Jide Remix Ultra tablet: Paying homage to Microsoft Surface (hands on)

02-jide-remix-tablet-side-first-angle.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Good tablet
  • Keyboard is included
  • Remix OS shows promise

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Inconsistent trackpad performance
  • Remix OS is buggy

Jide caught the tech world's attention when it launched a Kickstarter campaign to get its Android tablet to market. This was partly due to promising all backers -- starting at $39 -- a Remix Ultra tablet with keyboard once it shipped. That the Remix Ultra looked much like a Surface tablet added to the buzz, as did the fact it runs a variant of Android called Remix OS.

The tablet has been in owners' hands for a while, and it is clear the Remix Ultra is like nothing else currently available in the Android world. To say it looks similar to a Microsoft Surface tablet is not entirely correct, it looks almost exactly like one. The 11.6-inch display on the Remix puts it right in the middle of the sizes of the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3.

The kickstand on the Remix has two viewing angles compared to three for the Surface 3 and many on the Surface Pro 3. The build quality of the Remix is quite good, as you'd expect on a $400 tablet. The slate ships with a keyboard that attaches magnetically to the Remix, just like the optional one for the Surface. The power plug connection on the right side of the tablet looks like that on the Surface. You should be sensing a theme here.

Hardware

The construction quality of the Remix is very solid. It's hefty at almost two pounds as a result. The manufacture of the unit was in partnership with Foxconn.

The Remix Ultra has an 11.6-inch display at 1920 x 1080. Looking at the tablet in landscape orientation, there's a power button on the top and the power plug connector on the right. On the bottom is the connector for the keyboard. Left side of the Remix houses the volume buttons, and there is a small stereo speaker on both the left and right sides of the tablet.

Underneath the large kickstand on the back of the Remix is a microSD slot for adding memory to augment the 64GB internal RAM. On the bezel underneath the display is a capacitive "Home" button, much like those on many Windows tablets. This button has haptic feedback so there is no doubt when a press is registered by the OS.

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Hardware specs as reviewed:

  • CPU: Nvidia Tegra K1, 1.81 GHz
  • OS: Jide Remix OS ver. 1.x (Android kernel is KitKat)
  • Display: 11.6-inch, 1920 x 1080
  • Memory / storage: 2GB / 64GB
  • Cameras: Front / rear -- 5MP / 5MP
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: microUSB, microSD (up to 128GB)
  • Battery: 8,100 mAh
  • Dimensions: 189 x 295 x 9.5 mm, 7.44 x 11.6 x 0.37 inches
  • Weight: 860 g, 1.9 lbs

Magnetic Keyboard

The keyboard sets the Remix Ultra apart from all other Android tablets. The size of the tablet allowed Jide to make the keyboard full size, and the typing experience is better as a result. The keys have good space between them, with decent key travel. Fast touch typing is supported with this keyboard.

The top row of keys are control keys for the tablet. These include controls for volume, display brightness, search, and a screen shot button.

In front of the keyboard is a small trackpad to help the Remix work more like a laptop with the keyboard attached. At times the trackpad is overly sensitive while at others hitting it twice is needed to register a single tap. This trackpad has a fuzzy surface that is not as responsive as those with a smooth surface. Jide needs to think about changing this.

Remix OS

The OS is what sets the Remix Ultra apart from the crowd, even more than the hardware. Remix OS is Jide's effort to take Android KitKat and make it into a work system. It does this in large part with a UI that looks like Windows 7, complete with task bar. The home screens have no widgets, just app icons, which is also like Windows 7.

There's a file manager that has a clean UI mimicking Google's material design. It serves its function well and makes it easy to interact with files. There is also a graphical task manager that can be invoked from the home screen which shows all running apps. This makes it easy to switch between apps. Running apps also show up on the taskbar at the bottom of the display, and favorite apps can be pinned here.

Swiping down from the top of the display opens a screen that is a notifications area and provides access to most common settings. Swiping up slides this screen off the display.

The notifications only show the app that sent the alert, requiring an extra tap to see the actual notification which is annoying.

Working with the Remix Ultra

The whole point of the Remix is using it for work, and overall that's a good experience. The Google Play Store is accessible on the tablet, and that means the huge inventory of Android apps is available.

Every app installed on the Remix in testing has worked as expected. Even the Android versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have performed well. It's especially nice to have the keyboard and trackpad to work with Office, and very productive.

Remix OS has a unique feature lacking in most other Android devices, and that is the ability to work with multiple windows onscreen at the same time. To make this work Remix OS requires the phone version of an app, which is is used for the windowed version.

Because of the restriction to only use phone apps in windows, universal apps -- those with both tablet and phone versions in one download -- are required to use in windows. These apps initially run in standard full screen mode, and right clicking on the app icon exposes a pop-up where the phone version can be selected. Selecting it fires up that version in a window onscreen.

These phone versions work better than expected, and having two or three open side-by-side is productive. I regularly have the Chrome browser, Twitter, and Feedly open at the same time.

Not all apps can be run in a window, and some apps aren't well behaved while doing so.

Growing pains

Jide made it clear from the beginning that Remix OS was in its infancy and that it wanted to foster a community that helped it improve.

It has an online forum for this community, and interaction is much like the early days of the mobile space. Users share bugs and tips with other community members.

This is useful and much needed as documentation about Remix OS is virtually nonexistent. There is nothing included with the tablet that explains the basics of working with the OS, and discovering how to do things is like an Easter egg hunt.

Conclusion

The Jide Remix Ultra is a premium tablet with an OS based on Android KitKat that has been heavily modified to be used as a work system. This is facilitated with the included keyboard that is decent for an Android tablet.

You can get the Jide Remix Ultra on Amazon for $399.

UPDATE: Amazon has temporarily pulled the Remix Ultra until Jide gets some certification it is missing. In the meantime you can get the Remix Ultra from Jide directly for the same price.

See also:

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