When someone mentions Android we all usually associate it with small touch screen devices like phones and tablets. But the intrepid people at Jide have been working to turn the largest mobile OS in the world into something you can use just as easily on a desktop PC or laptop, they call it Remix OS.
Installing Remix OS
The current build is based on Android Marshmallow and also free to download and try. The best part of the whole process is that you can install Remix straight onto your existing formatted drive and dual boot it alongside Windows or your choice of Linux distro. It doesn’t require much precious storage either, creating a little virtual drive space for itself at a size of your choosing from 4GB up to 32GB (This can be expanded further by digging into the backend of things, not a process for the faint-hearted, but there are tutorials on the interwebs).
The process is simple enough, after a download you simply run the installer and tell it which partition you would like to run the OS from. Installing to the same partition as Windows as I did simply creates another folder on your bootable partition containing the OS. It’s worth mentioning if you use Windows 10 as I do, you’ll need to disable Safe boot facilities first from your BIOS if you have a UEFI system, which most modern computers do. There’s also the option to create a bootable USB drive (must be larger than 8GB) that you can carry around with you, though I haven’t tested that option.
After a simple reboot I could now choose Remix OS or Windows at start up. I chose Remix and gave the OS a shake down to see what it’s capable of.
Ok, let’s get some of the negatives out of the way. Remix didn’t seem keen on my laptop, which is an expensive *Windows Ultrabook with a Skylake i7 CPU and Nvidia GTX960 GPU. For the entire period of my testing the CPU fan was running at full speed, a noisy distraction and not good for longevity. After some poking around online it seems Remix has problems with thermal detection on the most recent Intel CPUs, so your mileage may vary.
Secondly, while this should be obvious, an Android OS isn’t going to be making use of some of the most advanced productivity software out there. As a keen photographer I’m at a bit of a loss without things like Photoshop and Lightroom. Also, if your day to day needs involve a full and powerful office suite like the latest Microsoft Office you’ll be disappointed. Though you can use the stripped down app versions from Google’s play store.
Remix OS in Use
To be honest though, making such comparisons in software terms is doing Remix a disservice as creative professionals and such are most definitely not the target audience here. What you’re getting is a lightning-fast (In my experience), lightweight OS that takes the very best of the Android app ecosystem and brings it to the big screen.
My 4K screen (After adjusting the scaling options up to 1.5x in the experimental features menu) looked beautiful. The apps downloaded from Play store or side-loaded from elsewhere run in intuitive resizable windows as you’d expect on a desktop OS and multitasking is therefore a breeze. The prospects from cloud integration by using Onedrive or Google Drive apps also means the default maximum storage of 32GB isn’t likely to be a major issue for most users. The potential for Android gaming is also there, especially if like me you have a touchscreen on your laptop, as demonstrated by a quick test of Angry Birds.
Should you use Remix OS?
This depends entirely on your needs. What I think Remix could be genuinely amazing at is giving old hardware a new lease of life. It’s lightweight nature and low system requirements (Dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM) make it a compelling alternative on older laptops for example. I’ve actually got an old 11 inch Samsung model in a drawer somewhere which I intend to test and see how my son finds it. After all, at seven years old he’s grown up with such app-based technology, I might even report back and give you his verdict.
As a full Windows or OSX replacement I feel there is still work to be done, mainly around drivers and keeping up with the latest architectures, but I was impressed with what I’ve seen. If you’re a tinkerer by nature I highly recommend giving it a go.
Have you tried any alternative operating systems from the norm? How would you feel about owning a PC based on Android software such as Remix OS?