It’s time for another review, and thanks to mobile phone, we have the Smart Dock by Samsung up for are inspection. So a big thanks to them for sending it over and we hope you check out some of their accessories for the Galaxy S4. So let’s dive in right into the review of the Smart Dock as see what this accessory can do. The review will have two parts with the setup, connectivity and pretty much how you would typically use the dock with a keyboard and mouse connected and using it more like a desktop computer coming first. The second part which will come later (in a different post) will be based on video playback and gaming.
The Smart Dock was original launched for the Note 2 back in November. It gives the user the ability to connect their device to a HDMI display and have 3 full USB ports to attach peripherals such as a keyboard, a mouse, flash drive or more. It also has a separate 3.5mm audio out to connect your device to speakers, meaning you can simply dock your smartphone and have a keyboard and mouse ready to go and the device displayed on a monitor.
The Smart Dock
As we can see from the images above, we have 3 USB ports, the HDMI out, 3.5mm audio out and of course the Micro USB in for powering the dock and charging the phone. The package includes the a charger and MicroUSB cable as well, so you just need a HDMI cable to get started.
Using Galaxy S3 over the Galaxy S4
The original plan was to use the Galaxy S4 for this review, but sadly we ran into a problem and simply put the Galaxy S4 wouldn’t output on some TV’s we tried, while it worked fine on some monitors, it would only come out at 720p and it didn’t look the best. To be honest, we have no real reason as to why this was happening, the same problem occurred on the MHL adaptor as well so it’s not related to the Smart Dock on it’s own. This may have something to do with the Galaxy S4 now support MHL 2.0, however it said to be backwards compatible with MHL 1.0 and since the Galaxy S3 has no issues displaying at 1080i or 1080p, the S4 shouldn’t either, at least at 30fps over the 60fps that MHL 2.0 supports.
Anyway, we had a Galaxy S3 and it outputted to the displays fine, so we are using that for the review.
Setting up the dock couldn’t be easier, you just connect the dock to the included charger and than you connect up your own HDMI cable (optional 3.5mm for audio out). You can then add any device you may want to us on your smartphone and we can easily see the most used will be a keyboard and mouse, essentially giving better control over your device.
So the first test we did was use a keyboard and mouse, using a program called rotate ultimate to take control of our device orientation to force landscape mode when docked, however on the Galaxy S4 this was done automatically in most cases with software. The S3 however required the rotation application as having the device in portrait is simply no fun, although videos would play in full screen no problem with or without the app.
Keyboard and Mouse
So we connected up a keyboard and mouse to the Smart dock with the Galaxy S3 connected and it worked as you would expect. We could type as we would on a pc and use the mouse to navigate the UI, with left click simulating a touch and the right click being the back button. Media buttons and volume control on the dell keyboard we used were also passed along nicely to to Android and worked flawlessly.
We connect multiple flash drives and they all worked as you would expect, with each being accessible at the same time. While the Smart dock is connected to a power source, it doesn’t actually provide power to the USB connections, so sadly a USB powered external hard drive didn’t work, however some external drives do come with two USB cables for extra power and we see no reason why they wouldn’t work.
Connecting a powered USB hub to the Smart dock allowed us to power external device that required the extra juice. However, most devices that will be connected such as keyboards, mice, joy pads and flash drives will work without the added USB hub.
The Smart Dock review is essentially being split into two parts, with the setup, connectivity and pretty much how you would typically use the dock with a keyboard and mouse connected and using it more like a desktop computer. The second part which will come later will be based on video playback and gaming. So this conclusion is really just based on adding typical USB devices like a keyboard and mouse and using the Smart dock to essentially turn your Samsung smartphone into a desktop like computer.
The Smart dock is an amazing accessory and really sets Samsung’s devices far ahead in terms of their abilities. Being able to push your devices screen to your TV or monitor isn’t new, but being able to add multiple USB devices while doing so is fairly new. The Smart dock pushes the boundaries of smart phones by allowing them to become closer to a full desktop like computer by giving you a keyboard and mouse and since Android natively supports both, it makes for a great experience.
That’s where we find ourselves comparing the Smart dock to the popular Android dongles that are available for around the same price as the Smart Dock itself. These dongles give the user a decent spec’d android device that simply connects to the HDMI on your TV or monitor. The functionality will be the same when compared to using the Smart Dock, however you will not get the same performance you would from the dongle compared to the S3, Note 2 or S4. Also the Smart dock means that your smartphone does all the work rather than having a separate dongle you can use your phone as an all in one device.
The Smart Dock no doubt brings the Galaxy Note and S series to a new level and really pushes the boundaries of what we are limited to with Smart phones. Using the Smart Dock with a mouse and keyboard and connect to a monitor to browse the internet, check emails and even do some word processing was more than a pleasure, but you can go even further and add external storage , joypads for gaming and more. We truly believe that is the future of smartphones and the Samsung Smart Dock brings it even closer and gives us a taste of what is too come. The current price for the Smart Dock is around €70 which is on the high side, but that being said, the accessories is worth the added functionality of your smart phone.
We are happy to give the Smart Dock a Gold award with it brining extra functionally to already high end Smart Phones and really bridging the gap between desktops and smart phones.