I Tried to Replace My Laptop With a Galaxy S24 Ultra. It Came Pretty Dang Close

Today’s smartphones are more powerful than ever — and more expensive. With high-end models like the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max starting at $1,200 and Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra going for $1,300, opting for a next-generation mobile phone is a major commitment. 

This story is part of Samsung Event, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Samsung’s most popular products.

As the costs of these devices rise, it gets more difficult to rationalize buying them, especially when there are more affordable cell phones that give these premium gadgets a run for their money. But what if your top-of-the-line smartphone could double as your computer?

Read more: Best Cheap Phone of 2024: Most Value for the Money

With Samsung DeX, you can transform a Galaxy phone or tablet into a computer by simply plugging it into a monitor. You can also wirelessly connect Galaxy phones or tablets to certain TVs to use DeX.


My monitor looks like its plugged into a laptop, but it’s all coming from the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

Since I use an iPhone, I had no idea this feature even existed until recently. The first time I tried it, my mind was blown. My monitor looked like it was plugged into a laptop, but it was all coming from the S24 Ultra. Still, I wasn’t sure if it could do everything my laptop could do, and I was determined to find out. So I ditched my MacBook for the day to see if the Galaxy S24 Ultra and Samsung DeX could replace it.

DeX just makes sense


Typing on my wireless Apple keyboard in DeX mode.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

It felt weird to go to the office without my laptop. But it ended up being so nice to only carry the (roughly half-pound) S24 Ultra instead of my nearly five-pound MacBook Pro. I also loved that I could just connect the S24 Ultra to my Dell monitor at the office and control everything with the wireless Apple keyboard and mouse I already had. The fact that you can plug and play like this is, in my humble opinion, a big part of the beauty of the Samsung DeX.

As I worked, I noticed so many details about DeX that impressed me. For example, when I plug the S24 Ultra into my monitor, a four-panel screen appears on the phone. At first I wasn’t sure what it was for, but I eventually realized it was a trackpad I could use to move the cursor on the monitor. So if you don’t have a mouse, no problem. You can just use the phone itself. (Check out the video above to see how this works.)


If you look closely, you’ll see the four panel screen that appears on the S24 Ultra when I plug it into my Dell monitor.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

Another cool detail is that you can still use your phone as a separate device even as it’s acting as your computer in DeX mode. So I could be, for example, editing a photo on my monitor while simultaneously using the S24 Ultra to do something totally different, like checking out CNET.


Editing a photo in DeX mode while using the phone to visit CNET.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

Ultimately, the more I used DeX, the more I realized it just makes sense. For instance, I always attend meetings with my laptop to take notes and pull up current projects. So when I couldn’t bring it to my one-on-one with my manager, I felt like I was showing up empty-handed. But in reality, everything I needed was (literally) in the palm of my hand. DeX closes the gap between phone and computer, so I wasn’t missing out by only being able to bring the S24 Ultra. It had the same information on it as the “computer” I was typing on minutes before with DeX. I was able to unplug the phone from my monitor, easily take notes and open my projects during the meeting, and then plug the S24 Ultra back into my monitor to keep working on those projects after the meeting. The transition from DeX mode, to phone, and back to DeX mode is seamless. It’s genius.

But how well can DeX actually handle all of my daily tasks? A lot of my days are spent testing products and scripting videos, and this was one of those days. I was, of course, trying out DeX, looking up any questions I had on Google Chrome and organizing my thoughts in Google Docs. I was also using Zoom and Slack to stay connected to everyone.


I keep my most frequently used apps in my DeX taskbar. 

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

Using these applications in DeX mode was pretty similar to using them on my MacBook. Still, I did encounter a few hiccups that are worth noting if you’re thinking of trying DeX. Or if you’re a DeX expert — DeXpert? — maybe you can answer some of my questions.

Say goodbye to the Chrome bookmarks bar


You can have a bookmarks bar in the Samsung Internet app, but not in Google Chrome on DeX.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

I’m an avid bookmarks bar user, so it pains me to say you can’t have one in Chrome on DeX. But you can have one in the Samsung Internet app, and for that reason alone, I would switch browsers if I didn’t need to use Chrome to log into certain work accounts.

Copying links also looks different in Chrome on DeX. You can’t click on a link to highlight it in the address bar and then go about copying and pasting it as you would in Chrome on a laptop. If you try to click on a link in DeX mode, it disappears. Instead, you have to click on the link, then click on the little icon to the right of it to copy it to your clipboard.

Zoom and Slack look a little different, too

What my Zoom video looked like before versus after turning the phone.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

When I first tried Zoom on DeX, my video appeared in portrait orientation instead of landscape, even though the S24 Ultra sat horizontally on my desk. But I turned the phone vertically and then horizontally again and my video finally switched to landscape. So the orientation was a little wonky at first, but it was easy to fix. Still, my video wasn’t perfect, but that’s because of my own DeX setup. I had a Zoom call with CNET’s Abrar Al-Heeti and Sean Booker, and the S24 Ultra was perched too low on my desk, so I was never really looking at them. 


My Zoom call with CNET’s Abrar Al-Heeti and Sean Booker.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

It’s probably a good idea to get a stand (or even a monitor mount) to raise the S24 Ultra so the camera is closer to my eyeline as I take Zoom calls. Additionally, when I sent a message in the chat, it took up the entire screen, which was a little clunky. And I couldn’t figure out how to switch from speaker to gallery mode so I could see everyone (that is, all two people) on the call at once.

Slack on DeX looks a lot like it does on my laptop, although it doesn’t have the sidebar with all of my recent messages where I can easily send a new one even if I’m in another conversation, which I did miss. And this is very specific, but I also missed being able to see who reacted to a message by hovering over the reaction. As far as I could tell, there’s no way to see who’s reacted to a message in Slack on DeX.

Admittedly, these are all very minor notes. None of them created any major disturbances in my workflow, which is what’s important. So I’d say DeX worked well for running the applications I use 90% of the time.

But that last 10% of the time I used two other applications — Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop. And while these aren’t available on DeX, Adobe Premiere Rush and Photoshop Express are. So I tried those. And — spoiler alert — I wasn’t as lucky with these apps.

Premiere Rush and Photoshop Express on DeX have so much potential


Adobe Premiere Rush on DeX.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

I like to think of Premiere Rush as a more accessible version of Premiere Pro. The interface is a lot simpler, you can use it on desktop and mobile (Pro is only available for desktop), and it’s free (Pro starts at $23 a month for individual users).

I do love Premiere Pro for the gamut of tools it offers. But most of the time, I’m doing pretty simple video editing anyway (i.e. trimming vlog clips like the ones in the video above), so I was hopeful that Rush on DeX could work for that. And at first, I was feeling good about it. I could easily make cuts in the middle of a video and trim clips down. I could even color-correct my footage. But the app kept abruptly closing on me every 30 seconds or so, which is sad because Rush on DeX seemed like it would’ve been able to handle the video editing I do for work.

I use Photoshop for simple image edits, like placing photos side by side, as well as adding borders and text to them. (Fun fact: I edited a lot of the photos you see in this article on Photoshop, including the ones below.) So I was curious whether I could use Photoshop Express, a free mobile photo editing app, for this kind of thing on DeX. But unfortunately, I can’t. While I could add text, I couldn’t find a way to put photos side by side or customize the borders around them like I do in Photoshop. But even though I can’t use this app for exactly what I do for work, I did have a lot of fun with what it can do. For example, I used it to put the overlays on the images below. (I would’ve had photos like these all over my Facebook if I had this app in middle school and am highly considering uploading one to my Instagram feed today). 

I used Photoshop to add the line between the photos and the text, but those neat color overlays are all Photoshop Express.

Clara Dingle/CNET

I don’t know if I should be saying this to Samsung or Adobe but one of you — or both of you — please make Photoshop and Premiere Pro available on DeX. It would take these already impressive products to the next level. 

Can DeX replace my laptop?


The Galaxy S24 Ultra versus my MacBook Pro.

Celso Bulgatti/CNET

So let’s return to the big question — can the S24 Ultra and, more specifically, Samsung DeX, replace my laptop? 90% of the time, yes. That being said, 10% of the time when I’m doing photo and video editing, no. But I’m so impressed that DeX can handle the bulk of my job. I will absolutely be bringing it into the office when I’m scripting and don’t want to carry a heavy bag, or am meeting up with friends after work and don’t want to lug my laptop around San Francisco.

I know that a day with DeX only scratches the surface of things. I’m sure I’ll continue to encounter little hiccups and discover more things I love about it. This whole experiment is also making me have an identity crisis. Like I said, I’m an iPhone girl but I am pretty impressed by what Samsung can do. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll switch over. Never say never. It would definitely make me feel better about the hefty amount I’ve come to spend on smartphones.