The best stick PCs ensure the experience of a full desktop PC without the extra bulk. Although the best laptops on the market offer more power, stick PCs are cheaper, require fewer cables, and are small enough to be carried around in your pocket. Stick PCs are also great if you are looking for a streaming device or a PC that can quickly work across displays. The mini-PC market has exploded in recent years, making it tough to wade through and find the best ones. Luckily, we’ve rounded up the top options, with stick PCs from all different brands and at various prices.
AIOEXPC PC Stick
- Built to resist overheating
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- MicroSD card slot
Why you should buy it: This PC is capable of HD playback and has an affordable price.
Who it’s for: Those looking to give their TV some PC properties and access streaming content.
Why we picked the AIOEXPC PC Stick:
If streaming is your goal, you need a stick that’s ready to enable any TV and stream for long periods of time without overheating. We recommend this stick, powered by an Intel Atom Z8350 processor with 4GB of RAM, support for dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2. The Intel HD Graphics 400 technology is enough to support 1080p, and there is also support for a supplemental microSD card.
While the AIOEXPC PC Stick may not have the highest possible specs, there’s more than enough grunt for HD video playback and web browsing. You’ll still get smooth video with a good Wi-Fi connection, and it’s a great little PC for storing backups or reserving an OS for specific activities. Note that this model is fan-cooled, so it isn’t the quietest of the stick PC options.
Azulle Access4 Pro
- Comes with Windows 10 Pro
- Extra USB port
- USB-C connectivity
- Option to switch to Linux
Why you should buy this: It’s a great speedy workplace stick that includes Windows 10 Pro.
Who it’s for: Professionals who want to enable a TV or bounce around between different workstations.
Why we picked the Azulle Access4 Pro:
Users with more robust needs — who are willing to spend more for a portable solution — will love this mini PC stick from Azull. The Access 4 Pro includes a USB-C connection (something that is not very common), a modified Intel Gemini Lake processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. There is no built-in microSD card slot, but you can plug in extra storage using the additional USB port. That puts it near the level of a Chromebook and makes it an excellent option for professionals who operate in many different environments.
The fanless stick also includes other business-friendly features like the Pro version of Windows 10, with an option to switch to Linux if you prefer it. The USB-C connection and overall specs make this a great pick for 4K streaming, controlling smart devices, and much more. Azulle also offers accessory bundles designed for the mobile office and are well worth exploring for the right user.
The only downside for the advanced Access4 Pro is that there is no Wi-Fi 6 support, however, it remains one of the best options for serious business or education settings.
Awow Fanless Mini PC Stick NV41S
- Fully enclosed design that’s easy to clean
- Larger 128GB storage
- HDMI and USB options
- Had to be careful to avoid damaging the antenna
Why you should buy this: It’s a reliable PC stick with an extra-clean design.
Who it’s for: Those who want a minimalist design and hospitals looking to add streaming to TVs.
Why we picked the Awow Fanless Mini PC Stick NV41S:
Buyers looking for a reliable stick supporting Windows 10 64-bit will find this durable Awow PC stick an excellent choice. It supports dual-band Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, and Bluetooth 4.0 for connection options, which isn’t cutting edge but more than enough for good connection speeds.
The Awow NJ41S stick uses an Intel Celeron J4105 processor, has 4GB of RAM, and has 128GB of onboard storage space. The 10W fanless design is also a great choice for saving on power usage in the office or classroom — and the fully enclosed body helps this stick stay as durable as possible and free of crevices that can be gathering places for bacteria (also making it nice for hospital use). Just be careful operating the built-in antenna, as that can be a weak point in stick designs like this.
Awow Fanless Mini PC Stick NV41S
MeLE Fanless Mini PC Stick
- Boosted 8GB RAM
- Up to 256GB storage space
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
Why you should buy this: It packs some extra power for better multitasking.
Who it’s for: Those who want to get closer to the capabilities of a full computer and want plenty of port options.
Why we picked the MeLE Fanless Mini PC Stick:
As you may have noticed, many stick PCs follow the same general 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage design. It’s easy to fit those specs in hardware this small while still keeping things affordable, so it’s a popular option. But if you really need a bit more performance and storage in your portable PC, this stick offers up to 8GB of RAM and storage options of 128GB and 256GB, opening up many more multitasking capabilities.
The MeLE PC stick also includes an Intel Gemini Lake generation Celeron J4125 processor and Windows 11 Pro. Connections are impressive too, including two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card slot for expansion, and a Gigabit Ethernet port, along with Bluetooth 4.2 and dual-band Wi-Fi support. It’s one of the best choices for more demanding work while still staying portable.
MeLE Fanless Mini PC Stick
Axon Mini PC Stick
- Built for looped media and similar uses
- Updated USB-C port and mini DisplayPort
- Gemini Lake processor
- Specs are a little lighter to help reduce the price
Why you should buy this: It’s a great affordable PC stick for low-key background streaming.
Who it’s for: Businesses that want to enable streaming or looped media on a screen without paying too much.
Why we picked the Axon Mini PC Stick:
One of the common uses for PC sticks is to enable basic content for a business, like streaming a channel to a lobby TV or animating a billboard with a looping ad. This particular Axon stick is an excellent example of a model made for these purposes. It’s more affordable than other models on our list and has a durable design that’s perfect for streaming all kinds of media. Inside, you’ll find a quad-core Intel Gemini Lake processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. Ports include mini DisplayPort and USB-C, along with a micro SD card slot.
The Axon PC stick’s specs are lower than some of our other picks, and that makes it less suitable as a computer alternative for the average user (although it can still handle that for minor applications). But for businesses that want a long-term solution to enable older screens with a bit of streaming, it’s an excellent fit that could be a solution for many different setups.
What are the benefits of a stick PC?
The main benefit of a stick PC is that they’re about as small as a USB stick. They’re great for running a slideshow or video on a TV without extra cables or simply swapping between different displays. In professional settings, you can find stick PCs powering trade show presentations, kiosk TVs, and displays in classrooms.
In addition, stick PCs don’t require a power connection to the wall (most are powered off your TV’s USB port), and they plug directly into your display’s HDMI port. That makes them great for home theater purposes, where you may want to stream content from around the internet without putting together a dedicated home theater PC.
What should you consider before purchasing a stick PC?
The most important things to consider before buying a stick PC are storage, connectivity, and the operating system. The processor and RAM are important, too, but most stick PCs are configured with ultra-efficient processors that can perform without producing too much heat or drawing too much power.
For storage, a decent amount of internal storage is a must. Ideally, look for a stick PC that comes with expandable storage, such as a microSD card slot. Connectivity boils down to the network, additional USB ports, and Bluetooth. Ideally, you want a stick PC that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or newer and Wi-Fi 5 or newer. An Ethernet port is nice, too, especially if you’re using the stick PC for streaming.
Finally, look at the operating system. Windows is the standard for many stick PCs, allowing you to run apps that are available on most desktops. Some stick PCs use Linux or Chrome OS, however, which may make tracking down your favorite apps a hassle.
Can you use a stick PC for gaming?
Realistically, no. Stick PCs come with the bare minimum in terms of power, so although they have onboard graphics, they aren’t good for running much more than Minesweeper. In the case of most games released in the past five years, they’ll simply refuse to boot. That said, you can use a stick PC connected to the internet to stream cloud gaming services.
What factors are driving trends in stick PCs?
Stick PCs are a niche product that can help out in several important ways. Popular demand tends to be focused on a few different areas:
Flexible workstations and schools where a simple computer system may need to be set up in a variety of different rooms.
Travelers giving presentations on the go who want their slideshows and other data to be immediately accessed on any screen they’re working with.
Businesses that want to stream digital ads or other loops for a large advertising screen.
Parents who want their kids to start learning how to use a computer but with an affordable, contained option.
How is a PC stick powered?
PC sticks do not have batteries and draw power directly from the devices they are connected to. That could be an issue with particularly old USB ports that don’t supply enough power for modern PC sticks, but this rarely happens.
Are fanless PC sticks better?
They are designed to be smaller and quieter, which does have advantages. They also have fewer moving parts, which means they’re more likely to last longer. Fanless sticks are made with efficient chips and designs that disperse enough heat that they don’t need fans to work. This tends to make them great picks, and many are featured on our list. However, models with fans can still serve the same purposes and may offer better performance.
Can a PC stick be used on a laptop?
Yes. As long as the laptop has the right connection for the PC stick, it can work. Sometimes laptop users want a separate environment to run certain programs or test things out and turn to a stick PC. However, it will also drain a laptop’s battery. PC sticks can also work on any monitor or TV with the proper connections, so there are plenty of possibilities.