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Remix OS for PC Beta: Jide Tech is Moving in the Right Direction (Updated March 17, 2016)
George Ross, March 16, 2016

A while back I took a look at Jide's Remix Mini (you can check it out here) and I liked what I saw. Now Jide has released the Remix OS for PC Beta and I gotta tell ya I'm pretty excited about it. If you would like to give Remix OS for PC a spin go here for downloads and installation instructions. Could the Remix OS for PC be what brings Linux to the mainstream in the PC realm?

What is Remix OS for PC?
So what is Remix OS for PC anyways? The Remix OS and Remix OS for PC are desktop oriented operating systems built on Android. Remix OS for PC is the same Remix OS that comes with Jide's Ultratablet and Remix Mini, but it is built on Android x86 instead of stock Android and what's more Jide offers it for free. Both Android and Android x86 are open source, but Android x86 is built to run on x86 based processors while Android is built to run on ARM based processors.

The initial release of Remix OS for PC was an Alpha release that was 64-bit only. I did play with both the Alpha releases, but waited for the Beta release before reviewing it. Jide has made several improvements since the Alpha release of Remix OS for PC. Most notably Remix OS for PC now has 32-bit support. Other notable changes are installation on to hard drives are now supported and OTA updates. These changes make Remix OS for PC more suited to tasks like repurposing old hardware and for the daring installation on to 2-in-1's and notebooks for everday use. While I have yet to install Remix OS for PC on to any hard drive. I am using it to do this review from a USB flash drive. I'm going to try and use the Remix OS for PC every task performed in my process like composition, html editing, image editing, and uploading to the server. I'll let you know how this works out in my conclusion.

No Google Play
It was possible to install Google Play on the Alpha version of Remix OS for PC, but as of yet there is now way I have found to do it with the Beta version. The Remix OS for PC Beta does not come with Google Play installed. There is an official way to install Google Play. Instructions can be found here. Without an app store the Remix OS for PC doesn't do much. All you get pre-installed is Google Browser, a Calculator, Clock app, Downloads (a download manager), a File Manager, Google Pinyin Input Settings, MX Player, Music, Settings, Terminal, and Widgets. With that setup all you can do is browse the internet and playback some media. Without an app store there would be no way to do this review using Remix OS for PC. So in order to get the apps I needed to do this review I side loaded Amazon Underground. It doesn't have all that Google Play has, but it has what I need to get the job done.

In short without an app store Remix OS for PC is not very useful. I'm sure once it is released as a finished product the Google Play store will be available like it is on the Remix Mini.

The "Start Menu"
As the folks at Microsoft learned with the release of Windows 8 the start menu is a big deal for people using a desktop operating system. So of course Jide has included a "start menu" with Remix OS for PC. Jide's "start menu" is simple, clean, and useful. It is accessed by clicking on the character in left most portion of the taskbar.

Apps can be sorted by name, date updated, and usage.

You can also search for apps.

The power options are standby, restart, and shut down.

Right clicking on an app's shortcut brings up options to launch, pin to taskbar, open in fullscreen mode (only displays if supported), app details (a direct link to the app's settings), and uninstall (only if the app was installed by the user). I really like what Jide has done here it saves the user from opening and navigateing around the settings everytime you want to know more or uninstall an app.

The Taskbar
To me the taskbar is another essential part of the desktop computing experience. This is another area where the Remix OS for PC shines.

As I mentioned above the "start menu" can be accessed from the taskbar and apps can be pinned to the taskbar. There are also a couple of standard Android buttons on the taskbar as well. Clicking on the "<" button works just like it does on your phone or tablet. It is a back button and once you have gone through an app's history with it will close the app. Clicking on the "o" minimizes all the currently open windows and displays a the blank desktop.

The pinned apps appear to the right of the standard buttons and each app you open keeps appearing to the right of the last app opened. Once an app has been pinned or opened they can be right clicked on and you get options for that app. The options you get depend on the state of the app and its pin status. You can close open apps, choose windowed or full screen modes, and unpin pinned apps.

If you click on the little triangle to the left of the input methods icon it expands the notification icons and reveals the memory cleanup, bluetooth, and sound icons. Left clicking on any notification icon will allow you to use a widget associated with each and in the case of the Bluetooth, input methods, and Wi-Fi icons a link to the settings that correspond with each icon.

Clicking on the time brings up a calender.

Clicking on the three lines to the right of the time brings up the notification area. Where you can toggle the auto-hide function of the taskbar.

The Notification Area
Most modern operating systems have some sort of notification area wether its designed for a phone, tablet, or PC and Remix OS for PC is no different.

Depending on how you customized your notification settings (default all notifications are enabled) the notification area can let know things like an app being installed or updated, a screen shot was captured, or an OTA update is available. Once a notification has been clicked on it will open up the relevant app. There are also options to toggle do not disturb, toggle auto rotation, toggle auto-hide taskbar, open the screenshot tool, and open settings.

The Desktop
Even the desktop has been tweaked for PC use in Remix OS for PC, but some things are still the same. Like when an app is installed it automatically has a shortcut placed on the desktop and "start menu". This is quite similar to how shortcuts are added to the home screen and all apps menu in a vanilla Android enviroment.

The differences start to appear when you right click on the desktop. Right clicking on a blank spot on the desktop will bring up options to create a new folder, arrange icons by name, change wallpaper, and display settings.

There is also a trash icon that can be emptied by right clicking on it or left clicking it opens the trash location in the file manager. As of yet I have not found a way to bypass the trash. Even the shift+delete key stroke sends deleted items to the trash.

Window Management
Window management in Remix OS for PC is very familiar. Windows can be opened in fullscreen mode or windowed mode. When a window is opened in fullscreen mode the window manager auto hides at the top of the screen.

All the standard window management options are present minimize, fullsize or restore, and close. Left clicking and holding a window on the top bar lets you move it around. The only added function to the window manager that I see is the inclusion of the back button to the far left of each window.

The File Manager
Jide has included a nice responsive file manager that only has one flaw. It doesn't have network and samba support. Jide is working on this, but as of now they recommend using ES File Explorer.

Aside from the network issue the file manager does everything you need it to. You can change between grid and list views.

You can sort files by name, type, size, and date modified. There is also options to create new folders and search.

Clicking on the circle with a check in it brings up the edit functions allowing you to copy, cut, delete, preview, share, open with, and rename files.

The Settings Layout
Jide has done some serious work to the settings layout of Remix OS for PC. It is more reminiscent of Windows 10 than Android. I gotta say I like what they have done.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Most keyboard shortcuts are supported in Remix OS for PC. The only ones that I have found to not work is the shift+delete (delete works it just doesn't bypass the trash) and the alt-space bar for window management controls.

Tablet Use
Since Remix OS for PC is based on Android I wanted to see how well it worked with touch controls. So I booted up the 32-bit version on an ASUS T-100. All the touch controls/gestures I tried worked without a hitch. The only problems I had were with the T-100 not coming back from standby and a couple driver issues. The mouse pad worked, but the scroll function on it didn't work and the power light located on the bezel that normally only comes on to indicate the device has booted stayed on the whole time I was using it.

Could I use Remix OS for PC to do this entire review? I had to learn some new software and get out of my comfort zone, but in the end it all worked out. I had to use .png images instead of .gif's as every Andriod image editor and converter I tried made the .gif's look like crap. So I hope the image loading isn't to bad with this review. If it is Just let me know.

Jide's Remix OS for PC is shaping up to be a solid choice for those looking to ditch Windows or repurpose ageing hardware. The only glaring problems I can see at this point is the lack of Google Play and the network issues with the file manager. Since Android enjoys strong developer support I would say it is only a matter time before PC optimized apps start populating the Google Play store. If this happens there very well may be a paradigm shift in desktop operating system landscape.

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