I’ve never been to hell, but I imagine it’s a lot like going to work and using an abysmally slow computer. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, as I’ve plodded along in my own personal nightmare using a tiny, $250 PC built for emerging markets.
The Mission One comes from Endless, a company that spent the last five years selling cheap computers in developing countries. You basically get what you pay for with this box. It runs on an ancient Intel Celeron processor (dual-core, 2.17 GHz) that takes several minutes to complete most basic tasks. It also runs on Endless OS, the company’s lightweight operating system packed with 100 free educational and work apps.
The concept of selling dirt cheap computers is great, but the Mission One still needs lots of work. For this much money, you should be able to buy something usable. There are Windows laptops and Chromebooks that emphatically get it done at this price.
My experience using the Mission One was torturous. Despite the joy of looking at its lovely bamboo case on my desk, doing anything with the machine was a chore. Thinking back on it makes head buzz with frustration. It’s easily one of the worst-performing computers I’ve ever used. You should not buy this computer, but in the name of due diligence, here’s a list of some stuff you can do if you’re willing to wait for the computer to cough and heave its way through tasks.
1) Edit images in fake Photoshop
The Mission One features a handful of work software that are all often open-source and borderline counterfeit. It comes with GIMP, the popular photo editor that works like Photoshop, and if that’s too complicated, it has another app that does many of the the same things with fewer buttons. The bottom line is you can edit photos on this computer as long as you’re patient and willing to wait through frequent bouts of computer lag.
2) Create a fake Mr. Potato Head
One app that quickly caught my attention was KTuberling, a free construction game for kids. It lets you drag-and-drop icons to build villages and moon bases, but the best option is obviously this weird looking Mr. Potato Head imposter. His cheeky smile says, “Please, kill me!”
3) Play a fake version of Minecraft
If I could play one game for the rest of my life, it would be Minecraft, because every session is different. Minetest is an open-source game inspired by Minecraft that looks nearly identical to it, feels nearly identical to it, and essentially works like a counterfeit version. It’s not quite the same as the real version, but you won’t notice if you’re not paying close attention.
4) Play music on fake iTunes
The music player Rhythmbox looks like iTunes and basically operates the exact same way. You can stream songs across the same wireless network as iTunes, load songs from your own library, or play any of the dozens of free Spanish songs that ship with the computer.
5) Take a nap while the computer thinks
I haven’t wanted to smash a computer so badly in years. The Mission One lags at almost every turn, giving you plenty of time to think about your day or meditate. I wish I were exaggerating, but the problem is really worse than any machine I’ve touched in the last ten years.
Are you launching an app? It’s going to take a few minutes. Want to quickly glance at your email while you’re surfing the web? Don’t bother. The Mission One loves to think really hard about every single click you make. If you don’t find something productive to do while waiting—you’ll end up wasting hours of your time.
6) Write in a fake Microsoft Word
The real reason I wanted to try the Mission One is because I’m looking for a new computer to use in my home office. I want to buy a small, cheap PC that I can use for typing out daily news blogs and longer projects that i’m working on. I basically want an expensive, modern typewriter.
The Mission One didn’t fill that role very well for me. The word processor takes a few minutes to open if you have other apps running (such as Chromium), and the keyboard often lags behind my typing speed. The word processor, LibreOffice, has an army of dedicated users, but this PC just wasn’t powerful enough to make the program an enjoyable experience for me. For typing, editing, and writing emails, my Chromebook was significantly faster.
7) Play Pingus
This is a fake version of the classic strategy game Lemmings, but it has a way better name. I couldn’t pass up clicking on Pingus when I saw it in the app store, and it didn’t disappoint. Great game with an excellent name.
8) Smear Pingus across the screen
It’s not as bad as it sounds, I swear. When I clicked the “launch” button in the app store, it started lagging, so I cautiously clicked one more time after a few seconds passed. Then I got angry. I clicked a bunch and swore a couple of times, and started doing something else waiting for the computer to process the launch request.
Apparently I made too many requests. The machine somehow managed to load about a dozen versions of the game at once, simultaneously, each in its own window. In that moment, I was slightly impressed with this little PC chugging along, but also realized I could never use it as my main computer.