Have you ever left an important file on your home computer or wished you could try out a new OS without going through the dual-boot hassle? Shells may just be the solution you’ve been looking for. It’s your own personal workspace powered by the cloud. Think of as a personal computer you can access from any device with an Internet connection – even TVs. I recently had the chance to test out Shells for myself to see if it really can offer a desktop experience anywhere.
This is a sponsored article and was made possible by Shells. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence even when a post is sponsored.
Overview of Features
Unlike remote desktop or sandbox installations that require you to install something on your computer, Shells works via your browser. Everything is entirely cloud-based, though you can still use your laptop’s keyboard and touchpad or a wired/wireless keyboard and mouse. The platform also works with touchscreens.
The concept is simple – you’re given your own personal workspace, aka computer, in the cloud. You store your files, apps, and even operating system on remote servers to access from any device. When you log in, you choose which “shell” to use.
The platform is designed to not only give you access from anywhere you have an Internet connection, but also help you avoid the need to upgrade old hardware. As long as your device connects to the Internet and stays on, you can use a virtual desktop, saving you money. Most devices are supported, including Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Linux, and even Internet-capable TVs. Yes, your smart TV can easily become your new desktop computer.
Some of the most notable features include:
- Use multiple operating systems on a single device. (Use Windows on Mac, Android on iOS, Linux on Windows, etc.)
- Automatic backups
- Firewalls and end-to-end encryption to keep your workspace(s) secure
- Dedicated resources and storage for your shells
- Upgrades as necessary based on your needs
- Supports most any Internet-connected device (smart TVs, tablets, computers, smartphones, and even gaming systems)
Who Is Shells Made For?
At first glance, it may seem like Shells is just for tech junkies wanting to test new operating systems or coders wanting to test in different environments – but it’s actually for anybody.
Anyone who doesn’t want to buy a new computer and wants access from anywhere benefits. Some of the use cases include:
- Individuals – Bring old devices back to life and avoid costly upgrades
- Casual Browsers – Add Shells to your smart TV (smart TV app is available) to easily browse, socialize, and shop online without needing a tablet, laptop, or desktop
- Students – Access files and education software from any device
- Developers – Test out new apps in multiple systems easily
- Music Producers – Record and edit on any device using pro-audio tools
- Businesses – Offer virtual desktops for remote workers
- Freelancers – Access your desktop no matter where you are without lugging around a laptop
- Linux Dabblers – Test out Linux and see what the hype is all about without trying to install it on your Windows or Mac device
As you can see, it really is for anyone. I’ve only been using it for a week, and I’m already hooked. Yes, I have a laptop that I use for work, but it’s nice to log in from my tablet while I’m out and check on a file that’s sitting on my virtual desktop. If I make changes, the desktop looks the same when I log back in from home.
If you typically just use a tablet or smartphone, you may want a bigger screen occasionally or want to use apps that might not be compatible. You can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and transform your smart TV into a desktop computer. This isn’t just a secondary monitor either – it’s a powerful, virtual desktop.
Exploring the Dashboard
Getting set up is incredibly easy. Simply create an account and choose your initial operating system. Between the stable and beta systems, there are 19 options to choose from. Windows 10 Home costs $9 extra a month, and higher versions of Windows require you to buy a license first. Most of the systems are different Linux distros, but many of these have a similar feel to Windows and Mac, so they’re easy to learn.
I went with Ubuntu for my test shell. It’s a good choice if you’re new to Linux, by the way. It only takes a few minutes for your virtual workspace to be created. For the system I chose, I was asked to connect any relevant accounts and given a list of software I may want to install.
Every system comes with some pre-installed software or apps. In my case, LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Rhythmbox were already installed. However, there are numerous apps available to install for free. For example, I installed Spotify, which worked great.
Just like with any normal desktop environment, you’re free to customize the look and feel. Change the background, add desktop icons, adjust display settings, and any other normal settings. In fact, it really does feel like using a normal desktop or laptop.
From the main dashboard, you can see all active shells. Each is its own separate computer. You can log in and out of each one. Whenever you sign in on a new device, you get the same list of choices. However, you can only have the same shell opened on a single device at once. You’re also able to manage licensing, view snapshots of backups, edit the name of your shell, and more.
I currently only have Android and Windows devices, so I only tested on those. Shells worked perfectly on my Windows 10 laptop. I tried it using Chrome, Firefox, and Brave without any issues.
On my LG smartphone, I never could get the desktop to fill the screen in landscape mode. However, everything worked fine as long as I didn’t try to use the desktop icons. I had to use the sidebar menu to open apps and files.
On my Samsung tablet, it was just like my laptop. The virtual desktop filled the screen and functioned identically to my laptop. I was actually impressed with how well it worked between devices. If I left an app or file open on one device, logged out, and logged in on another device, the desktop was exactly as I left it, including having the app or file open.
I will admit I noticed a little sluggishness when opening apps at times. Once open, I had no problem, but no matter what device I used, things opened a little slowly.
With all the features and ease of use, I honestly expected Shells to be out of the price range for casual users. I was wrong. The Lite plan starts at just $4.95/month and gives you 40GB storage and 2GB RAM. However, you’re limited to 10 hours per month. Think of it as a very casual plan or test plan. You are able to test Shells for a full seven days risk-free.
All other plans offer unlimited use and start at $9.95/month. Considering most laptops, desktops, and mobile devices cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,000, you could use this plan on an older device for two years and still spend less than $250.
Shells is the ideal solution for anyone looking to make use of an older device. Or, if you want a secure desktop you can access online, you get the desktop experience without being tethered to a single device. I love that it even works on smart TVs versus just older computers or mobile devices. The entire experience has been amazing. Easy access and the features work as promised. Plus, pricing is more than reasonable for what you get. In fact, you’ll actually save money compared to buying multiple devices or even a new device.
Give Shells a try today and get started with your own cloud-based workspace in under five minutes.