How to use Samsung DeX from a regular USB-C hub

While it may not be the main attraction of the Galaxy series, Samsung's DeX is a great way to expand your phone onto a full desktop interface. These are still the same mobile apps you know and (hopefully) love, but on a bigger screen. That sounds awful on paper, but each app gets its own window, there's a Windows-like desktop launcher you can fill with icons, and there's a taskbar at the bottom just like full desktop operating systems.

But Dex comes with a price. You need to have a Galaxy flagship after the Galaxy S8, but the main barrier to entry is that you need one of Samsung's DeX docks. That's another $100 on top of the cost of the phone, so it's something most users won't bother with. Even I — a tryer of all things — didn't feel like it was worth the money to try DeX.

Then one night, I plugged my Galaxy S8 into the same USB-C hub that I use with my Chromebook. I was too lazy to remove the USB-C power supply from the hub and plug the phone in that way, and my other USB-C power cords were in the other room — so they basically didn't exist. I plugged the phone in, started making dinner, and lo and behold, DeX starting appearing on my monitor.

Which hubs can you use with DeX?

Thing is, I'm not sure why it worked on this hub and not others I've used in the past. I'm using ARKTEK's USB-C hub that features two USB-A ports, but ARKTEK's other hub with one USB-A port didn't work. Nor did AUKEY's USB-C hub.

One theory I had was that this hub passes more power to the phone than others. So, I plugged in a Satechi USB-C power meter to find out just how much juice was flowing. After a few minutes to let the phone and hub negotiate the charge, the charging rate setting around 4.8 volts at 1 amp. Or simply, 4.8 watts. That's a tiny amount of power, and any USB-C hub should be able to pass that much since the hub will likely be used with laptops that draw more power.

The other theory is just how each dock handles HDMI video. There's no way to measure this, it's just something you have to try. Nothing bad will happen to your phone if you plug it into your USB-C hub, and even if it doesn't work you're only out a couple minutes of your time.

What's next?

Samsung isn't going to advertise which USB-C hubs will trigger DeX, since it still wants you to spend money for its dock. At least… for now. XDA states that Samsung may be looking to officially let DeX work with USB-C hubs with the Galaxy Note 9 release. If you don't already have a USB-C hub — or your current hub doesn't work with DeX — it's not a bad idea to wait until the Note 9 announcement for Samsung to say something official. If DeX does work with your USB-C hub right now, no need to worry.

Too lazy for all this?

If you don't want to go through the hassle of using a USB-C hub, the official DeX dock is on sale for just $51.99 right now.

Tom Westrick