In my previous article, I touched upon nettops – small system units that can easily replace their large classic counterparts. But what if there is a need for a solution that can fit in the side pocket of a briefcase and, at the right time, provide PC functionality with only a monitor or TV? Like nothing else, Stick PCs are suitable for such situations, which will be discussed in this article.
What is Stick PC, and why were they invented?
Stick PC or PC-on-a-stick (from the English PC-on-a-stick – “PC on a stick”) – a computer that in its format strongly resembles a large flash drive or modem, and also, in most cases, has an HDMI video port for connection to an output device, power input, and multiple USB Type-A ports.
But where can a PC of this size come in handy? Of course, it will hardly be possible to run heavy software on such a device, but working in office applications, watching movies in a browser, playing music, and using light software is a completely feasible task for such a “kid.” Manufacturers offer applications such as converting a conventional TV to a smart TV and a monoblock, devices for monitoring security cameras, and so on.
What’s inside the Stick PC.
An important feature of the Stick PC “internals” layout is the placement of all components on one printed circuit board. This fact made it possible to fit a full-fledged PC in such a small size, but there are also nuances. As it is not difficult to guess, neither the RAM nor even the permanent memory can be replaced because they are soldered on the same board as the processor. One of the most popular representatives of “single-board computers” today is the Raspberry Pi. Still, it falls short of the title of Stick PC due to its relatively large size. Still, it boasts many USB ports we are used to but even GPIO, just like in Arduino, which makes it possible to assemble inexpensive smart home systems based on such solutions without any special difficulties.
Due to this “stacking of components,” manufacturers have managed to place all the necessary components in a tiny case, which can easily fit into a pocket. But it is impossible to do without compromises in such solutions. So, when buying a Stick PC, you can not count on particularly high CPU performance or large RAM. This is due to big problems with cooling and the inability to accommodate relatively large components of systems we are used to, for example, an M.2 drive or a DDR4 memory slot. Of course, there are solutions on the market that even have an active cooling system, but they are far from their “big” counterparts.
Where and at what price are Stick PCs sold.
Arriving at an ordinary electronics store, you are unlikely to find there a large, or at least some, selection of “USB flash drives.”
There is more choice on foreign sites, but it also does not shine with a special abundance of different configurations.
- ACEPC PC Stick (190 pounds) – Intel Atom Z8350, Wi-Fi, BT, 128 GB of permanent and 8 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 2.0, Type-A 3.0, Type-C, the ability to display images in 4K resolution;
- Intel Compute Stick Mini PC ($ 233) – Intel Atom X5-Z8300, Wi-Fi, BT, 32 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 2.0, Type-A 3.0;
- Mini PC Era (164.40 euros) – Intel Atom Z8350, 64 GB of permanent and 4 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 2.0, Type-A 3.0, MicroSD;
- Azulle Access4 Pro ($ 300) – Intel Gemini Lake Series, 64 GB of permanent and 4 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 3.0, MicroSD, the ability to display images in 4K resolution;
- MeLE PCG02 GLK (from $ 175) – Intel Celeron J4125 / J4125 / 3455, 64/128 GB of permanent and 4/6/8 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 3.0, Audio Jack 3.5, Gigabit Ethernet, MicroSD;
- AWOW Mini PC Stick ($ 237) – Intel Celeron N4000, Wi-Fi, BT, 64 GB of permanent and 4 GB of RAM, USB Type-A 3.0, MicroSD, the ability to display images in 4K resolution.
Conclusion: Great Idea that didn’t work
Unfortunately, Stick PCs did not find the desired success, as marketers predicted them. However, for a narrow circle of users, such a form factor may still be attractive, but you will have to try to get the desired configuration of such a device.