​Samsung's Galaxy S8 does DeX: Is it a Chromebook challenger or virtual desktop play?

As Samsung's DeX and the Galaxy S8 stands today, there's a role for the device as a Chromebook alternative. It remains to be seen if it's a virtual desktop infrastructure option.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Is Samsung's desktop experience the one we've been waiting for?

The reviews for Samsung's Galaxy S8 have landed and the device is making a good showing with strong preorder demand. But one of the major business features of the Samsung Galaxy S8 -- the DeX virtual desktop -- will take time to develop a core market.

Samsung's DeX feature allows you to plug in your phone -- via a dock -- and create a desktop. Android and web apps are available with a mouse, monitor, and keyboard simply via the USB and HDMI ports on the Galaxy S8. I've tried DeX out a few times as I take the Galaxy S8 out for a spin and like the possibilities.

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Observations on DeX:

  • Samsung's DeX dock comes with an HDMI cable. The catch is that most monitors in your workplace may have a traditional display port. As a result, you'll need to either call ahead when traveling or have an adapter.
  • DeX won't work without a power supply.
  • For now, DeX -- in Android desktop mode -- comes with its own browser, and you'll need a Google Chrome extension. Accessing your work Gmail is doable with the Samsung browser, but Google will remind you that your browser isn't supported.
  • DeX didn't lag, but there were times when the system felt like it was translating your mouse movements and navigating from touch.
  • We didn't try Citrix or VMware on DeX, but the real win for corporations would be using those tools for full client access.
  • For travel, Samsung's DeX system can be handy, but we'll have to assess the limitations in the weeks ahead on a real trip.

The scenario here is obvious: You can travel for work a lot lighter if your smartphone can double as a desktop. As noted previously, we've seen this movie before from Motorola with mixed success. For a tech buyer who uses web apps primarily, Samsung's DeX can be handy.

For those of you who need more access to your Windows desktop at work, Samsung has partnerships with Citrix and VMware to bring virtual desktops to DeX.

Here's the rub: Information technology pros love virtual desktops because they are easier to manage. Users haven't been nearly as enthusiastic. Among the key takeaways:

  • The Android UI is solid. You can resize Windows, contextual menus and desktop browser. Android's Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom Mobile apps give the desktop feel some punch. Samsung's desktop interface is critical since the Chromebook replacement play will be the path of least resistance.
  • DeX could offer an alternative to the Chromebook. However, the economics remain to be seen given that Chromebooks don't cost much. You could couple a Chromebook and Motorola phone for about what you'd pay for a Samsung Galaxy S8 unlocked.
  • Citrix and VMware support will be critical for DeX's corporate success. For enterprises that already have Citrix and VMware licenses for virtual desktops, Samsung's DeX is worth evaluating. But companies aren't going to buy new Citrix and VMware licenses simply for DeX.
  • Once you add Citrix and VMware into the Samsung DeX mix you still face all the same performance issues -- that have largely been resolved -- that have historically hurt virtual desktops. Gartner explains the challenge in a graphic.

Add it up and Samsung's DeX is a good start, but the best way to think about the technology is as a Chromebook challenger. On that front, Samsung's DeX may have some mojo.

Samsung Galaxy S8:

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