The Remix Mini Aims to Put Android on Your Desktop
If you’ve ever felt that your desktop is too big, too complicated or too ugly, and you have $30 burning a hole in your pocket, the Remix Mini might just pique your interest. Ex-Google employees Jide Tech have come up with a very small and attractive Kickstarter project for those looking to experience the of simplicity of Android on a big screen, along with full keyboard and mouse support and PC-class connectivity.
The Remix Mini takes the form of a very minimalist black pebble, that plugs into your monitor or TV and runs Remix OS 1.5, a modified version of Android. Remix OS is designed to blend traditional desktop functionality with modern mobile operating system simplicity, and remain simple and uncluttered at the same time. It looks like a cross between Windows 7 and Lollipop, with a translucent taskbar along the bottom containing your navigation buttons and icons for running apps on the left, and a cross between a system tray and status bar on the right. Remix OS is heavily skinned, but apparently optimized for smooth performance on mid-range hardware, and supports windowed multi-tasking, mouse and keyboard input, keyboard shortcuts, and other features usually reserved for desktops. It thankfully also includes access to the Play Store, meaning that any of Android’s one and a half million apps are available for download.
The Remix Mini itself walks the line between portability and practicality, featuring two full-size USB ports on its rear, along with an HDMI port, Micro SD card slot, an Ethernet port and a headphone jack. It’s definitely above the minimum required to emulate PC functionality, whilst still ensuring that your desk isn’t covered in cables and wires. There’s a capacitive power button on the top of the unit, which is a neat way of making turning it on very simple, and an unobtrusive power indication light on the front of the device. Under the hood the Mini is rocking a 64-bit 1.2GHz quad-core AllWinner CPU, which is a relatively untested chip, and so it remains to be seen how well it performs. There are two storage options available; one with a single gigabyte of RAM and 8GB of storage for $30, and one with double the RAM and double the storage for $50. Both options come with your usual Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, allowing you to connect your wireless peripherals easily.
There are a few good use-cases for this kind of hardware. Especially handy is the fact that Microsoft’s mobile Office applications are available for download, and combined with web browsing through Chrome and the built-in email client and file manager, a good 80-90% of typical PC activity is covered right off the bat. In that sense, this product is a direct competitor to Chromebooks everywhere, where given that operating systems are similar, the pricing alone gives the Remix Mini a huge advantage. Another potential use for this device is as a media server; it has more than enough power needed to host or control your music library, run Kodi, or play up to 4k videos through the HDMI port.
The Remix Mini is Jide Tech’s second stab at creating a mobile/desktop cross-over device with emphasis on productivity. Earlier this year we saw the fledgling company release the Remix Ultratablet, a 11″ tablet also running Remix OS, with a detachable keyboard, selling for $39 in its Early Bird pledges. The company had some fairly significant issues with shipping from their location in China, and you can see the resulting price rise in the same area this time around, however most users that funded the previous campaign seem pleased with their choice. Remix OS is also available as a ROM for the Nexus 10, will apparently soon be ready for the Nexus 9, and support for the software looks promising so far. The Kickstarter is currently at $370,000 pledged, obliterating its target of $50,000, with all of the cheapest $20 Early Bird packages already sold out, so clearly there is significant demand for this kind of product. At this price, the Remix Mini is very much within ‘impulse buy’ territory, something that an enthusiast could purchase to tinker with, knowing that if something went wrong they don’t have too much to lose. The other advantage is the most people have the peripherals needed to make full use of this mini-PC already lying around already, due to the many connectivity options included.
That fact that the smartphones we carry around with us everyday are powerful enough to perform so many of the tasks that used to be limited to desktop-class systems means that a product like this was inevitable. At this point however, Jibe Tech are the only company selling something this capable at this price point, and it seems to be a winning formula. Prices will almost certainly go up once the campaign has ended and the Remix Mini is in production, but it is likely to remain extremely competitive regardless, so rivals will have their work cut out trying to compete. Jibe Tech also have the bonus of having worked for Google previously, giving their efforts in software far more credibility than others on the crowdfunding arena. We’ll have to wait until October to find out exactly how useful this compact desktop is and how well it performs, but at present things seem to be going very well for the Chinese company.
What do you think of the Remix Mini?