The InFocus Kangaroo PC is a unique and innovative “BYODYM” mini-PC, offering a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader, an internal battery, and the ability to use an iPad as touchscreen. And it only costs $99.
In a way, we have Apple to blame for this.
Ten long years ago, before the iPhone transformed Apple into a very different kind of company, the firm still believed that the key to its success was to convince users to switch to its Mac platform. The problem with the Mac, then as now, is that it was simply too expensive for most people.
So Steve Jobs reused a strategy that worked well before with laptops (iBook) and MP3 players (iPod mini): Introduce an entry-level product that was still expensive compared to the competition of the day, but inexpensive for an Apple offering. That is, it introduced the first Mac mini.
“I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me … ‘why doesn’t Apple offer a stripped-down Mac that is more affordable?’,” Steve Jobs said during his Macworld San Francisco keynote in 2005. “No display, no keyboard and mouse.”
For the day, the original Mac mini was a “very robust computer,” as Jobs put it. More to the point, it was essentially an entry-level Mac portable in a small enclosure, and as a customer you were expected to BYODYM … Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse. The idea was that PC users would exchange their tired old PC box for the Mac mini and use their existing peripherals, in turn saving money by not repurchasing components they already owned.
It was a good idea, and while there’s no evidence the Mac mini did anything other than give Apple’s existing fan base a new, lower-cost option, PC makers certainly took the design to heart, as they often do with Apple designs. And the PC makers did what they do best, too: They lower the prices. So where the Mac mini starts at $499, you can now find comparable PC minis for even less. The HP Pavilion Mini Desktop starts at $399, and can often be found for less. And you can get a Chromebox for under $200 if you want.
Of course, desktop PCs are a bit passé these days, especially when you can buy wonderful entry-level laptops, like the HP Stream 11 for just $200. (The Lenovo IdeaPad 100S is even cheaper, at $180.) Why would anyone buy a stripped-down desktop PC when you can get a portable device with integrated screen, keyboard and pointing device?
Well, there are reasons, of course. You may want a centrally located PC in the house that kids can use for printing or other school chores that can’t be completed on whatever iPad/Chromebook/phone they normally use. Or you may want something that fits under, and stays under, the HDTV and can be used as a more powerful Roku-like set-top box.
You could use a stick-based PC, like an Intel Compute Stick (currently $115 at Amazon) or the Lenovo ideacentre Stick 300 Computer (even less expensive at $105). These devices are inexpensive, and you could even pop one in a bag and bring it on trips. But connectivity and expansion is limited and awkward.
And that’s where the InFocus Kangaroo PC comes in.
The Kangaroo is a tiny, Windows 10 Home-based PC. It costs just $99 at Neweggand is roughly the size—but double or triple the thickness—of a 6-inch phablet. In the box, you get this PC, a laptop-like power cord and, most important, a Kangaroo Dock, which plugs on to one end of the PC and adds one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, one full-sized HDMI port, and a power plug (which passes through to the Kangaroo).
The Kangaroo and Dock are separate because you could use the PC as a portable device of sorts, and perhaps keep one Dock at home and one at work. (You can buy the Dock separately for $39.) This works better than you’d think, but more on that in a moment.
As you might expect, the Kangaroo’s specs are low-end but perfectly adequate, and comparable to what’s found in an HP Stream 11 or Lenovo IdeaPad 100S: A quad-core 1.44 GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8500 processor with Intel HD Graphics, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of eMMC storage, a microSD card slot, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 A/C, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Initial configuration took a while: I had to install the Fall Update for Windows 10, a handful of other updates, and a number of app updates over a couple of reboots. But once that’s all complete, everything works well: Boot time is quick, the performance is silent, and the device works exactly as you’d expect, like a real Windows 10 PC. Which it is. For just $99.
So the value is obvious. But there are some additional bits that really put Kangaroo over the top.
First, it includes a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader, which is almost hidden on the side of the device. It works exactly as expected, and enables keyboard-free sign-ins.
Second, the Kangaroo also contains a small battery, which InFocus says is good for up to four hours of life. You can use this battery to transport the device between Docks, and not have to worry about shutting it down. But you can also use it as a portable PC for short times, too. Assuming, that is, that you have an iPad handy.
You see, the Kangaroo also supports something called OSLinx—curiously, not preinstalled—which lets you pair the device with an iPad and use the Apple device as a screen, complete with touch support for pointer-like use, and of course the on-screen virtual keyboard.
All you need to do is install OSLinx on both devices and connect them with a USB cable. Voila: Instant portable PC. (Using an iPad in this manner disables the HDMI port, in case you were wondering about dual-screen usage.)
In other words, this is an amazing little PC.
Yes, for most people, an HP Stream 11 or Lenovo IdeaPad 100S will be a better choice. But the Kangaroo scratches an itch, and will be exactly what some are looking for. It’s an amazingly versatile little PC. And you can’t beat the price.