Chrome OS and Android offer portable alternatives to your traditional Mac and Windows desktop environments and some big phone names have been working to improve the Android experience further. It’s been a while since we played around with some of the most well-known options, so we thought it was time we caught up. While not as fully featured as a traditional OS, Samsung Dex and Huawei EMUI offer functional desktop environments bringing mobile apps to big screens.
There are few bigger screens than the ultra-wide-screen 49-inch Samsung CJ89 monitor. The monitor supports display inputs over USB Type-C, making it an ideal testbed for running smartphone desktops. Before we dive into a bit more about the mobile-come-desktop experience, here’s an overview of the Samsung CJ89 monitor.
Meet the Samsung CJ89
At 49 inches, the Samsung CJ89 is a monster. It completely fills your peripheral vision, which is arguably a tad impractical. It’s basically impossible to take everything in at once. I’m used to a dual monitor setup, but the CJ89 really is something else. “Super ultra-wide screen,” as Samsung describes it, probably doesn’t go far enough. You can easily fit three or four windows side by side.
|Screen Curvature & Viewing Angle||1800Rm, 178°(H) / 178°(V)|
|Resolution||3,840 x 1,080|
or 2x 1,920 x 1,080
|Response Time||5ms (gray-to-gray)|
|Contrast Radio||3000:1 (Typical),|
|Ports||1x HDMI (v2.0)|
1x Display Port (v1.2)
2x USB Type-C
3x USB Type-A
1x 3.5mm headphones
Quality wise, the display hits the right notes. It could probably do with a little more vertical resolution than just 1,080, but that would bump up the graphics requirements to power this beast. At 300 nits, it’s retina-scorchingly bright when cranked up up all the way in my dingy office. Meanwhile, the contrast and color balance are perfectly fine for my eye, though the display is more about its crazy width rather than groundbreaking specs. There’s no HDR support here, for example, and the 7W built-in speakers are no match for a dedicated external pair.
The monitor features a ton of ports on the back, though just one HDMI 2.0 and one DisplayPort 1.2 for PC connections. The rest are USB ports to connect up peripherals, two of which are USB Type-C supporting high wattage Power Delivery to charge up phones and tablets. The USB Type-C ports also support display signals, meaning you can mirror your laptop, tablet, or phone’s display.
I hope you like USB ports because the CJ89 has plenty of them, but only one HDMI and one DP.
Single monitor, dual inputs
One of the Samsung CJ89’s more unique features is its Picture-by-Picture mode. This takes inputs from two of the port inputs, which it can mix and match, and displays them simultaneously. Supported secondary inputs include another PC, a laptop, or a mobile device.
Furthermore, these secondary devices can connect using a range of inputs. The two USB Type-C ports on the back support Android screen cloning, EMUI Desktop, and Samsung Dex. They are also powered at up to 15W and 95W, so they can charge up your phone and power the Samsung Dex Station while running the display.
Picture-by-Picture mode allows you to run two devices on the display side by side
The feature isn’t seamless when using a Dex Station. This slightly older Samsung product doesn’t support video over a USB Type-C connection, so you need to connect using the HDMI port on the back of the Dex Station to the monitor. There’s only one HDMI connector, so you’ll have to mess around with adaptors to keep your primary PC connected too.
This isn’t a problem with the latest Samsung devices. Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Tab S4 support Dex over just a USB Type-C cable. These models remove the need for a dock altogether, matching Huawei’s EMUI Desktop. When connecting via USB-C, you can use your PC keyboard and monitor by flicking a simple switch.
Why use Android desktop environments?
The persistent question about Samsung’s Dex and Huawei’s EMUI is why? Why use a slightly sluggish, less comprehensive operating system for PC work when you probably have a perfectly functioning desktop or laptop at hand?
There’s something rather helpful about having the same apps you regularly use on your phone on your desktop side-by-side. Ensuring the morning’s emails are answered and properly synced, without having to rely on Outlook or various web tabs, is great. It’s also rather neat for apps with notifications, like Slack or WhatsApp, so your phone and PC app don’t duplicate the notifications. Having one app at your desk for each feature is less hectic and there’s plenty of room on this monitor for that type of multitasking.
Handling the work day’s usual phone notifications in a desktop environment is a pleasant change
That you can also use a single keyboard and mouse setup for both operating systems with this monitor makes this actually practical. That said, you have to fiddle with the Switch USB button to swap the peripherals over. It’s a necessary feature, but it prevents this from being a seamless experience. Especially as there’s a slight delay during the changeover, as it’s basically unplugging and plugging your keyboard back into Windows.
This side-by-side feature definitely won’t be a major selling point for many consumers. Those dipping their toes into Dex or EMUI might actually get some good use out of a dual monitor type setup like this though. Of course, if you’re simply planning to plug your computer into this monitor, you’ll avoid most of the pain points I’ve mentioned here.
If you’re wanting to use a monitor like this as I have, the Samsung CJ89 is definitely built for modern devices that support monitors over USB Type-C. Laptop class power over USB Type-C also makes the monitor a power hub for your portable gadgets. However, the single HDMI input makes it difficult to use the multi-display mode with older devices. You can always use cable adapters, but I wouldn’t recommend it. While mobile desktop options have improved in recent years, they’re still no match for a dedicated desktop.
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As an ultra-wide-screen monitor, the Samsung CJ89 is pretty great. With a 32:9 aspect ratio, the 49-inch monitor has plenty of space for multiple applications. Once you get used to the monitor’s humongous size, it’s a multitaskers dream. The biggest drawback is its 7W speakers, which are passable for voice but frankly terrible for music and film sound effects.
At 899 pounds and 1,409 euros (around $1,140) this is an expensive monitor I personally can’t quite justify. At this price point, the monitor should offer HDR, a higher resolution, and support for FreeSync to make the most of its 144Hz refresh rate. Dex certainly works, but I’m not switching over to a mobile OS for work anytime soon. The idea is undeniably enticing though: as phone desktop modes improve, you could save so much money on a computer you could (maybe) justify spending at least some of it on a crazy ultra-wide monitor like this.