Goodbye, iPad: My Galaxy Note with Samsung DeX does way more for less

How does a smartphone connected via an HDMI cable to a monitor deliver more productivity than an iPad Pro 11 -- while also saving me hundreds of dollars? Like this.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 launch tomorrow at Unpacked, I've been using my Note 9 in preparation for the Note 10 upgrade. Readers may also know I recently bought an iPad Pro 11. Using these two devices made me realize that one was redundant for my home computing and ZDNet writing needs.

While I use a Surface Pro 6 for my engineering work, in addition to my weekly podcasting with Kevin Tofel, I prefer to have a different setup for my home computer and ZDNet tech writing. I explained how the iPad was going to satisfy that role and it can indeed get the job done. However, my Note 9 with Samsung DeX has proven to perform the role better than the iPad Pro 11 while also saving me hundreds of dollars.

Also: Samsung DeX Executive Guide

So how does a smartphone connected via an HDMI cable to a monitor work better for me than an iPad Pro 11? Let's take a look at the tasks I need this home office setup to do, check the apps on both platforms, and detail why I find DeX works better for me.

  • Connect to a large external display: I was pleasantly surprised when I plugged the iPad Pro 11 to the Aukey USB-C hub and the iPad display appeared on my 21.5 inch Dell touchscreen display. It only appeared in a smaller window and it simply duplicated the iPad display, but it worked without any effort. However, when I plug in the Note 9 to that same USB-C hub, the full DeX interface appears across the entire display. The touchscreen capability of the display is enabled, many apps can be used at once all over the display, and the effectiveness of my work methods skyrockets.
  • Text editor: I use TextPad on a Windows computer. On the iPad I was using OneNote, Evernote, and Apple's Notes program to write text for articles. Samsung has the QuickEdit app included as part of DeX and that is what I used to write this article. It closely mirrors my TextPad experience and is nearly perfect for me. I can resize the window and have it set up side-by-side with the browser to get writing done.
  • Basic photo editing: I had a process on the iPad to download article photos I captured and perform some basic editing and resizing that was about eight steps long. With the Note 9 and DeX I can do the editing right in the Samsung image gallery app and then use Photo Compress Pro to resize the photos for the CMS. That's all that needs to be done to get that work done on a Samsung phone.
  • Mouse and keyboard support: It's important for my writing to have full external keyboard support and mouse support is helpful. There is solid keyboard performance on iPads today, but the strange accessibility mouse target is not very functional. The external Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support with DeX is perfect. I also love that the delete button works, which is always something that bothers me on iPad keyboards.
  • Apps: iPad apps are fantastic when working in a tablet environment and even though the same apps are on Android, they just aren't as good on the phone. However, the Samsung DeX system enhances apps for a desktop experience so you get apps that are optimized for a big external monitor. These include the Samsung Internet browser, Email app, My Files browser, and more. I looked through all the apps I have installed on the iPad and did not find anything missing on the Galaxy Note 9 so there are no compromises being made when it comes to apps.

In addition, the setup I am looking for needs to function well on my commute, while on business travel, and while out and about. The Note 9 is much smaller than the iPad Pro 11 so there is a compromise in the display size, but because of its size it fits on the train easier than the iPad. I just ordered a small foldable Bluetooth keyboard to do some basic writing with the Note 9 and it was only $30, compared to more than $100 for most iPad keyboards.

Also: My hunt for the right iPad model: Too small, too big, and just right

Lastly, I can also use VMware's Horizon Client to get into my VDI solution at my engineering company with DeX if I leave my Surface Pro in the office or need full access to my work server while on the go. The iPad can also gain this access, but without full mouse support the experience is more limited.

The Note 9 also functions as my phone so it has an always-on connection and while I could also get that with the iPad Pro that is another $130 premium. Again, cost has been a factor in this latest decision to stick with the Note 9 too.

The Apple iPad Pro 11 is a fantastic tablet and I am extremely impressed by the hardware and performance. However, it's an expensive extra to have on hand and to be honest the Galaxy Note 9 with DeX meets my needs better. Given this realization, I am planning to upgrade to the Galaxy Note 10 when it is released later this month.

Have you tried out Samsung DeX? If so, what kind of work do you do with it?

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