There’s no easy answer here, especially since Android-powered dongles, phones and tablets each have their own ups (and downs) to offer.
So without further ado, here’s a quick and dirty breakdown of the pros and cons that each platform has to offer:
Android mini PCs and Android mobile devices have a shared but fundamentally different approach when it comes to user interface.
On one hand, the touch screen on a smartphone or tablet makes it pretty easy to interact with apps and icons.
All that swiping and tapping is an intuitive method for working with most apps designed for the mobile platform.
On the other hand, precision can be very difficult unless you have a large screen and a stylus to match. And even then you’ll have to worry about your hand getting in the way of your vision.
The average Android-powered box or dongle, however, offers a lot more space to work with when you consider the size of the average TV screen.
Combine this generous workspace with an air-mouse or remote control, and it will be a lot easier to work with smaller, more refined stuff on-screen.
You could even hook up a mouse and keyboard to create a desktop setup.
These control methods, however, are not as intuitive as touch-based controls and will require a bit getting used to.
The mobile devices –as their name suggests – have a significant lead when it comes to portability.
On one hand, phones and tablets offer the entire package that you can carry around in a sleeve or in a small bag. They are fully self-contained units, complete with their own screens and power supplies.
On the other hand, you can bring around a tiny Android-powered dongle around with you and plug it into any TV with a corresponding USB or HDMI port.
There are even Android flash drives that are literally small enough to comfortably fit into your shirt pocket.
Still, these mini PCs are typically designed to be plugged into a TV and be left there without much fuss.
If you need an Android device to work with while out and about, then a phone or tablet is the more portable choice. An android mini PC, however, is a more practical choice for an office or living room setup.
If you source your Android box or dongle from a wholesaler, you can be prepared to spend anywhere between 35 and 100 USD depending on the device’s specifications.
Sourcing mobile devices from the same wholesaler should set you back between 50 and 500 USD depending on the size and specifications of your chosen model.
The really cheap phones and tablets, however, sacrifice specs and size to achieve this price value. They may not have HDMI ports, or lack headphone jacks.
The savings you gain from choosing an Android mini PC start to really grow as the specs go up.
If you don’t already have a TV and need only an Android device to work with, then a mid-range mobile device is a pretty decent choice when it comes to value.
If, however, you have a TV and want to make full use of it, then even a simple Android flash drive offers significantly more value in terms of specs and space to work with when compared to mobile devices.
The Bottom Line
Android mini PCs and Android-powered mobile devices have a lot in common. They are, after all, powered by the same operating system that can run the same apps and programs.
That said, they each address a different need.
Tablets and smartphones are ideal for when you need a self-contained Android device that you can use on the go – one that you can pull out of your pants or purse without much of a fuss. They’re especially useful if you have a subscription to a mobile internet access service.
If you need a desktop-like setup where accuracy and a generous workspace are priorities, then an Android dongle or box is the more practical choice. It’s also the more economical choice too if you already have a TV or are planning to get a TV in the first place – even when you factor in accessories like a keyboard or air mouse.
Keep these in mind, and you’ll be able to better determine whether you’ll be better off working with an Android mini PC or an Android-powered mobile device.