Samsung DeX is one of the most unique One UI features and arguably unparalleled in the world of Android apps that attempt to deliver a desktop-like experience on mobile. With the company announcing its first Ultra-branded tablet earlier this year, i.e., the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, the DeX platform is seemingly becoming more important than ever. Especially now that Android 12 has become friendlier to big-screen devices, thanks to foldable.
Samsung continued improving DeX with updates over the years, so the platform did gain a handful of new (quality of life) features. Is it enough to make us want to abandon our (noisy) Windows PC and switch to DeX exclusively? Can DeX fill that role, at least within the scope of our job, which consists mostly of heavy web browsing, writing and text editing, image editing, and communications?
Well, we’re not sure if DeX will become our go-to platform, but because we are looking for a portable alternative to my Windows desktop PC anyway, we have decided to see what DeX has to offer. We have also made a small investment in a USB/HDMI hub (will be sharing more on this later).
After using it for a while now, we realized that we love the quality of life features (like window snapping) that have made DeX much more approachable, many apps (especially from Samsung and Google) work better on the big screen than they used to too. Even though it was lack USB hubs and the environment is mostly touch-based, it still works for us.
Choosing a USB/HDMI hub for DeX
Galaxy flagship smartphone users can enable DeX on an external TV or monitor wirelessly (if the display supports the feature) and via a USB connection to a PC in conjunction with the DeX app for Windows. These options are not optimal and will have an impact on performance.
Another optimal way of using DeX on a smartphone is to connect it to a USB/HDMI DeX hub, complete with USB ports for mice, keyboards, and other accessories you might need.
The tallest barrier to entry to DeX is that, to my knowledge, Samsung no longer manufactures the DeX Hub and DeX Station. And to add insult to injury, your phone will advise you to use an official DeX accessory as soon as you fire up DeX via a third-party hub. Thankfully, DeX users all over the world have gathered forces and shared the experiences they had using various third-party USB hubs.
Most third-party DeX hubs seem to be working fine, but it’s important to note that, through software, Samsung is limiting DeX to 1080p (non-ultra-wide) display resolutions and a maximum of 5 apps on the screen at the same time.
To be precise, you can open more than five apps at once and keep them minimized in ‘recent’ or the taskbar when you’re using a third-party hub, but you can only have up to five apps showing on-screen at the same time. Thankfully, I haven’t hit this 5-app limit in my daily routine yet, so it doesn’t bother us at all.
Samsung DeX Better?
I’m happy to report that, within the scope of heavy web browsing and office tasks, DeX has been more than satisfactory so far. And I must admit that a lot of this comes down to an updated Google Chrome app that works a whole lot better on the big screen than it used to.
I can open dozens of tabs in Chrome without issues, and the browser now comes with a built-in page translator (which is very important for me). Even the ‘view desktop site’ feature seems to work a lot more reliably now.
Combined with DeX additions such as window snapping and more keyboard shortcuts, I can have a much more productive workflow in DeX, similar to what I’m used to in Windows. Mind you, everything is more or less different in DeX, and everything seems to be just one extra click away, which can be frustrating if you’re a die-hard Windows user.
You’ll have to manage expectations and be ready to adapt to a different workflow while using DeX. It still often feels like a touch-based environment with aspirations of a desktop UI, and you’ll have to learn the importance of unusual gestures such as clicking and holding for contextual menus and other actions. You’ll have to adapt to it just as much as you’ll try to make it adapt to you. So, if you’re not willing to experiment with a different environment, you might not have a lot of fun using DeX.
As far as productivity is concerned, your mileage might vary, depending on what you need from your computer on a daily basis. As an example, for us, anything that has to do with heavy web browsing and text editing works just fine in DeX.
We were surprised to see that more Android apps are working better on the big screen now than they used to. Or at least, they’re a lot more adaptable to different window sizes, which gives you more freedom. Even performance appears to have been improved too.