PC On A Stick?
Back in May, I wrote about the $9 barebones C.H.I.P. computer that’s so tiny it looks like it would fit in a matchbox. If you want a pocket-sized PC that’s a bit more polished, there’s a category of them variously called “PC on a stick,” “PC stick,” or “Compute stick.” Read on for the scoop on these little gadgets that can turn your TV into a fully functioning computer...
What is a PC Stick?
I’m not talking about hobbyist devices like the C.H.I.P (see Really... a $9 Computer?) here. Nor is this the same as Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, which are dedicated streaming media servers. A PC stick is a general-purpose computer that can run any sort of application, even Microsoft Office if the stick supports Windows.
In fact, several PC sticks come with Windows 8.1 preinstalled, and are eligible for free upgrades to Windows 10 when that becomes available on July 29. The low cost of these sticks is possible, in part, because Microsoft is essentially giving away Windows 8.1 to OEMs for installation on low-cost mobile devices.
Dozens of manufacturers are offering PC sticks these days, including famous brands such as Intel, Dell, and Lenovo. Google and Asus will roll out a Chrome-based stick later this summer. In reviewing this mushrooming field, I find they have some things in common.
They’re cheaper than Chromebooks, with street prices between $60 and $150. All PC sticks connect to a monitor or TV via an HDMI port. PC sticks are driven by low-cost, low power consumption chips commonly used in low-priced tablets and many smartphones. 2 GB of RAM is standard for PC sticks, with 4 GB available on some models.
Mass storage consists of solid-state (flash) memory; 16 GB on the low end, 32 GB standard, 64 GB is rare and expensive. For example, the Mouse Computer m-Stick at about $320.
PC sticks are generally cloud-oriented, like Chromebooks. Windows 8.1 itself takes about 16 GB, so storage space for apps and user data is pretty limited. WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity supplement micro-USB and USB 3.0 ports. A micro-SD card reader is desirable. For input, a wireless keyboard and mouse are required. PC sticks lack batteries, so they must use external power supplies or draw power via their USB or HDMI connections to powered monitors.
Will a PC Stick Replace Your Laptop?
This isn't the best way to replace a laptop for users on the go. I can’t imagine buying a PC stick for its pocket portability only to find I need a briefcase full of peripherals like a power brick, a keyboard, and a mouse. I would probably go for a PC stick that draws power via HDMI and can accept input via a keyboard app on my smartphone. (The incongruity of viewing work on a 50-inch TV screen while typing on a 5-inch smartphone keyboard is not lost on me.) The Dell stick linked above meets those criteria, and might be useful in a hotel room.
The PC stick falls between single-board hobbyist computers, like the C.H.I.P. or Raspberry Pi, and cloud-centric Chromebooks. Running MS Office on a stick will be very slow, but if you absolutely must get a spreadsheet done no matter how much it hurts, a fully Windows-capable PC stick will get it done. It’s more practical to use the cloud-based Microsoft Office 360 from a PC stick.
PC sticks are definitely not for gaming, video editing, or other CPU-intensive applications. But a person who has a spare wireless keyboard and mouse sitting in a drawer, and wants to surf the web on a huge screen, while sitting on a couch 10 feet away, this could be perfect. I can see that it has application for people with low vision as well.
And a PC stick that runs Chrome, Ubuntu or Android could be a good idea for older or non-technical people who just want to manage their email and surf the web without worrying about viruses or the hassles of maintaining a Windows system.
Does a PC on a stick appeal to you? Might it be a good solution for someone you know? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Jul 2015
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Comparing Unlimited Phone Plans
The Top Twenty
Best Mobile Security and Privacy Apps
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- PC On A Stick? (Posted: 6 Jul 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved