The Samsung DeX Pad (Desktop eXperience) can turn its Galaxy S8/+, S9/+ and Note8/9 into a very passable desktop computer. That is replete with an large 2K screen, mouse and keyboard.
I reviewed DeX Station back in May 2017, and it was quite impressive then. Turning your smartphone into a desktop running Android apps is a great idea. As those apps include Microsoft Office and Outlook it is even better.
For a time I travelled (a lot) with a Logitech K840 HTPC keyboard and trackpad and connected to any convenient TV or monitor via HDMI out. I could do most things that I did on a Windows PC.
My review comments then included:
“Microsoft Office support is brilliant.”
“I am impressed, but I need to remind myself that it is Android, not Windows 10, that you are using.”
‘It is not a wallet breaker. Even if you use it as a dock just to play movies or as a lightweight PC then it is great’
“It could be a gamechanger for pocket computing.”
Some things don’t change, so on with the review. GadgetGuy Val Quinn also announced it back in February.
The interface is a little more modern than the older DeX Station. I was able to test it with a Samsung Galaxy S9+ and a Note 8 (running Android 8.x).
The biggest difference is that the DeX Pad allows the smartphone screen use as a touchpad.
DeX Pad setup is easy
Plug in the supplied Samsung Black Fast Charger (5V/2A, 9V/1.67A, 9V/2A, 12V/2.1A) via the USB-A to USB-C cable to the DeX Pad.
Plug in the supplied HDMI cable to the DeX Pad and the other end to a TV or monitor. We tried it with both a 4K TV (this was upscaled) and FHD 27” monitor (supports monitors to 2K, 2560 x 1440). It will also work with HDMI dongles to data projectors. It won’t support dual screens.
Attach a USB keyboard and mouse to the two USB 2.0 ports. Or use a Logitech USB Unifying receiver and combo keyboard and trackpad – leaving one USB free. You can also use most Bluetooth keyboard and mice.
Slide your phone into the USB-C port on the DeX Pad. It is big enough to work with most phone cases too.
The phone screen acts as a two-finger gesture trackpad. A future software update will allow keyboard use eliminating the need to carry one.
The phone immediately senses the DeX Pad
Up comes a full desktop screen looking suspiciously like a Windows screen. This is not Android but a full 16:9 landscape experience. You can switch between Android and Desktop mode.
For starters, apps open in separate windows, and you can resize them to fit several on a screen. Native Samsung and Google apps all worked well. Some apps refused to display more than a ‘phone-sized’ screen.
The performance was excellent. There was occasional cursor lag, but Galaxy class devices have top-of-the-range processors and RAM.
Connection to a D-Link AC5300 router was at 867Mbps. Everything from a WD My Cloud server was available via its IP address. Opening, copying and manipulating files was not far off gigabit ethernet speeds.
DeX Pad allows virtualised Windows desktops and apps
It can use enterprise-ready VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solutions from cloud-based ecosystems including Citrix, VMware and Amazon. This might be the answer for road warriors. It is cool to see a full Windows 10 desktop running off an Android handset – if you are into that kind of thing. RDP support is standard as well.
All Microsoft Office Apps passed. The only challenge is to learn a new command layout – there is no ribbon bar. Note that you need a paid Office 365 licence to use these.
It also worked well with OneDrive
I connected a 1TB Samsung T3 SSD. The FIle app fully supports it.
Printing requires manufacturer’s printer apps to be set up. I tried with HP, Epson. Canon and Brother and all were fine.
Scanning (from an MFP) depends on whether the app supports it. HP Smart (that uses the Printers built-in web server) supports
Web surfing using Samsung’s Browser was great with multiple tabs. Most sites detected this as a desktop browser and opened accordingly. Very few sites open as a mobile browser.
Notifications were supported and were unobtrusive.
Email via Microsoft Outlook or Samsung Mail was fine.
GadgetGuy’s take. If you have a Galaxy phone, there is a good use case for it
There is a niche. And it is in the enterprise. It is for those who can afford the Galaxy Class device. Those who want to do presentations on the fly, check email or word process on a larger screen. It is the perfect ‘thin-client.’
Sure, Samsung is trying to convince business that its phones are good for business use. And they are with the DeX Pad. Its Knox Security is superb. As the only phone with a dock, it is a viable alternative to BlackBerry Key2 and iPhone.
No, it is not a desktop replacement although using Microsoft Office and One Drive could get you close to that. It is great in a hotel room viewing movies on a larger HDMI TV.
Small, light and compact
Supplied with a Samsung Black charger (low cost was to get a spare)
Idiot-proof – it just works
More Windows-like than Android
Active cooling is quite
USB-A ports support any peripheral Android does
3.5mm jack is available for headphone use
No dual screen (even 1080p) monitor support
OK Google did not respond when docked
Not perfect but way further along than this time last year
Would have liked a longer USB-A to USB-C power cable
Overall: 4 out of 5
Features: 4 out of 5 – Would have scored higher with the software update that supports the smartphone touch keyboard
Value for money: 4 out of 5 – It is unique and includes a Samsung Black Charger
Performance: 4 out of 5 – No it is not a laptop, and you have to learn the nuances of using Android in a desktop mode
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Idiot-proof setup. You need a little tech knowledge get more out of it
Design: 4 out of 5 – Bland black slab. Functional.