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Android tablets have always been a bit awkward, as products. With the platform lacking the huge ecosystem of tablet-optimized apps that the iPad enjoys, or the large desktop legacy world you can access on something like a Surface Pro, many have asked the question "Why?" when it comes to an Android-powered slate. Perhaps it's not really one worth asking, though, when a company as large as Samsung is bothering to introduce an $850 tablet at all. With the Tab S7 and S7+, Samsung is bringing a capital-P "Premium" tablet hardware experience, and we've spent the last few days using the latter.
Modern flagship phones have grown more powerful than one could’ve imagined a few years ago. Their ascent has fueled the development of features like Samsung DeX, which tweaks the phone’s UI to imitate a classic desktop and open windowed apps. These modes have so far been restricted to stationary desk setups as they require a monitor along with a keyboard and mouse to function. The two big South Korean brands—Samsung and LG—apparently want you to take the experience wherever you go thanks to portable monitors they're currently working on.
LG’s 2019 flagship lineuprecently began receiving their Android 10 builds packed with goodies like full gesture navigation and the December 2019 security patch. One feature that remained obscure without even a mention in the changelog was the built-in desktop mode, discovered by Juan Carlos Bagnell (SomeGadgetGuy). The implementation appears to be a close sibling of Samsung’s DeX, minus the fancy branding.
The desktop environment that turns your Samsung phone or tablet into a PC when connected to an external display, nicknamed 'DeX,' has been around for a while now. Nearly a year ago, Samsung introduced the Linux on DeX beta, which could run a full Linux OS on top of DeX. Sadly, the project seems to have been discontinued.
Earlier this month, we reported Samsung DeX would support a new mode that lets you run it as a window on your desktop. Naturally, in order to achieve this, you would need to install a dedicated app on your computer, which wasn't available until today. Samsung just released it on its site, and you can now download it for Windows and macOS.
Samsung DeX is a neat way of turning your phone or tablet into an actual computer. At first, the system required you to connect your device to a dock, but has since evolved to forgo that requirement and work directly when plugged into a monitor with a simple USB-C to HDMI cable. With the Note10, DeX now supports a new mode that lives inside your operating system so that your phone's and computer's features can co-exist on the same screen.
There sure are a lot of gadgets around. Consumers today own laptops, desktops, tablets, televisions, e-readers, smartphones, smartwatches, smart speakers, smart displays, smart TVs, and smart everything-elses in myriad combinations. If you’re economically fortunate enough, you might own at least one of each of these categories of products, and for some categories, probably more than one.
As much as I delight in this abundance of gadgetry, sometimes I take a step back and think, isn’t this a bit much? Not because of some penchant for minimalism or an anti-consumerist attitude, but because of all the overlap. So many of these devices do the same things.
More than two years after Samsung announced its original Dex dock, Plugable designed a competitor that can work with virtually any USB-C device. The Cube is a tiny hub that connects to your device through an external cable and acts as a dock to link it to USB peripherals, a monitor, and even an external network.
Linux on DeX, announced at a developer conference last year, is a program that lets you run Linux (Ubuntu, in this case) on your Samsung smartphone or tablet, turning it into a full-fledged computer. Initially, it only worked on the Galaxy Note 9 and Tab S4, but with today's update, both Galaxy S9 and S10 families are now supported (along with, for some reason, the mid-range Tab S5e).
Samsung debuted DeX last year to make your phone behave a bit more like a computer when plugged into a monitor. This year, DeX functionality has improved so you don't need to expensive custom dock, just a video cable. At Samsung's developer conference last week, it announced DeX would also get full Linux support. It's only officially available to those in the beta program, but we've got the APK.