MK808 Dual Core Android Mini PC Hands On Review
MK808 Dual Core Android Mini PC
I finally got my hands on the MK808 Dual Core Android Mini PC for a full hands on review thanks to the kind folks at GeekBuying who nicely sent me a review unit.
The MK808 Android mini computer is sold under different names and brands. It is also known as Sain Smart SS808, Primal GV-20 and iPEGTOP MK808.
Since I have already written an article on the MK808 Android Mini PC, I will not be covering information that I have included in that article. If you need basic information on the MK808 such as device specification and hardware features, please refer to my earlier article.
This hands on review was written after spending about 10 days with the review unit. I have tested it on a 47" LG HDTV. For control, I have tried both with wired and wireless mouse and keyboard as well as an air mouse mouse/keyboard combo.
Although the review unit is supplied by GeekBuying, it is with the understanding that this review will be impartial and GeekBuying has no influence over the actual content of the review. GeekBuying only gets to see this review after it has been published.
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About the MK808 Android Mini PC
The MK808 is one of the latest devices in a new category of Android devices, the Android-on-a-stick or Android Mini PC device. The devices in this category are cheap (normally under $100), small (about the size of a USB thumbdrive), has very low power consumption and connects to a HDTV via HDMI. It can connect to the internet via built-in WiFi and is controlled using a USB keyboard and/or mouse. Both wired and wireless RF versions are supported.
The Android Mini PC devices have been slowly gaining popularity due its cheap price and versatility. It is ideal for turning a normal HDTV into a Smart TV and Linux fans have been using them as cheap Linux computers as it can easily boot into Linux.
The first batch of Android Mini PCs were based on the popular Allwinner A10 chipset. The Allwinner chipset is very popular and has a lot of open source support but performance wise it is more on the average side. The new generation of Android Mini PCs are based on the dual core Rockchip RK3066 that is much more powerful compared to the Allwinner A10.
The MK808 is one of the first Android Mini PC devices that is based on the RK3066 chipset.
What is included with the MK808?
First of all, the packaging of the MK808 Android Mini PC is very different from the box packaging used for the MK802 and Uhost. Instead of a cardboard box, the MK808 is packed in a clear plastic container. The packaging is quite attractive and will look good hanging from a display rack but a box is probably more functional for the user especially if you wish to store the device back into its container for storage.
Inside the packaging is the MK808 Android-on-a-stick, a mini USB to full standard make USB cable that is meant for connecting to the MK808's power port, a mini USB to standard female USB adapter for the USB OTG port, a mini HDMI to full HDMI male adapter cable, a USB power supply adapter and last but not least, a simple manual.
It is good to note that the MK808 package includes all the essential cables and adapters that you need to set it up with the HDTV. The only item which you may need to add on is a USB hub if you need to connect more than one USB device to the device.
First impressions of the MK808 Android Mini PC
My first impression of the MK808 Android Mini PC is that the build quality is higher than the MK802. It has a smooth rubbery coating that is similar to the Uhost device. Size wise it is slimmer but a tad bit thicker than the MK802. It has a rather nice feel to it.
One obvious difference between the three models is that the MK808 has lots of ventilation holes on both the top and bottom surface. The MK802 has a few while the Uhost has none.
All the ports and slots are clearly marked so that helps during setup.
Plugging in the MK808 to the TV couldn't be simpler. Just attach the HDMI cable to the MK808 and plug in the other end to a free HDMI port on the TV. Then plug in the mini USB cable to the power port on the MK808 and then plug the other end to either a USB port on the TV or to the provided USB power adapter. Lastly attach your USB keyboard/mouse or the USB wireless receiver to the USB host port. My initial review of the MK808 will be based on the defaultAndroid OS 4.1 Jellybean that is installed on the device.
There is an official ROM update from the manufacturer as well as other alternative versions of both OS 4.1 and OS 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) that are currently available for the MK808 but I will only cover them in a later update to this review.
MK808 real world performance
There are a few common uses for the Android Mini PC. The first is for video playback, both on local storage or off the local network and video streaming on the internet using apps like YouTube and Netflix.
The second is for converting a normal HDTV into a smart TV with functions such as web browsing, social networking using apps like Facebook and Twitter, chatting and voice communication using apps like Google Talk and Skype; and last but not least, for gaming.
The other less common uses for the Android Mini PC are using it as a low power bittorrent rig or as a Linux PC. I did not cover these two areas in my review but I have provided my opinion on the suitability of the MK808 for these tasks.
My Android Mini PC reviews are based on actual real world performance running actual tasks and apps instead of relying on benchmarks.
Boot up and initial impressionsBooting up the MK808 takes less than 30 seconds. This is much faster than the MK802 which takes about 90 seconds. This makes the MK808 a much more viable device to use with the TV as most media devices that are connected to TVs boot up fairly quickly and 30 seconds is acceptable.
The first thing that I noticed about the MK808 after it had booted up was that the display looks a bit stretched horizontally. A check on the display settings shows that the resolution has been set to 1080p. Changing the display settings does not help with the stretching.
A quick check on the ArmTvTech forums reveals that the MK808 output resolution is actually 1024x768 and is then scaled to the resolution setting you have selected in the settings. According to users on the forums, certain TVs are not compatible with the MK808 and this might be caused by the resolution issue.
Fortunately, there is a firmware update available that fixes a few bugs with the MK808 including the resolution stretching problem.
The MK808 does not come with a customized launcher and uses the default Jellybean launcher. This can either be a plus point or a minus point depending on your view. Personally, I prefer the standard launcher over a badly designed customized launcher. However, this is not a big issue as the advantage of the Android OS is that things like this can be easily customized by downloading additional apps.
I have updated the firmware with the rooted and Play Store fixed ROM from ArmTvTech Forum. I followed the instructions from the Flashing the Firmware thread from the same forum.
The entire process was relatively easy. The only problem I encountered was that my Windows 7 laptop did not recognize the driver in the x86/Win7 folder even though I am using an Intel iCore5 machine. Strangely enough, I finally managed to install the driver by using the amd/Win7 driver.
This firmware is based on Android 4.0.4 (ICS) and the reason I chose this firmware is because I read on the ArmTvTech forums that someone managed to get a Logitech C270 webcam to work using this firmware. While the OS has been downgraded, the best thing about this firmware for me is that it fixed the stretched resolution problem.
Video playbackVideo playback performance is a bit mixed. There is a built in video player that is simply called "Video" that is included with the MK808 and this player is pretty good as it plays all the file formats that I threw at it including MKV, AVI and MP4 in both SD and HD formats. It also has an aspect ratio toggle button that allows video to be played back without being stretched. However, the video player does not have many features and the controls can be a bit confusing.
On the other hand, I tried a few other video players from the Google Play Store including the popular MX Player and BS Player and they all had horizontal black bars at the top and bottom and the video is stretched.
I have also tried playing video files over both an NAS with samba share as well as DLNA and it works for most files. I did encounter some playback issues with really big (more than 15 GB) 1080p files but this is probably due to the wireless connection rather than the MK808 itself.
Video streamingFor video streaming testing, I tried with both Netflix and YouTube. Both apps has the stretched video problem when viewing in full screen mode. Furthermore, there is a menu bar showing at the bottom of the screen which takes up even more screen estate. Fortunately the menu bar can be removing by installing an app to auto-hide it.
I faced a problem playing HD videos in YouTube. The video will pause and start to buffer excessively after playing for about a minute and a half. However, I have not come across anyone else that is facing this issue so this could be a unique issue. I will try to reinstall or try a different version of YouTube later on and update this review.
Web browsingThe MK808 comes with the Chrome browser as standard but you can download and use any of the many web browsers available on the Android platform including Dolphin and Firefox. Web browsing on the MK808 is a much more pleasant experience compared to the MK802 as pages load quickly even those with a lot of graphics. Opening multiple tabs does not slow down the browser. The browsing experience on the MK808 with a mouse and keyboard is very much akin to using a PC especially if you set the browser to display the desktop page instead of the mobile page.
However, since the MK808 runs on Android 4.1 Jellybean, Flash is not supported. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Android community, it is possible to have Flash working in the browsers. A walk through of this process can be found on this YouTube video.
For your social networking needs, you can either access your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts either via the web browser or using their respective apps. However since most apps are designed to work on smaller screens, using the web browser can actually be the better experience.
USB Gamepads that work with the MK808
I have compiled a list of working USB gamepads and controllers based on feedback from user forums.
GamingThis is where the MK808 Dual Core Android Mini PC really shines. The much faster dual core processor makes running games a breeze on the MK808. All the games that I tried ran well including graphically intensive 3D games like GTA3 and Dead Space. In fact the only limitation on running games on the MK808 is whether it is possible to play the game without a touch screen or accelerator controls. There are also some games that only run in portrait orientation so while they do run, it would not be a game you would like to play on the MK808.
Here is another area that the MK808 really excels at - console and arcade emulators. Just plug in a supported USB controller like the and you are in emulator heaven. Classic USB Super Nintendo Controller for PC
Emulators such as FPSe (PSOne emulator), NEO.emu (NeoGeo emulator), N64oid (Nintendo N64 emulator), Snes9x EX (SNES emulator) and MAME4droid (Arcade emulator) all ran great on the MK808. There are many other emulator apps that can be found at yongzh's SlideMe page.
If you are a fan of classic console gaming, you won't go wrong with the MK808. The stretched display is not really an issue in this case as the emulators all run in SD 4:3 aspect ratio.
Linux and bittorrentThe RK3066 chipset in the MK808 is not well supported for Linux because the chipset manufacturer did not release the source code publicly. As a result, it does not have a robust open source community support like the MK802. If you plan to run Linux, you should stick to one of the Allwinner A10 based devices like the MK802 and Uhost.
A copy of the kernel source for the RK3066 has been leaked out. With the availability of the source code, it is now highly possible to have Linux running on the MK808 and other RK3066 based Android mini computers.
Bittorrent should run well on the MK808. Just connect an external storage drive to the MK808 and run one of the available bittorrent clients from the Google Play Store.
Other observationsIt is good to note that the MK808 does not run hot even after many hours of testing non-stop. The MK808 only feels warm to my touch. This is yet another important improvement over the MK802.
The MK808 is not rooted like the MK802. There are instructions on the ArmTvTech forum that provides the required files and details on how to root the MK808. The updated firmware also roots the MK808.
In my earlier preview of the MK808, I mentioned about the WiFi issues highlighted by some users. Some users find that the WiFi is either very slow or it is not 802.11n compatible. I did not experience any significant WiFi connection issues during my tests and I was still able to stream HD content from Netflix. I am not claiming that the issue does not exist but just that I did not experience any WiFi connection issues that affected my testing. However, during my testing period, the MK808 is located less than 5 feet away from my router.
Another issue that was mentioned in the earlier article was that the Google Play Store only displayed free items. However, I can confirm that this is not true as I am able to view paid items as well. I am not sure if there has been an update to the firmware or if it is a geographical location issue.
Using Skype on MK808
Like the MK802, using Skype on the MK808 is a hit and miss affair. There is no official list of supported devices so MK808 users will have to rely on feedback from other MK808 users to find out which webcams work for Skype and which don't. I will be compiling a list of working cameras here but take note that these webcams have not been personally tested by me.
If you find otherwise or if want to share your own experience, please use the comments section below.
Please also note that a powered USB hub may be required.
For a comprehensive compilation of compatible webcams and firmware versions for the MK808 and other dual core Android Mini PCs, check out my guide, Skype on MK808, UG802, MX1, Neo G4 and MK802 III.
If you have come across a webcam that works or even one that doesn't, please share it here. Please let us know which ROM you used and if there are any other additional accessories required to get it to work. Thank you.
The GoodThe construction of the MK808 is quite good and the rubbery layer makes it look and feel classy.All the required cables and adapters are already included with the device.Quick boot up in under 30 seconds.Comes with Android 4.1 Jellybean, the latest version of Android OS.The faster dual core processor is a big help in multi-tab browsing and gaming. The browsing experience is very close to what you would expect when using a full sized PC. Most games run flawlessly on the MK808.No overheating problem. The MK808 runs cool even after hours of testing.
The BadNo customized launcher. The default Jellybean launcher can be difficult to navigate as the icons are relatively small compared to screen size.The default video player, "Video" plays most video formats but has poor controls and not many features.YouTube and Netflix does not play in full screen and has a menu bar at the bottom. However, it can be removed by installing an auto hide app.The MK808 does not come rooted out of the box. You either have to root it yourself or update to the new firmware.Lack of support for Linux. If you plan to run Linux, stay away from the MK808.
The UglyThe 1028x768 resolution that causes the horizontal stretching on the display. This can be fixed by changing the firmware to an ICS version though.
Check out my comprehensive guide that highlights all the important features and differences between all the different Android mini computers.