Android 4.1 Jellybean OS, including Google Now; Powerful enough for gaming; Bluetooth radio allows for more expansion; Makes video calls when paired with webcam; Inexpensive
Resolution limited to 720p with default OS; Need to supply your own power adapter
This $60 Android PC-on-a-stick is powerful enough to play 3D games, stream movies, and make video calls, but is portable enough to fit in your pocket.
We've been following the inexpensive Android PC-on-a-stick phenomenon with great excitement ever since the first units hit the market last spring. When we reviewed previous models, such as the MK802, we praised them for cramming an Android/Linux computer in something the size of a USB flash drive, but we were less thrilled with their mediocre, single-core performance. A huge leap up from its predecessors, Timing Power's dual-core Android Mini PC RK3066 provides powerful performance that's good enough for serious gaming and video chats, a Bluetooth radio to help you pair with more peripherals, and all the goodness of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with Google Now. For just $60, this device could be a workstation in your pocket or a credible set-top box or gaming console.
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Design and Ports
Made from glossy, black plastic with a white Android logo on its top, the Android Mini PC RK3066 has a more tasteful and attractive aesthetic than the ridged plastic on the MK802 II or the part matte-part glossy chassis of the original MK802. Our review unit came with a small, black plastic clip attached that serves no purpose; a Timing Power rep told us that the company originally included the clip to help mount the device on the back of TVs, but has since stopped shipping the clip because it doesn't really help.
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To configure Wi-Fi, we simply clicked in the corner of the screen to bring up the quick settings menu and then selected our Wi-Fi network. We also used the Bluetooth settings to connect to a Bluetooth keyboard and game controller. Once we'd paired with those devices, they automatically reconnected every time we booted up the RK3066, allowing us to disconnect our 2.4-GHz wireless mouse and rely on Bluetooth peripherals exclusively.
OS and Google Apps
As with any other Jelly Bean device, on the RK3066 we were able to ask Google Now questions and get direct answers. When we asked, "Who is the governor of Hawaii?" Google Now popped up a card showing the photo and name of current governor, John Abercrombie, and said, "John Abercrombie is the governor of Hawaii."
The Mini PC RK3066 comes preloaded with many of the major Google apps, including Gmail, Google Voice Search, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. We were able to download and install other Google apps such as YouTube and Google+ by using Google Play.
The screen setting menu allowed us to choose between available screen resolutions: 1920 x 1080, or 1280 x 720 or 720 x 480. However, when we changed the setting to 1920 x 1080, the resolution remained at 1280 x 720. A rep for Timing Power, which sells the MK3066, said that the 720p limitation is a known software bug. As with previous Android sticks that have this bug, there's a good chance that a third-party developer will come out with a fix at some point in the future.
Mouse and Keyboard Experience
Unfortunately, apps that require an accelerometer or multi-touch gestures will never work properly on this computer. Many games won't work because they require you to move by tilting your device or by dragging around virtual joysticks. However, if a game can work with a physical controller, such as the Steel Series Free Mobile Wireless controller ($79.99 ), you can play games quite well on the RK3066.
Start Up and Shut Down
If you've never used an Android stick before, you may be surprised to learn that there's no power button and no built-in way to shut off the Mini PC RK3066. When you plug in the device, it immediately starts to boot, a process that takes a little less than a minute. When you want to power off the device, you just unplug it. The Google Play store has some shut-down apps, but these only stop the OS from running; they don't actually turn the device's power off.
With the webcam attached to the Mini PC RK3066, we made a Skype call to a friend and were able to see both our image and her image on our HDTV. With the camera mounted on top of the TV, motion was smooth and images were colorful, but just a little pixilated in the dim light of our living room. Both outgoing and incoming audio were crystal clear, even though we were sitting several feet away. We can imagine families using the Android Mini PC RK3066 to turn their TVs into video-conferencing stations.
Performance and Gaming
The first-person shooter "Dead Trigger" looked smooth and sharp as we ran down the hallways, firing our gun, shooting zombies and watching their blood splatter. "Frontline Commando" also ran flawlessly, as we saw detailed images of our avatar reloading his gun and shooting at enemy soldiers. However, this title was difficult to play with a mouse.
On An3DBench, a benchmark that measures graphic prowess, the Android Mini PC RK3066 scored a strong 7,631, comfortably above the 6,696 tablet category average. This score was also miles ahead of the MK802 II's mark of 6,377 and just slightly above the FXI Cotton Candy's mark of 7,245.
Timing Power sells the Android Mini PC RK3066, but there are some similarly sized and priced devices on the market with the same Rockchip RK3066 CPU inside and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. Some common names of these competitors include the MK808, MK803 and MK802 III. Though they should offer similar performance, not all of them include Bluetooth, and many have different ports and potentially different preloaded apps. Operating system builds for one of these devices should work on the others since they all have the same underlying system-on-a-chip.
Just like the MK802 and MK802 II before it, the Android Mini PC RK3066 can run additional operating systems by installing them to a microSD card and booting off of that. Though devices with this CPU have only been around for a few months, users have already created a special version of Ubuntu called PicUntu for this hardware platform.
|CPU||1.6-GHz dual-core, Rockchip RK3066 CPU||
|Storage Drive Size||4GB|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution|
|Size||3.25 x 1.75 x 0.50 inches|