In its closed form, the original DeX dock sort of resembled an extra-chunky hockey puck, and the sliding mechanism that allowed a phone to fit was quite clever. That’s gone. Instead, this year’s DeX Pad looks like a shrunken Sega Genesis that the phone is meant to rest on top of. It seems like a step backward in design until you realize that Samsung wanted the phone’s touchscreen as close as possible to the surface it’s resting on so you can use it as a trackpad.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an approach like this — Razer did the same thing with its lapdock concept at CES — but it works quite well for navigating between running apps on a bigger display. You’ll eventually be able to use that connected phone as a keyboard too, if you’ve got a masochistic streak. I was hoping to take this for a spin just to see if the road-warriors and traveling salespeople Samsung is targeting with the DeX Pad could squeeze some use out of a tiny touch keyboard, but it wasn’t ready for me to play with just yet.
More importantly, you’ll be able to drive higher resolution displays than you could before — in the old days, max resolution for a connected screen topped out at 1080p, which is less than ideal for anyone who has invested in high-end hardware. Things are a little better now, though, since you can crank up the resolution to 2,560 x 1,440 on that big display (as long as you’re using an S9, at least). When you take the boost in screen resolution along with more accessible touch controls and the Galaxy S9’s power, some novel experiences being to emerge. I definitely didn’t think I’d spend a chunk of my day playing Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition on a desktop monitor while fiddling with a phone-touchpad combo, but the whole thing felt more elegant than expected.
Some changes, however, might rub some people the wrong way. The DeX Pad packs still two full-sized USB ports, a USB-C port and an HDMI-out, the ethernet jack present in the original is nowhere to be found. Whether anyone will actually miss that thing is another question, but shouldn’t have to wait long to find out.