These days, you can get an Android Mini PC -- a tiny computer the size and shape of a USB Flash drive, with a powerful quad-core processor or a built-in webcam -- for somewhere in the $60-to-$80 range. However, if you want an Android device that's good enough for surfing the Web, watching 1080p videos, setting up a DLNA server and playing some games, the dual-core MK808B Android Mini PC Smart TV Stick provides all of that functionality for just $43. With the latest Android 4.2 operating system, root access out of the box and the ability to output full HD (after an update), the MK808B is one of the best bargains in tech today.
At 3.4 x 1.1 x 0.5 inches and just 1.3 ounces, the MK808B is one of the lightest and smallest Android Sticks on the market -- about the same size as the Measy U2C (3.5 x 1.6 x 0.4 inches, 1.2 ounces) without the latter's HDMI male jack. It's also noticeably smaller than the CX-919 (4 x 1.85 x 0.43 inches, 1.6 ounces).
The MK808B is not only one of the lightest but also one of the best-looking Mini PCs we've seen. It sports a luxurious, soft-touch black finish, as well as an attractive grille on the top service with a classy logo of a TV, which is meant to denote the device's ability to connect to your home theater.
The MK808B has as many ports as its competitors, but they are less-popular connections. Instead of an HDMI male connector, which the Zealz GK802 and CX-919 have, the MK808B provides a mini-HDMI female port to connect the device to your TV and monitor. Fortunately, the MK808B Android TV Stick comes with a mini-HDMI-male-to-HDMI-male connector, something few people would have lying around.
Instead of the more common microUSB standard, the MK808B Android Stick provides two miniUSB ports: one for charging and another for connecting peripherals. However, the device comes with a 2-milliamp AC adapter that has a miniUSB connector, and there's also a full-size USB port for peripherals.
For expanding its 8GB of internal storage, the MK808B also has a microSD card slot that can support cards up to 32GB in capacity. Considering that you can pick up a card that size for under $25 these days, it doesn't cost much to quadruple your storage.
To connect to wireless networks, the MK808B has a built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi radio and Bluetooth 3.0. Versions of the device that are labeled "MK808" without the "B" have no Bluetooth.
Like all Android sticks except the Zealz GK802, the MK808B Android TV Dongle promises 1080p output, but only delivers 720p out of the box. Even when we went into the Settings menu and changed the HDMI output mode to 1080p, 60 hertz, our screen remained at 1280 x 720 resolution. When we played 1080p MP4 trailers for "Riddick" and "Skyfall," motion was smooth and images were sharp, even though they had to downscale to the lower resolution. A 2560p video clip was a bit jerky, but we wouldn't expect to play clips with resolutions higher than 1080p on this device.
We were able to set the device to 1080p by flashing it with a custom ROM called Finless 2.1. With 1080p installed, all the icons were sharper -- as were the two trailers, both of which played smoothly at the increased resolution. Even games like "Riptide GP" ran well and looked a lot better at the higher resolution.
Unfortunately, Netflix did not work out of the box, as it scrambled images when we tried to stream movies. However, once we downloaded an updated version of the device's official firmware from geekbuying.com and flashed the MK808B, the movie streaming service worked just fine.
The MK808B Stick PC comes with the latest Android 4.2.2 operating system preloaded with full access to the Google Play store and root-level permissions. The UI is stock Android, but adds a couple of additional buttons to the taskbar, including a shutdown button and screenshot button that takes pictures when you click it.
Dragging up from the middle of the taskbar launches Google Now, the search giant's personal assistant. In our case, Google Now showed cards for local weather and sports scores, along with news headlines about searches we'd recently conducted.
Because it runs Android Jelly Bean, the MK808B Android Stick PC also supports Google Voice search and knowledge graph. When we had a USB headset connected and clicked the microphone icon next to the search box, we were able to ask Google such questions as, "What movies has Russell Crowe been in?" and "Who is the leader of China?" We then got card-based answers on top of a list of regular search results. However, Google did not read the answers back to us, as it does on most other devices.
With its dual-core 1.6-GHz Rockchip RK3066 CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, the MK808B Android Stick PC provides solid performance that's good enough for playing full-HD movies, surfing the Web and even doing some gaming. We were able to zoom smoothly around the track in the Jet Ski racing game "Riptide GP" at full 1080p (after flashing to a custom ROM).
Synthetic benchmarks also showed the MK808B's solid performance. On AnTuTu, a benchmark that measures overall performance, the Mini PC scored a strong 8,336, comfortably above the 7,746 tablet category average, but a bit behind the Measy U2C (9,156), which has the same CPU, and the Zealz GK802, which features a quad-core Freescale processor (8,872). The CX-919 Android Mini PC, which has a quad-core Rockchip RK3188 CPU, blew away the field with a mark of 15,432.
On An3DBench, a test that measures graphics prowess, the MK808B Android Mini PC scored a strong 8,274, well above the 7,320 tablet category average and the 8,018 offered by the CX-919.
The MK808B Android Stick PC comes with several useful apps, including eHomeMediaCenter, which allows you to turn the device into a DLNA server, capable of streaming media files to any DLNA-compatible device on the same network. WiFi Display shows the signal strength of local hotspots. PPTV is a Chinese streaming service that allows you to download or stream a number of movies and shows for free (we're not sure whether it is legal in the U.S. or not). "Fishing Joy HD" is a simple but fun title that lets you capture fish with a net. Three other games, "Dancin' Beats," "Hurdling" and "Sprint," gave us a "controller error" on launch.
The MK808B Android Mini PC works with Skype and other video-conferencing apps, such as Google Hangouts. Using Skype, we were able to place a voice call, but our Logitech C510 webcam wasn't recognized. However, there are only a few webcams that work with Android, and most manufacturers don't document compatibility. According to user reports posted on androdyz.com, a number of other cams will run Skype on the MK808B, including the Logitech C270, C910 and C525, as well as the Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000.
Noted Android developer Finless makes a custom ROM for the MK808B that is currently in version 2.1 and available for download on freaktab.com. This custom ROM allows full 1080p output, a set of additional launchers and the ability to remotely control your Mini PC from an Android phone or tablet. After downloading Finless ROM and connecting the MK808B to a Windows PC while pressing a paper clip into a hole on its bottom surface (to enable Flash mode), we ran the Finless installer, which completed within 5 minutes.
For less than $45, the MK808B Android Stick PC provides enough power to let you view HD videos, set up a DLNA server for sharing media files, surf the Web, make VoIP calls and even play games. However, users who want to do video conferencing should consider the Measy U2C, which costs about $20 more but comes with a webcam and microphone built in, and those who want more power should opt for the quad-core CX-919. However, if you want the best value around, the MK808B is a strong choice, as long as you're willing to flash a new ROM.