Samsung DEX in 2019 – STILL Not Ready? A True User Review
For those of you wondering, Samsung DEX is a feature that lets you connect a Samsung device to an external display and peripherals in order to have a desktop-like experience. Samsung DEX is supported on the Galaxy S8 and every high-end device that followed it, although do keep in mind that some of those smartphones that require a separate dock to function.
If you recall around the same time last year, I posted my very first experience using this ecosystem to see if it would make any sense for an average user. I had some issues with it, but I expected that given that it was still pretty new. However, now it’s been a year and I’m currently using the Galaxy Note 10+, and I thought that I might as well just boot up DEX again to see if it has matured at all or if it’s still needs improvement.
Alright, so if you bought the Galaxy Note 10 or if you have a Galaxy Note 9, all you need is a USB-C to HDMI adapter. They go for less than $20 on Amazon. For peripherals, I decided to take the Bluetooth approach and I went with the Logitech K380. This is the most legendary portable Bluetooth keyboard that I own, it’s still running for some reason, the battery has never died on me yet. I think it’s like 2 years old, which is kind of incredible. For the mouse, I’m using the Logitech Master 3, and I know it’s a ridiculous combination but this is the only Bluetooth mouse that I had lying around here. You could get away with any Bluetooth keyboard or mouse a to pair with your a device. Now if you’re looking to take advantage of wired peripherals you just need to make sure that you have a USB-C dock that has an HDMI passthrough port, and a couple more USB ports so that you can connect your keyboard and your mouse and have DEX set up that way.
One of the newest features added to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the ability to connect the device to your existing PC or Mac via the included USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable. That way you can use your existing peripherals with Samsung DEX, whether you’re on a desktop or laptop. If you’re on a laptop there is trackpad support, which is nice. Now do keep in mind that the setup process for this mode requires the user to download Samsung DEX directly from Samsung’s website, install it on their respective computers, and then connect the device to their PC to set it all up.
However, once installed I noticed something very strange when I tried to set up. You see the image doesn’t really scale that well on both my notebook and my desktop PC. As you can see it’s just not ideal for everyday use. It’s not sharp, it’s an eyesore to be honest. I think the reason for this is simply because the included cable can’t really provide the bandwidth to drive a proper 1080P or 4K display. It is after all just a normal USB cable. it’s not a display cable, so that is something to definitely keep note of. But if you decide to use the USB-C to HDMI adapter, the final image on the display looks a lot better, it’s a lot sharper. That’s the setup that I would recommend if you decide to use DEX on a regular basis.
However, you lose the ability to seamlessly transfer files back and forth between your phone and a PC, but that feature is also a bit finicky. For instance, if you transfer a video file from your computer to the phone, it won’t show on the desktop within DEX. You have to look for it by going through the files app and then navigating through the downloads portion within the video tab. It’s just not ideal if you’re working with multiple files. I really wish Samsung would have improved file organization with DEX, but it still looks like it needs a lot of work.
Now I did encounter some issues with Samsung DEX when I used it with my PC. For instance, the app would just completely glitch on me, so I had to unplug the USB-C cable and plug it back in for that to resolve the issue. Then I experienced a noticeable amount of input lag when I was using the peripherals with my PC, for example when I’m typing up a document or browsing through the web or clicking on things, the input lag was pretty terrible. As a result, I would recommend you run DEX directly off of your device because this is your host. It’s just a much faster and more fluid experience. The input lag is pretty much nonexistent when you pair it up with a Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse directly to the phone.
Alright, so I think it’s time to talk about my experience using Samsung DEX. Has the layout changed? Is it better for multitasking? Can you actually get any work done on the specific ecosystem? The answer to that is yes, but you have to go through a lot of hurdles to get to where you need to. Before I get into all of the issues that I encountered, I just want to quickly walk you through the desktop layout. As you can see it’s pretty much the same, mothing much has changed from what I looked at last year. As you can see on the bottom left-hand corner, there is a new icon which is the DEX button that lets you exit DEX. You can also lock DEX. They have also added this really cool feature called DEX Labs that allows you to resize apps that are not optimized for Samsung DEX. If you have a specific app that you want to take advantage of in fullscreen mode you can enable this option and it will allow you to open those apps and take advantage of that screen real estate, which is pretty cool. When you shift over to the bottom right-hand side you have quick access to your calendar, as well as notifications and settings. Everything is really easy to access and that’s really nice. I also have pinned all of my frequently used applications on the task bar, which is something that you can do with Samsung DEX, which is awesome.
Now as a creator I spend the majority of my time browsing the web, so my layout would essentially consist of one side of the display that’s filled with a group of tabs where I would have my research material and the other side of the screen would be a Google document where I can quickly type up notes and then quickly switch back and forth between those tabs. I also do a lot of email correspondence as well at the same time, so it’s a lot more efficient for me. I’m sure a lot of you follow the same layout as well. And then I spend the rest of the time to create content using DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Photoshop, and Lightroom. But those are still desktop-class applications. You need an actual computer to get those things done.
Let’s start with the browsing experience. I’m gonna open up Chrome over here and as you can see I have the Hardware Canucks YouTube page loaded up, but it’s not the desktop site that you’re normally used to when you’re browsing it on a laptop or a desktop PC. In order to enable that you’re gonna have to head over to settings and then click this desktop site option for it to reload in that desktop format. And that way you can browse through YouTube and see things how you normally would on a regular PC. It works just fine, but the problem is that you have to do this every time when you access a website. It becomes a repetitive process, and it’s an extra step then you have to take every time when you access a site. Once you’re comfortable with that it’s just a matter of normally using it like you would a desktop PC. It works with Gmail, as you can see the layout looks pretty similar as well, and that’s great.
But… if you’re comfortable switching browsers, I would highly recommend checking out Opera. It’s a much better experience compared to Chrome because it remembers all of the desktop options, so you don’t have to go through that step of enabling every time when you access the same sites. However, at the same time it also allows you to edit a G Suite document within the browser without having to open an external app. A quick example of that would be when I open up Chrome, if I want to open up this Excel document, which is my notebook sheet, it just asks me to open it using Google drive, but then I don’t have any ability to edit it. I don’t have access to be able to scroll or make any changes because it’s just not supported unfortunately. If I were to open the exact same document in Opera the whole thing just works. It’s like opening a new webpage and I can quickly go in and make my changes if I have to. And that’s just an awesome experience. And this is probably the best way to browse. I think Opera definitely gives you that flexibility, which is really nice.
Also, if you want to watch 4K videos you can absolutely do it. I had no issues watching videos, especially in full 4K. I can comfortably enjoy this experience in fullscreen mode as well, so that’s nice. I can go through the comments and respond to them if I have to, which again really enables you to do a lot more, which I really like.
Gmail on the other hand works pretty well, but that’s only if use to a single account. If you’re like myself and you use multiple Gmail accounts and you want to switch between those emails, you’re going to have a little bit of trouble doing that. The only workaround to this is to open your other Google account using incognito mode. That’s a bit of a bummer because you’re going to have to switch back and forth between those modes, and it’s really not that efficient. I understand the limitations of it, obviously we are running off of an Android ecosystem paired with One UI, but it’s something that I thought was worth bringing up.
Remember how I mentioned my desktop use case scenario where I love using screen modes. Unfortunately you can’t split tabs within a browser using DEX. For instance, if I want to drag this YouTube tab outside of the group of tabs, I can’t do that. It’s certainly limitation for me, but the worst part is that the app by itself can’t snap automatically to the left or right side of the display, which means you have to manually resize them and then rely on manually resizing them, which just takes forever. It just not efficient. It’s just not complete, especially when it comes to that browsing experience.
Android Apps Experience
And now let’s switch over to some Android apps. Starting with Instagram, it opens just fine, but for some reason I can’t really move this window to the sides. It’s just locked dead center. I can switch back and forth between stories and all that stuff, but I don’t know if this is a glitch or something like that, but it is pretty unfortunate. The YouTube app is still not optimized to take advantage of the whole display. As you can see, it still opens the mobile app, but in a much bigger format. You are much better off browsing YouTube using Chrome or Opera or any other browser.
Alright, so now what I’m going to do is open up Netflix, and I’m going to click on one of my favorite shows called Patriot act. Interestingly enough I ran into a lot of issues when the display just would completely turn off. Like it just wouldn’t work. I would hear the audio coming through, but with nothing on the screen. I had to literally take my phone, unplug the USB-C cable, plug it back in, and then it would quit Netflix. Therefore, at the moment, watching Netflix is probably not ideal on DEX cause it just never worked right for me.
Adobe Lightroom works pretty well on Samsung DEX. As you can see I’m going to open up an image and I can start editing the colors, the contrast, and all that kind of stuff instantly, which is awesome. And the best part is all that happens in a matter of seconds, because the Note 10 does a fantastic job of keeping up with the tasks that I’m throwing at it, which is great. Another cool application that I tried was Adobe Sketch, just to see if I could take advantage of the S Pen that comes with a Note 10+. And interestingly enough if you open up Adobe sketch on your Galaxy device, and if you open up a project, you can screen mirror that entire project or that artwork to the main display. As you’re making changes that happens in real-time, so you can monitor those changes on a large display while making your changes on the device using the S Pen.
Now let’s switch over to some basic applications like PowerPoint, and as you can see it works just fine. I have created a presentation for you all. I’m not necessarily the best at creating PowerPoints, but as you can see you can quickly make edits if you want to. Now what’s really interesting is I had to pay for Office 365, which was a little bit odd because when they announced the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Samsung and Microsoft said that they were going to work together in this huge collaboration. They said that they were optimizing all the apps for Samsung devices. I feel like they should have at least included Office 365 as a free subscription for like six months if you bought a Galaxy Note 10+. It is a missed opportunity, but that’s just my take.
And now I wanted to try something impossible and that is trying to edit a video. And as you can see, I’ve opened Adobe Premiere Rush, which seems to be a really optimized app. I’m being sarcastic there by the way. It’s just… not at all advanced. I cannot do any work. I tried to make a video for this article, but the keyboard controls just don’t work. If I hit space bar it won’t play. I have to use the mouse to click on all these options, which is pretty unfortunate. The problem here I think is that a lot of these apps are really geared for touch support and not necessarily a keyboard or mouse. It’s important for you to understand which apps work really well with Samsung DEX. Certainly not touch based applications. If you’re someone who’s thinking of creating videos, I would probably still stick with your computer cause that’s more advanced and functional.
Moving on to gaming, because we all always want to have a little bit of fun, I can load up Super Mario Run but it opens in the mobile format and the resolution is still a little bit wonky, so you’re going to have to get used to that. But what’s really weird is that other apps like Minion Rush or Subway Surf just won’t open, which is really unfortunate. These are two of my favourite games and I just can’t get them to work on Samsung DEX. When it comes to Asphalt Night, I had a lot of fun game playing this game. I mean the image quality on my monitor looked fantastic and it’s sharp. It has keyboard support so I can sit back and enjoy a really nice racing game with Samsung DEX. The Note 9 does a fantastic job powering this game. Honestly, I have no complaints with this experience.
This brings me to a very important point, and that is game support. It’s still very limited with Samsung DEX. There are certain titles like Vain Glory and some other strategy games that work just fine, but if you’re looking for a specific game that you want to take advantage of it’s very important to have compatibility and optimization in mind. It might just not work with Samsung DEX right now, but it could potentially work in the future. It’s like you’re kind of gambling as to whether support will ever come, so that’s something to keep note of.
In the end, I hope I was able to paint a clear picture as to what Samsung DEX is in its current state. It still needs a lot of improvements, it’s nowhere close to a desktop-like experience that you would get with a traditional PC. I really hoped that Samsung improved the multitasking features and added a lot more with DEX, but that’s not the case. More or less, it’s pretty much the same compared to last year, which is kind of disappointing. I really wanted DEX to succeed, but at this point in time – and it’s been a year – they really haven’t done all that much with it, which is kind of unfortunate. Let me know what you all think about Samsung DEX. Is it something that you would consider? Do you have any hope for it to improve in the future? I would love to know your thoughts about that.