It’s not the nicest laptop out there, but this modded 2008 MacBook Pro is definitely the nicest laptop running DeX — Samsung’s portable desktop software, which isn’t actually meant to be built into a laptop.
As spotted by SamMobile, a modder named Kris Henriksen (who also appears to be the co-founder of a Bitcoin payments startup) cracked open an old MacBook and replaced some of its internals with parts that allow it to run DeX off of a phone. Henriksen replaced the laptop’s battery, installed a new LCD controller, and made the keyboard and trackpad work over USB. All of that — and some other tweaks, like getting the laptop’s fan to work — allowed him to plug in a Galaxy S8 and boot into DeX.
The whole thing appears to work pretty well, with the only oddity being the phone that’s powering the laptop being attached to the side of the screen. I suppose, though, that building the phone into the laptop would have wasted a perfectly good smartphone.
Samsung’s DeX software lets Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8 owners plug their phone into a monitor and have it boot into a desktop environment. It looks just as you’d expect a desktop computer to look, though the platform still has an extremely limited number of apps. DeX is based off of Android, and Samsung has started to get some Android apps — including Lightroom, Spotify, and Word — optimized for the bigger display.
My colleague Dan Seifert was really impressed with what DeX was capable of when he reviewed it earlier this year. Even though there were issues with apps and mode switching, he said, “I’m stunned at how close Samsung has come to fulfilling the dream of having one device that can work as multiple types of computers.”
So while DeX isn’t the best desktop experience, it’s definitely workable. And since there’s no portable solution for it yet, Henriksen’s creation is the best (and only) option for someone who wants to turn their phone into a desktop on the go. Perhaps Samsung should take this as a sign that it’s time to make a real laptop dock.