Review: The Telikin PC For Older Folks

I’ve been putting off writing about the Telikin because, arguably, any PC is suitable the older audience that the Telikin is aimed. I set my Dad up with a Linux machine and then a Mac Mini and he’s been surfing Drudge and listening to Polka like a champ for almost a decade now. Why spend $699 when you can feasibly hook Grandma up with a PC for $400 or so at Best Buy?

Well the Telikin is an entirely different sort of PC. Built as an all-in-one device, the machine includes an 18- or 20-inch screen, large-print keyboard, and a normal wired mouse. It runs an unnamed version of Linux and is completely locked down, dumping you into a kiosk-like experience that you can’t leave. The machine is, in actuality, a MSI MSI Wind Top AE1920 with some special software installed and you essentially pay a $60 premium for Telikin’s software.

I installed the Telikin for my mother who is approximately as computer savvy as our dog and, with a bit of coaxing, she was able to call via Skype and check an email mailbox I made her months before that she had never visited. Because the experience is completely curated, there is really no way to dump into a command prompt and the system supports something called Tech Buddy, which is essentially a remote desktop connection via any other PC.

That said, the Telikin is clearly limited and may upset tech-savvy folks. The buttons do exactly as they say – News gives you the news, Web gives you a browser – but there are a few quirks that may stymie some users. For example, email attachments aren’t automatically displayed, a definite problem for folks trying to send images and video, and there are no social media buttons (although there are shortcuts in the browser). You can log in using your Facebook account to see friends’ photos in the Photos tab, which is quite fun, but a social tab would be nice.

The system also has a basic word processor and calculator as well as a very simple file browser although you really can’t dig very far into the file system. In short, it hides everything from the user in order to ensure Mom doesn’t drag /var into the trash can.

Walt Mossberg found the Telikin to be a flawed experience but – and I’d actually cede to Walt here if pressed – but I feel it is nearly perfect for an elderly parent who needs a set-it-and-forget-it web experience. I didn’t noticed any of the bugs Walt noticed, which suggests that they have updated the machine over the past year. The price is just about right, too – $699 isn’t a lot to pay vs. a $599 Mac Mini without monitor – but again you’re paying a slight premium for stock hardware and a special OS.

Cheaper computers can be had and better experiences exist, but the Telekin seems to be an excellent choice for, say, a retirement center or home of an elderly relative. More computer-savvy folks like my Dad (who still types “Drudge” into Google to search for Drudge Report) are better served by a real computer with a real OS. Folks who are at a complete loss, however, may find this a superior experience.

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