Most people generally don't think of Android as a full-on computing system, and that's fine, because it isn't one. At least, not in the sense that it could replace your laptop or desktop. It's great for mobile operating systems and does wonders for people needing computing power on the go. It also serves as a great means for entertainment thanks to the millions of available apps. When you really think about it though, Android is not a PC operating system. On the other hand, that's really only the case because it's never been presented to the public in a product that makes it into a PC like experience.
You can do many things on Android smartphones and tablets that you can do on a PC, and if needed, one could get by with what's afforded via the OS and apps even though there are numerous elements missing. It still might not feel like a true PC experience, though, and that's where something like the Remix Mini from Jide comes in. Taking the same ingenuity and forward thinking as the Remix Ultra, (Jide's first product and a tablet) the Remix Mini offers what Jide is touting as the first true Android PC experience, that the Remix Mini IS the first true Android PC. Whether or not you agree with this notion, there's no doubting that the Remix Mini is perhaps the closest any Android device has ever been to delivering PC usability. How does it hold up to something that runs Windows or even Chrome OS for computing needs? Let's take a look.
The specifications on offer here are pretty much what you might expect from a device that costs just $70 out of pocket, and that's not really a bad thing. You aren't using it to take pictures, and you more than likely aren't using it to play games since most Android titles are generally fit for touch screens, save for the smaller selection of games which support gamepads. Jide offers two different versions of the Remix Mini, one that comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, and then there's the version we have for review which comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The differences are such that one is meant more for the media consumer, while the other is more of an all inclusive unit that can allow its user to consume media and use it for productivity purposes. Both models come running Remix OS which is based on Android Lollipop.
Aside from the RAM and storage space, the Remix Mini comes powered by a 64-bit Allwinner quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU clocked at 1.2GHz. It supports WiFi 802.11b/g/n as well as Bluetooth 4.0, both of which can be used for connection to the internet and peripherals respectively. In addition to that, it carries an ethernet port, and two USB ports, so you can also connect to the web and your keyboard mouse with a hardwire if you prefer. While either unit comes with 8GB or 16GB of storage space on board, each unit also comes with a microSD card slot which supports expandable storage up to 128GB, so even if neither gives you enough space for what you need out of the box, you can easily add more. Lastly you can also find an audio port on the back so you can plug in a pair of headphones, although remember, since this is Bluetooth 4.0 compatible you could just hook up a wireless pair if you have them.
What's In The Box
Even though this is touted as an Android PC, you're not getting a lot of extras here in the box. At a cost of $70 that should be expected, so keep in mind you'll either need to have your mouse and keyboard on hand, or go buy a pair for use with this device. Inside the box you'll find the Remix Mini unit itself, the DC adapter, and surprisingly, an HDMI cable. Without even thinking to look at the box to see what was included in the packaging, I opened it up fully expecting to have to run downstairs and grab my spare HDMI cable to set it up. It was nice to see I didn't have to do that as Jide provides you with what you need in this regard. Having said that, the HDMI cable is rather short, so if you plan on having the Remix Mini sit somewhere that is a fair distance away from the screen it's hooked up to, you'll need an alternative to the HDMI connection Jide delivers.
Hardware & Build
At a glance, the Remix Mini is rather unassuming. It's made of a soft touch plastic, it's lightweight, and although it doesn't feel the slightest bit cheap, you can immediately tell it doesn't have the heft and premium feel that it might if it were made from an anodized aluminum or some other kind of metal. In all honesty, though, the material build is not bad at all and the build quality feels nice. The plastic unit is shaped like a large pebble or stone, with all your ports and connections located on the back of the device. If you turn the unit around you'll find the ethernet port, the two USB ports, the DC adapter port, a headphone port, the HDMI port, and the microSD card slot.
If you flip over to the bottom there is nothing but a rubber ring, which is used to hold the Remix Mini in place by giving it some grip so it doesn't slide around. Looking it over without giving it much thought might result in one thinking that there is really no other way to turn the Remix Mini off unless you use your mouse to click the power icon and cycle it off that way. This isn't the case though. On the top you'll find the Remix logo but what isn't visible is the touchpad the logo sits squarely on top of. This area of the unit serves as the touch panel for powering off the Remix Mini so you aren't stuck with performing a few clicks or fiddling with a power button on the back like you might have to with a router or cable modem. Let's be honest, hunting and pecking for those power and reset buttons on the backs of routers is no picnic, and Jide agrees, so they placed the power button on top of the unit, but made it a touch pad so it didn't have to take away from the aesthetic, which, is actually quite thoughtful. There are no tactile buttons anywhere on the device so there's nothing at all protruding. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a nicely designed little piece of equipment that is easy to fit in anywhere.
Performance on the Remix Mini is better than what I was expecting, that is to say I wasn't expecting it to work as fluidly and effortlessly as it did during use. Even with just 2GB of RAM and a quad-core processor, the Remix Mini was more than capable of handling pretty much anything that I threw at it. This was nice to see since one of its headlining features is the boasted multitasking, which is basically multiple open windows simultaneously, something that can also be found within a PC or Mac environment and something that is still sought after by native Android users that aren't running a more recent Samsung device. Multitasking was made all the more pleasant since I personally had the unit hooked up to a 32-inch TV for use as the monitor, and I was able top run multiple apps at once without having any of them overlap. This allowed me to move from window to window or essentially from app to app without having to close one out to get to the other.
As a media device, the Remix Mini ran great. I could stream songs from Play Music without issue and watch YouTube videos or stream TV shows or movies through Netflix and Hulu without any problems. Everything ran smooth and any issues that could have come up would only have been present due to a slower internet connection. Where performance faltered just a little bit was with games. While 2GB of RAM and a quad-core processor would be fine for more than a few games, the Remix Mini is not equipped with the most powerful GPU you can find on an Android device, nor does it have the same amount of RAM as the devices which run Android mobile games the best. I installed Angry Birds 2 which is by no stretch the most graphically intensive game on the Play Store, however it does have a decent amount of special effects with the explosions and such, and this is where I started to notice some lag issues. This also essentially makes the resizing functionality a slow process, as attempting to resize the window for Chrome while Angry Birds 2 was open resulted in a jittery mess. It's worth noting though that I was able to resize the window, albeit with a little patience as it took a few seconds where it normally would be instant. It also just felt weird playing a game meant for touch by clicking and dragging, but it is possible to play something like Angry Birds 2, controls will just feel less natural for anyone who is used to playing it on a touchscreen. When it comes down to it, you won't be buying the Remix Mini for its gaming prowess. Simply put, it isn't a gaming powerhouse. It also isn't meant to be but if you do want to end up playing the occasional game, you'll be able to engage it just fine as long as you know what to expect. I mostly had no issues with performance anywhere else, except for with the WiFi connection. The Mini was constantly disconnecting from my router which by all accounts puts out a strong signal that no other device has a problem staying connected to. The short of it is that you might be better off keeping the Remix Mini connected via Ethernet as WiFi doesn't seem to work very well, although perhaps this is just my own personal experience.
The software is the real bread and butter of a device like the Remix Mini. While Android is rumored to start working towards something like Samsung's multi-window feature to be a native functionality within stock Android, is isn't here yet, which for some, makes multitasking harder. With the Remix Mini you simply don't run into this issue because the unit runs Jide's own in-house forked version of Android called Remix OS. It's currently on version 2.0 which is based on Lollipop, and comes with a host of features and UI elements you won't find within Android devices. For starters, the multi window is alive and well here, and it's fantastic. It just feels great to be able to open up multiple Android apps without having to switch out of one just to get to another. Although Google has made app switching extremely easy with the most recent versions of Android, it still doesn't substitute for being able to have multiple app windows open at once. These windows are also resizable, so you truly get the full PC feel in this regard, and that makes it even simpler to run as many apps as you like. This is of course, assuming you aren't trying to open up and run 20-25 apps at once, but should yo find yourself needing to open both Docs, and Drive, while also wanting to hop over to check out your Twitter feed and have Play Music or Spotify open for some tunes, the Remix Mini has your back.
Another wonderful little addition is the taskbar. For anyone who is used to a traditional PC running Windows, the taskbar should feel both familiar and pleasant, and it makes things easy to get to. Since this is running on Android, it also somewhat feels like a Chrome OS device as the taskbar is present on that platform too and Chrome OS feels a little like what Android might be like if it were meant for computers. Suffice it to say, the taskbar is great and just feels like it's supposed to be there. The very best part for me personally with the multi-window support was the ability to maximize and minimize the windows. I found myself generally resizing everything I wanted open to the size I wanted them, and frequently hitting the minimize button on one or two while I ended up needing to open new apps. When I was done with those applications I could simply close them out and maximize the ones I minimized before.
Multi Window, Resizing Windows, & The Minimize/Maximize Feature
Multi window works without a hitch so long as there are not too many resources already being allocated to other apps. For example, as I explained above the multitasking tends to become hampered when you try to use multiple windows while something more RAM hungry is open, like a game. If you simply have apps like Docs, Twitter, and Chrome open though, you should be fine as I had no issues here with these types of apps. I also need to point out that the lag issues were mostly with the resizing, and flipping over to other windows to interact with them really wasn't a problem.
For anyone who has ever used a Windows computer or a Chromebook for that matter, the taskbar will be a familiar slice of heaven. It simply makes moving between open apps a breeze because anything you open up is automatically pinned to the taskbar until you close out the app. There's no having to mess with a recents button, and from a productivity standpoint this was really great. The taskbar also houses other bits of the system like the start menu and the system tray which holds things like controls for the WiFi, Bluetooth, sound, memory cleaner and more, and you'll also find a sidebar window to the right where you can see notifications. Ultimately, having this was a nice feature.
A file manager is a relatively simple application, but it's severely underrated by many. This became immediately apparent with the file manager app that Jide has implanted into Remix OS. You can easily drag and drop files and folders anywhere you need them, and being someone who works with Windows on a daily basis this is something that was both refreshing and easy to get used to since it's already part of my daily routine. Since Remix OS supports external storage too, any external storage you plug in will show up in the File Manger as expected.
I was told that software updates would come fast and frequent to the Remix Mini as Remix OS updates are pushed out quicker than you might see from a stock Android device. In my personal use with the Remix Mini which has only been a short time I have noticed one update that I received this morning, but that isn't to say that there weren't more before the time I had decided to power on the unit and give it a go. Needless to say, it seems Jide has a rather committed outlook on software and wants to deliver the best software experience possible, because of this users can likely expect updates to come in at least once a month.
Great user experience
Excellent file manager
External storage support
Seemingly fast updates
You never have to worry about battery life, as the unit stays plugged in at all times
Performance tends to lag with games
No support for most current WiFi standard (ac) or 5GHz networks
WiFi doesn't stay connected very well
Bundled HDMI cable is extremely short
While the purposes of the Remix Mini won't serve the needs of all users, for those who are looking for a setup which allows them a more familiar PC-like experience on Android, there is really no better way to go. Having a real physical keyboard and mouse along with software features like the taskbar, system tray, multi-window and resize functions was amazing and certainly made using the device that much better. Overall, my personal experience with the Remix Mini was pretty good, save for a the lag issues with resizing windows, and the poor WiFi performance as it seemed to disconnect from my home network a lot. Although the Remix Mini could not replace a full on desktop or laptop running Windows, it's much easier to make do with what it provides than other Android-based solutions, and for the cost of $70 it's a nice little setup to get you started with something that can be used for productivity. Should you buy the Remix Mini?
That depends. If you are in need of a device which can be used for both work and personal activity but want something that feels like a traditional PC setup, then yes, the Remix Mini will likely be a fantastic device. If however you are wanting something that is more of a powerhouse, you should probably look elsewhere. For the few quirks it has, the Remix Mini is a great little Android device which won't cost you an arm and a leg, and thanks to the robust software experience which is really where all the magic is, the Mini holds its own.