This post is part of research into using alternative devices to get work done, as part of a much larger blog post I’m still drafting. It’s up to 2,000 words, so it might be a while…
I spent a few hours writing on a Nexus 7 hooked up with a USB OTG cable to a USB keyboard, then mirrored it to a Chromecast on my desktop screen.
And it was way better than I expected - at times, I even forgot I was using an Android tablet. I did keep trying to touch my monitor though.
Android has all the keyboard commands you’d expect - the Windows key goes right to a Google search, and you can Alt-Tab and more. Everything you’d hope for. I was prepared for it to be slightly average, but it’s much, much better than I expected. You can tab through webpages, through apps, and navigate the homescreen using the arrow keys. The speed at which you can perform tasks parallels a desktop machine, but reaching to the Nexus 7 to tap the screen got tiring. Of course, I should add a mouse!
I dug out a USB hub and add a USB mouse to the keyboard and suddenly the experience was lightyears better. Android has full support for mouse pointers, so setting it up was instant. Typing, scrolling and editing are all a joy and identical to a desktop - it all works really well. Selecting text is a bit weird, so the easiest way to select text is to tap the screen.
It would be nice to not need any interaction with the device itself and it could simply sit in my pocket, connected over Bluetooth and WiFi.
What’s really missing is changing the resolution or having support for two screens in Android. Right now, the Chromecast is just an upscaled version of your screen. Having the ability to halve the screen between apps like iOS would also improve the experience dramatically.
With the rumours of ChromeOS merging with Android, having a seamless desktop experience from your Android device may not be far off.
In fact, I typed this blog post entirely up on my Nexus 7. I took the photos on my LG G3, automatically uploaded them to Google Photos, and edited those on the Nexus 7 too. It felt seamless, and aside from the resolution it felt productive.