remix-miniThere seems to be a new category of portable device out there—the miniature computer you connect to your TV through an HDMI input. More than just another Chromecast or Fire TV stick, these devices actually bring the full power of some kind of Internet-capable (and e-reader capable!) operating system to your TV. Paul looked at a couple of these devices on the horizon, including the ChromeOS Asus Chromebit, last month.

But another such device is available right now and might be of more interest to people who already read with Android devices—the $70 Jide Remix Mini. I actually briefly mentioned the Mini (albeit not by name) during its Kickstarter earlier this year. Now available from Amazon for $70, the Remix Mini runs a modified version of Android called “Remix OS”  that supports better multi-tasking and multi-window capabilities than stock Android, while also including full access to the Google Play app store and services. It’s effectively a little lozenge-shaped computer just a little bigger than your hand.

Liliputing puts the device through its paces in a fairly thorough review and finds it worthy, for the most part. The improvements over traditional Android are useful for throwing Android up on a monitor-sized screen, and the Remix Mini manages to bring much of the versatility of a tablet to a set-top box. It supports a full range of peripherals—keyboard and mouse for computing tasks, gamepad for gaming, remote control for media operations.

However, it does run into the issue that you’re still running Android applications overall. Some of them are designed specifically for touch operation and don’t play so well with a keyboard and mouse. For example, marking text for copying and pasting is a little awkward. You have to long-press on the text, then drag the handles at the ends of the selected region—something I’ve also observed when using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with my tablet. And since the Android versions of desktop apps are often simplified mobile versions, they don’t always have all the features available to the full-fledged Windows or OS X desktop application.

So, why would you want to use something like this rather than just get a cheaper Chromecast and mirror your tablet display to it? For one thing, screen mirroring does bring with it some lag issues, and you can’t really play video that way if the application doesn’t have Chromecast support built in.

For example, the latest episode of the animated series RWBY is only available via Rooster Teeth’s web site or video player app, but the video player doesn’t currently support Chromecasting. I wanted to show the episode to my sister-in-law when I was visiting relatives in St. Louis a couple weeks ago, but mirroring the web browser to their TV just wasn’t satisfactory. But I imagine that hooking a Remix Mini up directly to their TV wouldn’t have that kind of issue.

And for another thing, Remix OS does support window resizing and moving—at least for applications which will permit it. It’s not quite as mature as desktop window management—for example, you can’t have multiple windows of the same application open at once, so to have multiple browser windows open you’d need to run more than one browser. But it’s better than what most tablets can do, especially since Google apparently decided its own version of multiple windows—an experimental feature in Marshmallow’s development, removed before release—wasn’t yet ready for prime time.

Liliputing points out that, apart from playing videos via various media apps and players, it would be great for playing video games, too, as long as the games support a controller interface. The many game system emulators currently available for Android would make a great choice in that regard.

One area where the Remix Mini would have it all over the ChromeOS PC sticks Paul mentioned is that Android has many, many e-reader apps available—both official ones like Kindle and Nook, and third-party apps like UB Reader, FBReader, Aldiko, and so on. If you need to read your e-books in really large print, hooking up an Android device to a big-screen TV might be the best way to go. Of course, you can do that via tablet screen mirroring to a Chromecast easily enough, since e-books don’t suffer from lag or frame-dropping issues—but if the other potential uses for a Remix Mini also appeal to you, it’s at least another point in its favor.

In any event, it’s interesting to see how mobile devices and operating systems keep evolving into new forms. Smartphone OSes jump to tablets and then to set-top boxes, while desktop operating systems try to move in the opposite direction. A box that lets the millions of existing Android apps play on your TV sounds like an interesting idea, and if it catches on the existing apps could be modified to make them more useful that way. It just remains to be seen how well that will work.

(Found via Slashdot.)


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