Wednesday, 31 October 2012

$49 Android PC System

This caught my attention  a few months ago, a whole PC, including Android OS all one one PCB for $49.  Adding a case, monitor, keyboard and mouse will give you a complete PC, with no installation costs or time. Just connect it up, turn it on and there you are, ready to surf the web, play Angry Birds, or thousands of other android apps, just like on a phone or tablet, but bigger.

My first reaction was that this was going to be competing for the same audience as the wonderful Raspberry Pi, but I was wrong. The Pi is about people getting their hands dirty with a computer, getting inside the guts and having a good rummage around until something breaks, and then fixing it.

The APC is about turning on a computer, and connecting straight to the internet with a minimum of fuss, no chance of a virus (allegedly), no tedious constant stream of updates, and no license fees, because Android is based on Linux, which is free to use.

It doesn't come with any of the hard ware that you would expect with a portable device such as an actual phone, GPS, or camera, so apps that expect them will be in for a bit of a shock and might decide to sulk for a bit, but in practice would you really want to use them on a desktop machine?
Early reports are favorable, apparently most of your office requirements are easily dealt with by the google office tools, but you would expect that really, as they are responsible for Android too. Games play well, but there are issues with some that can't deal with the large screen sizes without pixelating, but its early days, as Pads get larger I am sure that developers will get these sort of problems sorted.

To me this is a very appealing package, however there are still a few things to be wary of. Firstly it is only supplied with Android 2.3, which is positively ancient, if I were to buy one now I would expect at least Android 3 if not 4. Secondly Mini-ITX cases are not cheap, in fact the cheapest decent case I could find was £30 which is almost as much as the board itself.

So why is this not an in depth review, well to be brutally honest as much as I might want one, I don't actually need it.  I already have plenty of ways of connecting to the internet and I can use Android apps on my phone or a tablet. I think that after a few weeks it would be like the Christmas puppy that nobody wanted to play with, especially if it was only running an old version of Android.

Now if I was buying one for my wife, who gets confused when there are more than two buttons on a gadget, this would be my first stop, because she is exactly the sort of person that is going to love it.

But then, the pure simplicity and elegance really appeal to me so much that one day, when it is running the current Android, I might just get one anyway.

For more details of the board see

Technical spec (from the APC website) 

APC runs a custom Android system, built for keyboard and mouse input. A basic selection of applications is preinstalled. Also included is a full set of consumer I/O ports, enabling APC to connect to your PC monitor or TV.

Model     APC 8750

Software: Android 2.3 (PC System)

Chip: VIA 800MHz Processor

Memory: DDR3 512MB Memory 2GB NAND Flash

Graphics:Built-in 2D/3D Graphic Resolution up to 720p

Input and Output: HDMI, VGA, USB 2.0 (x4),  Audio out / Mic in, microSD Slot

Network: 10/100 Ethernet

Size: 170 x 85mm (W x H) Neo-ITX Standard

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