Quite a few people, especially freelance writers such as myself, have long used our smartphones as secondary computers — I estimate that more than half of the thousands of work emails sent in 2016 were typed on a mobile device. Heck, I’ve even published a Forbes post completely on a phone.
But Samsung is taking the smartphone-as-computer thing to another level with Dex, a US$150 dock that turns the Galaxy S8/S8+ into a fully-functional computer (though some third party sites, like Mobile Fun, are selling it at cheaper at US$130).
To get started, you’ll need the Dex, a Galaxy S8/S8+, a TV or monitor that supports HDMI input, an HDMI cable (not included in the Dex package), a USB-C power source for the Dex (basically a charger for the S8), a mouse and keyboard. So if you’re keeping track at home that’s five additional pieces you’ll need. If you’re using a wired keyboard and mouse, you’ll need two USB-A ports, which the Dex provides at the back of the device (along with an Ethernet port). I opted for my Dell bluetooth mouse/keyboard combo that only needs one USB dongle.
The first time you plug in the S8 the Dex will guide you through a quick set-up, and after that you’ll be taken to a desktop set-up that resembles a typical Mac desktop. At the bottom of is a “dock” with some of your apps, and scrolling through them brings about this Mac-like animation in which the highlighted app grows in size. The app tray is located on the left corner, where the Windows “start” button would be. Whatever custom launcher/app icon you’ve chosen for your S8 disappears here — the desktop uses Samsung’s stock icons and look.
Most third party apps you open will be mobile versions of the apps — meaning it opens as a small vertical rectangle — but some, like Gmail, seem to have been optimized, resulting in a wider box that shows an extra plane of information. Samsung’s own apps, such as calendar, and internet browser, have been optimized for the big screen experience. Most app windows can be resized or moved around the desktop.