When software company Jide Technology released the Remix Mini Android PC after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, we were excited to get our hands on one. This miniature Android powered PC was created by three ex-Google engineers, only costs about $65, and seemed at the very least like a novel twist on the popular mobile platform.
Once we took a look at the specs, we decided to take it for a test drive and write up a review. Rather than handing it over to one of the many Android fans in the office, however, we thought it might be fun to make a believer out of an avid iOS user instead. Enter Brian, Experts Exchange Senior Product Manager.
Here are his thoughts:
The Remix was incredibly easy to set up, I just hooked it up to a Dell monitor via the HDMI port on the back, basic Dell keyboard, and a Microsoft mouse. Basically whatever spare parts you have lying around seem to do just fine, which is really convenient.
It looks really clean coming out of the box, and the size is really appealing. It would be easy to carry something like this around with you (even in your pocket) if you wanted to have a mobile desktop to work on and were going somewhere with the other necessary components.
Once it was plugged in, it took a few minutes to install updates, but not too long. I have to admit, I got into the UI and was pleasantly surprised! As a typical iOS user, I’ve never been a fan of Android, but this platform presented things in a visually appealing way. Here are some pros:
- Clean iconography
- Stock desktop background images are really nice
- The taskbar shows multiple windows, which is very convenient
- Preferences are easy to find and change
- The file manager is really handy, and easy to navigate
The biggest drawback of this platform is that there doesn’t seem to be any apps designed specifically for the Remix OS. It relies instead on the Google Play store, where mobile apps are king. It makes sense for an Android OS to use Android apps, but they don’t translate well into a desktop environment. Here are some of the cons:
- Scrolling. There is no scrollbar, so you are forced to click and drag with the mouse as if your mouse cursor is being treated as a scrolling finger. The mouse wheel functions well, but that’s a pain if you’re dealing with infinite scroll on a site like Facebook with no way to jump to the top of a page. Keyboard shortcuts like Home, End, Page Up, etc. didn’t work either.
- Text selection. Again, this functions much like it would on a mobile phone, forcing you to click and hold on a selection and adjusting with the pins.
- When browsing the web, the mobile versions of each site would frequently load rather than the desktop version and I had to keep switching back.
I saw that there was an OS update that would have removed Google Play store support, which I assume was partly to address the above experience. I didn’t try this update, as I wasn’t sure how I’d then go about finding good apps for this system. Perhaps someone more versed in the full Android ecosystem would know more about where to go and what to install.
Obviously a computer with a 64-bit processor and 16GB of memory isn’t going to replace your desktop if you’re looking to run robust programs, applications, games, etc., but it did pretty well with daily tasks such as email, social media and the like. I tried to play Web browsing was pretty slow, but it’s possible that my Wifi was to blame. It does have an Ethernet port, but I didn’t test it out.
I used Google Docs to take notes for this review, and while the typing was seamless the text displayed as over-sized to an awkward degree. There might be a way to adjust this, but I couldn’t find one. Seems like one more way that the mobile apps don’t really translate onto a desktop.
Facebook loads and videos play well (although going “full screen” doesn’t actually take up the whole screen), but it displays as the mobile site and getting back to the desktop view was clunky and didn’t stick through navigation to other pages. Sites that are fully responsive, however, look great.
I think the Remix Mini is a really cool step in technology, and I’m excited to see the next iteration. Re-tooling a mobile OS for a desktop is an intriguing concept, and I love the compact size (and price!).
While at this time the Remix isn’t viable as a replacement for a regular machine, it could be great as a secondary computer, for kids, or for markets where the internet has just recently become available. It could also be used as a test machine for android apps and site responsiveness, so those in QA should consider picking one up.
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