Remix Mini Review: A $69 Android Desktop Micro PC

Several manufacturers have introduced Android-based computers over the past few years, including attempts by HP such as the Slatebook and Slate All-in-One. Unfortunately, these devices did not account for the fact that Android was built for smartphones and tablets to be controlled via touchscreen input, not traditional desktop interfaces like a mouse and keyboard. Furthermore, core Android applications aren’t always designed for desktop screen resolution and orientation, and Android itself isn’t friendly to multi-tasking.

The result has been that these devices have felt half-baked, and haven’t been successful in the marketplace.

Enter Jide, a Chinese company comprised of former Google engineers. Jide successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Remix Tablet, which featured a heavily custom version of Android – Remix OS – that turned the tablet experience into something akin to a Microsoft Surface Pro. Following that, they then launched a Kickstarter for the Remix Mini, a small form factor Android desktop PC based again on their Remix OS, now a customer skin for Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.

With Kickstarter shipping completed and a few OS updates released based on backer feedback, the Remi Mini is now available from retail for $69.99, offering the promise of a desktop-like experience melded with the rich application library of Android.

Does the Remix Mini deliver on that promise?

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Budget Windows 10 Laptop Battle: HP Stream 11 vs Acer Cloudbook 11 vs Lenovo 100S

Last year, Windows 8 laptops dropped below the $200 price point for the first time, as part of Microsoft’s push back against Google’s Chromebooks. Two models in particular – the HP Stream 11 and Asus X205TA – made a strong case for the viability of cheaper Windows laptops. I did a comparison between these models and the Acer C720 Chromebook, here.

With the release of Windows 10 this year, there are new Windows 10 laptops available below $200 that have replaced those older models, which are now mostly off the market. These feature different hardware in addition to Microsoft’s updated – and much better, frankly – Windows 10 operating system.

In this article I’ll summarize my reviews of the following laptops:

For each device, I’ll explain its pros and cons, and then give some thoughts as to who should consider each device, and why. At the bottom of this post you can also find my video reviews for these laptops.

Note that as of this writing, all three of these laptops include one year of MS Office 365 and 1 TB of OneDrive storage.

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Lenovo IdeaPad 100S – Full Review including Minecraft Performance

2014’s crop of sub-$200 Windows 8.1 laptops all had their weaknesses, but in general they all offered a high enough combination of performance and solid construction to feel like a great value. Unfortunately, 2015’s Windows 10 laptops have thus far not been as good of a bargain for consumers.

The IdeaPad 100S is Lenovo’s new budget Windows 10 laptop, with an MSRP of $199, which includes one year of Office 365 and 1 TB of OneDrive storage. Is this late 2015 laptop the low-end Windows 10 device that finally recaptures some positive momentum for the budget Windows product line?

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The Best Chromebooks You Can Buy: Fall & Holiday 2015

Chromebooks have come into their own during 2015, growing in popularity and seeing incredible diversification. Where 2014 saw a Chrome OS lineup that featured mostly similar budget devices with low-resolution screens, in 2015 the Chromebook line-up varies from $149 ARM-powered budget devices, to $899 and up Intel Broadwell-powered touchscreen workhorses.

This guide is designed to help you navigate this lineup and find the Chromebook that is right for you, or whoever it is that you may be shopping for. Similar to the Spring/Summer version, I’ve listed the Chromebooks in ascending order by screen size, and then at the end summarize the best Chromebook for a variety of specific categories.

As information, “Crouton” is mentioned multiple times in this article, and is a reference to a set of scripts you can download which allows your Chromebook to simultaneously run Chrome OS and Ubuntu Linux. This allows you to run programs on your Chromebook which you otherwise could not, such as Minecraft, Steam, and more. For more info, see here for background on using Linux on your Chromebook, and here for an install guide.

At the bottom of the article, you’ll find links to reviews of almost all of the Chromebooks referenced here, as well.

11.6″ Chromebooks

Best Budget Choice – Asus C201

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The Asus C201 is still, in my opinion, the best budget Chromebook you can buy. It has an MSRP of $169.99 but has been on sale from multiple retailers for $159.99 or less, and is currently $154.99 on Amazon.com; there is also a 4 GB version that has an MSRP of $189.99.

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Kangaroo Mobile Desktop: $99 Portable Windows 10 PC

 

Announced earlier this summer and now hitting online retailers, the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is a $99 mobile Windows 10 PC, with a surprisingly good combination of features and specs for its price point. A joint venture between InFocus and Foxconn, the Kangaroo is a unique portable PC that seems like a great value with the potential to be a versatile addition to your tech arsenal.

In this full review, I’ll talk about my experiences with this device over one full week of mixed use, inclusive of web browsing, local gaming, Steam Streaming, Minecraft, Hearthstone, and MS Office. Note that you can also click here to watch my full video review of this device on YouTube.

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The HP Stream 11 2015 Edition – Full Review including MS Office, Minecraft and Hearthstone

Last year’s HP Stream 11 was one of the more successful budget Windows 8.1 laptops of the year. It featured a unique design, with decent performance paired with a great keyboard, and a year subscription to MS Office 365.

There was certainly some room for improvement, however, as it also had a mediocre screen and fairly unresponsive trackpad, and somewhat cramped local storage.

With HP’s 2015 refresh of the Stream 11 now available, is this budget laptop still worth your money?

As with Acer’s Cloudbook, the answer is… it depends.

In this review, I’ll explain why, and also compare some of the Stream’s pros and cons as compared to the Cloudbook 11.

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Dell Chromebook 13 Review – A True Mid-Tier Chromebook

If Toshiba’s 2015 update to their Chromebook 2 represents the upper boundary of the budget Chromebook category, then the Dell Chromebook 13 ably represents the first true mid-level Chromebook.

Available with a wide range of processor, RAM, and screen combinations, the Dell Chromebook 13 is a well-made, professional class machine that does an unexpectedly good job justifying its own existence, carving out a unique place in the increasing catalog of available Chromebooks.

In this article, I’ll give you a breakdown on the Dell Chromebook 13’s specs, explain which version I recommend, and review its build quality and performance.

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Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 Review – MS Office, Steam, Minecraft, and Hearthstone

The Acer Cloudbook 11 is, in its way, fairly representative of budget Windows laptops as a category.

It asks potential buyers to make a number of compromises in performance and design, the two most difficult of which are a fairly slow web browsing experience and a smaller-than-normal size keyboard. It also has a low-resolution webcam, only 2 GB of RAM, and for some reason it isn’t able to run traditional Java-based Minecraft.

Balancing out these drawbacks are some really nice features, including high-speed 802.11ac wi-fi, a full year of MS Office 365, a surprisingly good trackpad, 8-hour battery life, and a decent screen.

With the release of the larger Acer Cloudbook 14, I want to revisit this budget Windows laptop and see if the bigger size addresses any of these concerns. I won’t be going into full detail on all aspects of the device here, as it is by and large the same as the Cloudbook 11 that I reviewed here. However, I will go through the changes and differences that, in my opinion, make the Cloudbook 14 much easier to recommend.

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Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 Edition – Full Review

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 was released in late September 2014, and immediately received positive reviews that centered on its defining attribute: a bright, beautiful, glossy 1080p IPS display with fantastic viewing angles. With an MSRP of $329.99, Toshiba offered a quality of display that was previously unheard of at that price point. It also packed in surprisingly good Skullcandy speakers. Combined with 4 GB of RAM, and the quick boot speeds of an SSD, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 became very popular in the consumer Chromebook market.

Despite some very positive attributes, there were some significant trade-offs with this Chromebook. While it packed 4 GB of RAM and an SSD, it was powered by a low-end Intel N2840 Celeron processor that gave it mediocre performance. There were also some complaints of build quality related to the display, which anecdotally seems to have had an unusually high failure rate; when compared to some other devices in the same price class, it was also clear that it had budget build quality in terms of the screen hinge, trackpad, and keyboard, which were not as well-constructed as similar devices produced by Asus and Acer.

But still, that display, that beautiful display……

For 2015, Toshiba has upgraded its Chromebook line with more powerful Intel Broadwell-generation processors, along with some other new features not typically found in the budget consumer laptop class, like a backlit keyboard.

Has Toshiba found the recipe for the ultimate affordable Chromebook?

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Vintage Dredge: The Once and Forever Boogeyman

“Hey! How are you? Oh, and I’m not saying ‘hi’ to you – not until round one is done and I know if you’re playing Dredge.”

Or how about this one:

“I’m glad you came out, been a while! Now I wish I’d have brought another Containment Priest with me!”

For the first full year that I played Vintage – 2009 – I played almost exclusively Oath of Druids decks, with a few dips into the Dredge pool. The following year, I resolved to play as many different strategies as I could, and so over a nine-week stretch to start the year of 2010, I played five Vintage tournaments with five different strategies: Elephant Oath, Noble Fish, Dredge, Workshop Aggro, and a deck Steve Nowakowski and I invented called Two Card Monte.

I made at least the top 8 with all of these decks. And yet, every time I play Vintage, I have to endure the questions that seem like small talk, but are really a thinly veiled ruse designed to determine if I’m playing Dredge. You know, conversations like, “Hey buddy, how are you! Been a while, how’s your family and ARE YOU PLAYING DREDGE TODAY YOU RAT BASTARD!?!”

Just little subtle things like that, mostly.

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