Samsung DeX: The S8’s Real Star
The Samsung S8 offers a tantalising peek into the future of the desktop
After having been leaked so heavily that it would risk water damage, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ were finally unveiled to the world last week, and if there was a lineup of phones that would move the conversation away from the Note 7 debacle once and for all, this was it. I mean, just look at Samsung’s new flagships, from those near-zero bezels framing that expansive and vivid Infinity Display to the class-leading performance and even a new virtual assistant, Samsung’s checked off the boxes it needed to…and then some. Amidst all the glitzy announcements, Samsung executives also took a punt that S8 buyers will want their phones to serve as their carry-everywhere computers as well. Samsung launched a companion dock, called DeX which lets you slot in your S8 or S8+ into a cradle and get access to a full complement of ports to connect to a big screen, a keyboard and a mouse, not to mention other peripherals that you may need to get real ‘desktop-class’ work done. The quasi-desktop leverages the computing power of the phone to drive an Android-based desktop-like experience, allowing users to access Android apps, edit documents right off their phone storage, browse the web, all directly from the smartphone but on a larger display. All along, your phone is still a phone, even when it’s plugged in, and phone calls, text messages and settings are all accessible on the big screen. Have one of these setups at work and home, and you could theoretically just carry your Samsung phone home, dock it in and continue where you left off.
But wait a minute! You may wonder — isn’t this similar to the Motorola Atrix concept from 2011, or the Windows Continuum Dock for Windows 10 Mobile that failed to make much of an impact? Yes, except for two vital differences — first, that there’s been a huge leap in mobile processor performance to actually deliver desktop-class performance, and second, unlike Windows 10 Mobile smartphones, I expect the S8/S8+ are actually going to sell…in mind-numbingly large numbers!
Samsung’s clearly also worked on the concept to take it beyond half-baked vaporware. The S8 is capable of video output at 4K resolution so you’re not constrained to a less-than-optimal resolution for your extended workspace, and the wired network and fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi should help this integrate just fine in office environments. There’s support for Microsoft Office apps, plus Adobe Lightroom to organise your burgeoning photo collection. And of course, the phone charges while it’s in the dock, and a cooling fan has been thoughtfully provided to keep rising temperatures at bay if you use your phone for a full day’s worth of work.
Now this approach does assume an awful lot — for instance, that you’ll have a spare mouse, monitor and keyboard lying around ready to use. You’re also going to have to cough up a fair bit for the latest Samsung phones (plus the DeX dock) since it doesn’t seem likely that Samsung will be rolling DeX out to previous generation smartphones. And my personal bugbear — with all this bleeding edge hardware, you’re still only going to be getting glacially slow USB 2.0 ports, so any meaningful file transfers will take ages to complete.
Even so, I unequivocally like what I see, and my hope is that the move will encourage similar efforts from other phone manufacturers so that the phone-as-PC takes flight this time around, and we can get around to carrying one device from home to work to home, dropping it into the dock closest to you wherever you need some of that big-screen action!
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