Over the last 6 months there been a large number of branded Android PC sticks coming out of China. They are powered by Google’s Android Jelly Bean 4.1, so once it is connected to your TV you can run any Android app on the 46” LED LCD HDTV you have hanging on your wall. Can you imagine the possibilities this holds? Playing Modern Combat 4 Zero Hour with your wireless XBOX 360 controller, wirelessly streaming your movie collection from your PC or surfing the internet from your couch.
These devices are coming from several manufacturers, each having various brand names, designs, connections and peripherals. Despite the rather large selection to choose from, it is better to go with a select few brands such as “iMito” or “UHost2”. That being said, whatever brand you pick the core components will be the same.
These features include:
- 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3066 ARM Cortex-A9 dual core processor
- ARM Mali 400 graphics
- 1GB DDR3 RAM
- 4GB/8GB storage
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- microSD card slot (32GB max)
- Full-sized USB port (OTG/Host mode)
- Micro USB port
- Bluetooth 3.0
- 802.11 a/b/g/n
- HDMI port
So with the specs I have listed above, you have a device the size of 3G dongle runs off a 5V 2A power supply, able to run a full OS and connects directly to your TV. The fact that these devices runs a full pledge OS means its potential is about 2 steps away from being unlimited.
One of the biggest selling points of these Android TV sticks- is the GPU. The ARM Mali-400 MP is a quad-core GPU that provides 2D and 3D acceleration that is scalable to 1080p, with OpenGL® ES 2.0 support. That means it will play your 1080p videos with ease as well your graphic intensive 3D games. Also it should be mentioned that the CPU is no slouch either. The Rockchip RK3066 processor in combination with the DDR3 memory is able to provide benchmark scores similar to that of a Samsung Galaxy SII.
Continuing with the hardware abilities, the USB ports provides compatibility with most PC peripherals such as keyboards, mice, webcams, hard drives and gamepads. Then there is Wi-Fi, with speeds up to 300Mbps. Finally you have Bluetooth 3.0 and all of the features the specification allows for.
On the software side, the operating system is Android and last time I checked there were over 700,000 apps in the Google Play store. So what you can do with these devices depends on if there is an app for that. In the off chance that you are not familiar with Android applications let me list some you may have used elsewhere:
- BBC iPlayer
There are also games, lots of games, racing games- Asphalt HD 7, first-person shooters N.O.V.A, RPGs- Final Fantasy 3, and emulators- Mupen64. The games I mentioned are not any simple 2D side-scrolling you would imagine; they are full 3D graphic intensive games. Android gaming is going to make a big leap in 2013 with the release of dedicated gaming consoles.
So there you go! I have provided you with enough information for you to go out there and find the right Android PC stick for you. You may choose to ignore these devices for now but i can guarantee that in 2013 you will be hearing a lot about them. That fact that they can run XBMC mean that they will place in your media center.
It should be noted that there is community of developers working on porting Linux to these devices.
Warning. These devices are coming out China so that means there are a lot of these “white box” devices out there and they are crap. Before you buy one of the Android TV sticks do your research. Check out forums and see which one others are buying and what they have say about them. A lot of the faults you may come across may be fixed with software tweaks or flashing a modified ROM. If you are not comfortable with a little tweaking/hacking this may not be for you (check out a Roku box instead).
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