What Is Samsung DeX and How Does It Work?

Turn your Samsung phone or tablet into a computer

Samsung DeX is a combination of hardware and software that allows you to turn a smartphone or tablet into a desktop-like computer. It works with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and newer, the Galaxy Note 8 and newer, and Tab S4 tablets. Still, the experience is different depending on the device you have.

For a complete list of system requirements for running Samsung DeX, consult the Samsung website.

What Is Samsung DeX?

Dex extends the Android Multi-Window or split-screen mode, allowing you to multitask easily between apps, tools, and devices. In DeX mode, you can see your full list of apps, access an on-screen keyboard, search for apps and items, and access and edit your phone's photos and files. You can also reply to text messages and take calls.

DeX is not a full-fledged desktop replacement. It's a companion that is slower and less dynamic than a traditional desktop environment. For example, you can't open multiple Google Docs or Sheets at the same time like you can on a laptop or desktop. This may pose a problem for some people, such as writers, analysts, and financial professionals. DeX is also limited to the use of mobile apps, which may have less functionality than desktop apps, and there are no browser extensions like ad-blockers or password managers.

Here's how to set up Samsung DeX and what you can do with it.

How to Run Samsung DeX on the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Tab S4

If you have a Galaxy Note 9 smartphone, it comes with Samsung DeX software installed. All you need is a USB-to-HDMI adapter and a monitor that has an HDMI input. Plug the cable into the smartphone and monitor to start the setup automatically.

Samsung Note 9 connected to a monitor using Samsung Dex cable
Samsung

After connecting your devices, a welcome screen appears on the display. Select Start Samsung DeX. Navigate through tips, review the terms of service, then select Start. When DeX starts, you can use your phone as if it were a desktop computer.

You can also use your smartphone as you normally would while using the external display for a presentation, demo, or other activity. This is a boon for business travelers who can save a presentation or video to their phone and then project it to a display in a conference room or other business setting. You can also watch videos from Netflix or other streaming services on a separate screen.

The Galaxy Tab S4 tablet also has a built-in DeX mode, and you can easily switch between regular and DeX mode. You can use DeX mode on a tablet screen or by connecting it to a monitor using the USB-to-HDMI adapter from Samsung.

What Is the DeX Pad?

Samsung DeX Pad turns a Galaxy S9, S9+, or later into a touchpad while also charging a smartphone. When connected, you get similar functionality as you would using the adapter cable, including access to apps, images, and documents on a larger screen. The touchpad functionality supports scrolling, clicking (single and double-tap), and pinch-to-zoom. 

Samsung DeX Pad side view
Samsung

The DeX Pad has an HDMI Out port, two USB 2.0 ports, and one USB Type-C port.

What Is the DeX Station?

The DeX Station adds more functionality, including Ethernet connectivity for accessing networked files and the ability to use a phone camera for video chatting.

Samsung DeX Station side view
Samsung

Like the DeX Pad, the Station charges a Samsung phone. It's also lightweight and easy to transport. The DeX Station has an adjustable connector so you can get a good angle on your smartphone screen.

In DeX mode, you'll see the smartphone screen on the external display. You can use Screen Mirroring, which means the phone and monitor display the same screen. To navigate in DeX mode, connect a USB or Bluetooth mouse. In Screen Mirroring mode, you can use your phone as a touchpad. In either mode, you can use an external keyboard or the virtual keyboard built into DeX.

Should You Get DeX?

The concept of DeX is interesting. This could be a growing category as phones become more powerful and workplaces more mobile. At this point, DeX is a good bet for business people who travel around giving presentations or video demonstrations, and are tired of wasting time trying to share their screen while participants watch with their eyes glazed. If you work at a desk all day, you may be better off with a traditional computer, at least for now.