It was an unusual year for mobile tech at CES 2015, with two of the most intriguing mobile devices coming from companies we'd never heard of before. The smartphone we drooled over most was the Saygus V2 from a small American company, and as for tablets, it was the Chinese startup founded by a trio of ex-Googlers called Jide and its upcoming "Remix Ultra Tablet" that was the most intriguing large screen device.
The tablet hardware looks very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 from the outside, with an 11.6-inch full HD display, magnetic detachable full-size keyboard cover and a dual-angle kickstand. But it is the modified version of Android KitKat 4.4.2, which merges the mobile OS with some key productivity features familiar to Windows and Mac users, that makes the Remix the most interesting slate concept we've seen since the original Surface Pro.
The "Remix OS" is optimized for the larger screen with an added desktop taskbar, "multi-windows" for better multi-tasking and all the keyboard shortcuts you've come to depend on from your desktop or laptop. Rather than stretching out Android apps designed for smaller smartphone screens, Remix can open them in a special phone mode, so they're displayed as they were designed to be, and each phone mode app can be moved around the desktop in its own window for even more multi-tasking.
Moving things around can also be done with a mouse or trackpad in the traditional laptop style, but touch input works in the same fashion as other Android tablets, which we tend to find to be a superior touch experience than that offered by the Surface Pro, especially in Windows desktop mode. A few key apps have also been modified, including a three-column email client in the style of Inbox and a file manager that provides Windows-style full access rather than the often crippled Android system. And that's the aim of the Remix: to have the best of both worlds to create a better mobile productivity device.
Remix comes from a Beijing-based startup called Jide that's only been working on the project for less than a year. Jide was started by three former Googlers who were among some of the earliest Mountain View employees, helping to build key products like AdWords, Adwords Mobile, Gmail, Google Talk and Maps.
Gizmag spoke with co-founder David Ko at the Remix launch event in Las Vegas. He told us that during his time at Google it was clear that the company was more interested in pushing its Chrome OS for larger screen devices and laptops.
"There was an opening there," Ko told us, for a device that was optimized for productivity and content creation but could also take advantage of the wide universe of Android developers and apps.
And leaning on the strength of the Android development community is part of the strategy behind the Remix. When we expressed concern to Jide's marketing manager Jason Zheng that the Remix might lack the ability to create all kinds of content, particularly through video and audio editing, he countered that some use cases would require more support from Android developers to provide solutions.
And developing for the Remix will be no more difficult than creating and/or optimizing an app for any other Android device, according to Ko.
Theoretically, the Remix hardware might be able to hold its own against regular mid-range laptops when it comes to more intensive tasks like editing, thanks to a 1.81 GHz Nvidia Tegra 4+1 A15 processor that is competitive with Intel's Core i5 in certain tests. It also has 2 GB RAM, 64 GB of storage expandable to 128 GB, front and back 5 megapixel cameras and the ability to charge its 8,100 mAh battery via either a magnetic 4-pin connector or USB.
Ko told us that while the first Remix model will rely on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for connectivity, Jide is currently looking at making an LTE model, which could be unveiled as soon as April or May.
The Chinese version of the Remix Ultra Tablet is set for release as soon as this week, according to Ko, where it will sell for roughly the equivalent of US$430 (including the keyboard cover). Pricing for a launch in the second quarter of 2015 wasn't as firm, as Jide said they still had some market research to do. Ko also mentioned that a less expensive lower-end 16 GB model may be available at some point.
Ko also shared that Foxconn, maker of many an Apple and Windows-based piece of hardware, will be responsible for manufacturing the first batch of Remix tablets. He added that while there was "nothing to announce at this time," Jide was interested in talking to potential partners and that there might be an announcement regarding the licensing of the Remix OS in the coming months.
The launch of the Remix outside of China began with Jide's presence at CES and continues with a crowdfunding campaign set to launch in mid to late February, which will be the first opportunity for most people to pre-order the tablet.
Check out Jide's fun, sci-fi inspired product trailer below.
Product page: Jide