Can you use Samsung DeX as a computer to work and learn?

From the Galaxy S8 line, Samsung it has a very interesting feature that allows the branded mobile phone to be “transformed” into a desktop platform, literally using the mobile phone as if it were a computer. It’s called Samsung DeX, and we decided to give it a try to see if it could be used for work or study.

DeX mode allows you to expand the display of almost all applications installed on your phone to a larger screen, such as a monitor or notebook. It’s easy to see the convenience of this tool, but is it worth it? Is using DeX mode really convenient and practical?

DeX mode allows you to extend the functionality of Samsung phones to a larger screen (Danilo Berti / Canaltech)

I used the South Korean platform to work for a day and here I show you my experience, service to tell you if it is really possible for professionals or studies.

compatible devices

It is important to note that not all Samsung phones are compatible with DeX, even the latest ones. That’s because the company limits its functionality to the top of its line.

However, it is compatible with any smartphone from the DeX Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, in addition to the Galaxy Z and Galaxy Fold folding lines. The service also works with some tablet models released from the Tab S4 line.

mounting the configuration

All you need to connect your mobile phone to the monitor — or to a TV, for example — is just a cable with an HDMI end and a USB-C end.

However, Samsung recommends some original accessories to facilitate this communication: DeX Pad and DeX Station, which support the mobile phone and connect USB or HDMI accessories to it. However, none of them are officially available in Brazil, which makes it a bit difficult to assemble the original brand configuration.

A set with a mouse and keyboard connected to the mobile phone already allows you to use DeX mode (Image: Bruno Bertonzin / Canaltech)

Here, I’ve used Motorola’s Ready For accessories that serve the same purpose on competitors ’mobiles (by the way, I’ve written about the possibility of using Ready For for work and study as well). That way, I could use a Galaxy S21 Plus that is normally connected to my TV, so I don’t need a specific monitor.

In addition, I connected the mouse and Bluetooth keyboard directly to my smartphone to make typing and navigation easier between screen options. If you don’t, you can use a virtual keyboard and trackpad on your phone, though it’s not practical.

Mobile phone and battery usage

While the mobile phone was used for work, the battery was significantly drained during working hours. But that’s completely natural, after all, I had apps like Edge, Chrome, Telegram, and Slack open almost all the time, plus two Bluetooth devices were connected to the device at all times.

During the day, I did a lot of research on the Internet, watched some videos on YouTube, and mostly used Google Docs to write texts in my browser. So the mobile phone was in constant operation for many hours, even when its screen was off.

On a positive note, it is possible to charge the device without having to disconnect it from the monitor or TV. That’s because the Ready For’s HDMI adapter also has a USB-C port for your mobile phone. If I were using real Samsung accessories, I could do the same with the DeX Station or DeX Pad, which also offers these extra ports.

Speaking of specific numbers, the Galaxy S21 Plus – with a 4,800 mAh battery, reduced the charge from 100% to 15% in approximately 8 hours of work.

Use popular applications and programs

Samsung’s DeX allows you to open the screen of almost any application installed on your phone. This means that you can use most of the apps available on any social network and in the Play Store while you’re connected.

During my working day, I used Edge and Chrome browsers a lot, in addition to Slack, Telegram, Twitter and Instagram apps. I also tested popular apps like Google Docs and Sheets and Microsoft Office and Excel.

The apps work very well and very smoothly. But it’s important to emphasize one point: you won’t have a computer screen, just an extended version of Android.

You can use any platform application available on Android (Image: Bruno Bertonzin / Canaltech)

In practice, this should be a bit confusing, but nothing too serious. For example, in Google Docs, you may have little difficulty running keyboard shortcuts or selecting an entire paragraph in two-click versions.

That’s because Android apps don’t recognize these gestures like Windows does, so it’s as if they don’t really exist. In the browser, however, they work much better.

Despite all of this, I had a very rewarding experience using Edge, which is my most popular browser. I even noticed a much faster speed to open websites and load pages on my laptop, but that’s thanks to the powerful chip-set of the Galaxy S21 Plus, on the scale of mobile devices, of course.

Finally, one thing should be clear: Since DeX is just a desktop-friendly Android interface, it is not possible to download a program for the PC that is only available in the Play Store.

So if you use some specific software for your business and don’t have a mobile version, DeX won’t suit you very well.

Video call

You can use DeX to participate in video calls. This helps a lot in a scenario where more and more people are working from home and participating in video conferencing.

To join a video meeting, open any application that offers these features, such as Google Meet, Google Duo, or Microsoft Teams. In conversations, the system uses the device’s camera as well as the microphone to output audio.

I noticed only one problem when using it: I couldn’t switch the audio output to the monitor, and I only listened to the audio of video calls through the phone itself or through a Bluetooth headset connected directly to the Galaxy S21 Plus.

Possible problems and difficulties in adaptation

Samsung’s DeX platform can help you get a desktop experience with a compatible phone, but there are some issues that can slightly interfere with usability and others that can be very difficult to adapt to everyday use.

This is the main limitation of Android applications. Therefore, if we are used to the interface and functionality of Windows applications, it can be a bit difficult to adapt when using the mobile version. And that’s no better than DeX-like desktop deployment.

An example of this is Google Docs. Both in the browser version and in the Android application itself, some keyboard shortcuts cannot be used for typing.

Those who work on writing, for example, use the Windows Alt + 0151 shortcut a lot to write a dash. This does not work in DeX, which greatly hinders productivity by having to use virtual keyboards or copy and paste them elsewhere.

I’ve used this shortcut as an example, but it’s just one of the limitation issues for Android apps that hinder the functionality of Samsung’s DeX mode, especially if you have “real computer” experience as a basis for comparison.

Browsers do not support the use of bookmarks like Windows (Image: Bruno Bertonzin / Canaltech)

In addition, browsers lag a bit behind us, especially for those who visit the same sites every day and use the bookmarks bar. This is because applications — Chrome or Edge — do not allow you to anchor your favorite addresses in the address bar, just like on the desktop.

So, when you want to go to a favorite website, you have to go to the browser options and search for it. It doesn’t seem like much, but in the end it’s a waste of time.

DeX helps a lot, but for occasional work

If you’re thinking of using Samsung’s DeX mode to work on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to be careful: it may not be very useful. After all, you only get the extended Android experience. If you use non-mobile apps, forget it!

But, if you ever have to be without a computer and want to use the platform for a short time, it should be fine, as long as you only use the most popular apps that have Android versions.

If you’re thinking of using it for your studies, DeX is a much better value for you, after all, it works well in major text editors, spreadsheets, or presentation applications, as well as email or social networking applications.

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