An Android Mini PC Can Make Your HDTV Smarter for $50

By Simon Hill, dealnews contributor

The market for miniature flash drive-sized Android PCs is really taking off, and these devices are growing more powerful with each new release. For about $50, these petite computers plug directly into your HDTV, and provide web connectivity while also acting as a game console, workstation, and set top box that can stream movies, TV shows, and music. Basically, an Android mini PC can be whatever you want it to be, so long as you download and install the appropriate Android apps or games.

Make Your HDTV Smart With an Android Mini PC

If a recent deal on the Android MK809 is any indication, the mini PC trend is quite popular amongst dealnews readers. This model (pictured) sports Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), a single-core ARM Cortex A9 1.6GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB flash storage, HDMI output, and a microSD card slot. Although PC World had some difficulty initially setting it up, the publication describes the MK809's functionality as "a surprisingly fun experience" and praises it for having more common usage over the other mini PC on the block, the Raspberry Pi.

However, while older models like the MK809 are getting cheaper all the time — our deal saw it knocked to $48 (it's currently available for $49.99 with free shipping, a low by $6) — there are some big incentives to spend a little more on the latest release, the RK3066. Pictured below, the newest iteration boasts similar specs in a sleeker package, but with the addition of a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 1.6GHz processor, DLNA support, Bluetooth, and extra ports in the shape of USB, micro-USB, female HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The verdict from Laptop Mag is that the RK3066 "is small enough to fit in your pocket, yet powerful enough to be your portable Android game console or workstation." Meanwhile, Engadget calls it the "MK802's younger, smarter, cheaper brother" and highlights the inclusion of an audio jack and Bluetooth support; these features mean that it's not a problem if you want to use the mini PC with a TV that doesn't have built-in speakers, and it also makes it easy to wirelessly attach a mouse and keyboard. Currently, the best deal we could find on the RK3066 prices it at $60 (with $5 s&h, a low by $5).

Choose the Model That Suits Your Needs

From our deal archives we've found that the first batch of mini Android PCs now consistently drop below $50, but they make use of single-core processors, which results in noticeably slower performance. You'll also find that some of these early models lack useful ports, or they cram too many into a small space, which makes it very tough to realistically use them all at once. If you want something the size of a flash drive that you can plug directly into the TV, then these early models will certainly provide it, but you may have trouble adding a mouse and keyboard, for example; the RK3066 model circumvents these issues.

Whatever mini Android PC you choose, you'll have full access to the Play Store and all of Google's services. That means you can install programs like Skype, Angry Birds, or Netflix. You can also use Google Now — a digital butler complete with voice commands — if you hook up a Bluetooth headset, which is also handy for gaming. For these reasons, plugging in a mini Android PC is a great, cheap way to make your TV smart.

Interested in adding an Android Mini PC to your home theater setup? Sign up for an email alert now to receive notification as soon as we list a deal.

Photo credit: PC World

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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I wonder if you can use the mini Android in the 3m streaming projector:
It may be that the dual core would be better. But after getting burned on the MK808, I'm not inclined to take a $50 chance on another one of these, even if it is somewhat improved.
From reviews on various websites, it seems a kind of crap-shoot as to whether or not you get a good unit.
Appreciate your responses, other posters.
Do these Android USB sticks come with Google Play? I would doubt that. What can these USB sticks do what Ouya wont be able to do? Granted Ouya is at least double the price but is probably a lot more value (better hardware, a controller, and much better software interface and third party apps).
Louis Ramirez (DealNews)
@inder123 The biggest difference between these USB sticks and the OUYA is the processor. The OUYA runs on Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3, which was specifically made for gaming. (And it also comes with a wireless controller that resemble the 360's controller.) Check out our OUYA feature for more details.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@analyst I wonder if you'd notice a better performance with the dual-core!
Mine is the MK808, which I bleieve is the older, single-core.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@analyst Do you have one of the single-core models, or the newer dual-core one?
I've been thinking about getting one of these Android PCs lately, but at the same time I Kickstarted the OUYA, so I will have one here very soon. The one thing I do know is, at least initally, the OUYA will have a more gaming dedicated OS. It doesn't have the Google Play store, it has its own Game Store. That is until people start unlocking and modding it. It does run XBMC, which is the main reason I'm getting one. And what other apps it has, at this point I don't know.
I could be wrong about all that, but thats my understanding from everything I read so far.
How does this compare with buying an Ouya console?
I have one of these and every time I use it the cursor freezes on the screen after a short time. I've tried it out with 3 different wireless keyboards (which work fine with other computers) and it happens with all of them. For the 5 or 10 minutes it's working it's a great product. So if you never plan to use the thing for more than a few minutes at a stretch, then it's a great product. Otherwise, it's a waste of money.