The world of technology is changing fast, rendering big devices like desktop computers gradually obsolete. With Android conquering single-board hardware markets in every sector (phones, TVs, fridges, cameras, and car media players), it was only a matter of time for powerful mini-pcs to be made available at low prices around the globe.
Yes, nowadays, even Android can power small mini PCs; also called Android sticks. Android sticks are mostly used for light gaming, or video streaming, although the current models can do (almost) anything you need as long you can put up with Android’s quirks. The only major thing they lack is the large storage capacity and hardcore computing power afforded by your workhorse desktop PC.
To get an Android stick up and running is simple. Basically, all they need is to be hooked up to your HDTV monitor with a suitable power adapter, and you are good to go!
In this post, we will discover the 5 best choices for 2015.
1.) Banana Pro
Starting from the least powerful choice, Banana Pro is an upgrade to Banana Pi which was meant to be a more powerful alternative to the popular Raspberry Pi single-board computer unit. Its AllWinner A20 1GHz dual core CPU with 1GB of RAM can run Android, Linux or BSD operating systems to deliver 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps through HDMI. The IR receiver makes controllability easy through any infrared remote control. The current price of $55 makes this single-board unit ideal for building compact home clusters!
One step further lies SolidRun’s Cu-Box Pro. This little Android 4.4 TV box is able to connect to anything you need (USB keyboard/mouse, HDMI TV sets, SATA II drives, SD cards, Ethernet, WiFi and InfraRed controllers).
Utilizing a powerful Quad-core CPU with integrated GC2000 GPU and a whooping 2GB of RAM, this little box can even playback 3D video and support OpenGL 2.0 with shading. At the price of around $140, there are very few who can compete with its style and performance. This is truly an electronic powerhouse that fits in the palm of your hand.
3.) Odroid XU3
Odroid is a board that has been under constant development for quite some time now. Its most powerful version that is currently available is XU3 that boasts a Samsung Exynos quad-core 2GHz processor with Mali-T628 graphics (OpenGL 3.0). The RAM at 2GB is set at 933MHz which is quite fast for this kind of hardware, while the connectivity needs are more than just covered (1xUSB 3.0 + 4xUSB 2.0 ports). As the included cooler ensures that the temperatures range within safe limits, this little board is suitable for even light 3D gaming purposes!
4.) Cubieboard 4
With the valuable experience of producing three successful models, CubieTech has finally announced the new Cubieboard. Developers have been working feverishly for eight full months to tame and implement the 2GHz Octa-core A80 beast on their single-board unit. The GPU was also upgraded to the PowerVR 64-core G6230 that can output 1080p to both HDMI and VGA monitors. The 2.4G/5.8G WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and IR receiver complete the picture for this amazing piece of hardware.
5.) Tronsmart Draco
Where CubieTech are just stepping into, Tronsmart has already delivered. At the current price of just $150, you can get an aluminum case that contains a 2GHz octa-core A80 with PowerVR G6230 GPU that can seamlessly playback 4K video at 30fps (or 1080p at 120fps)!
The menu contains an external WiFi antenna for better reception, a Bluetooth 4.0 adapter, 2GB DDR3 RAM and 16GB of on-board memory. IR or Bluetooth air mouse devices can be used to control it, and the implemented ports are USB 3.0 and 2.0, HDMI, AV, SATA and SD.
It is clear that Android mini PCs are here to stay and evolve. What is fascinating about them is that unlike traditional PCs, many are developed by small time developers and open sourced. These Android mini PCs are the missing link between today’s powerful mobile devices and laptops/desktops.