Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Samsung Dex review. Ready for a compact PC?

Alongside its new flagship smartphones Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, Samsung also unwrapped a new docking accessory designed to harness the power of the Galaxy S8. Called Samsung DeX, it’s meant to allow you to use the Galaxy S8 as a replacement for a fixed desktop computer.
Does it deliver on its promise? Is Samsung DeX the future of smartphones and computing, or is it just another attempt to use smartphones to kill the PC industry? Find out in our Samsung DeX review!
For years, companies have tried different methods to make the smartphone a viable PC replacement. In 2011, the Motorola Lapdock was the first dock to do this, and provided connections for physical keyboards, a mouse and other peripherals. Apple then tried to use AirPlay to accomplish something similar, although it acted like little more than screen sharing. Then there was HP’s Elite X3, which ended up coming close with its Desk Dock before also failing to be widely adopted.
The biggest challenge plaguing these solutions were that they all tried to mirror the smartphone screen to the desktop, Samsung’s previous mobile docks for the Galaxy S4 and Note 2 included. Samsung is hoping that the time is ripe for another attempt and in the DeX station, we have an accessory that’s mostly well thought out and has some very smart features as well. Hoping this will be a game changer.

The Dex Station


DeX works only with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, which is a turn off as it would have been nice to have support for older Samsung and other Android devices as well. That said, the dock comes with an Ethernet port, two USB ports for connecting peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse, and a HDMI port to connect to your desktop monitor.
The top of the DeX station flips down to reveal the USB Type-C port, where you’ll plug in your Galaxy S8. This also acts as a fan to cool your Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 Plus in DeX mode. Also, thanks to the USB Type-C port, it charges your phone at the same time as powering the DeX experience.
Samsung disables the display on the Galaxy S8 when using DeX, meaning you’re reliant on the keyboard and mouse
It’s not perfect however, as Samsung disables the display on your Galaxy S8 when using DeX, meaning you’re completely reliant on the keyboard and mouse. It would have been nice to be able to use the phone at the same time but this is a trade-off to having the desktop experience.

Dex as a Desktop


The number of apps compatible with DeX are pretty small making it less usable in many cases. But Samsung DeX has a lot of potential in its current form and it’s certainly a little raw. At the launch of the Galaxy S8 where DeX was made official, Samsung confirmed that Adobe would bring Photoshop and Lightroom to DeX, but at the time of this article, these apps weren’t available to test.
Of course, you can open all the apps that exist on your Android phone but most retain their mobile equivalents. For example, WhatsApp shows up as mobile (which is to be expected), but pressing the enter key doesn’t send a message, and there’s no keyboard shortcut to do so. This means you have to move the mouse and select the send key every time. Similarly, Google Chrome only displays in mobile mode, and often crashes. If you do want to browse the internet and don’t mind using a different browser, Samsung has optimised its own internet browser to offer the full website experience.
The browsing experience is seemingly on-par with Microsoft’s Edge browser and Google Chrome, although there is a touch of latency when scrolling as DeX seemingly struggles to support resource-intensive websites. When resizing a window, Samsung’s browser does well to resize the content accordingly but to get the full experience, you need to go into fullscreen mode before resizing the window down.
Samsung DeX works in a similar way to Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform where the same apps could run in both mobile and desktop depending on whether docked to a PC. DeX takes the same premise but without widespread support for apps, it proves to be a little limited. However, what Samsung does have going for itself is that the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are likely to sell in more volume than most, if not all, of the Lumia Windows Phones that Microsoft managed to shift.
The biggest challenge facing Microsoft at the time was persuading developers to adapt their apps to support UMA, or in most cases, even develop their apps for Windows 10 Mobile in the first place. For Samsung, this should be a much easier bridge to cross. Plus, if the additional development resources required to develop for DeX are minimal either via ease of software or incentives from the company we will hopefully see developers flock to adapt their apps for Samsung DeX.
In DeX mode, the phone follows the same security settings as when not docked. When moving away from your docked phone, you might be wondering how security works, especially if you only want to move away from it temporarily. The answer is pretty simple: in DeX mode, the phone follows the same security settings as when not docked. So in my case, a press of the power button instantly locks the phone. It then requires you to enter either your password, PIN, pattern, or use biometrics such as iris recognition or fingerprint scanning to unlock the phone.
The latter is quite awkward with the fingerprint sensor on the back, making it even more difficult to unlock. When you use iris recognition, though, the DeX dock props the Galaxy S8 up at the right height to make iris scanning a breeze. In fact, in our Galaxy S8 review, I found that the iris recognition can be a little hit and miss. While you still have the same issues in terms of recognising you through glasses, DeX does at least solve the issue with needing to position the phone at a certain angle



In desktop mode, Samsung DeX offers the same button configuration you’ll find on your Galaxy S8 with the apps menu, home and recent apps keys on the bottom left and a taskbar containing notifications, quick shortcuts and other useful tools on the right. In multi-tasking mode, you have the same layout as the Galaxy S8’s native multitasking, except horizontally and you can also close apps from the bottom status bar, although you then need to shut them from the multi-tasking menu as well.
Overall, the performance doesn’t scream high end PC but rather, reminds me of early netbooks, albeit with a little more power. There’s certainly enough grunt under the hood to handle most tasks but once you start running multiple applications and have several windows open at once, there is a noticeable slowdown, although this could also be said of any Android smartphone. The experience of DeX is intrinsically linked to the performance of the Galaxy S8 and if you have noticeable performance issues on your phone – which is only likely to happen after months of usage – these will be even more prevalent when using DeX.

Cost
The Dex station is priced at $149.99 in Samsung and Amazon stores. It seems pretty OK with the price for most of the users.

The Conclusion?
Overall, Samsung DeX shows a lot of promise, but without the widespread adoption of apps and optimization of all apps for the desktop experience, it’s difficult to determine just how useful it is. In its current state, it doesn’t do much better than other solutions out there, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge it just on this basis. DeX is unique as it aims to present a solution to a problem that not many users face – namely, being able to be truly mobile and work from anywhere – but for those who need a solution, DeX is certainly one of the most portable out there.
Should you buy DeX? For most users, the answer will be an easy ‘no’ as it doesn’t solve a problem they’ve faced. However, if your job takes you to multiple work places then you need an easy way to dock and undock for light work without carrying an additional computer, then Samsung’s DeX could be a potential solution. The biggest challenge is that the user atleast needs a computer monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. Also the user will not be able to use intense Windows applications. If all these restrictions are 'no issues' then the Samsung Dex is definitely for you!.



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