It’s been a few years since I’ve done a technology makeover in the Lazy Man household. My 3 year old is starting to use computers at day care and my 2 year old is never far behind him. My wife and I have laptops. I have a spare $100 laptop if something should go wrong.
Recently I’ve missed not having a real desktop. I wonder if I’d be more productive if I had a big monitor and a real keyboard and mouse. At the same time, I’ve realized that it often easier to do some tasks on my Android phone than my Windows machine. The dedicated apps that I have seem to be more efficient in some ways. For example, I can reply back to a DogVacay notification almost instantly, much faster than signing into the website and navigating to the message center.
… or maybe I just saw a cool product and I am trying to justify the purchase. I’m not sure.
A group of ex-Google employees have hacked Android into a desktop operating system. Their company, Jide, is very new and the operating system, Remix OS, is rough around the edges, but the reviews on the first version of the OS were very positive. When I saw that they were launching a $40 computer on Kickstarter, I jumped in.
That computer was the Remix Mini and I’ve been using it on and off for a couple of weeks now.
As you can see, my photography skills are terrible. The Remix Mini computer is sitting on the monitor base behind my speaker. It is about the size of an elongated hockey puck… small enough to hide just about anywhere.
The Remix Mini is essentially the guts of a smartphone without the screen. It has built in Wi-Fi (alas only 802.11n) and Bluetooth. It has HDMI out (essentially for hooking up to many monitors and televisions), audio out, an Ethernet jack (not sure why as many laptops don’t have them), two USB ports (alas 2.0), and a microSD slot.
I paired it with the 24″ LG 1080P monitor you see in the picture. I didn’t have strong feelings about the monitor other than it was IPS technology (good!), 24 inches, from a brand I trust (LG), and around $100. I saw a lot of Black Friday deals online that were as good or better for the money. If my timing had been different, I would have been tempted to pair it with a 30″-ish television that were everywhere on Black Friday.
You’ll see that I also use a corded mouse that I had lying around. I’m hoping that Santa brings me this bluetooth optical cordless mouse for Christmas. The Bluetooth keyboard is from my old HP Touchpad… it works well with Android. Behind the monitor I have some cheap speakers that I picked up at some yard sale. In front on the monitor I have an OontZ Angle Bluetooth Portable Speaker. I don’t need two speaker systems, but I’m waiting for Santa to bring me a power strip so that I can plug the speakers in the back in. In the meantime, the Oontz works well. Plus it’s kind of fun to see how many wireless Bluetooth gadgets I can hook the Remix Mini up to.
Overall this desktop computer cost me $155. That’s $100 for the monitor and $55 for the Remix Mini. (It was $40 in the Kickstarter campaign and shipping was a disproportionate $15).
The monitor serves a dual purpose. I asked Santa for an HDMI switch which would allow me to hook up my laptop to the monitor without switching cords in back. So even aside from the Remix Mini set-up, I have an area where I can use my Windows machine with a nice big monitor with multiple windows.
Finally, you may notice that I round out my desktop with a LED Desk Lamp similar to the one I mentioned in my 2015 Holiday Gift Guide. (My current version is discontinued.)
While on the topic of mobile desktops, I’m almost tempted to pick up this Kangaroo Mobile Desktop which for $99 appears to be a Windows 10 version of Remix Mini.
I’ve done a lot of rambling here and I’ve probably gone off course a bit. The point of this article was to show that for a very small investment, you can have a very capable computer. It can do email, Netflix, Excel spreadsheets, YouTube, web browsing, Amazon Instant Video, and run over a million Android apps.
To get all this value in such a small investment is nothing short of amazing. I want to encourage people to take advantage of it.