Your smartphone is your pocket computer. So why not use it like an actual computer?
That’s exactly what Samsung hopes to see from its users with its latest flagship, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and its DeX Station.
The DeX is a US$150 docking accessory that lets Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus users experience the smartphone as a full-fledged desktop PC.
Simply insert your smartphone into the small, puck-shaped dock and it hooks the phone to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse its connected to, essentially making the phone the CPU.
The dock also includes a USB Type-C port for power, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI output to connect with a monitor, and a LAN Ethernet socket. A fan is also built inside the DeX unit to keep the phones cool while docked.
Now both the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus has really powerful specs, enough to run a desktop PC for basic productivity (certainly not high-end gaming, at least not yet). Both phones run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (Exynos 8895 8895 in other markets, but equally powerful), along with 4GB of RAM (6GB in China) and 64GB of internal storage.
When paired with Samsung’s DeX Station, the phone switches from Samsung’s Touchwiz UI (user interface) to the company’s DeX UI, streamed to the monitor. At its core, the OS is still Android, and we’ve seen Google’s OS being used as a desktop PC OS before, the Remix Mini PC being one that springs to mind.
Samsung created the DeX UI to provide a full desktop experience when in use with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Users will have no problem familiarising themselves with this UI: there’s a button for quick access to all apps, a taskbar to show apps that are running, a status bar that shows battery life and connectivity, and users can minimise or maximise apps or multitask.
The DeX UI also supports Microsoft Office applications, so the next time someone asks “Can it run Microsoft Word?”, the answer should be a resounding yes.
Samsung also collaborated with Adobe to bring Adobe Mobile apps to the DeX UI.
Next to that gorgeous infinity display, I think the DeX desktop feature is the killer feature of the S8 and S8 Plus.
Although Samsung isn’t the first to introduce this ‘smartphone to desktop’ experience, the South Korean company is betting high that its flagship phones will pull this off where others have either failed or are still trying to convince the market to adapt.
Two years ago, Microsoft showed us Continuum on Windows 10, which enables smartphones running on Windows 10 to work like a desktop PC. The execution was similar to Samsung’s approach with the Galaxy S8 and the DeX Station; phone connects to an accessory that plugs to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and wa la! A desktop PC with Windows 10.
It may seem like a gimmick for now, but if Samsung nails it with the DeX by getting everyone on board this new concept, we’ll probably start seeing more phone manufacturers ushering this functionality.
It will also spell trouble for conventional PCs in general. Eventually we will no longer need a traditional computer when our smartphones can double as a desktop PC when needed.