The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a lot of noteworthy features, from S Pen improvements and 120Hz display to a 50x Space Zoom camera. But the most exciting feature for me is DeX mode, which gets a huge upgrade with this big-screen phone.
For the first time, DeX goes completely wireless on a Samsung phone, which delivers a desktop-like experience on TVs, letting you run multiple apps at the same time on the big screen. You can also stream movies, videos or even games to your TV, though the latter proved tricky. Here's what wireless DeX mode is like on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review (hands on)
- The iPhone 12 won't spur massive upgrades — here's why
- Just in: Samsung Galaxy S21 may skip one of iPhone 12's key camera features
To get started, all you have to do is swipe down from the top of the Note 20 Ultra's display and press the DeX button. From there, the phone will start to search for nearby TVs or streaming devices that support the Miracast standard. I got wireless DeX mode to work on a 55-inch TCL Roku TV, an Amazon Fire TV Stick and a Roku Streaming Stick Plus, but spent most of my time using the TV.
After connecting to my Roku TV, I saw the Samsung DeX logo splash on the screen and then a desktop environment appear. There are app icons on the screen for your files, the Gallery, Google Apps and the Play Store but you can also add other apps to the desktop.
What can wireless DeX mode do on Note 20 Ultra?
I started by turning the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra into a virtual mouse. After connected to a TV you can swipe down from the top of the screen and enable the virtual touchpad. I simply swiped my finger across the phone's display to move the cursor. The movement was a little slower than I'd like, but I had no problem selecting icons or opening apps.
I started with the Google Photos apps, where I could view images I shot with the Note 20 Ultra's camera on the big screen. You can also go into full-screen mode on apps, but it required that I tweak a setting on the phone. Annoyingly, in some cases I also had to relaunch apps in order for them to go full screen. Still, it was cool to be able to scroll through my gallery and show my kids photos I took on the TV.
I also tried running a couple other apps, including Twitter and Netflix. You can run a few apps at the same time on the desktop, so it really feels like you'r multitasking. And this is something you can't do with AirPlay on iPhones. It was also cool to stream Netflix from the phone to my TV, and the performance remained pretty steady as I watched an episode of Umbrella Academy.
Curious to see if DeX mode could handle playing games on a 55-inch TV, I paired a PS4 controller over Bluetooth to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Then I fired up a couple of games to see how well DeX mode could handle them.
I started with Fortnite, and my 12-year-old took the controls to see how well the title held up to his usual PS4 sessions. Overall, the action remained fairly smooth on screen, but we saw pixelation here and there. In addition, the PS4 controller was not as instantly responsive with the Note 20 Ultra as it is with the console. Still, I was impressed that the experiment worked.
Playing Asphalt 9 was a different story. With much more fast-paced action, the gameplay stuttered several times during our race, which made it difficult to stay on the track. And the graphics also looked blotchy at times.
The software on my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra isn't final, so I'm not ready to pass final judgement on how well wireless DeX mode works yet. But it is a big step forward to be able to beam apps to a big-screen TV without a dock or dongle, as well as enjoy a desktop environment that allows you to multitask. I would just like to see smoother cursor movement and more stable gameplay.