Would You Buy a $50 PC?

Category: Hardware

OK, now it’s getting ridiculous. I mean the miniaturization of PCs and their prices. A fully functional computer, capable of performing most home computing chores now costs $50, and fits in a chassis the size of a USB thumb drive? Yes, it's for real. Read on to learn more about Android-based mini-PCs...

Introducing the $50 Personal Computer

I’m talking about the Android Mini-PC MK802, an all-purpose general computer that runs the Android operating system or open-source Ubuntu Linux. The Mini-PC by Rikomagic looks like a USB flash drive, and plugs into your TV.

The hardware specs of the latest version (MK802 IV) include a quad-core ARM processor that hits 1.8-2.0 GHz; up to 4 GB of RAM; a Mali-400 GPU; 802.11 b/g/n WiFi built in; and a VPU capable of displaying 1080p video.

You don't really need to understand any of those tech specs -- here's the important thing to know: Just add a display and an input device to this little gadget, and you have a powerful, flexible, secure, and very inexpensive computer that requires almost no maintenance. (Those with kids or tech-challenged parents will see right away how awesome this could be.)

Android Mini PC

Any HD TV (or computer monitor) with an HDMI port will do. A wireless keyboard or mouse are the most common input devices, but some specialized Mini-PCs use wireless game controllers.

Software is not a problem. There are thousands of apps available for Android systems. In general, if an app runs on your Android smartphone, tablet, or Kindle, it will run on the Mini-PC. Some pundits say that Android is the new Windows, in part because so many software developers are writing apps for Android.

Is It a Real Computer?

Without a doubt, the MK802 Mini-PC is a real computer. Similar Android-based mini-PC offerings such as the Zealz GK802 and the Measy U2C cost a bit more, but offer additional horsepower and connectivity options. Here are a few of the things you can do with an Android Mini-PC:

As Your Everyday Computer: The two most common computing tasks, web browsing and email, are no brainers. Versions of the Chrome browser and Gmail are specially tailored for Android. Office productivity software such as Google's QuickOffice is available, and will store your files in Google Drive. The Facebook app will keep you connected to friends. Fire up Spotify and you've got your tunes.

Because your email and documents live in the cloud, you have no hard drive that needs to be defragged or backed up. Updates to apps happen automatically. And malware is rare in the Android world, especially if you stick with Google Play and avoid those sketchy third-party app stores.


For Video Chat and Calling: Install Skype or similar on your Mini-PC, and add a $20 webcam such as the Microsoft LifeCam VX-700, and you've got the ability to have audio and video conversations on the big screen. Calls to other Skype users are always free, and you can dial landline or mobile phones for just pennies. The Measy U2C mini-PC has a webcam included, and mounts easily to your TV. Now you can throw away your phone, too!


For Gaming: Angry Birds? Sure, but there are plenty of fun and fast-paced games available for Android; you'll find everything from car racing, to shoot-em-ups, to word games. If you've play them on a smartphone or tablet, you'll love them on the big screen with an Android Mini-PC. Sure, there are Android gaming consoles such as Ouya ($99). But a Mini-PC is only $50, and it can be used for so much more than gaming.


Your Media Center: The Zealz GK802 Android Mini-PC ($95) is a quad-core powerhouse that can display HD video in true 1980 x 1080 pixel resolution. Plug it into the HDMI port of your HD TV and you have the best Netflix, Hulu and Youtube that money can buy. You can also attach a USB hard drive containing your locally stored music, photos or videos and use the free XBMC media server software to bring it up on the big screen.


Learning Linux: Have you always wanted to use or learn about Linux? A Mini-PC that runs Ubuntu Linux is a great way to get acquainted with Linux and what it can do. It's also a very secure personal computing platform. Because it fits in your pocket, a Mini-PC running Ubuntu Linux never needs to leave your possession. Most security breaches are “inside jobs” in which someone close to the user – employer, coworker, family member, etc. – gains physical access to the machine. That is unlikely to happen if the machine is in your pocket.


Bottom line: For only $50 you have a fully functional PC that's perfect for kids or seniors whose needs are primarily web-based. It won't run Windows software, and it's not for power users or gamers. But as mentioned earlier, you've got your web, email, office tasks, games, social media, entertainment and music all covered. It's getting harder to find a computing task that can't be done with a mobile app or web browser.

Don't forget these things can also run Ubuntu, perfect if you want to experience Linux or learn some new skills. And hey, it's very portable. Take it on the road, plug it in anywhere you can find an HD TV and some wifi. Search for the MK802 or Android Mini-PC on Google, Amazon or eBay, and you'll find a variety of sellers, prices and optional add-ons, such as wireless keyboards and mice.

Would an Android Mini-PC be a good choice for you, or someone you know? Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 16 Jan 2014


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Most recent comments on "Would You Buy a $50 PC?"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Dan
17 Jan 2014

It has Input, Output, a CPU, and memory. By George, it's a computer!!!


Posted by:

Frank Cizek
17 Jan 2014

Nigel, seen this? 1TB battery operated Lacie HD:
http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10618


Posted by:

Donna
17 Jan 2014

I just got a Samsung Smart TV and can get Netflix, Amazon Instant Videos, Gmail and all those other things with it...is there any reason this would be worth adding to that TV? Ease of use? I'm 70, fairly computer savvy, and love all new technology.


Posted by:

Eric
17 Jan 2014

I presume it has permanent memory... if so, how much?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most models have some internal storage for files, some add an SD card for that.


Posted by:

leviiii
17 Jan 2014

Bob this is Soldout:http://www.rakuten.com/prod/mini-mk802-android-4-0-google-tv-box-hd-iptv-player-pc-allwinner-a10/237117758.html?listingId=290276270... Any other suggestions for I like to know... Thanks...


Posted by:

Wolf
17 Jan 2014

I can't keep up with the various CPU designations for Android devices, but when I search for MK802 I get a lot of devices with Allwinner A10 1GHz Cortex-A8 as the processor. That's what the device on Rakuten linked at the end of the comment fromt WayneH shows. From what I can tell, that's a slow, single core cpu. If I have this figured out right, you have to search for MK802 IV to see the newer quad-core versions, and those seem to run $80 or more.

Like I said, I'm no expert with these CPUs, so be kind if I got this wrong :)


Posted by:

Sue
17 Jan 2014

Intriguing. I'd buy one in a minute. External hard drives can be picked up cheap on sale, as can a wireless kb/mouse combo. You can print via air/wifi. I'm going shopping! Too bad it can't run our ERP client or I'd try a couple at work.


Posted by:

swabyw
17 Jan 2014

This sound very interesting. The idea sound like a little tablet that use the TV screen as its screen. And everything is done on the TV screen like a touch pad. But how does the touch part comes in if the TV does not have a touch sensor screen?

I was wondering when Android was going to send out a computer? I try to load the Android OS on a PC but no luck. I think Google/Android need to build a real OS for PC and not just what it try to emulate. They need a OS that can be put on a new computer without an OS.


Posted by:

Doug Sawyer
17 Jan 2014

this is very interesting cause sometimes I just want to check email and read my paper online....wondering if some simple online game sites would work but maybe not cause they probably need flash or something


Posted by:

brh
17 Jan 2014

A laser projection virtual keyboard/ mouse might be a good match for the mini-PC, particularly when using a TV without a touch screen.
The Brookstone and Celluon virtual keyboards are only slightly larger than the mini-PCs, and are bluetooth-enabled for Apple and Android.


Posted by:

Chris
17 Jan 2014

DMyles - those cheap androids are cheap for a reason. You get what you pay for. If you compare a $50 or $80 Android tablet to a $600 iPad, it doesn't stack up very well. If you compare a $400 Android tablet to a $600 iPad, the android looks really good. Also, you are not complaining about the OS, you are complaining about the interface, which is not the same on low end tablets as the high end (or even mid range) stuff. Most phones and tablets have a proprietary interfaces. Android, like Linux, is easy to replace the entire interface, if you don't like what came with your device.


Posted by:

Jim
17 Jan 2014

Bob, I bought one of these a few months ago from Geekbuying.com, hooked up a wireless keyboard and mouse and it works great. To expand, all you need is a usb expansion to plug in since it has only one usb port. Best to use a powered usb. (supplied with mine) Netflix, You Tube, xbmc work fine. Hulu isn't available for android yet. The kids love it. Another great way to avoid cable bills.


Posted by:

Louis Toscano
17 Jan 2014

The way I loose things and sometimes cannot find them, I would not want that to happen with a computer.


Posted by:

Kenduro
18 Jan 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can use a wireless keyboard and mouse (most convenient option), but some have USB ports where you can plug in the mouse and/or keyboard.

Yes, but even a "wireless" mouse or keyboard has a USB reciever that needs to plug into the PC. Does it have this, or will the usb port on the tv work with it this way?


Posted by:

ST
19 Jan 2014

My HDTV does not have USB, but my Blu-Ray player does. Does it work if I connect it to my Blu-Ray player ?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Your TV needs an HDMI port to connect the Mini-PC, not USB.


Posted by:

ST
20 Jan 2014

Bob, I am very excited about this min-PC, which give me an excellent alternative to XP by the time I'm forced not to be able to use XP anymore. It appears to be a cost-effect way to learn to migrate to Android/Linux.

I have recently bought a low-cost 9" table, which unfortunately does not come with Google Play to access apps online. (I was told that it costs so much less because the tablet manufacture does not wish to pay license fee to Google Play). I have come to my wit's ends to install Google Play from 3rd parties without success. Does this mini-PC have the same limitations? Are there better ways to get applications online for this min-PC other than Google Play?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The MK802 that I mentioned does support Google Play. Pretty sure the others do too.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
22 Jan 2014

Intriguing ... very intriguing!!! Especially, the Media Center that can provide Netflix, Hulu and Youtube, on your big HDTV.

One issue, that I don't see addressed ... Parent Controls. However, I do know that there are Parent Controls in the Apps section, on Google Play. Still, since this article mentions Kids, I just wished you had mentioned what and where to look for Parent Control protection, should you have Kids in the home.

However, for Hubby and me, well for me, anyways ... Sounds really interesting and I will be looking into it. Thanks Bob!!!


Posted by:

Hap
24 Jan 2014

I have had 2 of them for a couple yrs now on 2 of my HDTVs.They work excellent.The early one didnt recognize bluetooth so i got a later one with bluetooth.1 in livingroom 1 in bedroom,awsome.Im typing this msg from it right now on a Rii mini wireless KB.When i bought them 1 was 38$ the other 42$. from Amaozon.


Posted by:

Frank K.
25 Jan 2014

I finally got mine and hooked it up today (very simple) and entered my router access password and have been checking out the features. Very nice so far and good YouTube video on my 1080p TV.
With a $20 keyboard and mouse it is fine for the basics.
It's no hot rod but certainly does the jobs.


Posted by:

Guy P.
27 Jan 2014

Hey, good article, I would think about getting one of those since my eyes are getting worse and having the articles and stuff on a larger screen would be easier to see. Older is not generally better all the time.


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