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What is Samsung DeX? A guide to Samsung's desktop dock, now compatible with the new Galaxy Tab S4

Thomas McMullan Daniel Ostanek
2 Aug 2018
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The Samsung DeX is a docking station that’ll turn your Galaxy S9 and S8, plus the new Tab S4, into a makeshift PC

The Samsung DeX is a docking hub that lets users slot in their Samsung Galaxy S9 or S8, plug in a monitor, mouse and keyboard, and then use the device’s Android operating system to run a full desktop experience. Joining those devices is the upcoming Galaxy Tab S4, announced by Samsung on 1 August and compatible with the DeX.

In theory, the DeX removes the need for a separate laptop, by treating your smartphone – or Galaxy Tab S4 – like a portable computer brain. How successful it is at this will very much depend on what you need a computer to do, however.

The Samsung DeX lets you take your device's capabilities, but adds in desktop abilities like easy multitasking and working across multiple windows. If your job requires design-heavy work like Adobe suit or Photoshop, then it might not be powerful enough for your needs. If you only need basic browsing, photo editing, word processing and messaging tools, then the DeX could eliminate the need to lug around a separate machine.

What is the Samsung DeX?

The Samsung DeX itself is a simple dock, designed to be easy to carry and set up. It replaces the older DeX's puck-shaped design with a flat surface that exposes the phone's headphone jack. In terms of connections, it comes with two USB 2 ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port and a USB Type-C port. That should be everything you need to set up a workstation – by plugging in a mouse, keyboard, monitor and wired internet. Of course, you can still use Wi-Fi or paid data via the smartphone itself.

Currently, the Samsung DeX works with the Galaxy S9, S8, S9 Plus and S8 Plus – and will work with the Tab S4 once people get their hands on them. To make it work, you just need to slot the device into the DeX – a desktop should automatically appear on the screen of the monitor.

From here, the Android operating system is vaguely similar to Windows, with an apps tray in the bottom-left corner and the option to make shortcuts on the desktop. The new DeX also updates the software slightly so you can automatically stop apps such as Instagram from popping up while you're in work mode. 

With the Tab S4 announcement, Samsung said that the DeX will allow for the opening of multiple desktop-style windows for apps on the new tablet. It can be connected to the Book Cover Keyboard, or launched from Quick Panel, to power the DeX. Multi-screen usage is also available, with users able to connect the DeX to an external monitor while the Tab S4 remains a functional tablet.

Not all apps work with DeX, but most of the ones you’ll be using to work will. Microsoft Office, Skype, Google Cloud and Adobe tools all come with DeX functionality.

You can also use the Galaxy S9 as a phone when it’s docked, meaning you don’t miss out on calls when using the handset on a desktop. When a call comes, a notification will pop up on the desktop, and you have the option of answering without needing to undock the device. If you’d prefer to pick up the phone, you just need to slot it out, have your conversation, then slot it back in to carry on with whatever it is you were doing.

Where can you get a Samsung DeX?

In the UK the Samsung DeX has an RRP of £89.99, although you’ll often find retailers selling it for less than this. On Amazon, for example, the PC station currently costs £53 – that's 41% off.

That might seem hefty once you’ve factored in the cost of buying a Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus in the first place, besides a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but compared to the cost of a laptop it’s sweetshop change. Again, how valuable it is will really depend on your computing needs. For sending emails and answering Slack, it’s very useful, but for more graphically intensive work you might want to look at a device with more power than a Galaxy S9. If so, we’ve got a list of 2018’s best laptops over here.

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