Samsung says that its new Galaxy Note 9 is the most powerful and the most productive Note ever. Although it is an incremental upgrade to last year’s Galaxy Note 8, the Galaxy Note 9 packs in enough new features. Enough to warrant an upgrade. There’s a bigger screen, lot more RAM and storage, and a whopping 4,000mAh battery inside. Not to mention, it has very potent hardware including best in-class cameras with added AI tricks up their sleeves. But none of these features shine as bright as Dex, a feature, or rather an accessory that Samsung first introduced last year with the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+.
Now you’ll probably be wondering how Dex, which is now a year-old, could be the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s best feature. But it is. Let me explain.
Before that, let’s quickly rewind and understand, what’s the whole deal behind the Dex. The Dex, when it was first introduced with the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+, was described as “a unique solution that transforms your smartphone into a desktop by providing a secure desktop-like experience.” The Dex essentially allowed users to transform the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ into a full-blown PC using a proprietary dock.
Unlike Microsoft’s Continuum which was intended to let users connect their Windows 10 phone to a monitor — and additionally to a keyboard and mouse — and transform it into a full-blown PC using a Microsoft Display Dock or a Miracast dongle, Samsung’s Dex had relatively humbler aspirations. It did (and still does) come with its own set of downsides, but it was miles ahead of Samsung’s past attempt, aka the Smart Dock. As is customary with first-generation technology, the Dex had some noticeable caveats. Unlike Continuum that let users use their Windows 10 Mobile phone as a trackpad, Dex would make your Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ stand there like a dumb dodo. Among other things.
The second-generation Dex or the Dex Pad, introduced with this year’s Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, was more useful and less frustrating.
Unlike the original Dex, the Dex Pad docked the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ in a flat position. This allowed use of the phones’ display as a touch pad and also allowed users to access the headphone jack. A touch-based keyboard was later added to it through a software update. Also, the Dex Pad was compatible with HD monitors (as well as 2K monitors), allowing for more customisation, and also bringing a business-oriented twist to it that allowed companies to block certain apps and features for employees should they decide to give them a Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+.
While easily among the most innovative devices of the year, the Dex Pad still required users to buy a dock and carry it around which means even though it was futuristic — and very useful — it wasn’t very next-generation in terms of ease of use. But Samsung wasn’t done trying. Enter the Galaxy Note 9.
The Galaxy Note 9 also supports Dex but in its third-generation avatar you don’t need a dock to get things done. This is because Samsung has baked in the Dex software inside the Galaxy Note 9 itself. You’ll still need to purchase Samsung’s HDMI adapters which I believe is a small price to pay for all the convenience the new Dex mechanism brings to the table. Probably in the next-generation Samsung would be looking to cut the cords as well. You never know.
I really like Dex and because Samsung has continued to invest in the technology to this day adding more features to it along the way, it has become all the more useful, over time. But yes, it isn’t for everybody, but then the Galaxy Note 9 also isn’t meant for everybody.
Once everything is in order, you’ll get a PC-like desktop screen on your monitor replete with a Windows-like system tray containing all your functional and non-functional controls, including signal bars and a battery indicator. All your currently running apps will be docked at the bottom of the screen. You can access your entire Android app drawer and also add shortcuts to your desktop at will for quick access.
Because Dex uses core Android apps — both smartphone and tablet-compatible — the entire Google Play store is accessible via Dex when in desktop mode which means every app on the Play Store is available for download and install although usability could vary depending on whether the app is touch-based or otherwise. The biggest drawback in case of Microsoft’s Continuum was the lack of Universal apps. Twitter and WhatsApp were not supported initially for instance. Twitter and WhatsApp are supported by Dex. While smartphone-only apps open in smartphone-sized windows, Android apps that support both smartphone and tablet modes open in full-scale windows that can also be resized. But the biggest advantage comes through multi-tasking. You can run more than one app simultaneously, and the experience is seamless across all apps.
Dex is, however, more than just about being a productivity tool. It is also about the overall experience. It’s also about entertainment and making use of the Galaxy Note 9’s full potential. It’s about virtually using your phone as a CPU for editing documents, or making word documents or filing stories at work, or for consuming content. At all the times you wished you could carry your smartphone experience on a bigger screen(s). For the same purpose, the Galaxy Note 9, also comes equipped with tools to help it last longer. And cooler. The Galaxy Note 9 is backed by a massive 4,000mAh battery and features a Water Carbon Cooling system, so it can be taken for a spin. By even the most demanding of users.