What are PC Compute Sticks – How they work, Features & Capabilities

With a world of possibilities available, it is now harder than ever choose the format of the computer that is best for you. Just to make matters even tougher, there are a few manufacturers producing PC Compute Sticks. A fully featured PC that fits in your pocket. In this article, we take a look at the technology and see who might find it to be the ultimate in portable computing.

What are PC Compute Sticks

What are PC Compute Sticks - How they work, Features & Capabilities

Imagine being able to take your desktop PC everywhere. This is the promise of compute sticks. As long as you have a monitor with an HDMI input, you can use this portable version of a desktop computer. In this article, we look at the pro’s and con’s of three of the most popular compute stick PC’s on the market and the technology overall.

Pro’s: The idea of a take anywhere PC is obviously useful. But many will argue that they’re less useful than a laptop. While they may have a point, for the right consumer, a compute stick offers an alternative to a laptop that fits conveniently in your pocket and allows you to use any size of the monitor to use the PC without a bulky laptop to carry around.

Con’s: Like all types of PC, the compute stick has its drawbacks. To keep things small, companies have had to use components such as Intel’s Atom processor. The Atom is ideal for small applications but is underpowered and not sufficient for intensive desktop applications. Also, it is not self-powered, meaning that you will still need a power source close by in order to use it, unlike a laptop that has its own battery.

1] Lenovo IdeaCentre stick

Lenovo really are the kings of budget computing. Their lines of laptops and tablets sell very well and are backed up by Lenovo’s excellent customer service. So why buy the IdeaCentre Stick?

The Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick is a fully featured PC that fits in the palm of your hand. While not the first to market, the Lenovo version comes with similar spec to others on the market but is rather refined. But with 2gb of RAM and a 32GB flash drive for storage, it is unlikely to be a desktop PC killer.

The stick looks like a large flash drive being 4 inches x 1.5 inches and can plug directly into the back of a monitor.  But requires a power source nearby in order to operate.

Unfortunately, like most stick PC’s the Lenovo stick is limited in connectivity only having one real port with a full-size USB2.0 port. Though it does feature Bluetooth 4.0 for a variety of alternative connections. It does also feature a MicroSD slot, which allows you to expand the capacity by 128GB.

All in all the IdeaCentre Stick runs Windows 10 very well and is probably the best choice if you like the usability of a compute stick, backed up by solid hardware and Lenovo’s excellent customer service.

2] Asus VivoStick

Unlike the Lenovo above, the Asus Vivostick has a 64-bit architecture which, considering the price, is a whole lot of computer for the money.

It shares the same characteristics as the others here and is designed primarily as a convenience PC rather than a fully-featured desktop PC. Measuring in at 5.31 inches x 1.42 inches, it is a Windows 10 PC that you can slide into a pocket. It features 2Gb of RAM and 32GB eMMC drive like the others.

Connectivity wise, it features a Micro USB port (for power) a USB 2.0 port, a headset jack and even a USB 3.0 port making it the best for connectivity on the test. The reason for it being second and not first is the lack of a MicroSD port. Windows 10 is a big OS and swallows up a rather large portion of the 32GB of eMMC storage on board. This leaves a meager 15GB free after Windows, and it is not sufficient to store anything but a few small programs.

One really tricky feature of the device is the ability to use ASUS’s VivoRemote app. This allows you use your mobile phone in one of two modes that can work as either a touchpad or a multimedia remote. Though it is annoying that there is no keyboard option or hybrid.

If you’re in the market, the ASUS is not a bad contender at all.

3] Intel Compute Stick

The most well known of the compute PC’s on the test is the Intel Compute Stick. It has the benefit of being made by the World’s biggest processor manufacturer and was the first of the mainstream sticks on the market.

Now on its second generation, the Intel Compute Stick has grown into a good device, the original was painfully slow, but the evolution is a whole new breed.

This time around Intel has included two USB ports in order to be able to connect a keyboard and mouse at the same time. This is something that is left out of a lot of these stick PC’s so is a good effort by Intel. Like the Lenovo model, it features a MicroSD slot and can be expanded by 128GB. It uses a Micro USB port for power but still needs an AC adapter to work.

Like the others here it offers a full Windows experience that you can fit in your pocket, but Lenovo has better customer service, and the Asus has the excellent VivoRemote app to help you along. The Intel though is still an excellent performer and should be considered alongside the others.

Our next post details some of the best Stick PCs you can buy in the market currently.

Conclusion: In the end, the compute stick is a good idea in principle. For many, it offers perfectly ample performance for their needs and offers excellent portability. But for intensive use applications, it is not as practical or powerful as most laptops. Manufacturers will need to find a niche for the application in order to drive sales, or it may never really take off, which would be a shame for something so useful.

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Karan Khanna is a passionate Windows 10 user who loves troubleshooting Windows problems in specific and writing about Microsoft technologies in general.