Uhost Android Mini PC Review
Uhost Android Mini PC
You may think that the Uhost Android Mini PC is yet another MK802 Android-on-a-stick clone that is trying to cash in on the popularity of the MK802 and other versions of tiny Android PCs that are currently flooding the market but you will probably be surprised to learn like I did that the Uhost Android Mini PC predates the MK802 according to the designer and manufacturer of the Uhost, Smallart.
The current version of Uhost is based on the familiar Allwinner A10 chipset and was actually released in May 2012 while an older version that was based on the dual core EV2 chipset was released last year.
This review was written after I have tested out the Uhost for about 1 week. The review Uhost unit was supplied by Smallart for the purpose of this review with the understanding that this review will be unbiased and Smallart will have no control over the actual content of the review. Smallart only got to see this review after it has been published.
<< All Images by Roy Yap & Smallart >>
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Unboxing the Uhost Android Mini PC
Uhost and the optional air mouse controllerThe packaging of the Uhost Android Mini PC is very impressive. The box quality is sturdy and the minimalist white design reminds me of an Apple product.
It is interesting to note that many of the new China designed products are paying more attention to the packaging design even for a relatively low cost product like the Uhost.
The attention given to the design of the packaging extends to the inside of the box.
The Uhost Android Mini PC unit is snugly packed in a tray. The tray that holds the Uhost comes with a pull loop that makes it easy to remove the tray.
Under the top tray is another tray that is supposed to hold the optional custom designed air mouse controller.
My review unit did not come with the air mouse controller as FedEx does not allow shipment of devices with non removable built in batteries.
The second tray comes with a pull loop as well. Pull that and at the bottom of the box are a dual connector mini USB cable, a HDMI extension cable and a USB power adapter. Like the MK802 II, the Uhost gets its power via the mini USB OTG port. You can either use the power adapter with the USB cable or draw power directly from the TV's USB port. If the TV's USB port does not provide enough power, you can use draw additional power from a second USB port with the dual connector USB cable.
It is good that the HDMI extension cable is included as not all HDTVs will have enough space to fit the Uhost plugged directly to it. On my LG HDTV, there are 4 HDMI ports and I have used the other 3 ports. I was not able to plug in the Uhost directly into the empty HDMI port as the adjacent HDMI port is located too close to the free HDMI port. I was definitely glad that the extension cable was included.
A summary of what is included in the box:
> Uhost Android Mini PC
> HDMI extension cable
> Double port mini USB cable (for power)
> USB power adapter
On to the Uhost unit itself. The body of the Uhost is made from matte black plastic and the build quality is very good. My first impression is that the build quality is better than the MK802 and the MK802 II. All the ports are clearly marked by embossed labels or logos on the casing itself.
Ports on the UhostLike the MK802 II, the Uhost has a built in HDMI connector on the device itself. It is covered with a cap like a USB thumb drive. On the other end of the unit is the standard USB host 2.0 port. On one side of the unit is a microSD or TF card expansion slot and a 3.5mm mic port for connecting an external mic.
On the other side of the unit is the mini USB OTG port that is used for powering the unit and a button labelled as U. I later found out that this is the Udisk button that is used to turn the Uhost into a USB thumb drive.
On the top surface is a LED light that indicates if the power is on and which mode the Uhost is in. Last but not least, this is also where the built in mic is located.
I was very surprised to find no ventilation holes on the Uhost and considering how hot my MK802 gets when in use, I had a little reservation about this fact.
Summary of ports and buttons on the Uhost:
> Built in HDMI connector
> A full sized USB host 2.0 port for connection to USB peripherals or a PC as a thumb drive
> A mini USB OTG port for power
> A micro SD or TF card expansion slot to expand the storage capacity if needed. It supports up to 32GB.
> 3.5mm mic port for external mic
> Built in mic
> Udisk button to activate USB storage mode
Uhost Android Mini PC Specifications
At the heart of the Uhost is the Allwinner A10 chipset, similar to what is found on the MK802 and MK802 II. The Allwinner A10 chipset consists of a Cortex A8 1Ghz single core CPU paired with a Mali-400 GPU. The hardware may look really underpowered compared to the dual and even quad core processors found in the latest smartphones today but it is good enough for simple tasks such as HD video decoding, web browsing and playing simple games.
The Uhost comes with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. You can add up to 32GB of additional storage via the micro SD expansion slot. For network connection, it has built in WiFi 802.11 b/g/n support. It has both a built in microphone as well as a 3.5mm port to connect a standard 3.5mm external microphone.
There is also built-in support for the optional air mouse controller. The controller is gyroscope type of controller with simple commands like volume controls, home and search buttons. No additional USB transmitter is required for the controller.
Size wise, the Uhost measures 90 x 40 x 10 mm and weighs 38 g.
UHOST ANDROID MINI PC TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
> OS - Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
> Chipset - Allwinner A10/ 1GHz (1.0 GHz Cortex-A8 CPU and Mali-400 GPU)
> Memory - 1GB DDR3
> Built-in Storage- 4GB
> Network - WiFi 802.11b/g/n
> Built-in Air Mouse Support - for optional custom air mouse controller
> Additional Storage - Micro SD 2-32GB
> Video Formats - AVI, MKV (XVID/px/H.264), MOV, TS, M2TS, RM/RMVB, FLV, 3GP, MPEG, DAT, MP4
> Audio Formats - MP3, WMA, APE, FLAC, OGG, WAV
> Photo Formats - JPG, TIF, PNG, BMP
> Video/Audio Output - HDMI
> IO/Ports - 1 Mini USB OTG, 1 USB Host 2.0, 1 HDMI, 1 3.5mm Mic
> Size - 90 x 40 x 10 mm
> Weight - 38 g
The Uhost comes with Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which has support for tablet sized resolutions that is not found on the earlier Android 2.x version. The Uhost is already rooted out of the box. This means that it is easy to hack the Uhost and therefore makes it easy to replace the existing OS with alternative OSes such as Cyanogenmod 10 that is based on the latest Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) should you decide to do so.
It is also possible to run Linux on the Uhost by installing it on a micro SD card and the Uhost will automatically boot from the TF card slot. Details on how this can be done can be found on the Android firmware and Linux upgrade guide.
Best deals on USB keyboard combos for the Uhost
While the Uhost has an optional air mouse remote control that works well with it, you may want to consider a controller with a full QWERTY keyboard which comes in really useful when using the web browser or making searches. Here are a few popular wireless keyboard and mouse combos that work with the Uhost Mini Android PC.
Best Mini Wireless Keyboards for Android Mini PC
Are you looking for a mini wireless keyboard for your Android Mini PC? Check out my recommendations for the best wireless keyboards for use with Android Mini PCs.
Portable USB 2.4GHz Wireless Air Fly Mouse Multi Keyboard for PC (Black)
If you plan to use the Uhost together with a big screen HDTV then the best way to navigate is to use a flymouse type of keyboard plus mouse controller. The flymouse allows you to control the cursor on the screen like a Wii remote by moving it in the air and if you need to enter any text, you can do it quickly and accurately with the built-in full QWERTY keypad. Highly recommended.
Unisen iPazzPort KP-810-18R Wireless Keyboard and Touchpad with Learning Infrared (IR) Remote Control 2.4G RF Google TV Compatible
Another great mini wireless keyboard to pair with the Uhost. This one has a touch pad instead of air mouse function. On one side is a full 82 key QWERTY keyboard with backlight while on the other is a learning IR remote for 2 devices. Check out my full review of the keyboard here.
Uhost Android Mini PC Impressions and Performance
Since both Uhost and MK802 1GB have identical chipsets, I expected the Uhost to perform similarly as the MK802. However, from my actual usage I found that the Uhost actually performs noticeably better than the MK802.
The first indication of the better performance was during boot up. When I first booted up the Uhost, I thought that it booted faster to the desktop and I confirmed this later on by timing the bootup sequence. The Uhost took under 50 seconds while the MK802 was taking about a minute and a half.
With Android 4.0.4, display resolution is supported up to 1080p 60Hz. I have tried both 1080p and 720p resolution and I found that like the MK802, things runs a bit smoother at 720p so I have kept it at the resolution but I can confirm that 1080p works just fine although not as smooth.
Uhost Default Custom Launcher Screen
Uhost Alternative Custom Launcher ScreenThe Uhost boots to a custom launcher while the MK802 just has the default Android 4.0 launcher. I have seen some of the custom launchers made for some of the Android 2.3 TV boxes and they look really awful but fortunately Smallart has kept the launcher very simple and it definitely looks that a lot of thought have gone into designing it for display on a TV and controlled with an air mouse device from afar.
In fact Smallart included not one but two custom launcher which you can easily switch between on the launcher page itself. The default launcher just had a simple row of fairly large shortcut icons (Apps, Download, Browser, Settings, Multimedia and File Manager) at the bottom not unlike an Apple Mac dock. The second launcher has the icons arranged in a ring format and visually it looks a bit better but functionally, the dock launcher is easier to navigate with the controller by far. As far as I know, there is no way to customized the icons by adding or removing the shortcuts.
As I did not get to review the optional air mouse controller, I am unable to say for sure how well it works with the Uhost but I did use a similar air mouse keyboard controller and the large icons makes it very easy to navigate the custom launcher screen.
YouTube running on Uhost
Angry Birds running on Uhost
Netflix runs well on UhostThis noticeable boost in performance is also observed in apps such as Netflix where the Netflix browser page loads a bit faster and the scrolling of the movie titles is smoother. In YouTube, the movie wall also scrolls smoother while in Angry Birds, the game play is a little less jerky.
Most apps are available for download from Google Play Store on Uhost including Chrome
Google Play Store comes preinstalled on the Uhost. The Uhost also seems to have app compatibility issue fixed. Except for apps that are blocked due to geographical location (i.e. Netflix, Pandora and Hulu Plus), most of the other apps are available for download including apps like Chrome, Twitter and Pinterest.
Uhost supports Skype out of the box with its built in microphone
Since the uHost comes with a built in mic, I was very interested how it works with Skype. I installed the latest version of Skype from the Google Play Store and logged in with no problems. I tried a few test calls and the built in mic worked fairly well although its sensitivity is a little on the low side. I had to get a little closer to the TV as well as speak a little louder but I had no problems being understood by the other party. I also tried with an external mic connected to the mic port and that definitely worked much better. The quality of the call is comparable to running Skype on a PC.
Next I tried Skype with my Logitech C270 webcam but I failed to get the camera to work. This is the same problem I had with the MK802.
Uhost supports Google Voice SearchGoogle Voice Search also comes installed on the Uhost but while it works okay with the external microphone, I had difficulties getting it to work properly with the built in mic. Most of the time, it fails to recognize my speech unless I speak directly into the mic. So unless you plan to use the Uhost with a monitor on a desk where you are seated quite close to the built in mic, you will not be able to use voice search properly.
I installed Angry Birds, Chrome, Netflix, Screenshot UX, Skype and YouTube. All the other apps are pre installed.There are not many preinstalled apps on the Uhost and it is almost bare bones. In my opinion, this is a good thing as you don't have to waste spending deleting apps that you do not need. Strangely however, the Android Camera app is one of the apps that is present.
The Uhost also has a shut down button on the bottom tool bar. Clicking on it will allow you to either reboot and shut down the Uhost device.
The Uhost has a Udisk button that allows the Udisk to function as a USB thumb drive when connected to a PC. This is a pretty handy feature as it makes it simple task to transfer files such as media files or to sideload APK files by just connecting the Uhost to a PC and copying the files over.
However, I did encounter a problem with the Uhost's Udisk function. After I activated it, I had problems when I reconnected it with my TV with power supplied by one of the TV's USB port. The Uhost displayed the USB mass storage screen and when I tried to disconnect the USB storage mode, it was stuck in a loop. Pressing the Uhost button did not seem to help. As a result I could not use the built in storage at all. In the end I had to power the Uhost using the included external USB power adapter to exit from the USB storage mode. I will have to check with Smallart if there is a simple way to exit the USB storage mode.
Last but not least, I was very surprised to discover that the Uhost does not run very hot despite not having any ventilation holes at all. After testing it out for close to 4 hours installing and running all kinds of application, the Uhost body was only warm to my touch. I am definitely more confident of the Uhost being able to run continuously for longer periods.
The GoodPackaging and device is well designed and built quality is very good. Many extra features that are not found on similar competing products like the built in mic and external mic support, USB mass storage function and ability to shut down or reboot unit from the launcher. Custom launcher is well designed with user friendly interface that is suitable to be used with a mouse. Uhost does not run very hot even after many hours of operating non stop. Performance is surprisingly better than other devices running on the same chipset. Can run Skype out of the box without the need for an external mic. Support for 3.5mm external mic for better microphone performance. Most of the apps on Google Play Store is available for installation.The Bad Encountered issues with the Uhost function. Built in mic is not sensitive enough to use for voice search from a distance. Support for other USB devices besides mouse and keyboard is limited. Trial and error is required to identify which devices work and which don't.
Find out how the Uhost Android Mini PC fairs when we pitch it head-to-head against the MK802.
Check out my comprehensive guide that highlights all the important features and differences between all the different Android mini computers.
The Uhost2 Dual Core Android Mini PC is the update to the Uhost and comes with a dual core 1.4GHz Rockchip RK3066 chipset, Bluetooth and an improved Umouse2 controller that has a built in microphone.