You might be wondering if you can replace your laptop with Samsung Dex. Is it feasible? Does the platform have any limitations that you need to know about? Or should you really ditch the laptop-lifestyle forever?
These questions were bothering me, so I decided to look into it. In this article, you’ll learn what is Samsung Dex, how to use it, what you can do with it, and whether or not Samsung Dex can replace your laptop.
I know you want to be as mobile as possible. And what’s more mobile than your phone? Is there a way to use your phone as a laptop?
As a matter of fact, there is…
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What is Samsung Dex?
Samsung Dex is a feature on modern Samsung phones that activates when connected to an external monitor. The mode transforms the standard mobile layout into a fully functional desktop layout, very similar to Windows or IOS desktops.
The mode automatically activates, there’s no need for any hardware. The Dex mounts are no longer needed.
Can You Replace Your Laptop with Samsung Dex?
Yes, Samsung Dex can replace your laptop, but I don’t think it’s a valid longterm solution.
What you need:
To make the most of it, you need to buy a portable monitor, some dongles, and a wide variety of cables. It’s fun to play around with, and the setup can work when you’re in a pinch, or your computer broke down, but I don’t recommend it as a permanent solution.
The mobile setup we’ll discuss below is good enough for casual work, such as editing articles, replying to emails, filling in spreadsheets, and other simple tasks. But for anything that requires more power, it’s not really worth replacing a laptop with Samsung Dex.
What I recommend is using a laptop combined with a portable monitor. It’s the best combination so far. I think you can even connect two monitors to one laptop for a three monitor setup but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.
Anyways, don’t let that discourage you, it’s still fun to create a setup that utilizes Samsung Dex. Continue reading to learn how to build a simple Samsung Dex experience that can rival laptops.
What You Need to Replace Your Laptop with Samsung Dex:
First of all, there are a few things you need to for a Dex workstation.
Modern Samsung Phone (S8 or Newer)
For starters, a Samsung phone, most of the models from the last few years should support the mode. The mode works best on Samsung 8 and newer models, I have the Samsung 8+ and can confirm it works quite well.
It looks like the S10 has the most Dex-supported features. If you have an older phone, you might be out of luck. For a full list of supported devices, take a look at Samsung’s help center.
Otherwise, you could consider upgrading your phone to a new Samsung series – they’re great phones. Unfortunately, I don’t know if Apple has a similar feature. I much prefer Samsung. But if you do have a compatible phone, continue reading because you can probably replace your laptop with Samsung Dex!
A USB-C to HDMI Hub or Adapter
In my portable monitor guide, I mention you need the same adapter to get your phone to work with the portable monitors. Now, there are a couple of variations you can buy.
To use your phone in Dex mode, an external power source is required. What this means is either your USB hub or monitor need to be connected to an external power source. For example, if you use a USB-C to HDMI adapter to plug your phone into a TV, Dex will work. The same goes for a monitor that is plugged into the wall.
On the other hand, portable monitors that don’t have a power source won’t work well with Dex. While some portable monitors have built-in batteries that provide enough power for Dex, it’s a hit or miss. So, in short, make sure your monitor is getting enough power, either from its own power cable or from the USB hubs power.
With a USB-C to HDMI adapter, you can only open five apps in Samsung Dex. You need one with a power source to be able to open as many apps as you want.
Buy a USB-C Hub or Adapter:
You could buy a simple adapter that only converts USB-C to HDMI, or you can choose a hub that has other ports. If you have a USB keyboard that doesn’t use Bluetooth, either cabled or through a different wireless network, then you might want a hub with more USB ports.
Your phone can connect to Bluetooth keyboards, and mice for that matter. Most modern phones can connect to multiple Bluetooth devices. It does drain your battery though, and that’s why a hub with a power source is recommended.
So if you need to buy the accessories, you could go with a simple USB-C to HDMI adapter (with power source) and then buy a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
One USB-C hub I found that works quite well is a two in one hub (one HDMI and one USB 3.0 port) and it has another USB-C port for power. With this hub, Dex will work great because it has an external power connection.
You just need to make sure the hub is connected to a USB power source and all the cables are in the right places, and it should work with no problems.
You can take a look in the related section of the product listing for other similar hubs. I like these hubs because you connect your phone to a monitor and then connect a keyboard and mouse to the extra ports. That way, you can use the accessories that you already have, instead of buying new ones.
Or you can just take the Bluetooth route, either way, you’ll need an external mouse, portable monitor, and keyboard to replace your laptop with Samsung Dex. It’s up to you to figure out which accessories work best for your situation.
Optional: Portable Battery
If you truly want to be mobile, then you probably can’t connect the hub or phone into a wall outlet. What you can do is buy a portable battery and place it behind your setup or phone. You just need to plug the battery into the hub and then hub into all the right devices, and boom, a mobile laptop-like system, straight from your phone.
The Anker brand is great for portable chargers, this 20,100mAh battery is a great choice. If you don’t have one already, external batteries can be a big help and save you from some sticky situations. If you’re using this in your home, then you probably don’t need the battery.
A Monitor, Portable or Stationary:
Back to the subject of monitors, carrying a PC’s monitor around with you is out of the question. Maybe you can use the Dex setup at home, but that doesn’t really replace your laptop. To replace your laptop with Dex you need a monitor that is portable.
Like I said earlier if your laptop or PC crapped out on you, and you have a spare monitor, then you can definitely use Samsung Dex as a cheap and budget laptop. To create a whole mobile laptop-like setup, then I recommend getting a portable monitor.
There are lots of different portable displays and they can be used for all kinds of things. Currently, the best portable monitor is the Asus Zenscreen MB16AMT 15.6″ with a touchscreen and built-in battery. Of course, there are cheaper models, although they’re from lesser-known brands.
What you need to know is this Zenscreen uses USB-C too (and Micro HDMI) so make sure your USB-C hub has an extra port for the monitor. And the hub or monitor needs power too, so keep that in mind.
Putting it Together:
Alright, so we talked about all the separate gadgets and dongles, here’s how it all works together:
- Samsung Phone with Dex Support
- USB-C Hub (optional: External Battery)
- Either USB Keyboard and Mouse or Bluetooth versions (no wires).
- Portable Monitor (Zenscreen recommended).
And then it’s just a matter of plugging everything in to make your mobile laptop replacement. If everything works properly, you should have a complete laptop-like experience straight from your phone.
Now to the important questions…
How Much Does This Cost?
The prices vary depending on the devices and dongles you choose and what you need. Assuming you already have a phone, then the only things you’ll need to buy are a portable monitor, USB-C hub, keyboard, and mouse.
I’ll be honest, portable monitors, at least the good ones, aren’t cheap. They cost about the same as a laptop fit for college use or a Chromebook. The hubs and accessories are around $10 each, so that’s around $40 for those. I would say an average price for this setup would be around $350 which is not chump change.
Of course, if you don’t want (or need) a portable monitor because you already have one at home (or where you plan to visit) then you don’t have to spend much at all. You could also significantly lower the cost by using a budget off-brand portable display.
Ultimately, I think it’s an interesting setup and fun to play around with, but I don’t think it can replace a laptop. I know, it is a bit cheaper than a decent travel laptop, but you also have to deal with more cables and gadgets.
I would save up a bit more and get a good lightweight travel laptop combined with a portable monitor.
Example Build (Amazon Links)
You also might consider getting a laptop stand. They can help lift the laptop’s screen to a comfortable height.
The Asus VivoBook is a lightweight laptop with decent specs and a good amount of ports. It’s a budget laptop, so don’t expect any hardcore performance for games or whatnot. It’s a good choice if you need something for writing on. The extra USB-C port can be connected to the portable monitor.
On that note, if a laptop doesn’t have a USB-C port, then you can use a USB-C to A converter, the portable monitor should still work. As a matter of fact, most portable monitors include adapters for this exact reason.
You could also connect them in other ways, such as through HDMI or Mini-HDMI, whichever ports match.
Wrapping it Up:
So, as we mentioned, Samsung Dex is a cool desktop mode straight from your phone, but I don’t think it can replace a laptop, especially not at the moment.
I feel like Dex could be a great mode, sometime in the near future, maybe when portable monitors are cheaper, but until then, I’ll settle with my dual-screen laptop setup.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you have any questions, leave them in a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Until next time.