I was lucky enough to be gifted with an Android PC on a USB stick this Christmas: the Rikomagic MK802 III model, latest in a series from one of the originators of this category, although there are plenty of other makers and models now. And though it’s obviously not something you can carry around to read e-books off, like a tablet or phone, it has surprising potential as an e-reading device, most of all for the educational market.
As the Rikomagic website explains, once this super-tiny, pocket-sized PC is up and running, “it’s a bit like turning your TV into a giant Android tablet!”
And with the tablet market engaged in a race to the bottom on price, it’s worth underlining how dirt cheap these PCs-on-a-stick are. The UK retail price for the Rikomagic MK802 III is £59.99 (US$97.00) for the 4GB model, or £64.99 (US$105.00) for the 8GB. For that, you get a 1.6 Ghz dual core chip, a microSD slot for storage expansion, a full-size HDMI jack to plug straight into a TV or monitor, a full-size USB host socket, and a microUSB socket for power. And Android 4.1, better than most Android phones, with Google Play access. Other manufacturers of similar devices offer even more compelling feature sets, or even keener prices.
> No, you can’t read books straight off it. And you do need at least a screen before you can do anything with it.
> Since it doesn’t have a battery, you also need a USB or mains socket to power it, and it turns off as soon as the plug is pulled (so remember to save).
> The cheapest model doesn’t have Bluetooth, though there is a handy Rikomagic app on the Google Play store that puts a virtual Wi-Fi mouse and keyboard on your phone or tablet.
> And the device definitely needs some tinkering to get the best out of it, making it better for hobbyists than average consumers. It’s not for Android newbies, and 4.1 on here doesn’t feel like the butter-smooth experience it is elsewhere.
> Also, the top-end Tegra Android games won’t run on it, alas, given its obvious potential as a gaming platform.
But the mere fact that we’re contemplating high-end games for such a machine shows its capabilities. It comes close to being the dream device that you can stuff in your back pocket, and work or play on anywhere with. And for teachers, if you want to give a presentation to a class or read through a book together, you can just plug it into the classroom monitor or projector, then open up the Kindle app (or any common e-reader software), and off you go.
I can imagine a teaching scenario where pupils can then either sync their own tablets, or use similar stick devices at home. The display quality with a good monitor and this machine is almost good enough to make me consider reading books on a TV.
Productivity is a cinch: The device is a rock-solid keyboard host with a USB hub, and can run any number of productivity apps, including Google Docs.
The Rikomagic MK802 III basically makes the ideal budget device for classroom guided reading. That’s quite a contribution for hard-pressed school budgets. So if you feel it could suit your or your school’s needs, why not give it or its ilk a go? You’d be risking almost nothing, and potentially gaining something really useful and really fun.
> OS Android 4.1
> RAM 1GB DDR3
> Memory 4/8 GB Flash
> Expansion Micro SD T-Flash(Maximum support 32GB)
> Video Format WMV/ASF/MP4/3GP/3G2M4V/AVI/MJPEG/RV10/DivX/VC-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4/H.263/H.264/1280*720P HD 30 fps, 1080P/720*480 D1 30fps
> Audio Format MP3/WMA/APE/FLAC/AAC/OGG/AC3/WAV
> Picture format Max.8000×8000 JPEG BMP GIF PNG
> Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
> Flash Supports flash 11.1
> Ports HDMI(male),Micro SD slot, USB host (full sizeUSB), USB power port(micro USB); LED(Blue)
> Unit Size (mm) 90mm*40mm*13mm