All-in-one Android Keyboard Computer
CoolShip is an Android computer that takes the Android mini computer into a whole new direction. Instead of the popular Android-on-a-stick and Android set top box form factors, the makers of the CoolShip have decided to house the Android computer in a keyboard form factor instead.
Unlike the Android mini PCs, the CoolShip is targeted as a cheap, alternative computer for older folks or young children. The idea is that these people do not need a full sized computer’s computing power. All they need is something that allows them to access the internet and run simple apps. The makers of the CoolShip is also targeting the hotel industry by offering the device as a cheap computer for hotel guests.
CoolShip Keyboard Specifications and Features
The guts of the keyboard is a dual core 1.5 GHz Rockchip RK3066 processor with 1GB RAM and a choice of either 4GB or 8GB Nand Flash ROM for storage.
The CoolShip keyboard is a full sized keyboard with a dedicated numerical keypad on the right and a half height touchpad under the numerical keys. The touchpad is available as an option on some of the models. Personally, I think that a full sized touchpad would be more useful than a keypad on such a device. With a good quality touchpad, you may not require a mouse at all.
Besides being housed in a keyboard form factor, the CoolShip has a few other unique features that sets it apart from other Android mini PCs. The most interesting feature in my opinion is that the CoolShip is user upgradeable. At the bottom of the keyboard is a hatch that can be popped open to reveal the guts of the CoolShip. This board can be replaced with an updated board that offers a faster processor with more memory. Replacing the board can be done with only a screwdriver in under 2 minutes.
Another unique feature is that it comes with a built in 300 mAh Li battery that supposedly allows the user to save his work in case of a power failure. Unless the display is connected to a UPS, I don’t see how this can serve its purpose. One way to circumvent this issue is to have the system automatically save and exit properly the moment that power is cut off.
Since space is not an issue, the CoolShip is able to add connecting ports that are not found on an Android TV stick like the VGA connector. With a VGA port, it is possible to use the CoolShip with an older monitor that does not have a HDMI port. So, if you have an old CRT monitor collecting dust, you can now put it to good use. Since the keyboard has built-in stereo speakers (and a earphone jack), you don’t have to worry about the audio. It still has the HDMI connector if you plan to use it with a HDMI capable display.
Both WiFi and wired Ethernet via a RJ45 connector are available for connecting to the internet. Other features on the CoolShip include 2 USB ports, a power switch, indicator lights for power, wifi and battery, an SD external memory slot and a built-in microphone for making VOIP calls or for Google Voice Search.
However, the keyboard form factor also has a few disadvantages. The most obvious being that it would not be practical to use the CoolShip as a set top box in a living room setting since it needs to be connected to the display via a HDMI or VGA cable.
The keyboard form factor is also not as portable as an Android TV stick or even a set top box form factor but both the portability and unsuitability as a set top box is not an issue with the CoolShip’s target audience.
During the recent 2013 CES, there were touch screen displays that come with Android that allow the displays to function as standalone computers. Between a monitor and a keyboard that comes with Android, I think that the keyboard makes a little more sense.
How to Get Your Own CoolShip Keyboard
FocusWill Information Technology, the designers of the CoolShip has launched an Indiegogo crowd funding project. They already have the prototype ready and made a trial production run in Jan 2013. They need the orders from the Indiegogo project to do a mass production run to lower the unit cost.
You can order a Starter Package that includes the CoolShip keyboard with 4GB ROM and without the touchpad. Adding another $10 will snag you the version with touch pad, 8GB ROM, a USB mouse and a 16GB SD card. The SD card will also contain a tryout version of the CoolShip OS that is customized Android OS for use with the keyboard.