A number of Chinese hardware makers are manufacturing tiny computers running Google Android 4.0. The PC-on-a-stick looks like a USB flash drive, but has a 1.5 GHz Allwinner A10 processor, and HDMI port for connecting a display and a USB port for connecting a mouse, keyboard, or other accessory.

We’ve seen the little computer sold for about $74 as the MK802 and the Zero Devices Z802. On a trip to the Linaro Connect conference in Hong Kong this week, Charbax at ARMDevices caught up with another company offering a computer based on the same design.

This version is just called the Android 4.0 Mini PC, and you can pre-order one from Amazon for $70. It should ship on June 15th.

There are two interesting things about this model. First, it has 1GB of RAM, while most of the other versions I’ve seen have 512MB. Second, Charbax got to see what the PC looks like if you take the case off.

If you just want to see the Mini PC topless, you can skip to about 5:30 in the video below.

Another thing the video confirmed for me is that while there’s a power jack on the Android 4.0 Mini PC, you can also power the device through the mini USB port.

The little computer measures about 3.5″ x 1.4″ x 0.5″ and weighs 7 ounces. It includes 802.11b/g/n WiFi and has some internal storage as well as support for a microSD card slot. Other models seem to have 4GB of flash storage, but I’m not sure how much this model has.

While the Android 4.0 Mini PC, MK802, or whatever you want to call it isn’t going to replace your Alienware gaming rig anytime soon, the little computer can handle many basic computing tasks such as web browsing, video playback, or even document editing or gaming with the right Android apps.

Out of the box it’s not going to run desktop PC apps such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop — but there are plenty of alternatives that run on Android. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone figure out how to get Ubuntu or another Linux-based operating system up and running on this little computer with an ARM Cortex-A8 processor.

Update: That didn’t take long. It’s already possible to run Ubuntu Linux on the MK802.

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8 replies on “$70 MK802 Android 4.0 PC dissected – video”

  1. The Risc processors have been in use for a very long time on Sun based computer in the past.

    The mobile industry is rapidly catching up with the PC market, when you consider that intel have been working on the pc market for over 30 years, and the arm phone market has only been going for 10 -15 years. If it was’nt for arm the price of a PC would be in the region of £2000. It has’nt changed in 15 years. The other big difference is that arm has been adopted by the globe and is being developed on by India China Africa and Arabia, unlike Intel which is developed on by USA and Israel.

    I hope arm catches up soon and intel go bust they have monopolised this industry too and feel that is should be controlled by the select few(the choosen people).

    1.  You can power it off any powered USB port for basic usage, but it’s basically just a low powered ARM based computer and shouldn’t have any more functionality plugging it to another computer other than transferring data.  So basically just a pocket size ARM based set top that can also run Linux.

      For something that can do more, check out the FXI Cotton Candy USB stick, cost more but it’s more powerful and has more capabilities.  Like it automatically creates VM Window when you plug it into a PC’s USB port and you can run it from the Computer, along with multiple others, limited only by the number of free USB ports, and each can still output through the HDMI for mirrored secondary display.

  2. Looks like you can get a 1GB version now: https://www.mk802shop.com/

  3. USB powered (option).   Did the others have this USB powered option too, or did you need to use a power brick?    What would be really interesting is if you had an i386 compatible version (with something like the Xcore86+, or the new 686 compatible version that they are developing)?  Where you could run regular Linux with regular Virtual machines (making normal Windows apps also available).

     

    1.  No you would virtualize any x86 on an Arm chip ( or really slow like Qemu) .

      We don’t need x86 anymore, Ubuntu ARm would give you the common desktop app and you would connect to some could based solution when you need some x86 desktop application

      1. But, you can’t run some old windows apps in an ARM VM?  Or can you?   If so, then explain how?   Many folks have lots of data in Quickbooks, other windows applications, that if they move to ARM, they can not use.  So, if you can run in a VM, where ARM processor looks like i386 to the OS you run in the VM, then fine (but I thought the processor needs to be i386 to do that)?   Remember, it is not the device (processor) that is the decision for migration of users from other platforms, it is the applications that the user needs to run.

        1. ARM is still a developing platform, it wasn’t originally intended to compete with x86 systems but rather only provide low power and low cost solutions for mobile and embedded devices.

          For example, it’s still a 32bit architecture and will take years to develop the ecosystem needed to properly migrate to full 64bit. 

          Also, many mobile GPU’s aren’t yet designed to support desktop standards for graphics. Since it wasn’t an advantage before to support anything more than expected to run on mobile and embedded devices.  Though this is changing now with more and more starting to offer the ability to run either desktop Linux or the upcoming Windows RT.

          However, this points to the fact that the ARM market is full of proprietary solutions that causes a far greater range of hardware fragmentation than there is on x86 systems.

          The VM capabilities of ARM have slowly been improving though, and it just remains to be seen how well they have been improved with the latest generation.  Since they have supposedly improved issues like power consumption.

          The traditional issue with VM for ARM is that it’s much slower than running natively and even with its newest chips ARM is only rivaling the Intel ATOM range performance.  So will likely run x86 software slower than it would work on say a netbook and older ARM solutions were of course even slower.

          While, also, VM tends to use much more power than running native apps and neither Linux or Windows desktop OS are properly optimized to be energy efficient to begin with.  So run times would suffer significantly using VM solutions.

          Thus why services like Citrix Client exists.  Since it’s typically much more energy efficient and effective to run x86 apps remotely than on these ARM devices themselves.

          The other issues with VM is that while they can get many apps to work, they don’t all work or work as well as they would on native hardware.  While also, VM often acts like a sandbox and prevents any changes and customizations.

          A good example is the original Motorola Atrix that used a limited custom VM of Ubuntu for the desktop mode that allowed you to run the desktop version of Mozilla Firefox.  You could use it but that was about it.

          While for the newer version they decided to stick to Android and just created a custom desktop style UI environment that the device will switch to.  Since they figured the performance gain of running natively was worth the loss of being able to run desktop options like the Firefox web browser versus the performance hit that the VM solution provided.

          Anyway, I don’t believe the Boxchip is fully powered over USB.  It has a 5v at 2A DC adapter that plugs right next to the full size USB port if you want to connect anything like a hard drive to it.

          Though that means it should be able to power most USB devices, which is a issue with many ARM devices as they aren’t designed to power USB devices or in most cases even have a host mode by default (at least without a OTG cable adapter to enable it).

          You’ll still need a powered hub for multiple devices but at least it should allow more USB devices to work than they would with most other ARM devices.

          While the Allwinner A10 may be a single core Cortex A8 but should provide decent enough performance, especially over clocked to 1.5GHz (default is 1.2GHz), and it supports Open Source.  So it’s much easier to port Linux to it than many other ARM solutions that have to deal with things like closed driver support.

          While this particular version at least has 1GB of RAM, versus the 512MB the other versions offered.

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