Hands-On with Samsung Wireless DeX

Posted on August 31, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 12 Comments

As part of a series of improvements to its DeX desktop environment, Samsung has launched Wireless DeX with the Note 20 series. As its name implies, Wireless DeX lets you cast the DeX desktop wirelessly to your phone to any compatible display.

There are a few things to know about. First, you need to find a compatible display: Wireless DeX works with Miracast, which in my experience is less common and less reliable than Google/Chromecast. But as the maker of one of the world’s most popular lines of smart TVs, Samsung does of course this capability in its own offerings. And that combination of a Samsung smartphone and smart TV becomes all the more powerful because of this.

I happen to have a Samsung smart TV, and even though it’s an older unit dating back to 2016, it supports Miracast and works seamlessly with Wireless DeX. I also tested this on a Windows 10-based PC, since Windows 10 supports a Wireless Display feature that likewise uses Miracast to turn your PC into a smart display of sorts. (This was the impetus for Windows 10’s Wireless Display Feature is Now Optional, as this functionality is no longer installed by default in Windows 10 version 2004.)

A second potential issue is that Wireless DeX is literally a remote display only. Because there’s no hub in the middle—or, in the case of the DeX for Windows, no Windows PC in the middle—you can’t take advantage of an attached keyboard or mouse and use the desktop interactively as you would with a Chromebook, Mac, or Windows PC. That said, you can of course still connect to a Bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse to your phone and go completely wirelessly.

I didn’t try that, mostly because Wireless DeX is really designed to open up new use cases where you want to share content with others on a big screen instead of the display on your phone. This could be something informal like a photo slideshow, or something more formal like a PowerPoint presentation.

Connecting to a display is easy enough: From the Note 20—and, soon, I’d imagine, other recent Samsung flagships—you just find and select the DeX icon in the quick actions grid in the notification shade.

Then, in the Samsung DeX app that appears, just select the correct display. In my case, I see three: One for the Samsung smart TV (which is identified as [TV] Living room), one for our Roku, and one for my PC (Envy-15).

The next step isn’t as obvious: You need to swipe down on the notification shade again and find the second of two Samsung DeX notifications. This one advertises that you can control Wireless DeX using the display of your phone like a touchpad. Or you can use the S pen for some limited interactions, like advancing slides in PowerPoint. (You can configure the touchpad feature to come on automatically when you use Wireless DeX.)

The touchpad interface is the much better choice: It works as you’d expect, and you can move the mouse cursor around the DeX desktop, tap it to select items, and so on. It works with the phone in landscape or portrait orientation, too. Yeah, it’s got a bit of lag compared to the wired DeX solutions, but it’s fine for the typical tasks you’d perform this way.

I’ve cast the display of Android phones to a TV in the past and that’s OK, but the DeX interface actually makes more sense: It fills the screen naturally and presents a desktop that should be familiar to anyone. You can run multiple apps and see multiple windows at the same time, which can be useful.

But there’s another, less-obvious side benefit that I like, too: When you first connect to a display wirelessly using Wireless DeX, you’ll notice that your phone’s display returns to the home screen. And that means that you can continue interacting with your phone normally while it’s also using Wireless DeX. That creates a unique two-display experience that really sets Wireless DeX apart.

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