A Review of Samsung Dex After 6 Long Years
When I first got my hands on the Samsung Galaxy S8+, I was thrilled to explore its capabilities, especially the Samsung Dex (Desktop Experience) feature. It promised to transform my smartphone into a desktop-like experience, allowing me to work and play with ease. However, the initial experience was a bit rough around the edges. I have owned several Samsung phones with Dex and Samsung Dex has evolved. I am now using the Samsung Z-Fold 5 as my daily driver, and I've witnessed its progress firsthand.
The early days of Samsung Dex were filled with excitement and curiosity. I connected my Galaxy S8+ to the Dex Dock, and it instantly transformed into a desktop interface. It was like having a computer in my pocket. However, I quickly realized that there were limitations and challenges to overcome. Samsung has definitely overcome most of these limitations and is still seeing some level of evolution on more modern devices.
One of the initial hurdles was the limited app compatibility. Not all apps were optimized for the desktop experience; in fact, a tiny number of applications were, which meant that some of my favorite apps didn't work as seamlessly as I had hoped. However, Samsung continuously worked on improving app compatibility, and over time, more and more apps became Dex-friendly.
One of the things that held Samsung Dex back from being used as a proper desktop was several arbitrary limits:
- The lack of support for third-party docks, requiring the purchase of a pricey proprietary dock from Samsung. This was later resolved with the S10/S10+/Note 10 line of phones. To be fair, the official Samsung Dex Dock did have active cooling and a decent number of USB ports, but it no longer fits many modern phones.
- Samsung Dex imposes a limit of five on-screen applications at once before it starts to close your oldest application. This limit made sense on older phones with limited processors and RAM, but on modern phones like the S23 Ultra and Z-Fold 5, these limits seem unnecessary as these phones have specifications that exceed those of most modern laptops.
- Samsung Dex only works on a limited number of higher-end devices, but for some reason, Samsung has omitted Dex support from the Z-Flip line of phones, even when they are often using the same processor and RAM as the Z-Fold line of phones. I believe this limit was put in place because Samsung does not feel that the users of the Z-Flip fit into the lifestyle of those who would use Dex.
Despite the initial hurdles, Samsung Dex has come a long way. The interface has become more intuitive, and the overall experience has become more polished. The addition of features like windowed mode, resizable windows, and keyboard shortcuts has made it easier to navigate and work efficiently. These changes are enough to allow most users to use Samsung Dex as a daily driver.
Another challenge was the performance. While the concept was impressive, the processing power of a smartphone couldn't match that of a dedicated desktop computer. Multitasking and resource-intensive tasks sometimes led to lag and slowdowns. However, with each new iteration of Samsung Dex and the generational leaps in hardware, the performance improved, and the experience became far smoother.
Let's discuss the elephant in the room and bring up Samsung's short-lived experiment with running Linux on Samsung Dex (LoD). This had a lot of potential for running true desktop-class applications on a Samsung phone, but it was a half-baked mess that barely worked for those lucky enough to manage to complete the initial setup. I like to consider myself an advanced Linux user, but I struggled to make it work on my phone. I would really like to see this project make a comeback for power users, but there are third-party tools such as Termux and Userland that help fill in that gap.
Samsung Dex is a game-changing feature, but one major problem I see is that it does not seem to get the same level of attention as other Samsung OneUI features, as there have not been any new features added to Dex in some time. Samsung has clearly put significant effort into polishing the overall Dex experience, but there is so much more that can be done with it if Samsung gives it the attention it deserves. I, personally, would love to see features like desktop widget support and a dedicated work profile to let me log into company applications while keeping my personal content tucked away (an evolution of the Samsung Secure Folder).
One final oversight with Samsung Dex is the lack of portable hardware to allow users to use Samsung Dex in a laptop form factor without using a cheap Windows laptop with the Dex application installed or using a third-party universal laptop docking station. I even tried to make my own DexTop in 2017. I really would love to see a first-party DexDock developed by Samsung that takes inspiration from the Galaxy Chromebook 1.
In the end, Samsung Dex is not perfect, but it has undoubtedly improved over the years. It has become a valuable tool for productivity on the go, allowing me to transform my smartphone into a desktop-like experience whenever I need it. With each update, Samsung continues to refine and enhance the Dex experience, making it a compelling feature for Galaxy users.