Could a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 actually replace your computer?

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with DeX

During its reveal of the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung focused quite heavily on a particularly interesting new feature: a brand new take on DeX. 

Samsung’s phone-based computing solution now works over a simple USB-C-to-HDMI adaptor, which dramatically boosts the value proposition.

But, does it actually have the capability to replace your computer? Samsung is claiming that the Galaxy Note 9 could become your new laptop and desktop with Samsung DeX – but who is it aimed at?

For the power users, this isn’t the true portable computer replacement you’re looking for – if you’re even looking for one. But, for the average user, DeX could very well make Galaxy Note 9 an all-in-one device for you.

The previous version of Samsung DeX in action.

What is DeX and what does it do?

DeX is a virtualized software overlay for Android that Samsung developed for its smartphones to be used more like computers with supporting accessories. The software presents desktop-oriented versions of various Samsung apps, including Mail and Calendar.

Previous versions of the DeX solution required specific pieces of docking hardware to help drive the experience, but now it’s all accessible with a simple cable.

The Samsung DeX interface isn’t otherwise particularly better or more advanced with the Galaxy Note 9 than it was before. Though, now the phone can be used as a mouse and keyboard when DeX is activated as well as a secondary display.

It's purely how simple Samsung has made activating and accessing the software that’s inspiring the question of whether it can replace your computer. 

In fact, we’re not even sure how the Galaxy Note 9 is creating this second computing environment over a simple HDMI connection – Samsung representatives weren’t at liberty to discuss it during a briefing event.

For the average home user, meet your new PC

Thinking about the Galaxy Note 9 as a computer becomes particularly interesting when you consider the absolute mainstream user. 

For the person who doesn’t use a computer for more than checking email, shopping online, watching movies and TV as well as social media, this phone could essentially handle all those tasks as well as dedicated hardware. 

At that point, the Note 9 could become their media streaming device and their gaming console, too – that’s quite a lot of use out of a phone at $999/£899 to start. It's way more so than you can get out of an iPhone X for the same price.

Because the Galaxy Note 9 can stand in for both the mouse and keyboard in the DeX computing experience, it can function without any extra hardware beyond the cable and a monitor (or even a TV if you want to sit really close up).

Yes, you can use the keyboard on the screen, or use the handset as a trackpad, but you almost certainly need a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to really make this whole setup work - and there's no way to charge the phone with a cable in DeX mode, meaning you'll also need a wireless charging pad.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

What about the power users?

Of course, the power user is going to want full keyboard and mouse support, and as mentioned Samsung DeX offers that over Bluetooth connection. The wireless charging pad might be less of a heavy investment if this is going to be a constant-use device.

However, a Galaxy Note 9 with Samsung DeX isn’t going to replace your laptop or desktop for work or for hardcore gaming. The Snapdragon processor inside may be powerful, but it's simply not enough to drive intense spreadsheet management, video rendering or animating.

For those folks as well as the PC gamers, the Note 9 could become a companion device in this situation. But the phone will likely never replace your laptop or desktop, as it simply isn't designed with those needs in mind.

But, if your laptop has all but become just an email or web-browsing machine, this phone could easily upgrade your current one and make that heap of metal obsolete - as long as you're willing to make some adjustments to your computing experience.

It would be great if Samsung launched a 'shell' to pop the phone in, giving you an instant DeX laptop - that would be a great Chromebook alternative, and would definitely offer an interesting extra dimension to Samsung's phones.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.