The idea of turning a smartphone into a computer isn’t something new. The likes of BlackBerry, Microsoft and Canonical, the company that developed Ubuntu Touch OS, have all attempted to offer a seamless computing experience. Huawei, with the P20 Pro, also tried something similar, and the upcoming Asus ROG Phone will come with a similar feature. The intention has been to help you stay productive on the move. Samsung also tried the same with DeX for the Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9-series, where the DeX station costs about Rs 8,300.
Then there were other implementations too – Motorola tried it with the Atrix smartphone, where the dock had a keyboard touchpad and a screen, that looked more like a laptop. Asus, on the other hand, tried it with the PadFone, where you insert the phone inside a dock, that basically resembles a tablet, and you could hook on a keyboard as well to make typing easier.
However, despite all these efforts, the adoption never really took off as the implementation was flawed. You would need a specific dock that costs about Rs 7,500 or more, a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor or TV. And not to forget the complex cables running around. With the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung has reworked the idea and introduced an improved version of DeX that does away with the clutter. It offers a simple and convenient way to transform your smartphone into a PC.
Watch: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 First Look
Samsung DeX 2018 is more evolved
I was at the Unpacked 2018 event in New York where Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 9. During the briefing and at the event too, Samsung offered a glimpse at how the new DeX works. I was excited about it, but from whatever I’ve used so far, I didn’t have had much hopes. But just then, I was proved wrong.
The Samsung DeX 2018 version just needs one USB Type-C to HDMI cable, that’s it! And you can easily find one for as low as Rs 500 on Amazon India. If you go for a branded one, which I recommend, it should cost you anywhere between Rs 1,900 to Rs 7,500.
We were recently reviewing a Dell Latitude laptop, and it came with a dock that has USB Type-C cable on one end, and an HDMI, a USB 3.0, a VGA and a display port on the other end. I tried that and it worked. A friend of mine bought a local adapter for about Rs 700, and I tried that too and had no issues running it.
Connectivity and interface
Connectivity is very simple. Take your Galaxy Note 9, connect the adapter with the Type-C cable to the phone, and the HDMI from another side of the adapter to the TV or monitor. On your TV, select the HDMI mode and you should be able to see the welcome screen, basically walking you through the features and how to operate.
Unlike previous implementations, here you don’t need a keyboard and mouse to be connected. When you need a keyboard, an on-screen keyboard appears on your phone, and from the drop-down menu, you can select a virtual mouse, where the screen of your Galaxy Note 9 will act as a touchpad. Sounds good right? And if you want to continue with your usual work that requires a lot of typing, you can buy a keyboard with a touchpad from Logitech or any other brand for about Rs 2,500, and can directly connect it to the phone via Bluetooth.
It looks like a typical desktop screen, with a few important icons on the left, such as Settings, Internet, Gallery and more. At the bottom left, you have the app drawer, the back button and task switcher. On the bottom right, you have the icons for battery percentage, toggle for Wi-Fi, mobile data, GPS, Bluetooth, Alarm shortcut, and notification panel. It is basically like navigating on a phone, just with the UI like a desktop computer to give you that PC-like feeling. And yes, you can change the wallpaper too.
Almost all apps smartphone are supported. While some games like Temple Run and Subway Surfers run in portrait mode, Asphalt 9: Legends and other graphics-intensive titles don’t quite work. I was successfully able to open the Gallery app, the internet browser, YouTube and other apps.
Being a writer, my key apps are Microsoft Word / Google Docs, Excel / Google Sheets, and PowerPoint, all of which are supported. You don’t get the full-fledged version, but the mobile versions of the app. And it is fine, I just need something to write my stories.
I tried opening a PowerPoint presentation, and it takes advantage of the Bluetooth S Pen, where clicking the button changes the slides, making it easier for users to give presentations right from the Galaxy Note 9. And for a person like me, who writes and edits articles, well our CMS opens on the browser too. This means, I can do away with my laptop or desktop computer and work solely using DeX on the Galaxy Note 9.
Can Samsung DeX replace the desktop?
Ok, now here’s the real deal. When laptops were new in the market, the one question on everyone’s mind was, can they replace powerful desktops? Yes, over the years, laptops took over the market space occupied by desktop PCs. But can a phone like Galaxy Note 9 act as a desktop / laptop replacement?
Well, it is too early to say that. There are several factors to consider here. Does the phone get warm when connected using the adapter to a monitor or TV? How much is the battery drain? Is switching between tabs on a web browser a smooth experience? I will take this as a challenge and try replacing my laptop with the Galaxy Note 9 for a day, and see how it goes. Also, it is too early to pass on a judgment as of now. I will talk more about this in my review, which I will be publishing soon. Till then, stay tuned.