When you think about Android PCs, you have to start at the beginning. The MK802 Android mini PC was one of the first stick PCs to hit the market and it had an immediate impact. While the Raspberry Pi came out slightly before its Android cousin, the Pi was definitely a hobbyists toy. The MK802 Android Mini PC was more like a finished project. Now, over a year after its release and several versions later, we’re going to see if it stands the test of time. Is there still a place for the orignal?
- The original MK802 was built with an Allwinner A10 chip built on the Cortex A-8, running at 1GHz and 512MB RAM
- MK802+ increased the amount of RAM to 1GB
- MK802 II overclocked the processor and added an extra USB port
- MK802 III swapped out the Allwinner A10 processor for a Rockchip RK3066 dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM – similar to the MK808 devices
- The MK802 IIIs added Bluetooth capability and official support for XBMC
- Finally, the MK802 IV swapped out the RK3066 for the Rockchip RK3188 quad-core CPU
The Allwinner A10, found in the MK802, MK802+ and MK802 II, is based on the Cortex A-8 processor family. It used a single-core design, unlike the newer Android PCs which utilize dual-core and quad-core designs. This, coupled with the low amount of RAM found in these devices, means its performance is going to be very limited. Unsurprisingly, these devices also were shipped with Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich, which had a less robust (read: less processor intense) user interface.
Once the RK3066 and RK3188 chips were added the the MK802 versions III and IV, the device really should have been renamed. However, the MK802 has a very large and very strong user community. These user groups have created various custom operating systems which streamline the MK802 for different purposes – file sharing, video playback, gaming, etc. The MK802 may not be the fastest unit out there, but the right setup can make all the difference.
The MK802 Android mini PC is very similar to other devices as far as what is included in the package. There can be one exception depending on the unit. Some MK802 devices did not ship with a full size HDMI port, but included a mini-HDMI instead. In terms of functionality, there is no difference other than needing to use the (included) adapter to hook up to your TV. There may be some loss in resolution when adding connections, but I could not notice any difference. Other than that, be sure that the particular MK802 you’re looking to purchase includes the power adapter. Some bargain units do not include the AC adapter, only the USB cable. This particular unit came with an AC adapter with direct connection, not through a USB port.
Setup is very easy. Once the HDMI video connection and power connections are made, the MK802 boots up to the familiar Android home screen. On the earlier models like this one, the interface is Android 4.0, so it lacks some of the familiar features of Jelly Bean’s enhancements in Android 4.1. There is no Bluetooth support in this device either, so be sure to hook up a wireless mouse (at minimum) in order to be able to use the onscreen keyboard.
The display is simple, almost making us nostalgic in a way. Also interface of Android 4.0 doesn’t look as slick as 4.1 and the 4.3 that we’re currently running on some devices. What it does however, is provide you the information on your programs and widgets with a minimum of fuss. Sure, you can configure Jelly Bean to do the same things, but that takes a little bit of configuration. This is already set up from the get-go.
Google Play is available on the default installation so that you can download all the apps you’re familiar with, including Netflix, YouTube, and the whole Google suite of apps. As we’ve mentioned before, there are plenty of custom ROMs and applications out there, including XBMC, which will allow you to customize the MK802 Android mini PC to do simple tasks very effectively.
So what can this device do? What can’t it do?
Well, as we’ve mentioned, this is a single-core processor and either 512MB or 1GB of RAM, so streaming high quality video or multitasking is not it’s strength. But, for simple one-tab web browsing the MK802 is sufficient. But, face it, you probably have a lot of devices in your house that you can surf the web with.
How to Best Use the MK802
Here’s a small list of tasks you could assign the MK802 that it would be perfect for. There are others, I’m sure, but this will get you started.
File Server: Hook an MK802 up to an external hard drive and put it in a corner, out of the way. For this, once the device is set up, you really don’t even need a TV to be hooked up to it. The MK802 has a wireless connection which could easily share files throughout your home. Total cost would be under $100 for the MK802 Android mini PC and a 500GB hard drive.
Game Emulator: We’ve already touched on gaming on an Android PC in our article here. The flexibility of the MK802 makes it the cheapest way possible to get your classic game on.
BitTorrent Downloader: If you’re going to do it, at least be safe about it. While we don’t condone illegally downloading things from the internet, having it on a separate PC entirely will lessen the chance that viruses or malware will find its way on to your PC.
Portable Netflix Device: Who says you can’t take your Netflix subscription with you? If you’ve got the videos and your friend has the bigger TV, just throw the MK802 in your pocket and head over to their house. The beauty of having a streaming media player this small is that it is designed to be portable, and doesn’t need a lot of connections to operate. Just remember to bring the popcorn too.
Whether or not the MK802 Android mini PC is the right device for you depends on how you’re going to want to use it. Will it do everything that the newer devices will do? Not really. But does it do simple things well? Yes. And remember, you’ve got a LOT of support out there from other MK802 users. And for the price, there’s no easier and cheaper way to see what an Android PC can do. Get it at Amazon.com (see link below).
For more great Android PC reviews check out our other reviews!