Want a working Android PC? You can try installing Android on your PC or laptop, but consider yourself lucky if it works! However, some cheap parts work without problems.
Here are some parts you can use to build an Android PC.
Before looking at the hardware, consider the operating systems on sale. You have several options when it comes to running an Android computer.
- Phoenix OS: The best installable version of Android — as of 2018 — is Phoenix OS. Installation can be a little tricky. Read our Phoenix OS installation guide. to save you time and effort .
- Android-x86 Project : Android-x86 Project can install Android on PC. While it’s not optimized for a desktop interface, it’s relatively easy to install.
- Android for ARM: Some single board computers come with installable versions of Android, such as the Raspberry Pi.
- Chromium OS Currently, Chromium OS (the installable version of Chrome OS) cannot run Android apps. However, Android support is expected.
The Best Parts for Building an Android PC
Since Android uses many Linux drivers, some parts of the computer work with x86 versions of Android. Unfortunately, Android is not fully compatible, which causes problems.
Of these parts, the motherboard and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card are the most important. The motherboard determines if your build will run, and the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card determines if your device will connect to the internet.
Single Board Computers
If you just want an all-in-one computer that runs Android, you can only opt for a Single Board Computer (SBC). We’ve rounded up the best SBC devices and almost all of them are Android capable.
On the other hand, only a few of them seem to be able to run on modern versions of Android. Many for some reason do not have better support than Android 4.4 (KitKat). Exceptions to this rule include the following SBC models:
- Raspberry Pi 3: Although the Raspberry Pi 3 is by no means the best Android SBC on this list, it will receive the longest period of support and operating system updates. And with the latest incarnation (at the same price of $35), expect a long support cycle. (There are other operating systems you can install on Raspberry Pi operating systems.)
- Orange Pi Prime: The Orange Pi Prime is a compact board with 2GB of RAM.
- Banana Pi M3: This is the most powerful SBC listed here. However, it comes with a hefty price tag of over $100.
- Rock64: The Rock64 would be the perfect SBC, except it lacks built-in wireless. This means that you will either need to use an Ethernet connection for data transfer or you will need a USB dongle.
- Asus Tinkerboard: The Tinkerboard is a solid alternative to the Raspberry Pi 3. It has strong Android support and overall good specs.
The most complex component of your computer is its motherboard. This is the only part that alone determines whether your build will boot with the Phoenix OS installed. You can also check if your existing PC will run Phoenix OS by simply burning a bootable Phoenix OS USB and running it.
If it boots, then you can install Phoenix OS. Of the components I’ve personally tested, Atom-based motherboards (particularly the Q1900 system-on-a-chip) provided the best Phoenix OS compatibility.
Working motherboards tested (some have problems)
- ASRock Q1900-ITX : Q1900-ITX worked great. I tested its sleep function, screensaver, HDMI audio, and most of its ports — except parallel ports — on Phoenix OS.
- ECS KBN-E1/2100 (with serious problems) A: Like most AMD Embedded Boards, the HDMI audio on the KBN-E1/2100 did not work or sleep or activate the screensaver. The rest of the board worked fine.
- MSI AM1-ITX (with serious problems) A: Another AMD board, AM1I HDMI Audio, did not work or sleep or activate the screensaver. Everything else worked fine.
Motherboards that should work without problems
- ASRock Q1900B-ITX: There is nothing crazy about the Q1900B-ITX. This is a standard Bay Trail motherboard, otherwise it is almost identical to the motherboard I successfully installed Android on. It’s actually even easier and shouldn’t have any problems. It uses the same audio chipset as Q1900, Realtek ALC662.
- ASRock Q1900M microATX: This is a microATX motherboard, not mini-ITX. This means it requires a microATX case. Otherwise, it uses the same processor and sound chipset as the Q1900-ITX, which means it should be fully compatible.
- ASRock Q1800B-ITX: This motherboard (sold at Newegg for $55 since Feb 2018) should work as it uses the same audio chipset (ALC662) and a slightly older but similar processor as the Q1900.
- ASRock Q1900DC-ITX: This is the DC version of the Q1900-ITX motherboard, which means it should work because it has the same sound chipset and processor. It also doesn’t require a power supply. Unfortunately, this is hard to find at an affordable price.
- GIGABYTE GA-J1800N-D2H: This motherboard also uses ALC662 chipset and Bay Trail (not Braswell) processor. It must be compatible.
Motherboards that could work
- ASRock J3455B-ITX: This motherboard uses an Apollo Lake processor but is otherwise similar to the Q1900 series specs. This means that it uses an Intel processor along with a Realtek chipset. However, it uses a slightly different Realtek chipset than the Q1900, so audio might be an issue.
- ASUS PRIME J3355I-C: This motherboard features an Apollo Lake processor which means it is still up to date but not guaranteed to be compatible with Phoenix OS.
There are several general compatibility rules. Most new Atom based motherboards should work properly. I tested Phoenix OS on an ASRock Q1900-ITX motherboard. The Bay Trail processor and Realtek ALC662 audio chipset are known to work properly with Android. This means that similarly configured motherboards should also work correctly. The ALC792 and ALC892 chipsets may or may not work properly, which may require the use of Bluetooth speakers.
Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo card
Older Intel Atom motherboards use PCIe, mSATA, or mini-PCIe ports for Wi-Fi card slots. Laptops also include these cards, although sometimes replacing them can be a huge hassle. Like many upgradeable computer components, mini-PCIe wireless cards may have compatibility issues when used with Linux or Android (which is based on Linux).
I recommend trying whatever device you have and — if that doesn’t work — buying a model with proven Linux support as an upgrade. If you’re building from scratch, you’ll need to buy an Intel wireless card. For mainstream mini-PCIe cards, Bluetooth compatibility is standard.
Of the models I’ve tested, the best includes Intel’s budget line with an 802.11ac card. While the Intel 7260 series Wi-Fi cards work great in Phoenix OS, I recommend the Intel 3160 for its combination of low price and decent performance.