Hands on with Android-x86, Which Turns Netbooks into Android Tablets

Hands on with Android-x86, Which Turns Netbooks into Android Tablets

Mar 5, 2012

Have a netbook and want to see what an Android tablet interface would be like on it? Then the Android-x86 project is here to help, and is now available in Ice Cream Sandwich flavor.

This is Android, built for x86 processor architecture, which in layman’s terms means the processors that primarily power desktop and laptop computers. Currently primarily optimized for netbooks like the Asus Eee PC, there are several compatible builds available as ISO files. These can then be installed onto a USB drive that can then be booted from. It’s possible to run Android either as a live distribution, to fiddle around with it, or to install it to disk. It can exist alongside a Windows installation without reformatting.

From there, once the operating system is booted up, Android is perfectly usable on a netbook thanks to the operating system’s built-in keyboard and mouse support. Using a trackpad can be awkward with scrolling, having to click a mouse button or double-tap on the trackpad is not as natural. Some apps handle keyboard navigation very well, though. The camera works, though on my Eee PC netbook the shutter speed is very slow, to put it mildly. System keys like brightness and volume were integrated with this Android build, though it appears as if screen capture through volume down plus power may not work. Battery life did not automatically improve, though hard drive seeking was noticably decreased. Screen locking worked, although there’s a glitch where the power button needs to be hit while the netbook is resumed and the screen faded in order to actually unlock the device.

The problem, of course, is that with x86 being a different processor architecture than many of the current Android devices, many apps and games will not be availalbe from the Market. However, games like INC were available and ran well, and some useful applications were available, including many Google services.

While this is somewhat more of a curiosity project than anything serious, there’s still some potential uses – and it’s definitely very quick, considering that a three-year-old netbook actually has decent specifications for a tablet, and a good amount of RAM (1 GB in a desktop computer will cause it to struggle – 1 GB in an Android tablet is a lot). To experiment with Android-x86, read the instructions from their website.

Carter Dotson
Carter Dotson, editor of Android Rundown, has been covering Android since late 2010, and the mobile industry as a whole since 2009. Originally from Texas, he has recently moved to Chicago. He loves both iOS and Android for what they are - we can all get along!
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