There weren't too many tablet announcements at CES 2015, but the Remix Ultra-Tablet by Jide Technology caught our eye. If Microsoft made a version of the Surface Pro 3 that ran Android, similar to the Nokia X line of smartphones that ran a skinned version of Android that resembled Windows Phone, I imagine it would look just like the Remix Ultra-Tablet.
The most striking thing about this tablet is its outward similarity to Microsoft's premium offering. It includes an integrated, two-position (40º/80º) kickstand as well as a keyboard cover with a touchpad that attaches magnetically to the tablet. The Ultra-Tablet even includes tapered edges like the Surface Pro 3, making it easy to mistake it for the more expensive Microsoft tablet.
|SoC||Nvidia Tegra 4|
|CPU||ARM A15 (4+1) @ 1.81 GHz|
|GPU||GeForce ULP 72|
|Memory||2 GB DDR3L|
|Display||11.6-inch IPS @ 1920 x 1080 (190 ppi), 16:9 aspect ratio|
|Cameras||Front: 5 MPRear: 5 MP|
|Expansion Ports||microSD slot (up to 128 GB), microUSB 2.0|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Dimensions||189.0 x 295.0 x 9.5* mm|
|Operating System||Remix OS (based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat)|
* thickness without keyboard attached
The overall size and weight of the Ultra-Tablet is also similar to the Surface Pro 3. Where the two designs begin to diverge is the choice of screen. Remix's tablet comes with a lower-resolution 11.6-inch HD IPS screen with a 16:9 media viewing-friendly aspect ratio, versus the more productivity-focused 3:2 ratio of Microsoft's tablet.
The Ultra-Tablet also can't match the processing prowess of the Intel-powered Surface; however, its Tegra 4 SoC doesn't need to run a desktop Windows OS, and its CPU should be sufficient for the typical Android tablet apps. The GeForce ULP GPU is several generations old now and severely underpowered compared to current high-end GPUs, so there will be some UI lag, and gaming will be limited.
Jide Technology's goal is to deliver a device with the longer battery life and lower cost of an Android tablet but with the higher productivity of a PC. Remix OS, a customized version of Android 4.4.2 (a Lollipop upgrade should be coming in April), plays a crucial role in delivering this experience. It's optimized to work with the larger screen and emulates at least some of the look and feel of the Windows 8 OS. The most obvious enhancement is the inclusion of a taskbar along the bottom of the screen. Similar to Windows, it contains icons for all open apps, which makes switching between apps easier and faster than scrolling through a list of cards. Apps are closed by simply swiping up on the taskbar icon.
Remix OS also allows Android phone apps to be run in separate, repositionable windows, allowing for multiple apps to be seen at once. Unlike Microsoft's OS, however, these windows don't appear to be resizable and can't be snapped to the edge of the screen.
Remix's similarity to Windows carries over into the design for the desktop and included apps, which closely resemble the style of Microsoft's Modern UI. The onscreen elements and controls have a flat appearance, and the icons are simple and clear. Remix OS includes several custom apps, including File Manager, Email Client, Browser, Calendar, Power Manager and App Search, all of which would look perfectly at home running on a Windows tablet. Most of these apps have multiple panes, with the left pane using a solid background color that gets incorporated into the heading text and controls in the other panes. This focus on design makes Remix an attractive-looking OS.
Pairing the 10-point touch screen with the chiclet keyboard and trackpad, which supports gestures, enhances productivity. The keyboard itself uses a standard layout and is of sufficient size to make typing easy; it even supports common PC shortcut keys like CTRL-C for copy. Adding a mouse, either via Bluetooth or USB with the included micro-to-full-size adapter, further blurs the line between tablet and PC.
A startup founded in 2014 by three ex-Google software engineers, Jide Technology outsourced the hardware design of the Remix Ultra-Tablet and partnered with Foxconn for manufacturing, which allows the company to focus on software development, its core strength. Jide Technology is planning a Kickstarter campaign, which will start in the latter half of February, to raise the necessary capital to begin producing its tablet in three different colors: black, red, and silver (the keyboard cover will only come in black initially). A sales strategy for North America is still being developed and no launch date was provided; however, the price should be around $449.
If the Remix Ultra-Tablet comes to fruition, it will be an interesting option for those who desire a tablet with enhanced productivity features. While it doesn't match Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 in performance or features, it will cost almost half as much. Jide Technology is also considering licensing its unique Remix OS to other OEMs, which could spawn more productivity-focused Android tablets in the future.
Matt Humrick is a Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones and Tablets. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @digitalOut_net. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.