Remix OS is an Android-based operating system aimed at inexpensive tablets, laptops, and computers. The basic premise is to offer a way to bridge the gap between touch-based devices and more conventional computers. Its developers are trying to accomplish this by providing a graphical interface that differs from that of stock Android and looks more similar to that found on Windows and some Linux desktop managers (namely, Cinnamon).
Jide, the developer of Remix OS, wishes to use the operating system to push the sales of its two products: a tablet called Remix Ultratablet and a tiny computer called Remix Mini, the first with very impressive specifications, the second very similar to a Raspberry Pi 3 spec-wise, with an attractive form factor that I’m sure would make it useful as a media center. I will contact Jide and see if they can provide me with review samples to test them.
The test PC’s specifications were as follows:
CPU: Intel Core i4 4570 @ 3.2 GHz (3.6 GHz Turbo)
Motherboard: AsRock H81M-ITX
RAM: 4 GB DDR3 (1 x 4 GB)
Storage: Transcend 32 GB SSD & Seagate 500 GB Hard drive
These are specifications that I wouldn’t consider spectacular, but are in line with what I would expect my readers to use as a daily driver. Sure, I doubt anyone will run their computer with a single stick of RAM, but it still is a decent build that doesn’t disappoint in terms of day-to-day performance. With that said, let’s see how Remix OS fares.
Usability and performance
Unfortunately, I cannot say much because at the time of this writing I wasn’t able to get Remis OS on my test computer reliably. Currently there is no way of installing it to your hard drive by using a flash drive or DVD. Instead, Remix OS uses what would appear to be a custom version of UNetbootin to create a bootable USB drive or hard drive partition. If you choose to create a bootable USB, you can use that on another computer to run Remix OS. That’s what I did: I ran their tool to create a bootable drive on my main computer and then connected it to my testing PC.
To my dismay, booting from the USB drive didn’t allow me to install Remix OS to the hard drive, but only let me choose between Resident mode (which supposedly saves your programs and files to the drive to resume working on them) and Guest mode (where downloaded programs and created files are deleted when the system is powered off). I chose to go with Resident mode and the operating system started to boot. It took so long that I actually thought the computer hung. And this isn’t because I’m accustomed to booting my operating systems from SSDs, for even booting a Live Linux environment never took that computer that long. Once the boot process was completed and I had ran through the initial configuration, I noticed three things: that Remix OS wouldn’t use more than 16 GB of storage on my 32 GB flash drive, that couldn’t detect the other drives attached to the computer, and that was only able to address more than 1 GB of RAM, even though 4 are installed in my test computer.
I downloaded a couple apps from Remix OS’s own store to see how they performed. Word downloaded and installed as expected and I was able to write the first paragraph of this review, whereas Google Play services (needed to install more apps from the Play store and to use Google services) asked me to reboot. That’s what I did and… My settings were gone, forcing me to sit through the whole first boot process and redo the initial configuration. This, in turn, prevented me from running more in-depth testing. Lame.
I really want to give Remix OS a fair chance: its premise is really enticing and in my opinion it’s what ChromeOS should have been in the first place. It has lots of potential and I can see myself using it in many ways: to send WhatsApp messages directly from my computer, perhaps running it in Virtualbox or VMWare Player, or to install it on a low-power home theater PC and watch movies on it. Unfortunately, right now it is not a viable option for those uses and that’s a shame, because I really want Android netbook to be a thing. But until the software reaches maturity, I warn you to approach Remix OS with caution and don’t set your expectations too high.