They really are essential.
Sure, you *can* go through documentation and spend a week or more figuring things out, or you can fast track it with a simple example.
So much of the code that I need to write depends on some framework or SDK or API, and with a lot of the documentation being either non-existent or useless, samples are a godsend. Granted, Microsoft does a great job of documentation, so examples really only speed things up rather than make thing minimally accessible.
Well, back to an SDK that really could use some better docs and more samples... I wish I could use 1code for it... sigh...