I tried it so you don’t have to. Well, in this case, you might want to. A PC on a stick, as I call it, is a fully functioning computer in a thumb drive. Plug it directly into the HDMI on a monitor or TV, add a keyboard and mouse, and you’re up and running. Windows, wifi and Bluetooth are built in.
Best of all, they cost around $100 CDN.
A PC on a stick is great in a pinch; a cost effective entry-level computer or backup. I loaded my existing Office 365 account this computer (with some help from Microsoft) and use it to record demos in a Windows environment and to run plug-ins in Word that are not Mac compatible. It can access Google Docs and the free online version of Office (which doesn’t seem to handle Track Changes), and any webpage as well.
I also run movies on it when my laptop is in use elsewhere. It’s fast enough to buffer streaming video.
While it doesn’t have enough internal memory to save a demo video, I found a browser extension that saves directly to YouTube so no space is taken up on the computer.
The Bluetooth feature means you can work at a comfortable distance when a wired mouse and keyboard would be too awkward. When using a hotel room TV, for example.
It’s a bit slow; as in, programs take a while to launch.
There’s next to no memory, so you can’t save much more than a couple of pictures and a text document before it really slows down. But if you keep materials saved in the cloud rather than locally on the computer, it works well. But if the wifi is unreliable or untenable, you’ll lose a lot of productive time.
There’s no audio output, and Windows settings don’t always play well with built-in sound on a monitor.
It needs a power outlet, so find an extension cord, because how often are outlets close enough?
External keyboard and mouse are needed. Not very convenient for travel.
The tiny memory and slow processor mean game play is probably out of the question beyond solitaire.
There are a handful of these PCs on a stick available. I literally walked in to my local computer shop (not a chain store) and bought the cheapest one. For a few more dollars, you can get more memory or perhaps a processor that is faster by a little bit, but there really isn’t a lot to gain.
The iSmart is the model tested for this post. Other models can be found online at major electronics retailers.
If Windows isn’t needed, consider a monitor adapter (HDMI to lightning, for example) for your cell phone, to use its connectivity and apps with a bigger monitor. I’ve done this for watching movies and it works brilliantly, but I have yet to try it for productivity. Chromecast is an option for connecting to a monitor/TV (though setup takes extra steps, so travelling would be annoying).