If anyone ever decided to put together a campaign to promote the merits of Kickstarter’s crowdfunding system, then Jide’s Remix Mini may well just be the ideal poster child.
After raising over US$1.6 million in August last year, the company was shipping units by November, with the bulk of backers receiving their device before Christmas.
Part of this success came from a well-designed, well executed business plan, but the other aspect — the one that helped them find 22,000 backers — was the high demand for a budget-priced, living room-friendly PC.
Physically, the Remix Mini is about the size of your average portable hard drive, but despite that, this flat little PC manages to pack in a surprising number of external connections including an audio jack, HDMI port, microSD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet and a DC power input.
When you compare this to the reduced connectivity of other portable HDMI computers like Intel’s Compute Stick (APC 417, page 28) or the new ASUS Chromebit (this issue, page 26), having that extra USB port, microSD card slot and Ethernet connection is a major leg-up. There’s 802.11n Wi-Fi built-in, too.
All this is run via one of Allwinner Technologies’s more recent 64-bit ARM processors: a quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A53. There’s actually two versions of the Mini — a 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, or 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage.
In terms of hardware, that makes this a relatively bare-bones system, but when you remember it’s being sold for US$70, the Remix Mini starts to seem exceptionally resourceful.
But the real magic of the Mini lies in Remix OS: an Android 5.0-based architecture that has been sculpted into a desktop-like OS that we find far more appealing than the Chrome OS used in ASUS’s Chromebit.
There are a few reasons for this; first and foremost being the big difference in the number of apps available. Chrome OS relies on browser extensions (some of which are admittedly quite sophisticated), but when you stack that up against a more full-featured OS, it comes off a distant second.
The Remix Mini’s other major distinguishing factor is that it has a well-designed local storage system and file explorer — that’s in addition to third-party cloud storage access via Android apps.
Remix OS offers a ton of other little things that make us preferred it over Chrome OS, like being able to store apps and files on your desktop; Alt-Tab between windows; pin half or full-page apps to the edge of the screen; interact with, format and eject external storage devices; and launch or open apps and files without having to go through Chrome’s weird launcher system.
At times, the Remix Mini’s hardware limitations do show, however; you’ll see the occasional high-res video stutter or a little lag when using multiple apps.
The other unfortunate limitation is that it will only output the display at 1080p, despite the fact that its CPU can decode 4K video.
In use, we did experience a couple of issues when streaming Netflix (which the devs are apparently working on), but the rest of the Android apps we tried worked well, despite Remix OS’s more traditional Windows-style interface.
In all, our experience with the Remix Mini was refreshingly positive.
Verdict: A flexible, budget-priced living room PC that should show Google how much Android outpaces Chrome in this space.