Android Mini PCs, those tiny flash-drive-shaped computers, just keep getting faster, with quad-core models ready to overtake their dual-cored predecessors. The CX-919 features a 1.6-GHz quad-core RK3188 CPU with 2GB of RAM, the latest version of Android (4.2.2), full access to the Google Play store and root-level permissions. With an attractive Android launcher, helpful preloaded apps and DLNA support, this $73.99 device has a lot going for it, but is it the right Android Mini PC for you?
Click to EnlargeThe 1.2-ounce, 4 x 1.85 x 0.43-inch CX-919 is about the same weight as competitors such as the Measy U2C and Android Mini PC RK3066 (and is just a little longer than both). More functional than decorative, the glossy black plastic chassis sports an Android logo on the front and the words "Quad Core," just in case you forgot that you've bought one of the first quad-core Mini PCs.
Unlike most other Mini PCs, the CX-919 Quad Core RK3188 Android Mini PC has an external, rotatable Wi-Fi antenna that's designed to improve reception, but felt fragile when we turned it. Likewise, the entire chassis seemed a bit flimsy in our hands, particularly as we plugged and unplugged it from an HDMI dock. We would worry about damaging the device or accidentally opening up its glued-together chassis if we carried it around on a regular basis.
Click to EnlargeThe CX-919 Quad Core RK3188 Android Mini PC has its fair share of ports, with a microUSB for power, one full-size USB (which you can use to connect any one peripheral or to a USB hub), a microSD card slot, a male HDMI plug for connecting to your TV or monitor and a second microUSB port you can use to connect additional peripherals. Though it wasn't designed for the CX-919, we had no problem using the Measy U2C's dock ($12.99) to connect the device to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. There's also a function button on the side that you can use to help connect the device to your PC for loading custom ROMs.
Like most of its competitors, the CX-919 claims to support 1080p output in its specs, but it just doesn't do it in practice. As on the Measy U2C and RK3066 Android Mini PC, when we changed the HDMI mode to 1080p, the screen didn't actually go up from its default 720p resolution. According to Geekbuying, which sells the CX-919, there is no upgrade ROM or kernel that adds 1080p support at the moment, but the manufacturer is working on one.
Fortunately, the CX-919 was more than capable of playing 1080p video, as an MP4 trailer for "Skyfall" was smooth and sharp. Just to see if it could, we tried viewing both a 4K and a 2560p clip on the device and found out that the 4K file would not even start playing and the 2560p video was extremely slow and jerky. However, even after the 1080p kernel comes out, there won't be any reason to play higher-than-HD videos on the CX-919.
Android 4.2.2 experience
Click to EnlargeThe CX-919 comes preloaded with Android 4.2.2, the current version of Google's OS and a step above competitors such as the Measy U2C, which comes with Android 4.1. However, the differences between the two versions of Android are so slight that we could only notice them by looking in the settings menu.
Though it uses a very pure version of Android, the CX-919 does come with a unique launcher called "TV Model," which makes all the icons look like old-fashioned wooden boxes. The default wallpaper for the desktops is one that looks like wood paneling, which gives the UI an amusing 1970s TV set look and feel. Users who want a different aesthetic are always free to change the wallpaper or download and install an alternative Android launcher such as Go Launcher Ex or Nova Launcher.
The default desktop layout is a lot more engaging than on other Android sticks, such as the Measy U2C and Zealz GK802; it has a large weather widget on the upper left, a favorite websites shortcut widget on the upper right and shortcuts to 14 preloaded apps, including the video player, Web browser, calendar and calculator apps. The wood-themed icons continue on the apps menu, which is adorned with black wallpaper with neon-colored stripes.
Apart from the icons and desktop, the CX-919's Android implementation is completely stock Android, complete with Google apps such as Google Search, Gmail and Chrome browser. Google Now appeared when we opened the Google app, but did not activate when we swiped up from the home button as it does on many other systems. The virtual keyboard is stock Android as well as built-in apps such as the calculator, calendar and the non-Gmail email app. Strangely, the system comes with a stock Android browser in addition to Google Chrome.
Unlike some competitors, namely the Zealz GK802, the CX-919 Quad Core RK3188 Android Mini PC offers full access to the Google Play store, which means that you can download any app you want. The device comes rooted so you have full administrative rights to the file system and can run root-friendly apps.
Click to EnlargeWith its 1.6-Ghz quad-core RK3188 processor and 1GB of RAM, the CX-919 is powerful enough to play serious games with the graphics and special effects turned up. When we played the Jet Ski racing game "Riptide GP" with the sharpness turned up to max, motion was completely smooth and we enjoyed special effects we hadn't experienced when playing the game on other Android Mini PC, such as drops of water splashing on the screen when we landed from a jump. That water splash effect usually only appears on high-end tablets and phones.
The CX-919's benchmark scores match its excellent real-world performance. On AnTuTu, a test which measures overall performance, the CX-919 scored an impressive 15,432, more than double the tablet category average of 7,740 and more than 70 percent higher than the dual-core Measy U2C (9,156) and the quad-core Zealz GK802 (8,872). On An3DBench, a graphics benchmark, the CX-919 bested the competition with a score of 8,018, well above the 7,320 category average, the Zealz GK802's score of 7,395 and the Android Mini PC RK3066's mark of 7,366.
In addition to stock Android apps and Google apps such as Google Now and Gmail, the CX-919 Quad Core RK3188 Android Mini PC comes with several useful third-party apps. eHomeMedia Center allows you to use your Android Mini PC as a DLNA server or player, streaming photos, videos or music directly to any other DLNA-enabled device. Explorer is an attractive file manager while Music is a navigator for your existing preloaded tunes. We found WiFi Analyzer, a utility that tells you which local networks have the strongest signal, particularly useful.
Video conferencing ability
The CX-919 supports video conferencing through standard Android apps such as Skype and Google Hangouts. As with other Android devices, webcam support is limited and there's no published list of supported cameras. When we attached a Logitech C510, it was not recognized and did not power on. However, users on online forums report that they have connected a Logitech C170 successfully, which Geekbuying sells for $20.
The CX-919 comes prerooted, which means that it's easy to install rooted apps and install custom ROMs. As with the Measy U2C, there's a custom ROM made by a developer named Finless, which adds a few extra features. You get the ability to boot to the stock Android launcher, a reboot option and the ability to control the device from an Android phone. Unfortunately, this ROM doesn't provide 1080p support.
Click to EnlargeIf you want an Android Mini PC that's fast enough to play games and flexible enough to come with root access, the $72.99 CX-919 is your best choice. Users who want to video conferencing and media playback more than gaming should consider the dual-core $63.29 Measy U2C, which features a built-in webcam and microphone and already has a working 1080p hack available for the device. However, if you want the fastest Mini PC on the market right now, look no further than CX-919 Quad Core RK3188 Android Mini PC.