Stick PCs take the desktop computers of old and shrink them into pocket-sized gadgets.
The market is hotting up, with upcoming offerings from Intel and Google. Here’s what’s around and in the wings.
Compute Stick from Intel
Specs are comparable to a mid-range tablet, with a quad-core Intel Z3735F Bay Trail processor and integrated graphics.
Hardware varies depending on the OS. The Windows version has 2GB RAM and 32GB storage. The Linux version has 1GB RAM and 8GB storage. Connectivity includes full-sized and micro USB ports, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.
Chromebit from Google
The Chrome OS machine can be plugged into any monitor or TV with an HDMI port. The device should have enough power to meet the needs of the average home user, with specs reported to include a Rockchip 3288 system on a chip, 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage, as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
MK802 V5 Linux Edition
Another HDMI stick housing a Linux PC, the £105 ($155) V5 LE packs similar power to the Chromebit.
The machine is aimed at home-desktop, thin-client and other users, and runs Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with the Xfce desktop. Manufacturer Rikomagic says it can boot within six seconds.
The computer requires a separate power supply and runs on a 1.8GHz quad-core RK3288 processor, a Mali-T764 GPU and 2GB RAM. It offers 16GB eMMC storage, expandable via MicroSD card, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet.
MK802III Linux Edition
For those on a tighter budget, the Cloudsto MK802III Linux Edition offers a desktop machine for £65, or about $96.
Running PicUntu Linux, a custom-build of the Ubuntu 12.10 OS, the machine is slightly less well-specced than the others listed here, with a 1.6GHz dual-core ARM processor and 1GB RAM. Once again, it connects to displays via HDMI. Network connectivity is provided via Wi-Fi and peripherals can be hooked up to the two USB ports.
The manufacturer warns the device is intended for developers and early adopters who don’t mind delving into the Linux command line, cautioning “many of the features are still under development so certain things might not behave as expected”.
Like the Intel Compute Stick, this $108 Windows 8.1 machine packs a quad-core processor and 2GB RAM.
The device offers 32GB of eMMC storage and connectivity via Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. Peripherals can be hooked up to the one micro and one regular USB 2.0 port. Once again it connects to displays via HDMI
One thing to note is the Windows 8.1 OS is an evaluation version, so you will need to buy a Windows licence in the long run. Owners have also complained about the number of unwanted apps preinstalled on the device.