Samsung DeX Station, Desktop Experience for Samsung Galaxy Note8, Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, and S9+ W/AFC USB-C Wall Charger (US Version with Warranty)
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- Convert your smartphone into a desktop computer
- Built in fan to keep your phone cool while docked
- Closes to flat disk for easy packing ; Includes Fast Charge Travel Adapter and USB-C cable
- Ports: 2x USB-A 2.0, USB-C Charging, LAN Ethernet, HDMI Output ; Connect a mouse, keyboard, and Ethernet cable for added productivity.
- The Samsung DeX Station enables you to turn your Galaxy Note8, Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 plus into a true desktop PC experience. By docking the Galaxy Note8, Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 plus into the DeX Station, your phone will launch a special DeX mode on the connected external monitor and applications can be opened in multiple separate windows.
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From the manufacturer
At a Glance:
- Convert your smartphone into a desktop computer
- Built in fan to keep your phone cool while docked
- Closes to flat disk for easy packing
- Ports: 2x USB-A 2.0, USB-C Charging port, LAN Ethernet, HDMI Output
Samsung DeX Station
Desktop Experience for Samsung Galaxy Note8, Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+
The Samsung DeX Station enables you to turn your Samsung Galaxy Note8 and Galaxy S8 / S8+ into a true desktop PC experience. By docking the phone into the DeX Station, your phone will launch a special DeX mode on the connected external monitor and applications can be opened in multiple separate windows. Connect a mouse, keyboard, and Ethernet cable for added productivity.
In the box:
- Samsung DeX Station comes with two USB-A 2.0, a LAN Ethernet , an HDMI output, and a USB-C charging port.
Samsung DeX Station Dock for Galaxy S8 and S8+
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With that said, I fully expect that the DeX experience will only get better since a lot of the Free-Form Multi-Window functionality that comprises the desktop experience is actually built into Android and isn't proprietary Samsung wizardry. There are Samsung specific UI elements and integration of Samsung hardware features not native to Android, but at least according to the Samsung DeX Developer documentation, the only thing app writers need to do to take advantage of DeX's capabilities is to make sure their apps utilize Android API 24 or above and comply to the Android N Multi-Window standards. Although it's reserved as a premium feature today, I figure that within the next two to three years, the ability to use any mainstream phone as a basic desktop will become a standard feature and that some derivative of Android will emerge as a good-enough desktop operating system alternative for a significant number of users.
I used the DeX with a Galaxy S8+ for about a week before writing this review and found that while not everything runs in DeX mode (Spotify and Kindle don't run at all), many apps are able to launch though only a handful outside of Google's offerings support fully resizable windows at the moment. Most apps (including Netflix) launched in a fixed mobile view and depending on the app, there might be an option to choose between portrait and landscape views. It's worth noting that while an app might launch in DeX mode, there's a chance it might require touch controls and thus be unusable (e.g. Super Mario Run). I'm hopeful that many of these issues will be sorted out in due time as app writers update their apps for future versions of Android.
Beyond specific app compatibility with DeX, the majority of issues I encountered can be lumped as either multi-tasking/focus related or inconsistent behavior issues that stem from either limitations of specific apps or Android itself. An example of a multi-tasking/focus problem is that the majority of non-resizable apps stop refreshing when they're in the background; while having carefully controlled background refresh is desirable on power-constrained systems that only allow one active app at a time, it's lame when a CPU utilization monitor app stops updating when you switch apps. An example of an Android or app specific limitation is that not everything understands the mouse wheel; while the mouse wheel works as expected when using a browser or Microsoft Office, some apps like Google Drive's PDF Viewer require you to scroll by clicking and dragging. Gmail is a curious offender because it’s resizable and supports multiple panes, but it only does so when it's expanded to nearly 75% of the desktop. As with app compatibility, I am also hopeful that these issues will be ironed out in time, though it might take longer if the fixes require tinkering with Android.
In terms of hardware, it's interesting to note that the DeX actually works as a generic USB-C phone dock, and it will allow any phone to display, charge, and use USB devices as long as the phone supports USB Power Delivery and DisplayPort Alternate Mode. Imagine my surprise when I hooked up a Lumia 950 and watched it seamless launch into Windows Continuum mode with USB keyboard and mouse support while also being charged! My friend was also impressed (albeit to a lesser degree) when his HTC 10 went into Display Mirroring mode, a mouse pointer appeared on his home screen, and a message confirmed that the phone was also indeed charging. The DeX ships with a Samsung charger it also worked with both universal USB PD chargers that I tried, but it did not work with either a Qualcomm QC 2.0 or standard (Non-PD) 15W USB-C charger. It's unfortunate that DeX doesn't work with standard USB-C chargers since the 15W variety actually provides the same amount of power as Samsung's own AFC charger. I hope that other manufacturers are taking notes...if every product were implemented in a standards-based way, we could simplify the buying experience, improve consumer satisfaction, and reduce waste! What a concept.
Ever since Ubuntu unveiled its Edge concept in 2013 and USB-C was developed to support a single cable/connector for simultaneous power, video, and data transfer, I've been looking forward to having a single device that could seamlessly provide a unified mobile and desktop experience. Microsoft's Continuum was an awesome idea and it's a shame to see Windows Phone in such a state. Looking at the DeX hardware, it's interesting to note that it's good enough already (adding a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones/microphone would be appreciated though). The only thing we need now is for the software to catch up, though I'm hopeful that the phone docking concept will go mainstream within the next two to three years. All things considered, I think bringing DeX to market now is a bold move and Samsung deserves praise for doing so.
1. While the DeX works as a universal USB-C Dock, the S8/S8+ requires the DeX to go into DeX Mode. It will go into screen mirroring mode if you use the Microsoft Display Dock or a generic USB-C to HDMI dongle. If using Bluetooth input devices, you'll need to pair in phone mode before using DeX because DeX requires at least a mouse to be connected.
2. You'll need an Office 365 subscription to use the Microsoft Office suite, and you need to keep in mind that you're still getting the mobile version. All of the apps have full reader functionality but limited editing capability when compared to their full-powered counterparts. You can show PowerPoint presentations and see transitions and animations, for example, but you don't get the presenter view (since the S8 screen is off in DeX mode) and the entire animations tab is missing even though you can add slide transitions.
3. You'll probably need to remove your phone case to get it to work
The Bad: the mounting of the phone without the case is tricky. It just doesn't engage smoothly. The mounting of the phone WITH a case is nearly impossible. They did make the usb-c connector movable, but haven't been able to mount with medium bulk UAG case. It really annoying to remove case every time. How many people are going to buy a $950 phone and not put a case on it. I think I am going to buy usb-c extender and forego the dock entirely.
The Ugly: overall cheap plasticky look and feel of the device. Now where near matches the fit and finish of the phone. It just looks and feels cheap.
Update 9/18 - I purchased a USB-C 3.1 Male To Female Extension Cable (see picture) to overcome the case versus docking issue. Works great and charges phone. I can now continue to use the cameras, headphone jack, etc.
I am using an old PC monitor with HDMI input and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. If you have wired peripherals, that is probably best, RF peripherals are probably next, and then Bluetooth. I actually don't have an issue with the Bluetooth keyboard, but there is just a little bit of lag with the Bluetooth mouse. It usually isn't much of an issue--it actually is unrelated to the DeX and is entirely an issue of using Bluetooth mice with Android. There are two USB ports for plugging in wired or RF peripherals. I haven't tried using the USB ports for any other purposes yet.
Before I ordered, I wondered whether the power cable uses USB-C or something else. If USB-C, is it the same cable as comes with the phone? I can confirm it is a USB-C cable that is exactly the same as what ships with the phone, so it doesn't really matter if you want to use them interchangeably. The phone charges while in the DeX dock, so you don't have to worry about running out of power. The dock includes a fan to help keep your phone cool. It has turned on a time or two where I can hear it. It's not loud, but it was noticeable. I'm not sure whether the fan runs all the time at a quieter setting--if so, I haven't noticed it.
Many apps work fine, there are a couple that won't work, and there are many that work but are not resizable. You can use an app called DeX Max (I am not affiliated with the app) to repackage your apps to be resizable. So far I've used it for two apps--Netflix and Microsoft's Remote Desktop app. Netflix is much more enjoyable full screen (there's also an immersive mode toggle to get rid of the bar across the top of the screen when using Netflix full screen). I couldn't get a remote desktop to display properly until I used DeX Max on the Remote Desktop app, and now it works perfectly.
There have been some apps that I use that just don't have a larger screen layout, so I have been finding some new apps to use. The apps included on the desktop when you startup DeX are optimized for DeX and work great--there is a file browser, a gallery, a browser and an email client. I've switched back and forth between the Chrome browser and the Samsung browser in DeX. The nice thing about the Samsung browser is it defaults to desktop versions of web pages, while Chrome will default to mobile (you can tick the box in settings to request the desktop site, but you have to do this for every tab). There are a variety of apps optimized for DeX that you can find easily by clicking the apps button in the bottom left and choosing the banner at the top of the menu that pops up. Any app that has a good tablet layout will work well with DeX.
I was looking forward to using the Microsoft Office apps on DeX. While they do work well, if you want to edit or save documents you need an Office 365 subscription. I don't have one right now. From the Samsung App Store (click the banner at the top of the app button menu on the taskbar to go straight to DeX apps) you can download Hancom Office for free. I haven't used it very much yet, but it seems to have most of the features most people will use. It opens Microsoft Office Documents and saves to Office document formats.
In the notifications bar you can choose where you want your audio to be output--the phone or over HDMI. I have mine go over HDMI to the monitor, and then have a splitter cable coming out of the headphone jack on the monitor to go to speakers and to wired headphones. I have no issues with the audio. There was a short while when I couldn't seem to get the audio to work on some stuff even though it worked on others--turns out I had Do Not Disturb turned on and turning it off fixed the issue. You can set some defaults for your DeX desktop using an app called DeX Hub (I am not affiliated with the app). This can include settings for bluetooth, WiFi, HDMI audio output, audio levels, etc.
Most phone cases are not compatible with DeX. If you want a DeX compatible case, look for cases that don't just have cutouts for the ports on the bottom, but that have the entire bottom cut away, except for the corners where it holds the phone. Most of the official Samsung cases have the right configuration. The problem with most third party cases is that the thickness of the case doesn't allow the phone to be fully docked on the station. Seeing how the Samsung cases are configured correctly and I like using the Samsung Clear View stand case, I was disappointed to find that the Clear View case is not compatible. There is actually a built in notification specifically for this case when docking with DeX that says it is not compatible. It docks fine, but I think the issue is the magnet on the front of the case that turns the screen off--you can't have the case folded open when docked, and DeX can't work with the magnet against the display. I have another third-party case I can use with DeX that I might switch to. For now, I take my phone out of the case to use the dock.
I have been very satisfied with the DeX and it has met or exceeded my expectations. It may not be perfect, but I think a lot of that is on app developers not supporting it yet. The DeX really takes the S8/S8+ to the next level to offer something available from no other phone. It is really well executed, and definitely worth it in my opinion, especially with the recent price drop to under $100.