Updated: May 16, 2014
Rikomagic MK802IV Quad Core sounds like an anti-shipping missile launcher with four tubes, but it is in fact a miniature PC running Android Jelly Bean and designed to be your one-stop shop to gaming, entertainment and use, while being tiny and sleek and rather cheap. Plug it into a TV, grab a Wireless keyboard plus mouse, and you're ready.
I liked the brochure well enough to decide to buy myself one, especially after I've started my storm of experiments with Raspberry Pi and went through a couple of rounds with various editions of XBMC, most notably openELEC and RaspBMC. Now, I thought to try a different approach. Ebay, here we go, USD79.99, free international shipping plus tracking, ultra fast delivery, and we're here. Read more, fellas.
The device what we have
Indeed, here it is, Rikomagic wossname, with its associated peripherals and such. For the stated price, you get the device itself, a micro-USB power cord, a micro-USB-to-USB adapter and an HDMI extender in case the Riko is too big to fit where you want it to go.
Rikomagic MK802IV is a capable beast. It comes with a dual-core RK3188 chip and quad-core Mali graphics, which allows you to enjoy full HD and also play games. The device runs Android Jelly Bean, so it ought to be able to do anything else your typical Android can. The one misleading detail is the internal memory size. It reads 8GB, but you only get 2GB for your system and applications. There is an external micro-SD slot, which can accept a second SD card up to 8GB.
Now, I have seen a lot of people taking pictures of themselves holding the little device so that everyone can appreciate the size. How unoriginal, and I am forced to do the same. Initially, I intended to measure it against my little Dedoimedo buddy, which is twice the size, but since that would make this article NSFW, I omitted the said comparison and went for the more boring, conventional in-palm photo. There you go. I had to conform, but never doubt the intentions.
It sounds tiny, but if you think about it carefully, it's really what you get in any standard smartphone, minus the touchscreen and the battery. So there's no problem fitting the technology into this package.
Despite its tight like a tiger shape, Rikomagic MK802 comes with a lot of useful goodies. It has two micro-USB ports, one for power and one for data or such, a standard USB port, the micro-SD slot we mentioned earlier, and the HDMI thingie right at the front. When it's all connected, Riko looks thusly:
All right, so the next step was to hook this thing into my smart TV and start fiddling. Here, you really can appreciate the 90mm total length thingie, as it really fits snugly into the overall ambiance. So if you like visual minimalism, this is it.
And now, the fun part. To make it actually usable, I hooked the Wireless keyboard I bought for my Raspberry Pi experiment, which means the effective price of this media center kit goes up by another USD37.50, before any shipping costs, or about USD120 give or take, which puts it in the same league as the Rasp ultimate starter kit plus keyboard. There's no escaping the price tag, it seems.
Anyhow, after about twenty seconds of boot time, Riko's Android started into a familiar interface. Quite like my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet, with fewer applications, less glitter, and far less commercial software. This is kind of expected, as the Chinese manufacturer leans on a slightly different business model and target audience.
At this point, I decided to play with the device, to see what it can do. If you have a touch screen, you can use it like any other Android. But if you don't, a standard keyboard and mouse will work, somewhat like I've shown you in my x86 Android review. Works fine overall. I had no problem setting up my Wireless network, a Google account or using the Play Store for installations and updates.
Rikomagic offers a decent basic arsenal, but that should not really worry you. There's a whole lot waiting for you in the Play Store. For example, I immediately installed VLC and MX Player, because they are better than default software. Regardless, you do get enough to get underway. There's Google Chrome, Calendar, Mail, and Talk, ability to install Android packages, music and video, even some fancy stuff like WifiDisplay and a few others, which we will discuss later on. One worthy detail is that the operating system is configured to accept third-party software installations outside the official sources, meaning NOT Play Store. So if you're security paranoid, you might want to disable this option.
Rikomagic had no problem working with all kinds of storage devices. It had enough juice to mount an external USB disk, and network shares were fine too, including Samba on Linux, as strange as it sounds. As you can see from its file explorer, which really stands out with its non-native GUI theme, the supported options are shown there. Get my drift?
This is a big one for me, especially since I would like to be able to build an ultimate media center, and since XBMC was not the perfect choice just yet, maybe MK802 and its Jelly Bean could provide me with the right solution.
The default video players are okay, but nothing stellar. For example, they failed to load SRT files, and consequently, the playback was lacking its more subtle cultural references. However, there was no problem with file formats, and HD was just fine.
I installed the two media players I mentioned earlier, VLC and MX Players, and things were so much better here. Same quality of codec support, video and sounds, only I had subtitles for all sorts of foreign languages now.
Worked fine, and with decent audio quality. I must admit I only tried MP3 files, but for most people, this ought to be sufficient. Once again, you will search for the best, most elegant player that suits your needs and taste.
I was a little disappointed here. While there are many nice games, all of them assume touch, so if you connect Riko to a monitor that does not support touch, you're in a bit of trouble, because you can't game. From what few teasers I checked, the graphics quality and smoothness are there, only I wasn't able to utilize them. Pity. And I did not play with the control thingie. I have no controllers.
Rikomagic is an able thing, but it does lack a bit of oomph when you start fiddling with a lot of programs and games at the same time. It works well, but don't expect a fighter jet. Still, overall, it's a decent computer, and you will be pleased.
What is missing
Still, there are some things that did not really work. Now, some may notice that Netflix does not work! Boo-hoo, cry me a river. This is one of the chief complaints I've read online, and people are rehashing it as if Netflix is something holy. First, 90% of this world does not have access to Netflix, so missing it is no biggie. Furthermore, it's not like it offers gold and diamonds for free. Sure, if you want to watch the last series of Games of Pron, then yes, but if you're after older, less popular content, then forget about it. Ergo, not relevant.
Now, Rikomagic MK802 supports all sorts of fancy connectivity. It is supposed to be able to support DLNA and Miracast. I tested using the onboard application and S4, and while I did manage to connect the two, nothing major happened. Perhaps I need more time to figure this one out.
Similarly, the bundled media center application did not really do much. It tried to scan for devices and failed. I had a Linux box turned on, with Samba sharing enabled, I had the Galaxy S4 smartphone with DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct and whatnot allowed, and still nothing.
There were also some flickers on the screen, especially when trying to multitask. Icons would disappear, only to show up again after pressing the Home button. Seems like either a video driver problem or something alike. Not a biggie, but sure something to consider and fix in future releases.
Still not sure about the product?
Now, you might say, I don't want to be using this Chinese Android, there might be malware embedded in the chip. That may be so, but after we all learned that you get the same kind of treatment in the Western hemisphere, there's nothing to fear. In fact, it's a delight buying Chinese gear for half the price, knowing that you don't need to worry about any spying. It's being done anyway, so it's all good.
If you like Android and don't mind using it as your primary operating system, then Rikomagic MK802IV can be your ideal home PC device. It can turn dumb monitors into smart appliances, and it costs only a fraction of what even an average PC, laptop or similar would. Now, you can't really compare them, but still. If you're on a tight budget, and you want something for your home, which has the same characteristics, behavior and capability of a smartphone or a tablet, then Riko is an ideal solution. Cheap, rather powerful, quite flexible, and slick. Has the commodities you want. Not meant for writing novels or designing the next airplane, but mail, chat, videos, and such? Excellent.
I liked the concept, even though it cannot replace any one specific hardware I have at home, nor does it excel over Raspberry Pi as a home entertainment solution. The specs are better, the design is nicer, but the overall extensibility is less, again, unless you really adore Android and the way it does things. But all given, taken and paid, you should definitely consider a Riko model for your home. At the very least, it's a portable computer that can serve you come the need. And if you align your expectations to the price, then it's definitely a well-rounded, price-worthy product. There are some bugs, some of the software is a bit disappointing, and some of the programs expect touch when there's none to be had, but overall, I am pleasantly surprised. Grade: 7/10.