Would You Buy a $50 PC?
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.)
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Jan 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Would You Buy a $50 PC? (Posted: 16 Jan 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved