Hands-on with the MINIX Neo G4 Android mini PC

J&W’s MINIX Neo G4 is an Android TV stick that’s about the size of a USB flash drive. We’ve seen a lot of those lately. But there are a few things that help the Neo G4 stand out from the crowd.

It offers better power management than most, and has dual antennas for better wireless reception. The Neo G4 also comes with a remote control that works with a built-in IR receiver, letting you plug the stick into your TV and control the Android user interface from across the room.

You can pick up the Neo G4 from DealExtreme for around $75 to $80.

MINIX Neo G4

Under the hood, the MINIX Neo G4 features a Rockhip RK3066 dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, quad-core ARM Mali 400 graphics, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. It features built-in 802.11b/g/n WiFi and runs Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Around the sides of the device you’ll find a full-sized HDMI port, a micro USB port and a full-sized USB port, and a microSD card slot.

MINIX shipped me a demo unit to check out, and inside the box I also found a small HDMI adapter which you can use to connect the stick directly to an HDMI port on your computer. But you’ll need direct line-of-sight between the remote and the stick in order to use the remote — so if your HDMI port is tucked away on the back of your TV or monitor you might want to use a longer cable so that the Neo G4 rests in front of the display.

When you plug in a power source the MINIX Neo G4 will boot into Android pretty quickly. You have a choice of home screen apps. One option gives you the typical Android user interface that you’d expect from a tablet. The other option gives you a handful of big icons for options such as audio or video.

Using the built-in software I had a difficult time streaming movies from a shared network drive, but I suspect this may work better with third party apps. I fired up the Google Play Store and installed the official Netflix app though, and had no problems streaming videos over the internet.

Sometimes it takes a little while for the app to launch or for a video to load… but once it does, video playback quality is pretty good. Unfortunately the Netflix app is difficult to navigate using the remote control. Instead I plugged a wireless mouse receiver dongle into the USB port and used a mouse to navigate.

While I wasn’t really that impressed with the TV-friendly app launcher, it’s a nice option to have. And there were a few settings tucked away in that software which you don’t get with most Android TV sticks, including an app that lets you adjust the size of your display window.

In other words, if you’re having problems with content not fitting on the screen, or with big black bars surrounding the Android user interface on your TV, you can adjust the settings to make everything fit the screen.

One of the key differences between the MINIX Neo G4 and most other Android Mini PCs that have flooded the market since the launch of the popular MK802 is the fact that you can turn off the Neo G4 without unplugging it.

Just press the power button on the remote control and the Neo G4 will disable the display, just as if you had tapped the power button on an Android phone or tablet. If you want to turn off the device altogether, just press and hold the power button until a message pops up asking if you want to shut down the device.

You can also turn the Neo G4 back on by pointing the remote at the stick when it’s turned off.

Since the Neo G4 is powered by the same Rockchip RK3066 processor used in the UG802 and MK808 mini PCs, you may eventually be able to install Ubuntu or other desktop Linux operating systems on this device.

But for now it ships with Google Android 4.0 and provides an acceptable way to watch Netflix, surf the web, or play Angry Birds on your TV.

  • ARXD

    Nice review, thank you for taking the time to review it.
    My thoughts:
    The Bad: No Bluetooth, which is very important on a device like this.
    The Good: The ability to turn and shut off the device properly!
    The ugly: who know when or even if we will ever have Ubuntu to run on the Rockhip RK3066 chip set… time will tell.

  • Mike

    better than the MX1/MX2?

    • Mike Costantini

      Anyone compared to the MX1 or MX2 ?

  • SeanKPS

    Why keep repackaging a chip that has trouble playing video, in to a box designed for playing video? I don’t get it.
    however, my personal experience with ug802 was decent

  • Matías Ferrero

    I hope this little device is better than MK802/+/II as I had a dreadful experience with them: slow hardware and buggy software, not to mention the lack of proper shutdown and Google Play Store.

  • Mike Costantini

    I did a search, it seems you did not review the MX1?

  • Rodrigo Heringer de Salles

    I think XBMC for android can be the killer app for this kind of devices. Specially if it can be launched at the startup of Android an if it has the ability of launch android apps from its interface.

  • Rudi Kramer

    AndrewDB is working on porting Ubunu for RK3066. If all goes well we should have linux + xbmc + full hardware acceleration soon. Please support him. http://www.slatedroid.com/topic/40717-ubuntu-linux-for-the-ug802/

  • digi_owl

    Starting to wonder about making a mobile case for these things, basically a “tablet” with just a battery, screen and room inside for one of these sticks.

    Sadly it suspect it would not be able to scale down to 5″ or smaller screen effectively.

    • http://rct.me.ht/ crashsuit

      I wonder if any of the available lapdocks would hook up to one of these using appropriate adapter cables?

      Edit: It’s been done, right here on Liliputing, in fact.
      http://liliputing.com/2012/06/mk802-notebook-connecting-74-pc-motorola-lapdock.html

      • digi_owl

        At this point in time i think that ARM based Chromebook would be more affordable.

      • http://rct.me.ht/ crashsuit

        Good point, if you’re just after a cheap portable, one of the Chromebooks would probably be better than this and a lapdock.

      • strider_mt2k

        I would love to try one of these with my Bionic Lapdock.
        I was able to pick my Lapdock up for 70 dollars US online.

      • http://rct.me.ht/ crashsuit

        Should work, if you have the correct adapter cables. Over on the xda forums, people have had pretty good luck mixing and matching devices and lapdocks.

    • strider_mt2k

      You could always connect it to one of the discontinued Motorola Lapdocks for a mobile experience.
      My personal experience is with an MK802+ connected to a Droid Bionic Lapdock.
      I’m utilizing a set of short extension cables that are available in conjunction with adapters to mate the HDMI and USB on the lapdock with the HDMI and USB OTG ports on the MK802+.
      Display, sound, trackpad, USB ports, and keyboard all work on my setup, including the function key stuff like volume and brightness.
      YMMV using a different but similar setup of course, but options are out there for those interested and willing.

  • http://twitter.com/Dave01568 dave01568

    Check out my video about the minix neo g4 http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=uWSS01RflHA

  • Peter

    would be nice to have this one

  • http://twitter.com/Dave01568 dave01568

    I rooted the minix neo g4. Here is the YouTube video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUWc9-5HyzE&sns=em

  • http://twitter.com/Dave01568 dave01568
  • ziggytim

    does anyone know if one of these stick pcs would work with a usb plug and play mouse/keyboard combo?

    • http://www.facebook.com/joelson.ferreira Joelson Ferreira

      works perfectily

  • pqpeo
  • disqus_F6CI6qLyuo

    I love the fact that you can adjust the screen size

  • http://twitter.com/Dave01568 dave01568

    Here it is on Motorola atrix lapdock http://youtu.be/guwTeYt6o6E

  • Jeremy Bartels

    Will the Neo-G4 support USB audio (Turtle Beach Amido 2). I am hooking it up to a computer monitor with on way to get audio.
    Thank you