No, this isn’t some sort of strange buffet snack you’ve never heard of. Stick PC’s are actually far more interesting and complex than they sound and are one of the most convenient and useful little tools available thanks to advances in chip design, architecture and the power capabilities of modern PC’s.
You may still be conjuring images of a CPU tied to a literal stick or some other strange contraption however a stick PC is in fact simply a very small, very portable device that performs all of the functions of a normal PC but in a very small package, something around the size of a large USB stick, hence the name!
While naturally, such a small PC will have some drawbacks such as being far less powerful than bigger PCs, they have many strengths that make them extremely useful for certain people, and they are by far the most portable and convenient PC, even more travel friendly than the smallest of laptops and tablets!
Despite this, they give you enough computing power to work on the go and discreetly bring your PC wherever you need to go.
The world on a stick
But finding the best PC on a Stick can be challenging, especially for people who may have never heard of them before or who have never owned one before. Even among people who maintain a respectable knowledge of technology and PCs, stick computers are relatively unknown thanks to their very specific and niche applications.
That makes finding the right stick for you difficult enough, without trying to find one capable of doing what you need it to do, with the right power capabilities, compatibility and applications that make it suitable for your needs.
Tech can be confusing at the best of times, but the peculiar and specially designed architecture of these devices, coupled with the surprising array of options available makes these products overwhelming and complex to research.
To help you in this endeavour we’ve put together a list of some of the best PC’s on a stick available, each with various different internal builds and power capabilities to give you as much flexibility and selection as you need to find the right product for you.
We’ve also included a buyers guide with some helpful tips and features to look out for in a quality stick PC, helping you make an informed purchase and get the product that’s right for you and your needs. We’ve also included an FAQ section where we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about stick PCs, to help you get started on using them and make sure you’re able to get the best use out of your new device.
But without further introduction, let’s boot up the list of stick PC’s and take a look at the selection available.
Best PC On A Stick
Solid quad-core Intel CPU
Good RAM - 8GB
128GB of Storage
Windows 10 Pro pre-installed
Antenna is a little flimsy
This fanless stick PC uses a great quad-core Intel CPU with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, making it a real powerhouse among stick PCs capable of supporting very stable and responsive performance which is perfect for browsing or even media playing. There is an ethernet port available for easy internet connection, however, there is also wifi capability as well as Bluetooth for easy connection to wireless devices and accessories. This stick PC also supports a slew of additional features such as Wake on PXE and LAN, and there is also additional storage thanks to its microSD slot which can add up to 1TB of additional storage should you need it. There is also a 3.5mm audio jack, USB-A connector and a Kensington lock slot.
It also comes with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed for excellent value, and the only downside is that the WiFi antenna is a little flimsy.
Solid Intel Quad Core CPU
8GB of RAM
128GB of Storage
Windows 10 Pro Pre-installed
CPU performance a little slow
The quad-core Intel CPU is efficient and fast, with a burst speed of 1.92GHz making it fast when you need strong performance.
There is 8GB of RAM which is ample for almost all day to day tasks, and expandable storage for additional media such as film, TV, or even games. Windows 10 Pro is preinstalled for immediate and convenient use and the Intel HD Graphics 400 Can Support 4K HD Video Playback perfectly which makes this a great device for streaming on the go at high quality.It comes with Bluetooth, and also has an HDMI slot and two USB slots, making it easy to use with a vast array of screens and devices.
Intel Apollo Lake CPU
4GB of RAM
High-Speed Wifi Connectivity
Low RAM and Included Storage
The axion is another passively cooled stick PC with an Intel Apollo Lake CPU for decent CPU speeds and performance, as well as 4GB of RAM for reasonable day to day workloads and 64GB of storage which can handle plenty of data to get you started.
There’s a high-speed gigabit wifi connector for a very fast internet connection and high-speed WiFi, and expandable storage to add to the existing 64GB giving plenty of flexibility.
The main downside is the smaller amount of RAM which could make day to day tasks slower and less smooth, and the included storage is a little small compared to some other devices.
Intel Celeron Quad Core CPU
4GB of RAM
64GB of Storage
Fast Wifi Connection
Can be slow when streaming
The AWOW Mini PC comes with a quad-core Intel CPU for very respectable speeds of up to 2.5GHz which is as fast as some laptops, and there is also 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
There is a fast wifi connection with an included antenna and a USB 3.0 slot for a very fast and reliable connection to various devices.
While the CPU itself is quite impressive, the small amount of RAM and low storage are concerns, however, it is possible to at least expand the storage thanks to additional slots for external drives.
Thankfully the PC is perfect for streaming as it has Mini DP and HDMI 2.0 outputs which support Ultra HD 4K resolution playback at 60Hz, which is excellent for high-quality video experiences anywhere you want them.
Windows 10 Pro Included
Fan is loud due to it's small size
Another AWOW product, the AR40S comes with an array of great features, chief among them being the included Windows 10 and amazing Bluetooth 5.0 which is one of the newest and fastest Bluetooth connections available, allowing for seamless connection to devices and very convenient file transfer.
With 4GB of RAM and 64Gb of storage, there are perhaps some performance bottlenecks, however, there is expandable storage and the CPU can reach speeds of up to 2.6GHz which is an excellent speed for such a small PC.
Finding a good stick PC can be difficult for a few reasons, but the most difficult can be differentiating between them as they often look very similar and even have quite similar specifications.
Finding a stick PC capable of delivering the performance you need in the package you need can be like trying to split hairs, especially if you’re not super confident with tech talk and specification run downs.
To help give you a better idea of what to look for depending on your specific needs, we’ve highlighted some key features to look out for and given a bit of explanation about each to help you make sure your stick PC is capable of everything you need.
The CPU is the beating heart of your PC, whether it’s a laptop, desktop or a PC the size of a flash drive. While the CPU’s in larger devices are much more powerful and able to deliver far greater performance than those used inside stick PCs, it’s quite amazing what these tiny computers can do.
Ideally, when looking at CPU performance you can use a few things to tell how fast a CPU is. The first is how many cores the CPU has. Some stick PCs use CPUs with 4 cores, while some are dual-core. This will affect how easily the CPU can handle multiple tasks simultaneously and how it manages larger workloads. The other thing to look out for is the clock speed of the CPU, which is usually measured in GHz and typically ranges around 1.9 to 2.5GHz depending on the CPU and its performance.
Again, the higher the clock speed, the faster your CPU can process. This is important for stick PCs as they need to pack in as much performance as possible into such a small space, meaning a good CPU can make a huge difference to overall performance.
RAM is the temporary storage your computer uses to quickly file and hold onto important information while a session is running. The more RAM you have, the faster your PC will perform and the smoother it will open apps and run apps and perform other functions. A good amount of RAM for a stick PC is generally 8GB, which is the same as most laptops and even some PCs. Some stick PCs do come with 4GB however, which will be slower but will often be a bit of a cheaper option for the budget-conscious, and 4GB is still enough to browse and perform most day to day computing tasks.
The connectivity of your stick PC is one of the key features, as it’s going to need to connect to various devices in order to work and the more connective possibilities there are, the more flexible your stick PC will be, making it more useful in a range of different scenarios.
Typically the first and most noticeable feature of the stick PC is its USB port, which will be used to plug the PC into a monitor or other peripheral device to display the graphics you need.
USB 3.0 is commonly used in stick PCs and is fast and reliable however there are older USB 2.0 versions that are a little slower, and newer USB 3.1 versions that are faster. Any of these would be suitable for day to day use, however.
Another key feature in this regard is Bluetooth compatibility.
Not all stick PCs are Bluetooth capable, but it can be an amazing thing in terms of convenience. This is because you will be able to connect all your wireless devices and peripherals to your PC very conveniently without cables which suits the portable nature of these devices.
Headphones, keyboards, mice, and even printers can all connect using Bluetooth, and while it’s not essential if you don’t plan to make use of these devices, it can still help with convenient file transfer, making it a key feature to look out for.
One of the key drawbacks of such a tiny PC is that there’s no room for a top of the line graphics card or additional graphics processors. This puts the burden onto the CPU and its integrated graphics. Quite often integrated graphics are not really very good quality, however, some of the better stick PCs claim to be able to use 4K and provide amazing clarity, so if you’d like to use your stick PC for portable media playing, this is definitely something to look out for.
Quite simply, the smaller the better is the mantra when it comes to stick PCs. It makes them more discrete and easier to travel with which is the main feature of these devices. Most of them are about the size of a flash drive, perhaps a little bigger, and weigh roughly the same.
They are almost totally unnoticeable and can be carried anywhere quite easily, and while there are some larger options with slightly more powerful internals, the main competitors are very small and lightweight.
Most stick PCs use passive cooling because they’re so small that they can’t generate the heat required to justify active cooling such as fans or the methods that laptops and traditional desktops use.
Passive cooling still has some nifty tricks to keep your PC cool, however, and the major benefit of this is that it’s very quiet when compared to standard cooling systems, which are often one of the loudest components when the fans throttle up.
Stick PCs can have a surprising amount of storage for such small devices, often packing 128GB of very fast eMMC storage, which makes it similar to SD cards and other very small storage devices.
The beauty of most of the stick PCs in our list is that they are compatible with external hard drives and memory cards, meaning it’s easy to expand their memory on the fly and expand your storage when you need to. This allows you to keep your PC streamlined and keep a separate storage device with non-essential media.
Things To Consider
What are stick PC’s good for?
Stick PC’s are the most portable type of computer that exists. They are more convenient than laptops, tablets and even smartphones in terms of sheer size and portability and are incredibly discrete.
While most people may not have a use for a PC so incredibly lightweight and small, for those who do need to travel light, these represent the very best performance and optimizations, with surprising performance for their size and cost.
They are also extremely versatile and depending on the specifications they can be used for browsing, storage, word processing, media, productivity and a host of other activities, depending on how intensive and power-hungry they are.
Can I play games on a stick PC?
This may surprise you, but yes, technically you can if you have the peripherals required to facilitate this! Naturally, you won’t be able to extract particularly impressive or smooth gameplay from these tiny PC’s, however, if you’re desperate to game on the go and have no other option, a stick PC is capable of playing some light games at very low quality depending on the specs of the stick PC itself, the resolution you play at and the graphical demands and quality of the game being played. Despite its limitations, this is another feather in the versatile cap of these powerful and flexible devices.
Should I get a laptop or a stick PC?
It depends. If you want your monitor, keyboard and all device requirements included in one package, a laptop may suit you. However, if you want to carry only a PC and know you can use additional devices and peripherals at your destination or on the go, a stick PC may well be a much more comfortable and portable option for you.
Ultimately it boils down to how much performance you think you need vs. how much portability you need.