manual. In order to test the mobile-to-desktop experience proposed by Samsung, you will also need a Galaxy S8 or S8 + (for now the only two compatible devices), a screen / monitor with HDMI, a mouse, a keyboard and, optionally, an Ethernet cable to not have to navigate from the Wi-Fi of your phone.

Getting it up and running is pretty straightforward. You just have to connect everything to the DeX in its respective port and, finally, place our S8 in the station. At that time, you will see a notice on the phone screen to switch to DeX mode or mirror. We give it to DeX mode and, after a short tutorial, we will be using our mobile as a computer.

The process is fast, fluid and we do not detect any kind of latency when starting or when going from one mode to another. As technical notes: the HDMI port of DeX is only capable of reaching up to 4K and 30 fps, the Ethernet will allow connections of up to 100 mbps and the two USBs to connect mouse and keyboard are 2.0.

The base also includes a fan to cool our smartphone if necessary, especially when we carry out heavy tasks in different applications. And of course, when our S8 is connected to the base, it will be charging (in fact, since the output is USB-C, it is one of the reasons why it is not compatible with S7 or S7 edge).

And now that?

Okay, so we have everything ready and working, and what do I use it for now? On the screen we see the DeX interface, an adaptation of Android that we will have to manage with keyboard and mouse.

At the bottom left is the drawer of applications (which are, logically, those that we have installed on our S8 or S8 +). This is where the trick comes: Not all apps are optimized for DeX. Within this same section, Samsung has created a tab where all the compatible apps are found and in total, for now, there are 19 available, a very small number, although there are some essential ones to work with such as Word, PowerPoint, Drive, Gmail or Adobe Lightroom.

Not all apps support DeX mode - work still ahead here

What does it mean that they are not optimized? In the best case, we cannot put them in full screen or take longer to load. At worst, they do not work directly, as in some games (which can only be played with a touch screen).

Just to the right we have a button to open recent applications (comparable to the multitasking button on our smartphone) and a 'Home' button to return to the home screen. On the right side of these we can set applications to the navigation bar as we do on PC, something very useful to avoid having to search for the application in question every time we want to run it.

System notifications appear at the bottom right of the screen and look very similar to what we see on the S8. Here we can also check the battery, time, coverage, Wi-Fi, sound profiles, etc.

Can the phone be used while in the dock? Yes, we can make and receive calls and text messages and use push messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Hangouts. In the latter case, when there is a video call involved, due to the position of the phone in the workstation, your face will appear with a strange frame and you will probably have to approach the camera to be seen better.

From playing Clash Royale to editing a document or a photo: the experience is very fast and intuitive

And where are the calls heard? From the speakers of our phone. If we have bluetooth speakers at hand, it can be a good solution to finish completing the desktop experience and, for example, be able to listen to music more comfortably (and with better quality).

Pros and cons

Aside from how easy it is to launch DeX mode, what caught my attention the most about the whole process is the little friction there is. I explain. When we run an application like Word, there is no difference between the experience you have on a PC and that of DeX. In fact, if they were to hide my computer and tell me to write or edit a document, I would not know if I am using a PC or an S8 via DeX. This with the optimized applications, of course, with the rest the experience is far from being something like convergence.

I have been able to create and save documents, .ppt presentations, send emails, edit images in Lightroom, put YouTube videos, use WhatsApp / Telegram, receive calls and play (few) games. And at all times the experience is that of using a PC. No lags, no app crashes.

The system works very well, but needs a larger ecosystem of applications

The problem comes with DeX's own limitations right now. Fewer than 20 optimized apps is a very small number for an ecosystem like Android. And, yes, we have the option of resorting to virtual and remote desktops via VDI solutions such as Citrix Receiver, VMware Horizon or Amazon WorkSpaces, which will allow us to work in a Windows environment, but if what is sought is a clear and simple convergence, the application ecosystem has to be bigger.

And here we understand that developers will push the project as long as there is a user base that supports DeX. Understandably, working on a priority scale works for more used and sold products, so these early DeX steps may be slower than desirable.

There are very few optimized games, and those that are not or do not work or look small on the screen

What about games? Well, for now there are very few optimized. One of them is 'The Tribez', a very basic management game in which we have to build a city. We were able to put it on the big screen and it is quite entertaining, but, of course, it is still a very simple title.

Of the games that are not optimized, many do not work. When you click with the mouse or the keyboard, nothing just happens. Other titles not optimized for DeX, such as the successful 'Clash Royale', do work well, but you will not be able to modify the screen size and, depending on your monitor, it may look too small.

Last but not least, many of you may wonder if the phone gets too hot in DeX mode. The truth is that in PC environments we are used to executing many things at once and here the S8 responds very well (4GB of RAM continues to give too much), but it is true that when we take a while the phone heats up more than the normal. It is nothing dramatic, but it is a good idea that Samsung has included a fan in the station to cool our phone. Here it must be remembered that while connected to the base the S8 is charging, a process in which the mobile phone also gets hotter.

DeX charts a good path for convergence, but has a few challenges ahead

In summary: Samsung DeX paints a very good path for the convergence between mobile and PC. It presents a fluid, simple, intuitive system with which we can truly work without problems in office, email, web and light image and video editing environments.

Like all beginnings, it has challenges ahead, but if someone has a lung for a long distance race like this, it is surely a giant like Samsung.

You can buy Samsung DeX on Amazon, where it has already dropped below 110 euros.

Samsung DeX Station - CPU and charger for Samsung S8 and S8 Plus (HDMI, USB and Lan connectors), black color [CPU only]

Today in amazon for € 167.63

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