PhoenixOS on a Dell Inspiron 6400

Android, on your laptop. On your desktop. On your phone. Everywhere. Wow. Don’t get me wrong, I like Android, but I haven’t dived off the deep end yet. Personally, I am an avid Linux user. The farther and farther Android goes, though, the more the line seems blurred between “Linux” and Android. I put that in quotes because Android uses a Linux kernel, which technically makes it Linux.

When most people say Linux, they actually mean the various versions of operating systems, but that is another subject all together for another time.

Back to the subject at hand. I recently installed PhoenixOS on a Dell Inspiron 6400. I had heard about PhoenixOS and read several reviews online. However, all the reviews that I read were by people who had not actually tried it. So I decided to actually test it out.

The great thing about the latest version of PhoenixOS (1.0.9 at the time of this writing), is that you can install it to a USB thumb stick and perform a test run on your computer without actually installing it. If you are interested, you should give it a try!

Personally, I really enjoyed using it. Essentially, it is Android Lollipop for your computer, completed with a task-bar, just like any desktop OS. It also included special buttons on the task-bar to enable you to use the back, and home buttons, as well as a “LED” that lights up to tell you that you have a notification. When you click on that notification, it opens the notifications window, just like on your phone. What surprised me the most, however, was how smooth it was. Despite the fact that I was using an older laptop, it ran without any lag. Previously, I had Windows XP and then Windows Vista on that laptop, and the performance was really poor. However, with PhoenixOS, it ran great!

The were several downsides that I should point out. First, while the computer ran surprisingly smooth once booted, it took an unprecedented amount of time to boot up. By this I mean greater than 5 minutes. Once it was up and running it was very zippy, but the first boot took more than 15 minutes, and the subsequent boots took greater than 5 minutes. That is a long time to wait for your operating system to boot up.

The second flaw was related to scrolling. After you scroll a page up or down, the mouse pointer would “freeze” for a second. It seemed dependent on how long you held onto the touch pad. As soon as I let the touch pad go, the mouse would “unfreeze” and be use-able again. A minor inconvenience, but still inconvenient none the less.

As for the experience itself, the OS seemed really well put together. When you first boot up, everything is written in Chinese, however, the drop down allows you to select English as well. All the built in apps worked like a charm, including WPS Office, which works very well in Android to view documents made by MS Office.

I did not test out the Google apps, which included the Play Store. The system is persistent, meaning that any changes you make are saved, just like on your phone or tablet, and are there next time you log in. I did, however, test Aptoide lite, which worked great! I was able to download apps and use them just as you would on your phone.

There was a little bit of a problem with the WiFi. The built in WiFi for my Dell did not work with PhoenixOS, and neither did my Ethernet card. However, my USB WiFi card did function, provided that I plugged it in before starting the computer. It had to already be plugged in when PhoenixOS starts for it to be recognized. All of the other hardware – sound, graphics, mouse, keyboard, etc., worked right out of the box, which was a pleasant surprise.

I also had a little bit of trouble with using root permissions. After enabling developer mode (by clicking numerous times on the build number in settings -> about tablet), I set the root permissions for apps and adb. However, I could not actually use the root permissions. There is a downloaded and hacked version that you can install, which supposedly fixes this, however, it was for 1.0.5, not 1.0.9, which is the current version.

Other than that, you could do just about anything on PhoenixOS that you can do on your Android tablets or phones. I downloaded apps, played games, opened office document, you name it! I did notice that if I open too many apps, the computer started to slow down. This is pretty normal for any OS, though. I also had to wait a while for graphical games to load, during which, PhoenixOS would ask me if I wanted to wait or cancel. If I chose to cancel, it would kill the app. If I chose to wait, the app would eventually load and ran smoothly, even on my old laptop!

Resizing windows would sometimes cause  a momentary blank screen, while the app “reset” itself to the new “screen size” you gave it. I recommend that any game you play, you set the window size how you want it before you begin playing, as I ran into problems with “Cut the rope” while resizing the screen. It did work, just the game would pause, seem to go away, then return working a moment later. I really enjoyed the use of the window feature, though, and it makes multitasking really easy!

There are, however, some things you just can’t do in Android yet, for which I still need my standard Ubuntu/Debian distros. Things like compiling Android and natively using x servers for graphical programs. But I think this has great potential. Overall I thought it was  a great experience, and I look forward to seeing more Android variants for the desktop and laptop pc.

Linux – keep it simple.

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