Home Technology Good start, but a lot to learn from Samsung Dex

Good start, but a lot to learn from Samsung Dex

iPadOS 16 Stage Manager connected

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

At WWDC 2022, Apple announced iPadOS 16 and the latest versions of its other operating systems, including macOS Ventura. One of the notable improvements with iPadOS is its enhanced multitasking features. The two main additions are full support for external displays and Stage Manager – a windowed interface that brings iPadOS closer to a desktop experience than ever before.

My M1-powered 11-inch iPad Pro has been sitting at my desk since I bought it, and has been used very little because I have very few reasons to pick it up via my phone or laptop. So I decided to give the iPadOS 16 developer beta a try to see if Stage Manager has the potential to change that. My conclusion? Stage Manager is certainly a step in the right direction, but it still has a lot to learn from Samsung Dex.

Relevant: Everything you need to know about iPadOS from Apple

This piece mainly focuses on Stage Manager in external display mode, as it competes squarely with Samsung Dex there. The analysis is presented given that iPadOS 16 is still in its very first beta and the final release could change the experience.

iPad and the restraint of the desktop interface

iPadOS cursor

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

The best feature of iPadOS 16 is undoubtedly the full support for external displays, which is welded together with the Stage Monitor feature. Before this update, we only had a screen mirroring mode. Now that Stage Manager takes off, the remote display mode bears some similarities to macOS.

But Apple’s reluctance to bring a full-fledged desktop mode to the iPad is still apparent. Take, for example, the circular iPad cursor, designed for the Magic Keyboard. While the Magic Keyboard practically converts the iPad into a laptop equivalent in terms of form factor, the cursor isn’t very desktop-like. The iPad version is actually a nicer implementation, where the cursor clicks on the clickable elements to make navigating with the trackpad easier.

The iPad cursor looks ridiculous and is not intuitive to use on a large external screen.

However, with full support for external displays, Stage Manager is limited by this cursor implementation. You don’t need to click the cursor on a bigger screen, and tablet use intuition is reversed when you try to use it on a big screen. On the other hand, Samsung Dex offers a typical pointer-shaped cursor, which works great for a desktop environment. Point Dex.

Read more: Apple still treats iPad as a second-class citizen

Stage Manager’s app format is “snappy”

Stage Manager Windows

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Another issue with Stage Manager mode is how app windows resize works. It’s just a small step up from the Slide Over and split-screen interface we’ve come to expect on iPadOS. Windows doesn’t resize it the way you want, but instead snap in predefined aspect ratios† Fortunately, there are many more options with window sizes than before. It’s not too restrictive, but it’s also not the same as having freely customizable windows.

With Stage Manager you lose a lot of screen real estate on all sides.

Stage Manager also seems to be underusing screen real estate. While the typical split screen mode takes up the entire screen, Stage Manager leaves some margins. The space on the left goes to the currently available apps. The bottom has the dock, which stays open if you don’t drag the bottom of your apps to full height. The top and right sides have margins to offset the other two. All in all, you lose quite a bit of screen space.

On the other hand, Samsung Dex is desktop style sized, which means you can resize supported apps like desktop windows. It also gives you the option to force unsupported windows to resize. Admittedly, Android apps in the past had to run in much weirder aspect ratios than iPad apps. Either way, such a limitation in a desktop environment feels out of place.

Dig deeper: Everything you need to know about Samsung Dex

Juicing the Apple M1 to its limits

iPad Pro 11 M1 back

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Apple has limited Stage Manager and full external display support for the M1-powered iPads – the iPad Pro 2021 (11- and 12.9-inch) and the iPad Air (5th generation). This leaves a lot of models behind, but most notably the USB-C sporty iPad Air 4 and iPad Mini 6. This was initially attributed to the fact that virtual memory swapping was an M1-exclusive capability and required for Stage Manager, but there were There is no official statement from Apple about that just yet. Stage Manager in its current form seems to work fine on at least the previous generation iPad Pro models. Worse yet, Apple also doesn’t seem to take full advantage of the M1’s hardware advantage.

Apple doesn’t take full advantage of the M1’s powerful hardware.

It doesn’t feel like Stage Manager is pushing the M1 to its limits yet. You can only have eight apps on the external display with Stage Manager, four of which are active. We know the M1 can do a lot more, and if RAM is the limitation, the virtual memory swap should put it at least close to the M1 MacBook Air in terms of multitasking. During my use, I tried to understand the exclusivity of the M1, but failed. The current implementation falls far short of hardware expectations.

The point is – while Apple may have good reason that these multitasking features are exclusive to M1, it feels like the company is at least leaving some performance on the table. Samsung Dex also has app limits that vary depending on the hardware. However, you could argue that all iterations of Dex run on less capable hardware. So we can’t be wrong to expect more from Stage Manager on the mighty M1, or at the very least expect Stage Manager to support the less capable iPad models.

we tested it: Apple M1 performance benchmarks and thermal throttling

Samsung Dex is up a notch and Stage Manager needs to catch up

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus DeX Mode 2

Samsung has improved Dex beautifully since its launch, and it’s almost good enough to be your desktop. It works not only with tablets but also with flagship Samsung phones. The iPad with Stage Manager, on the other hand, is indeed a computer. It’s just not the kind of computer we’re used to. It does things its own way, and that’s even more true with iPadOS 16.

We’ve been chasing the concept of the iPad, especially the iPad Pro, for years, and it’s become a true laptop replacement for years. Stage Manager makes it a better computer, but it still doesn’t instill the confidence you need to leave your laptop on your desk. On the other hand, Samsung Dex comes very close to that point.

Can my iPad Pro replace my laptop? Certainly not.

Dex even has a wireless mode now. That seems like a potential no-brainer feature for iPadOS, given how well Apple AirPlay does, even if compatibility is a bit more limited. Stage Manager also adds a learning curve. That’s another advantage for Samsung Dex. It is a much more famous implementation as it mimics a traditional desktop experience.

Is DeX perfect? Certainly not, but it’s a lot closer to the ideal convertible computing configuration than Apple’s first version.

Can my iPad Pro replace my laptop? Certainly not. Not yet, at least. Even with Stage Manager, iPadOS is still too limited in its approach to multitasking. The dream is to have an iPad that goes into full macOS-like mode, at least when connected to an external display. Until iPadOS can pull that off, Samsung Dex will become a better choice for convertible computing.

Another opinion: The iPad Air convinced me that the post-PC world is here

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