Are you one of those people who has admired Microsoft’s Surface hardware but bemoaned its operating system? Now you can do something about it. Chinese startup Jide has produced an eerily Surface-like tablet that runs a heavily modified version of Android 4.4, called Remix OS.
The “Remix ultra-tablet”, as the team of former Google engineers call their first product, is an 11.6-inch, 1080p multi-touch-enabled tablet, and looks nearly identical to a Surface 2. It even features both a magnetic power connector and a magnetic keyboard connector for a full-size, but thin, keyboard that is similar to Microsoft’s Type cover. The company’s goal is to produce a product that is both a great tablet and completely usable as a laptop. Fans of Windows 8 may point out that Microsoft thinks it has done that already, but for Android users — especially now that Microsoft is rolling out Office for Android — the Remix tablet might be just the thing. I went hands-on with one at CES to test out the company’s claims.
Remix OS goes beyond standard Android
First and foremost, the tablet provides a great Android experience. The Tegra 4 processor is enough to keep it moving along nicely with productivity applications — even when using Remix’s ability to open several windows at once. The company had loaded the demo tablet with the preview versions of Microsoft’s Office applications, which worked just as smoothly as they do on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition.
Jide has also extended Android by adding a taskbar, a phone mode for running older applications in a window, and a multiple window system. It has also added an intuitive file manager (no more hunting under /storage/emulated/0 for files) and some right-click menus for better mouse support.
The Remix ultra-tablet has a lot in common with the Surface 2
As far as the weight and build quality, the Remix is quite beefy at 860 grams — a little thicker and heavier than the lightest comparable iPads or even Android models. This additional bulk was added by Jide for a few reasons. First, the device has an integrated USB OTG port in addition to the typical microSD slot. Second, according to marketing manager Jason Zheng, there are two pieces of metal running the length of the tablet to make it stiffer and harder to damage. He backed up his claim, by letting me photograph him standing on it!
The tablet can also be used to recharge your smartphones — up to three at once. Like the Surface 2, the Remix tablet has a dual position kickstand (nice, although not as sweet as the one in the Surface Pro 3 that can be positioned in just about any location).
The Remix tablet is priced very competitively with the Surface 2, at $450 — including keyboard — when it ships, which is expected to be this spring.