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Samsung's Galaxy S8 can turn into a PC with its DeX dock

Samsung's Galaxy S8 can turn into a PC with its DeX dock

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Samsung, like Motorola and Microsoft before it, is trying to turn a phone into a PC. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will pair with a new Samsung Desktop Experience (DeX) dock accessory to morph into a desktop PC-like environment. The specialized dock, that looks like a candle holder, supports a monitor connection via HDMI, keyboard, mouse, and two USB ports to help expand the Galaxy S8’s capabilities. Samsung’s dock even has a special embedded cooling fan to help keep the Galaxy S8 cool when you’re using it to display Android apps on a monitor, and a USB-C connection to power it.

Samsung’s desktop mode comes with an app drawer on the side, and supports Android apps with full access to notifications and resizeable windows. The whole interface looks a little like Chrome OS, but there’s no full desktop browser here. That means you’re limited to how well Android apps are supported on bigger screens, and most apps in the Google Play Store simply aren’t optimized for this type of usage. Samsung’s own browser, Microsoft’s Office apps, and Adobe’s mobile creative suite all work fine, but the vast majority will look like stretched phone apps on the big screen.

Any app updated for Nougat will window just fine, but Samsung is also handling windowing itself through its own system. While you can unplug the Galaxy S8 from the DeX Station and app windows will disappear, they don't come back when you plug the device back in. Samsung is also using the iris scanner on the Galaxy S8 to let you look at your phone in the dock to log into the desktop mode. Samsung is really aiming its DeX system at business customers who need basic apps on the go, but this really isn't going to replace your PC or laptop just yet.

Samsung is partnering with VMware to bring virtual Windows desktop apps to the DeX experience, thanks to an app that will let you stream a virtual session. That will obviously require an internet connection, and the reliability of that connection will be key to how well the apps stream.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Samsung isn’t the first to try all of this, though. Motorola tried and failed with the Atrix years ago, and more recently Microsoft has put its effort into Continuum on Windows phones to try and turn them into PCs. All of these solutions are held back by the fact that the real desktop apps you’d expect from a Mac or PC simply aren’t present, unless you stream them through virtual machines. Microsoft might have an answer to that soon, but right now both Microsoft and Samsung’s efforts are very basic examples of how a phone might turn into a PC one day.