Remix OS Hands-on: The dream of desktop Android realized

People tend to draw the line between mobile and desktop operating systems by a few qualifications. Usually there’s mention of resizable windows, a file manager, and the ability to load apps from external sources, not just one marketplace.

If that’s all it takes, then Remix OS is the desktop version of Android, with all of the functionality users expect. Jide offers a selection of apps built for Remix OS in its own marketplace, and it’s an Android OS, so the Google Play Store works as well.

Is Remix OS the best of both worlds, or a mixtape no one asked for?

How does it work?

Technically speaking, Remix OS is a fork of Android. That means Jide took the open source version of the OS, and rebuilt it with new code for the interface and settings. The goal wasn’t to create a total overhaul like CyanogenMod, but rather to keep the experience as close to stock Android as possible. It feels that way too, and requires basically no learning curve if you’re already familiar with Android.

Remix has no learning curve if you’re already familiar with Android.

It’s easy to install as the main operating system, on a second partition, or even boot straight from a USB thumb drive. The third option is one of the strengths of the OS, because it will save data and apps directly to the USB drive. Plug that USB drive into any computer, reboot, and it becomes your personal system without any extra work.

How well does it work?

While there are some under the hood changes compared to the version of Android it’s based on, Remix’s most noticeable difference is the interface. There’s now a menu bar similar to the Windows task bar that runs the width of the display, and there’s even a Jide logo button in the bottom left to pull up an app launcher a la the Start Menu. Icons for applications, folders, and files live on the desktop, in much the same way they would on Mac OS X or Windows. There’s even an advanced file explorer.

Everything else users expect from a desktop OS is there. Windows are resizable, and not just in half or quarter screen amounts. Jide has added close, full screen, and minimize actions to every app not just in its store, but in the Google Play Store as well.

The cursor is a hollow circle that fills with each click. It’s a move that makes sense considering Android’s touch-based roots, but it can be a bit disorienting at first because it resembles a loading cursor. On first boot I waited a few minutes before clicking, thinking it was churning away behind the scenes.

Still, the experience is significantly improved from the mouse compatibility in stock Android. Remix OS even boasts right click, allowing for easy access to context menus, plus many keyboard shortcuts you know and love.

Remix is what Chrome OS should be.

Remix is not without its issues. Settings are mostly limited to traditional Android options, with less of a focus on settings that are useful for the new interface. It also didn’t run on our Surface Book, likely because of Microsoft’s custom UEFI and BIOS, but quickly booted up on a MacBook Air. There’s no need to install drivers, connect special peripherals, or change settings based on the current system.

Chrome OS, eat your heart out

In a lot of ways, Remix OS is what Chrome OS should be. There’s a wealth of apps on the Google Play store that open up the functionality of the OS in a meaningful, useful way that Chrome OS extensions and apps can’t compete with. Google says there may be plans down the road for Android compatibility in Chrome OS, but it’s here right now as a working example, not a distant idea.

On the other hand, the user experience varies greatly from app to app. Apps that are usually only run on phones, such as Tinder, don’t play as well unless you keep the window down to a phone-like shape and size. Software designed primarily for a tablet fares better.

While Remix OS is polished and smooth, it’s hard to see the appeal of installing it on a system like a MacBook or Dell. Instead, the Remix OS is most at home when it’s used as a light-weight, portable operating system for special circumstances. It might used to quickly boot into a media center, access your own files on a friend’s PC, or drive a display that can’t easily be connected to a full PC. Outside of these scenarios, its slick interface is held back by the fact most computers are already sold with an OS, so there’s little reason to replace it with Remix.


  • Easy to install
  • Excellent keyboard and mouse support
  • Works with most PCs


  • Not all apps work well
  • Won’t replace Windows or OS X
Product Review

Flexible and fast, HP's Spectre x360 is the 2-in-1 for every occasion

HP’s late-2017 refresh of the Spectre x360 13 convertible 2-in-1 leverages Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs for significantly improved performance and battery life. The thin and light frame is also tweaked, and looks better than ever.

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 

Want to use one drive between a Mac and Windows PC? Partitions are your best bet

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.

Check out 25 of the best Wear OS apps for your smartwatch

Looking for some ways to spruce up that new Android smartwatch of yours? Here are the best Wear OS apps to download and use with any Android smartwatch, including a few specially enhanced for Wear OS 2.0.

How to Install an SSD in a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro

SSDs are much faster than mechanical hard drives, which is what the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro come with. Here, we show you how to replace it with an SSD, which will allow you to boot to the OS faster and load games quicker.

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…

Microsoft drops Surface Go price to $350 for Black Friday week

The Microsoft Surface Go convertible tablet has seen a large price drop this Black Friday sales season, lowering the base model to $350 and even the upgraded ones have seen $50 knocked off of their asking price.

M4A is great for quality, but not for storage. Here's how to convert to MP3

Despite its remarkable ability to retain audio fidelity at a smaller size, M4a files aren't the best when it comes to compatibility. Check out our basic guide on how to convert M4a files to MP3.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…

Detangle your desk with a mighty wireless mouse. Here are our six favorites

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. These six models have something for everyone, whether you're a hardcore gamer or simply looking to ward off carpal tunnel.

Razer takes up to $500 off of its Blade gaming laptops for Black Friday

If you're a fan of Razer's understated aesthetics that earned the Blade comparisons with Apple's laptops, you can score some big savings on Black Friday, as Razer is offering up to $500 discounts off of its gaming notebooks.

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Buying Guides

Solid-state drives are speedier than hard disk drives. Are they worth it?

As the price of solid-state drives comes down, it's reached a point where it's hard to recommend a system without at least a hybrid solution. In the battle of SSD vs. HDD, a clear winner has emerged.