Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Littlest PC That Could

While I was over in London at the Bett conference, I started looking at the devices in the Microsoft booth. I noticed a very small device that was about half the thickness of a paperback book. It was running Windows 10. It's called the Kangaroo and is manufactured by InFocus. At first I thought it was running a stripped down version of Windows 10 but after using the device found it was running the full Windows 10 Home version. The same you'd find on any home desktop. I also noticed the insane price of just $99 USD for the device! So what are these devices, what can they do, and what do they come with? Full disclosure: The Kangaroo and Kangaroo Pro were purchased by my school. The Kangaraoo+ was supplied by Kangaroo for review. Now let's take a look.

Kangaroo (basic hardware)

The Kangaroo comes with 2GB RAM and 32GB EMMC internal storage. It also comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home edition. After booting up the device you'll find that with a little bloat you're left with 8-9 GB of free storage. If you plan on using this system as a kiosk or web only device you needn't worry about the internal storage. If you find you need more internal storage you can use one of the USB ports along with flash memory and set Windows to use that as the default save location. The hardware comes with a microSD card reader, microUSB port, 2 USB ports (1 2.0 and 1 3.0 port), HDMI port, as well as a fingerprint reader. We had no use for the fingerprint reader or the microSD port so I have not tested their functionality. Lastly, the unit includes 802.11AC wireless and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

Kangaroo also includes an interesting feature that allows you to control the PC from your iPad. You must download the OSLinx app from the app store then connect the iPad to the Kangaroo via the iPad's USB cable. You can either use tap to select or show the mouse cursor. I tested via USB on my iPad 3 and found the performance to be slow. I was able to open programs and display just as I would on a PC albeit slower. The app is free but if you want wifi capabilities or bluetooth keyboard support you'll need to do an in-app purchase of $3.99 for each feature. I find that the free app Teamviewer does a much better job and also performs much smoother than OSLinx.

Windows 10 on my iPad!


At our school I decided to use the base unit as part of our staff check-in system. The Kangaroo was set up along with a USB barcode reader to scan staff badges as they enter or exit the building. Since our system is web based, I only needed a browser and nothing else. This system was perfect for this task and the cost was very affordable to allow us to do it. We did not need to spend a few hundred dollars on a tablet to do the same web-only work.



Pros

  • Low starting price
  • Windows 10 Home included
  • Fantastic for web-only work

Cons

  • 2 USB ports
  • Ports are too close together


Kangaroo+ (mid-range use)

The Kangaroo+ is a step up from the Kangaroo base model in terms of RAM and internal storage. Both have been doubled in this case you get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. This bump in hardware specs was just enough to allow me to deploy this unit as a computer connected to our Promethean Board in the media center. Before placing this unit in the media center, we had to make a laptop available to hook to the mobile board. This meant utilizing someone else's machine and not allowing them to work. We usually have presentations, Skype sessions, or instruction in this space and the Kangaroo+ is plenty capable to do all of this with ease. I again ran into the issue of not enough USB ports however. We have a wireless kb/mouse combo and the USB cable for the Promethean board. This left us with no open ports if a presenter comes in with a presentation on a USB thumb drive. I used a non-powered USB hub to address this issue. Still, a side USB port would be a great option. One of the great features of the Kangaroo+ is how light weight it is. I was able to velcro the unit to the back of our Promethean board. This allowed me to keep the wires neat and also secure to the board without falling.

Our Kangaroo+ mounted on our mobile Promethean board.



Pros

  • Increased RAM (4GB)
  • Increased internal storage (64GB)
  • No pre-installed O/S allows for customization


Cons

  • If you want Windows you'll need to purchase a license adding another $120 to the price


Kangaroo Pro (power users)

The Kangaroo Pro addresses the lack of ports issue by adding a secondary dock that the hardware slips right into. This beefs up the usage considerably since it adds a network port, VGA connection, annother USB port, as well as a headphone jack. The main functionality of the dock is to allow the installation of a 2.5" HDD/SSD to really maximize your internal storage needs. The ability to add massive amounts of internal storage by way of an SSD or HDD allows this Kangaroo variant to be used nicely as a media center or a networked computer where a network user's documents are copied locally.

The main problem with the Kangaroo Pro, is that it includes the basic Kangaroo unit with the dock. This means you're back to having just 2GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The included dock allows you to easily address the internal storage issue, but the low amount of RAM is an issue that cannot be remedied. I would have liked to have seen the Kangaroo+ hardware included with the Pro dock.

Kangaroo inside the Pro dock. A 128GB SSD is installed inside the dock.

A better look at the added ports on the Kangaroo Pro dock.



Pros

  • Addition of a VGA, network, and USB port
  • Dock offers the ability to add a Solid State Drive
  • Windows 10 Home Included


Cons

  • The Kangaroo PC included is the base hardware not the upgraded + model.
  • Limited RAM

Even with some of the limitations, I would recommend these units for classroom or school usage. As I stated, I would like to see at least one more USB port on the base unit and the more robust Kangaroo+ hardware included with the Pro dock. I also encountered HDMI issues on each variant where the screen would not display but a reboot took care of that. These units are plenty powerful enough for light usage and work well within a classroom setting. The most amazing part of these units is their portability. There is a rechargeable battery included within the unit which makes this PC able to go anywhere. Kangaroo states a 4 hour battery life with casual usage. Things are just getting started for Kangaroo and I'm excited to see what they have planned for the future.