The concept of bringing the desktop experience to a mobile device is not new. HP has the Elite X3, Microsoft tried before with their Display Dock (Continuum) since 2015 with Lumia 950 and 950XL. Asus tried with the PadFone in 2013 and Motorola with the Atrix in 2011. The idea behind was productivity, but the adoption of the concept was very slow and not a game changing in the gadget ecosystem.
Samsung did a nice try with the S8 when you plug it into a monitor; the whole user interface design becomes the desktop-looking interface. I like the fact that you can control settings from the bottom of the screen, you have a file browser, and you can drag desktop shortcuts from the application panel to your frequently used applications.
Productivity applications like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint runs very smooth and fully resisable. Some users may find their features somehow limited but depends on what your tasks and expectations are. Apart from Microsoft applications, the only office application that works on full screen is OfficeSuite but requires an annual membership, two types available (AUD$29/$39/year). As an educator, I have free access to Office365 with my institution, so I won’t be willing to pay additional fees, especially if they are recurrent. Google Drive can also be resisable on desktop mode but has limited functionality. You cannot download additional add-ons. The content of a spreadsheet cannot be zoom in or out, and it looks awkward.
Adobe has optimised Lightroom Mobile and Photoshop Express to work perfectly in desktop mode. They run smooth, but of course, they have limited functionality, if you compare to the full version for desktop. With the new Samsung update from last week, now if you disconnect the phone and you had open applications when you connected again, they will be there for you to keep working.
Other applications such as Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn will open their native size on mobile. I don’t have a problem with it. You don’t want Instagram to open full screen, don’t you? It is good to run Facebook, Twitter and maybe a dating application on their original small size window while you are working on a document.
But you may wonder now, why do I think S8 + DeX fail to deliver for academic productivity? First, student data that comes in.CSV format from the Learning Management System (LMS) will not open in any Excel application under DeX mode. You will need to open on a laptop and convert the file to Microsoft Excel (.Xls), put in onto your DropBox and opening in the Desktop mode of your S8. Second, if you are using Gmail, you cannot copy and paste from the emails. If you are writing research and need it to use a citation manager software like EndNote, it will not work. Unless you have a fully Windows 10 computer such as Surface or a Macbook Pro/Air, you will not be able to write research that requires citation. These are third party applications, and it is not Samsung fault of course but limit the productivity of the DeX experience. In the case of EndNote, they are resistant to develop an application for Android the last five years. They have one for iOS.
But the deal breaking is due to two issues. The first issue is If you connect the DeX + S8 to a lecture theatre (via HDMI or VGA) to run a classroom/tutorial using PowerPoint, you will not be able to play video as the sound will come from the DeX speaker rather than from your AV system. There is no audio output from the DeX, shame on you Samsung; you could make this happening before releasing the DeX. The second deal breaking is that you need to connect the DeX to a power outlet for the DeX to work. That’s not portable, if you walk into a room, for example, a conference and if you don’t have a power outlet, you are going to be in troubles. This issue is the same with Microsoft Display Dock (Continuum), but at least you can get the audio out of the phone and connect it to the AV system. Nowadays, we run examples in the classroom playing video vignettes from YouTube; we cannot use the S8 + DeX for lectures then, sad but true.
I must say well done Samsung to be brave; I hope a lot of people buy the DeX, and it can be developed further. Personally, I believe is a niche market. You will not buy the S8 just because you can convert into the desktop, so the DeX may not further develop in the market. For example, Microsoft is selling the Display Dock (Continuum) on eBay for $59.95. What this is telling us?. I also hope that third-party applications can redevelop DeX experiences, especially Google Drive, Chrome and alternatives to Office. For now, I will keep using the S8 + DeX and carry my Macbook Pro everywhere. I will continue using my Nokia Lumia 950 XL + Continuum to deliver my lectures.
I believe that for academic productivity, you are better equipped with a Surface Pro, a Macbook Pro or Macbook Air or any slim ultrabook. If your budget is limited, I will highly recommend the Chuwi Lapbook 15.6, that machine delivers a reasonable Windows 10 experience with 10 hours battery life. You can pick up one on eBay for AUD$ 370. One thing is that the trackpad is extra sensitive and you cannot adjust it, and you will need to use a mouse.
Happy to answer any of the questions you may have.