According to StatCounter, Android OS officially overtook Windows as the world’s most popular operating system in April, 2017. While Android’s dominance in the smartphone and tablet industries grows, its market share in the desktop PC world is still less than 1%. Jide Technology, a company which was founded by three ex-Google engineers in 2014, has been working on “unlocking the potential of Android and accelerating a new age of computing”, at least that’s what their slogan says. The key to that vision is the Remix OS, an Android-based operating system designed to work like a desktop OS.
Although Jide and its Remix OS have gained quite a number of fans with products such as the Ultra Tablet and Remix Mini, many are still confused about what kind of convenience the Remix OS can really bring to their daily life. While being the most versatile Android-based tablet, the Ultra Tablet is heavier and pricier than many more competent Core-M powered Windows convertibles. The Remix Mini is compact, affordable, but powered by a low-end SoC., the performance is somewhat disappointing.
The newly released Remix X1 is designed to replace the Remix Mini, a device that did not achieve the kind of market success Jide had strived for. Will the Remix X1 bring some game-changing features that will finally make it a hit? Or is it just a regular upgrade of its predecessor? I will try to answer these questions in this review.
Inside the box you will find a Mini PC, a charger with three different plugs, a remote, and a pair of dry cells.
Design and Build
Compared to the Remix Mini, the X1 looks much more like a Mini PC. It is larger, heavier, offers more ports. For some, the X1 may be less aesthetically pleasing than the Mini because it has sharper edges and more abrupt lines.
There are a slew of ports and slots on the device. The left side plays host to two full USB 2.0 ports, while the right side hosts a VGA port.
On the back side you will find a charging port, an HDMI port, a MicroSD card slot, two full USB 2.0 ports as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. 4 USB outputs are definitely a nice improvement over the Mini’s 2, but unfortunately they are still USB 2.0 standard, and cannot deliver the USB 3.0 speed many of us are used to nowadays.
On the top side of the device you will find a Jide Logo and, finally, a physical power button. I have been a user of the Mini for more than a year now, and I was constantly driven mad by the invisible capacitive power button on it. It gives no feedback, the only way to know whether your touch gets registered is by looking at the screen.
Although the plastic shell does give the device a plasticky feel, the build quality is still good. It doesn’t have any ugly mold lines on its surface, and feels like it could survive some pressure and even occasional drops. Unlike the fanless design of the Remix Mini and other Android-based TV boxes, the X1 actually has a fan inside to control the temperature of the internals.
Setting it up
Like all PCs, the Remix X1 needs to be paired with a screen and input devices. You can connect the X1 with a monitor or an HDTV with a VGA or an HDMI cable, with a mouse and a keyboard in place and you are good to go.
The X1 will automatically boot itself when you plug the wall charger into a socket. Quite odd given that it already has a physical power button now. Jide claims that the auto-boot is a result of the settings of the Rockchip SoC. and is a shared by many other TV boxes running on Rockchip processors. Unlike the Mini, the X1 can support 4K resolution (3840*2160), and will offer better visuals on UHD displays.
Remix OS 3.0
At the heart of this X1 is Jide’s all new Remix OS. Just like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Remix OS is an Android-based operating system designed to work like a desktop OS. The version X1 ships with is the Remix 3.0, which is based on Android M (Android 6.0). Compared to the Android 5.1-based Remix 2.0, this is definitely an upgrade. However, it still lags behind the smartphone industry, as most phones are now running Android 7.0 Nougat.
For those who have never used or even heard of the Remix OS, it is definitely not your average Android experience. In fact, it looks so different that you cannot even relate it to Android until you run Android applications on it. The Remix OS 3.0 comes with 2 modes: PC mode and TV mode. In TV mode, you will get a TV BOX UI which works perfectly with the stock remote. In PC mode, you will get a UI that is designed to be worked with a mouse and a keyboard.
All apps installed from the TV Appstore will automatically show up on the TV mode UI. You can handily use the remote to open and control these applications. You can watch the latest videos on YouTube, or your favorite TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.
In PC mode, you will get a taskbar similar to the one on Windows 10. On the left side of the taskbar you will also get an icon to open the application drawer. All apps (except those exclusive to the TV mode) will show up in the app drawer and you can rank them by name, time of installation and usage. You can also click the search icon to search for the applications you have in mind.
Besides the icon of the application drawer are the three classic Android keys: Back, Home and Multi-tasking, you can use them to control the running applications. Clicking on “Back” and the OS will return to the last screen, clicking on “Home” and all running applications will be minimized (while the icons stay in the taskbar), clicking on multi-tasking and you will get the shortcuts for all running applications and the two modes which Remix OS 3.0 offers.
On the right side of the taskbar you will get many settings, including Memory-cleanup, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Input, Time and Date and Notification Center. The Memory-Cleanup shortcut will help you to close all applications running in the background (only the one app running on top will stay once you click the “Memory Cleanup” button).
The Notification Center looks like the one on Windows 10, all notifications and alerts will show up here, and applications normally shown in the pull-down menu of your smartphone UI will also be found here. Besides, you also get 5 icons, including DND mode, positioning switch, autohide the taskbar, Screenshot and Settings.
What really makes Remix OS special is its ability to run multiple apps in windows. You can browse through Emails, chat on Skype and watch a movie simultaneously. You will feel like you are using Windows 10 instead of Android.
Thanks to the keyboard shortcuts and right-click menus the Remix OS offers, the X1 feels much more productive than your average smartphones and tablets. You can copy texts from the webpages and instantly paste them into the input boxes of your Email app or social networking apps. All apps running in windows can be resized according to the user’s personal preferences.
The X1 is preinstalled with Kodi, which works as the media center. Not only does it take care of local media contents (browsing pics, playing music and videos), you can also enable add-ons to stream music and videos online.
Remix OS 3.0 also allows users to clone apps, you just need to enable it in the experimental features inside the settings. If you have multiple accounts on one social network, this feature will be extremely useful.
When it comes to real productivity tasks such as editing documents and photos, the X1 is still no match for its Windows counterparts. You can do some simple editing with applications such as WPS Office as well as Android versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but it is by no means as efficient as working on a real PC. There are far fewer things that you can do as the Android versions of Office Suites only offer some of the basic functions, and performing the same task may take much more time on the X1 than on your average Windows PCs. I tried to edit my presentation with WPS Office on the X1 once, the awkwardness and low efficiency made me dying to switch to my desktop PC.
During my 1-month of reviewing the X1, I found that I was doing media-consuming most of the time, thanks to the countless music and video streaming apps Android offers. But I did occasionally post stuff on my social media accounts. Whenever I finished watching a movie, I instantly gave my rating on IMDB. Then I took a screenshot of the IMDB page and shared it on Facebook, Wechat and Twitter. The multi-windows function of the Remix OS makes it possible for me to update all social media accounts at the exact same time.
Although Remix OS 3.0 is based on a new version of Android (Android 6.0), I didn’t really see any significant improvement from Remix 2.0. Yes, I have noticed that there is now a full-screen icon on the application running in windows mode, and that the notification center has a white background. I have also noticed some more experimental features in the settings. But none of these changes is cool enough to make my life much easier. Jide has two years to bring some game-changing features to the Remix OS, unfortunately that just didn’t happen.
The Remix X1 is powered by a Rockchip RK3368 processor, which has octa-core Cortex A53 CPU clocked at 1.2Ghz and a PowerVR G6112 GPU. Released in 2015, this SoC. is by no means one of the most powerful ARM-based processors. There is also 2GB DDR3 RAM on board to take care of multi-tasking.
Compared to the Remix Mini, the X1 is significantly faster, but it still lags behind your average Android smartphones and tablets.
Like usual, we ran some benchmarks on the X1. The Antutu benchmark returned a score of 33,992, which ranks below most entry-level smartphones.
In the Geekbench test, the X1 scored 1241, which is also nowhere near the average of mainstream smartphones and tablets.
We always say that benchmarks are one thing, real-world performance is another. Fortunately for the X1, the benchmark scores did not entirely translate into real-life usage. The X1 remained sloppy and responsive most of the time, although I did notice that installing an app took significantly longer than on my flagship smartphones. It also took more time for bigger applications and games to load on the X1. When there were too many applications running on the desktop, the system became less responsive. Personally, I think Jide should have put more RAM into the X1 to make it more capable of handling multi-tasking, since that is what Remix OS is all about.
The X1 offers many connectivity options. It supports 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band Wi-Fi, and the Wireless connection is very solid, as well. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 on board to take care of local data transfer and connecting audio and input devices. Bluetooth connection is so much more stable on the X1 than on the Remix Mini. While Mini was unable to connect with some of my Bluetooth speakers placed more about 5 meters away, the X1 had no such problems.
The X1 only has 16GB internal storage, but it offers a Micro SD card slot and as many as 4 full USB 2.0 Type-A ports, making it easier for users to connect to multiple external storages. I have my 64GB Transcend Micro SD card inserted and it works like a charm. Although the USB 2.0 ports could not offer the same level of speed the USB3.X ports are able to offer, it isn’t really that noticeable when you just play videos or music from the external storages.
A VGA port and an HDMI output make it possible for users to connect the X1 with a wide range of monitors, projectors and HDTVs. But unfortunately you can’t output the X1 graphics to a monitor and a TV at the same time.
Despite its issues and imperfections, the Remix X1 is still arguably the best Android Mini PC out there. Fairly speaking, it doesn’t really have many competitions.
Although it is cool to see an Android-based device working like a desktop PC, I am still having a hard time trying to figure out which type of customers the X1 is marketing towards. According to Jide, the Remix OS will be mainly targeting business users from now on. But unfortunately, the X1 is still no match for an average Windows desktop PC or laptop when it comes to business tasks, and the number of applications which really work ideally with a mouse and a keyboard is still relatively small. For the majority of users, Android is more used for media consumption and entertainment purposes, no matter how much you make it look and feel like Windows.
The X1 is a very competent and affordable HTPC which can handily replace all Android-based TV boxes. But if you want a device that can replace your PC for productivity tasks, you won’t be satisfied with the X1.
Jide has nearly two years to make an amazing product out of the X1, but somehow they ended up releasing only a regular upgrade of the Remix Mini. There were indeed some improvements, both on the hardware and software fronts, but with only 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage, a dated processor and the still relatively small Remix ecosystem, the X1 just is less promising than we expected it to be.