Must Have Apps for Android Mini PCs
Wondering what apps to install on your brand new Android mini PC?
So you just got your brand new Android mini PC and have it set up with your TV. You are connected to the internet. You launch the Google Play Store app and you are now presented with close to a million Android apps. So which apps should you install on your new device?
I have tested and reviewed about a dozen different Android mini PC and set top boxes in the last 6 months. I have installed and tested out dozens of apps on these devices so I have a pretty good idea on the "must have" apps for the Android mini PC.
Apps that run well on an Android smart phone or tablet may not necessarily run well on the Android mini PC due to differences in input method. The primary input method for phones and tablets is via the touch screen but on the Android Mini PC, you usually only have a keyboard and a touch pad or mouse. The recommended apps takes this into consideration.
Last but not least, the apps are segregated by category. Have fun with your Android mini PC.
All images courtesy of Google Play
One of the most common uses for Android Mini PCs is for video playback. While all the devices do have at the very least a default video player that is fairly competent, the interface of the default player is quite spartan. Furthermore, there is no proper media management app to allow the user to easily sort and categorize the files.
Mizuu is an absolutely gorgeous looking front end for your movie and TV shows collection. It even acts as a front end for web videos and online movie trailers.
Once installed, all you have to do is to let Mizuu know where your files are stored and Mizuu will download covers and details for your collection. You can then view your collection by title, rating, release date, genres, favorites, etc.
When you select any of the video files, you are then presented with an awesome looking details page that is filled with all kinds of information like synopsis, plot, runtime, actor information, reviews, etc. All these information is automatically downloaded from the Internet. Mizuu will also randomly fetch a backdrop for the movie info page.
Download link: Download Mizuu from Google Play Store
Netflix is another popular movie streaming app that works really well on the Android Mini PCs. If you are currently a Netflix subscriber, just download the free app. With the Netflix app, you can then watch all your favorite movies and TV shows from the Netflix online streaming library on your big screen TV.
In fact, the Android Mini PC is probably one of the easiest way to watch Netflix on your TV if you do not already have a Netflix ready TV set top box.
Download link: Download Netflix from Google Play Store
Price: Free (Netflix subscription required)
If you are a fan of Hulu and would like to watch Hulu on your TV, all you need is the free Hulu Plus app. You will also need a paid subscription to Hulu Plus as the Hulu Plus app is only accessible by subscribers.
There is also one extra hurdle before you can start watching your Hulu shows. The official app from the Google Play Store does not support Android Mini PC devices. You need to download the modified Hulu Plus app from XDA Developers. Get the "landscape" version that is meant for tablet devices.
Download link: Download Hulu Plus from XDA Developers
Price: Free (Hulu Plus subscription required)
There are tons of video players on the Google Play Store and there are many that are pretty good. However, MX Player stands out as among the best.
Besides being able to play about any movie file you can throw at it, it is also a very full featured player. It has support for a wide range of subtitle formats and you can even zoom your video. MX Player is also free although an ad-free pro version is also available. The ads only appear when you are navigating the menus and not during video playback.
Download link: Download MX Player from Google Play Store
Price: Free (Ad supported)
iHeartRadio is a free app that offers free music and digital internet radio. The free music part of iHeartRadio is similar to Pandora. Just enter a song or an artist and the app will play the selected song followed by a selection of suggested songs. The listener can then vote up or down to enable iHeartRadio to learn you music preference better.
Besides creating your own custom radio stations, you can also find and listen to more than 1,500 live radio stations. You can browse the stations by genre or location.
iHeartRadio is currently one of the best music discovery app. It offers unlimited commercial-free music. I don't know how long this eat-all-you-want music buffet will last but enjoy it while you still can now.
Download link: Download iHeartRadio from Google Play Store
Plex for Android
If your media content is stored on your network drives, the easiest way to access them from your Android Mini PC and play them on your TV is to use Plex.
Besides easily accessing your network collection, Plex also allows you to access online content easily. You can add channels like YouTube, CNET, Vimeo and much more.
To set up Plex for Android, you first need to install Plex Media Server. Plex Media Server supports Windows, OS X and Linux plus it is free. Once installed and set up, you can then connect to the Media Server with Plex on your Android Mini PC device.
Download link: Download Plex for Android from Google Play Store
The Android Mini PC makes a quite decent web browser especially the ones with dual core processors. Despite having faster dual core CPUs, the experience of browsing on the Android Mini PC cannot compare to a full desktop experience but it is very close. With a little more RAM, the experience will one day be comparable.
All the Android Mini PC devices comes with at least the default Android web browser. While it is a pretty decent web browser, it is lacking some useful features when compared to other alternative browsers including Google's own Chrome browser.
Here are a couple of browsers that you might want to use in place of the default browser.
If you are using Google's Chrome browser on your regular desktop computer, smartphone or tablet, it should be a no-brainer for you to use Chrome on the Android Mini PC as well.
You can sync your open tabs and bookmarks across all your devices by signing into Chrome with your Google account. That means that you can seamlessly switch between one device to another and pick up right where you left of.
Download link: Download Chrome from Google Play Store
Dolphin Browser is one of the most popular and highest rated web browser in the Google Play Store. Dolphin makes it very easy to share web pages via social media or you can save them to Evernote or Box.
Like Chrome, Dolphin also has the ability to sync history, bookmarks and open tabs between browsers on your mobile devices and desktop computer. Dolphin also has support for Add-ons, similar to desktop browsers. There are currently over 60 Dolphin Add-ons available for download.
Download link: Download Dolphin Browser from Google Play Store
Remote Control Apps
Most Android Mini PC users pair a mini RF wireless keyboard with the Android Mini PC but did you know that you can use your Android smartphone or tablet as an input device as well. There are a couple of apps that have gotten good feedback from users.
MK802III Remote Client
Although the app says MK802III Remote Control Client, it can be used by any Rockchip RK3066 based device like the MK808, UG802, UG007, MX1 or Neo G4.
The app basically converts your phone or tablet into a touch screen and keyboard with touchpad for your Android mini PC. You can even use your phone's G-sensor for games and apps that require this feature.
To use the remote control app, the firmware needs to have the server app already installed. You can either update the firmware to the latest version or use a custom ROM like the Finless ROM that has the support included.
Download link: Download MK802III Remote Client from Google Play Store
Like the RK3066 remote control app, Droidmote consists of a server and a client app. The server app is installed on the Android Mini PC while the client app is installed on the phone.
Functionality wise, Droidmote is very similar to the RK3066 remote control app but it is not free as the server app costs $2.49. However, Droidmote does have a few extra functions that the RK3066 remote control app doesn't have like a virtual joypad with dual analog sticks.
Price: $2.49 for Droidmote Server. Client is free
Here are a few other apps that might be of use to Android Mini PC users.
Null Keyboard replaces the default soft keyboard with a dummy keyboard that does....nothing. However, this app is extremely useful if you are using some sort of external keyboard. It stops the soft keyboard from popping up and taking up half the real screen estate.
You do need to reconfigure your keyboard settings though if you want to use the soft keyboard though.
Download link: Null Keyboard from Google Play Store
Hide Bottom Bar
One frequent problem that is encountered by many users when playing videos is that the video does not play in full screen. The Android bottom menu bar causes the video to play with the menu at the bottom and a vertical bar on either side of the video.
You can force Android to hide the menu bar at the bottom and play video in full screen mode by installing Hide Menu Bar. This application requires root.
Download link: Hide Menu Bar from Google Play Store
External Keyboard Helper Pro
The External Keyboard Helper Pro is an app that lets you configure your Android Mini PC to support international external keyboard layouts.
It also has other helpful features such as creating quick shortcuts to enter text strings and map the ESC key to the Android BACK function. It also has a null keyboard to hide the soft keyboard when you are using an external keyboard to free up more screen estate.
Download link: External Keyboard Helper Pro from Google Play Store