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Samsung DeX Dock review: $99 to turn a Samsung phone into a sorta-PC isn't so crazy

DeX seems to be the best idea for a fantasy world where no computer is available, just a desk and monitor. I'd love for my phone to be my entire computer. Actually, really, it already is. DeX just translates the extra bits into work-friendly add-ons.

Samsung Dex

The Note 8 in the DeX dock. Of course, you're also going to add wires in the back for power and connections.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What it is, and what it isn't

But DeX ends up being a desk-use solution. What about lap-typing, or working on the fly at an event? I'm not able to carry a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You could go for something like Logitech's K480 keyboard, perhaps. Or Samsung could add an Atrix-style convertible tablet to slide into, and...well, you might as well just use a normal tablet instead at that point. Otherwise, you end up with something like 2014's Asus Padphone X.

No, DeX won't be your travel buddy to write on a plane. DeX won't allow me to file stories from the middle of a press conference auditorium. Basically, no, I still can't leave my laptop at home.

But it's the sort of thing I could leave downstairs plugged into a small TV and suddenly have a little space to write, I guess. It could, in theory, be a way to have a mobile workstation waiting for me somewhere. DeX lacks a lot of specifically optimized apps. But, does that really matter? It can still run most phone apps in different windows, and feel computer-like enough to do what I need.

It also shows that we're very nearly at a future where a phone can stand in and be a computer. The only question is: would any of us let it happen?

Samsung Dex

DeX is small enough to take on a trip, and it's also a charge dock.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A likable Galaxy accessory

As a simple way to browse the web and do some browser-based work, DeX is fine. It works! I'm still writing this review in it. I like it.

At $150, though, it's a tough sell for just a dock that doesn't even come with a keyboard or mouse. It currently costs less online, though (I've seen it for $99). I'd still prefer to pay no less than $50, ideally. It's probably for the dedicated few who have recent Samsung phones and a spare HDMI-ready monitor or TV and the desk space for it, or the need for an on-the-go dock for some quick PC work with your phone. Since it's running a not-Chrome-or-pure-Android environment, it doesn't always feel perfectly suited for everything I need.

But it works with enough core Google apps and functions (YouTube, Gmail, Chrome, Google Play) that it feels like everything I'd need. And it doesn't exclude normal Android apps, either.

DeX isn't stellar. Don't set your expectations high. It gets the job done. And, all it needs to run is your phone. At least know this: it works, and it seems fine for everyday things.

Samsung Dex

Ethernet, HDMI, USB, and USB-C.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is it future, or is it past?

Plans for Samsung DeX seem to be boldly envisioning an ongoing future for phone-as-PC ideas. Samsung has plans to run Linux on it. Recent additions allow plug-and-play video conferencing from Zoom, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans. It already allows for virtual desktop environments, too, via Citrix, VMWare and Amazon.

It's not a bad idea right now. In fact, I wonder if the future ahead of us really will promise more phones that become computers like this. Will Microsoft try it again? Will Google? Will Apple?

Samsung is pushing boldly forward. It's entirely possible to go even further. But I wonder how many others -- companies and everyday users -- are willing to go there.

Oh, and I finished editing this review, and publishing it, on my own computer. Not on Samsung DeX. Because, in the end, it's easier that way.

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