What Is Samsung DeX and How Does It Work?

Turn your Samsung phone or tablet into a computer

Woman using computer and mobile phone

Innocenti / Getty Images

Samsung DeX is a combination of hardware and software that attempts to turn a smartphone or tablet into a desktop-like computer. It works only with the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+ and newer phones, as well as the Galaxy Tab S5 tablet, and the experience is different depending on the device you have. There is no software for you to install.

  • You can convert a Galaxy Note 9 smartphone using a cable and an external monitor; DeX software is built into the phone.
  • With the DeX Pad, you can do the same to a Galaxy S9/S9+ smartphone. DeX software is built into the DeX Pad.
  • Similarly, the DeX Station comes with DeX software and works with Galaxy S8/S8+ smartphones.
  • The Galaxy Tab S4 tablet comes with DeX mode. DeX mode takes your smartphone or tablet's interface and turns it into a desktop-like experience for working, gaming, drawing, and more. 

You can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or your Samsung smartphone to navigate Samsung DeX.

What Samsung DeX Is

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. DeX supports split-screen mode so you can multitask and you can also reply to text messages and take calls.

What Samsung DeX Is Not

DeX isn't a full-fledged desktop replacement. It's more of a companion unless you already do most of your computing on your phone. Otherwise, you'll find it will slow you down and cause frustration. You can't have multiple Google Docs of Sheets open at the same time like you can on a laptop or desktop, for example, which poses a problem for everyone from writers and editors to financial professionals. In addition, you're still using mobile apps, which almost always have less functionality than desktop apps. There's also a lack of browser extensions available, such as ad-blockers or password managers.

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

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 is built-in, so 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 and setup will start automatically.

Samsung Note 9 connected to a monitor using Samsung Dex cable

First, you'll see a welcome screen on your display. Click Start Samsung DeX. Then you'll see some tips about using DeX; click through those, review the terms of service, then click Start. Now you'll be able to navigate your phone's apps and settings as if it were a desktop computer.

Even better, you can 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 at their hotel or in a conference room. It's also a nice thing to have if you want to watch streamed video from Netflix or another service on a bigger screen while away from home.

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

Dock the Galaxy Tab S4 into the Book Cover keyboard case for an even better experience.

What Is the DeX Pad?

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

Samsung DeX Pad side view

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

What Is the DeX Station?

Finally, the DeX Station adds even more functionality including Ethernet connectivity for accessing networked files and the ability to use your phone’s camera for video chatting.

Samsung DeX Station side view

Like the DeX Pad, the Station also charges your Samsung phone, and 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 your smartphone screen on the external display. You can also use Screen Mirroring, which, as its name indicates means your phone and the monitor will display the same screen. To navigate in DeX mode, you need to 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 and it's possible this could be a growing category as our phones become more powerful and our 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're chained to a desk all day, you may as well as a traditional computer, at least for now.