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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Comments (12)

12 responses to “Hands-On with Samsung Wireless DeX”

  1. anoldamigauser

    I tested Continuum on Windows Phone, using Miracast and a paired keyboard (Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard), and it was surprisingly, okay. Performance was about what you would expect, I tested it with a Lumia 640 and 950, but it definitely allowed more productivity than working on the phone.

    • evox81

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      Very similar experience. Although continuum, on the 950, through the connect app on Windows would let you use the PC's mouse/keyboard to control the phone. Although it was of questionable usefulness, since you know, you were on a PC.

  2. jaredthegeek

    I have found Dex on my GalaxyTab S6 acceptable. Its not great, its not terrible. It worksish and gets what most of what I need done. I do require some windows software so I am never far from the laptop but the tablet also works great as a second screen. I was really buying into continuum in the past so this is something I hope they can get right.

  3. IanYates82

    Miracast supports using a keyboard/mouse from the display end to control the "brain" device. It's a shame DeX doesn't support that. The Epson projector I (used to!!!) travel with for conferences & presentations had Miracast built in where I could control some of the PC from the projector's pointer over Miracast.

    Windows 10 --> Windows 10 wireless display (as you say, now optional) also seems to support this (there's a checkbox when you connect about allowing keyboard/mouse interaction)

  4. Jorge Garcia

    Everyone berated me last year (and the year before) for declaring that Samsung's DeX had REAL legs. Well now Lenovo's releasing their own version of Samsung's "productivity" Android tablet with a desktop interface, the P11 Pro, which I hope gets covered here. I don't know why it pains Dell and HP to go down this road as well. I know their hesitation is mostly due to ChromeOS coming along and muddying up the waters (for everybody, but the consumer especially) but I am still a big believer in Android (+ a halfway decent lanscape desktop interface) being something that can "solve" the computing needs of a really large swath of the population.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Two thoughts to this: When I tested DeX last year, the lag made is unusual for me. And while this feature is really nice, it should come from Google, not one handset maker. But yeah. It is a neat set of functionality.
  5. codymesh

    until a lower latency standard wireless display protocol is invented, these experiences will always remain subpar.

  6. truerock2

    Oh yes... Miracast. It has been a few years since I've fooled around with it. I had to go to Wikipedia and the Miracast Wi-Fi Alliance web page to remind myself what it is all about. Notable is that those 2 websites haven't been updated since 2017.

    I remember using Apple AirPlay to display my iPhone to my Samsung TV and to my Windows 10 PC using AirServer.

    The Wikipedia web page for AirPlay hasn't been updated since 2017. Am I seeing a pattern?

    The thing is... after you use a screen mirroring tech from a smartphone to a large display... you kind of think "so what" - does this have any useful purpose? The only thing I could think of was perhaps showing how a smartphone or smartphone app works to a large group of people.

    My problem is that I have over 2000 movies and over 300 TV series on my Windows PC, Xfinity CATV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple+, Disney+, hundreds of Blu-ray discs, hundreds of DVD discs, hundreds of CD discs, hundreds of vinyl discs, HBO GO, Acorn TV, Roku, family videos on VHS, hundreds of movies and TV shows on VHS etc, etc, etc...

    and, screen casting does absolutely nothing to help with any of that.

    So, this is where Windows 10 comes in. Just about all of that media-content listed above (including the vinyl LPs) are accessable from my primary desktop Windows 10 PC. And I like streaming from that Windows 10 desktop PC to other display devices in my house and around the world. But, will the Roku let me stream to it? Noooooooooooooo

  7. jzzfan

    I use Dex with my hd-500 windows phone dock and it allows me to add wireless keyboard and mouse.

  8. rwhite868

    I connected to my Samsung TV and Xbox controller and tried gamepass beta. Yes, it worked. However graphic quality was pour.

  9. davidblouin

    Wonder why they didn't support Google Cast along Miracast...

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'm guessing, but Miracast lets them do what they're doing here: Two-way interaction and the ability to blast a different UI, and not just mirror the screen of the device.
  10. tforce13

    Does the sound come out of the monitor too (assuming it has speakers), or is that not supported by default?

    • Paul Thurrott

      Also... Should have added that Samsung handsets have a SmartThings utility that lets you control sound output from the notification shade. And it's set to the external display by default. But you can change it to the phone if you want. It's a global setting not a per-app setting.
    • Paul Thurrott

      Sorry, should have mentioned that. The sound comes out of the external display, not the phone. Interestingly, that happens even when you play audio directly on the phone's display too.
  11. steam960

    Actually, I have been having the same great experience for several years with Samsung smart TV's using Continuum on my HP Elite X3 Windows phone. The interface has always been amazing.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Well, not the SAME great experience since you can't run Android apps. :) But yes, Microsoft certainly got there first.