Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Android on the TV

Smarten Up Your Television

Smart televisions seem to be the rage and probably one of the fastest moving products in most consumer electronic stores at the moment. What though if you have a perfectly decent working HD TV, whose intelligence is slightly dimmed down due to the lack of the 'smart' factor?

One of the gifts I received at Christmas, as well as answering the question above, really impressed me by its capabilities, considering it is only slightly larger than a USB pen drive, though is a fully operational Android computer.

Plug it into a spare HDMI slot on the back of the TV, connect a USB dongle for a wireless mouse, and connect up the power supply included, and instantly your TV smartens itself up! The device came with all the necessary cables, all I required was the wireless mouse. Within a few minutes I had it accessing my wireless broadband and I was surfing the net through the television screen, accessing my email, and scouring the Google Play store and downloading a choice selection of the abundance of free apps available.

Considering the price of £35, this tiny device has an A10 1.5GHz CPU (which I believe may be the processor CPU and graphics CPU combined speed), 1GB of ram, and 4GB of built-in storage, it has 2 USB ports, one full size, one mini, a mini HDMI slot for connection to a TV, and a memory slot for expansion which takes micro SD cards up to 32GB. It is also wireless enabled to connect to your wireless broadband. The device came with a range of apps pre-installed including a music player and movie player and web browser, and the app to the Google Play store.

Compared to a modern PC or laptop, net surfing is not as rapid though is definitely bearable, probably comparable to an early pc running windows XP, and once the browser is up and loaded in memory, no more than a few seconds longer loading a page than my own PC. Watching movies is a breeze, as is listening to music, or Youtube videos, and watching TV programmes through the various apps available, including the BBC media player and the STV media player, is fine once you get through the various clicks on their respective websites to find the actual programme you want to view.

All in all, I am overwhelmingly impressed by this device, and me being a linux user, and tinkerer, more so when I discovered I can load other operating systems on an SD card and have the machine boot into whatever version of linux I would deem to try. Various versions of linux have already been prepared for the device and are available to download. I am looking forward to trying the device as a full blown desktop computer as soon as I have the tinkering time available. Yes, I know with the processing power and memory available I am not looking at a dream machine capable of anything a modern laptop or PC can do, but the power available seems plenty to run basic office applications, surf the net, and check email - how many office PCs do much else? And of course, I've always been a fan of Android on the phone, so I am delighted to be able to use the system on a full size TV. No touch screen, but that has been no drawback I'm glad to say.

If interested, mine was purchased on ebay, though I've seen it on sale at Amazon also, and it may be available elsewhere, just do a search for 'Android mini PC'.

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