Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Android Peripheral Compatibility

There's two ways to connect keyboards and mice to Android:
  • On-the-Go is a standard that allows your device to be a USB host. You should in theory be able to use it to connect any USB device. In practice though, it's poorly supported, which is a pity because I prefer my full-size keyboard and mouse to the fiddly Bluetooth versions.
  • Bluetooth has better, but not perfect support.
Update: LineageOS on the Galaxy S3 has enabled OTG peripherals and screen mirroring. (It has also killed MHL for good.) It would be my preferred device, but the small screen blows up to huge fonts when cast.

My experience with my Samsung Android devices so far:

Device Galaxy S3 LTE (i9305) Galaxy Note 8.0 (N5110) Galaxy Note 10.1 (N8000)
Year released 2012 2013 2012
Form Factor Smartphone Mid-size Tablet Full-size Tablet
OS Jellybean (Stock) LineageOS 14.1 KitKat (Stock)
MHL works? Sporadically No No
Screen Casting works? Airplay/DLNA media playing only Airplay/DLNA and Miracast screen mirroring (with some coaxing) Airplay/DLNA media playing only
Bluetooth Mouse + Keyboard works? Yes Keyboard only Yes
OTG Mouse + Keyboard works? No Buggy/Partial Yes

My current setup of choice is to use the Galaxy Note 8.0 to screen cast, with OTG USB mouse and Bluetooth keyboard. Pretty messy, right? Maybe newer devices have better support, but at this stage, relying on standards to turn your Android devices into PCs is a gamble.

Cost is the argument for taking that gamble:
  • Screen Casting: Anycast dongles are less than USD$20. You won't need one if you have a smart TV.
  • Bluetooth Keyboard: ~USD$15
  • Bluetooth Mouse: $USD5
  • OTG hub: $USD5

Background

My laptop is dying. Instead of replacing it, I'm going to try and harness the underutilised computing power in my smart devices.

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