Ladies and gentlemen, Boys and girls, nerds of all ages, I’m back from a much needed break, and i’m back with a BANG! My next few posts are all hardware reviews and they’re all going to be amazing. We’re kicking off with a life changing device that may not be a big deal for some users out there, but in my personal case, this device has given me the one thing I don’t actually own…. a Computer.
The Samsung Multimedia Dock, or Smart Dock as it’s known in the states, is quite literally a little plastic box that connects your phone to your TV via HDMI and allows you to connect 3 other USB devices to it. For example, you could connect a keyboard, mouse and an external hard drive. You can also connect a USB hub for additional devices, but it’s recommended to use a powered hub as the dock doesn’t provide much power, so chances are your extra devices won’t work too well.
[toggle title=”Cost Details” state=”open” ]You can pick up the Samsung Galaxy S4 / S3 / Note 2 Smart Dock from Mobile Fun for £59.99[/toggle]
[toggle title=”In The Box” state=”close” ]The multimedia dock come with the dock itself (obviously), a USB cable and a 2 amp mains adapter just like the one supplied with most new galaxy phones now. It also comes with the usual instruction manual in 13 languages, but in reality this is wasted paper as the dock is so easy to use. The dock itself features 2 USB 2.0 ports on the right side, and one on the left. There’s a standard HDMI port on the back next to a micro USB port for the mains adapter or USB cable, and a 3.5mm socket for external speakers.[/toggle]
How do i set it up?
If you really need to ask this question, you don’t really deserve to be near technology. Back away now. Plug in the mains adapter, connect to an HDMI cable and then your TV. Sit your phone on top. Done! You can optionally connect a set of speakers using the 3.5mm port on the dock. Wow, that was hard wasn’t it. What’s better, is those of you with slim cases on your phone, don’t need to remove the case. Samsung in their intellectual glory have accommodated for having cases on the phone. If you have a chunky defender type case however, you may need to remove it to make the phone fit. My current choice of case is too big for the dock, so unfortunately i have to remove my case, but it’s designed with the official Samsung cases in mind.
What you will notice instantly when connecting the phone to the dock, is the phone stays in the portrait orientation, which is a little disappointing as you end up with a portrait image on the screen with huge black borders to each side. You can rectify this by using an app such as “total rotation control” or others available on the Play Store. The LCD screen also stays on when connected which wouldn’t make much sense. What happens on the screen of your phone is almost instantly displayed on the big screen. I say almost because i did notice a very small delay, so small the average user wouldn’t notice it. It’s less than a quarter of a second.
When you first connect the dock, you’re taken to the Dock Desktop home screen which shows you the current time, date, calendar, weather etc, along with 5 customisable icons along the bottom. This desktop screen becomes the default screen when you press home, so in my opinion adds a restriction to the device. Do yourself a favour, go into the settings and disable Dock Desktop. You’ll enjoy this device a lot more when using your own launcher such as ADW:EX or Nova, whichever you prefer.
If you connect a mouse to one of the USB ports, your screen instantly rotates to landscape orientation and now presents you with a more desktop computer feel allowing you to navigate your phone fully with the mouse. It may differ from person to person depending on hardware, but in my case a right-click acts as the back button, and clicking the scroll wheel acts as home. The only way i’ve found to get a Menu pop-up is by connecting a keyboard.
Keyboard and mouse now connected, you now have a full android powered PC. Open up your web browser of choice and browse like a pro, or if you’re like me, you can open your office application and begin work on your next tech blog article. (A quick note here would be that I’m actually using the dock right now to write this article).
The Multi window function of TouchWiz really makes itself useful when using the dock, as you can now do 2 things at once a lot easier. You can look up a place you’d like to visit using your browser, while checking Google maps for directions at the same time and have both bits of information available simultaneously. Sure you could have done that without the dock, but it’s so much more practical with it.
The Airview feature again is amplified when using the dock with a mouse. Just like using the S-pen, you can hover over files and folders in your gallery and see previews of the contents.
Gamers! I haven’t forgotten you don’t worry. The multimedia dock presents a whole new perspective on mobile gaming too. If your game or emulator of choice can use a USB control pad such as the PS3 or Xbox controller, you can use the dock to play your favorite android games on your HD TV. As you have 3 USB ports to mess with, you’d probably have a keyboard, mouse and game pad plugged in. Open up your favorite game such as Shadowgun or Dead Trigger, configure your controller, and blow something up. Because there’s very minimal delay between what happens on your phone, and what is shown on the TV screen, you should be able to play any game with no problems whatsoever. I’ve played with the HTC MediaLink recently and that isn’t suitable for gaming (more on that at a later date). The Multimedia Dock is more suited to the job and i must say, Shadowgun looks incredible on a big screen.
Root users, here’s something you’re going to enjoy. Plug in your keyboard and mouse, CHROOT a Linux image and hey presto, your phone is now a computer. As somebody that doesn’t own a computer, and has run my entire digital life from a phone for the last 4 years depending entirely on the growth of the android platform, it’s easy to see how much this little inexpensive box can change your perspective on how you look at a smartphone
The multimedia dock is compatible with the Galaxy Note 2, Glaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. I’d be very disappointed if future devices don’t support this incredible accessory, but everything has to come to and end eventually. I realise that most of this review is basically just features of the phone itself, but this dock has made those features infinitly more practical. Normally when you’re provided with an item to review, you feel somewhat obligated to highlight the best parts about it and try to focus less on the bad. I can honestly say the only bad thing i have to say about this particular accessory, is the one i got came with a European mains adapter instead of UK, but moaning about that is completely pointless when I have a drawer full of them.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you have any questions, feel free to ask and i’ll do my best to answer them.