Software & Apps Windows 470 470 people found this article helpful What Is a Computer Stick? by Stanley Goodner Writer Stanley Goodner is a former Lifewire writer who writes about audio equipment, music management, computer hardware, and other consumer technologies. our editorial process Stanley Goodner Updated on June 24, 2019 While not for everyone, there are certain situations that make a computer stick truly useful. Amazon, inc. Windows The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide Tweet Share Email A computer stick — sometimes referred to as compute stick, PC stick, PC on a stick, computer on a stick, or screenless PC — is a single-board, palm-sized computer that somewhat resembles a media streaming stick (e.g. Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Roku Streaming Stick) or an oversized USB flash drive. Computer sticks feature mobile processors (e.g. ARM, Intel Atom/Core, etc.), graphics processors, flash memory storage (between 512MB and 64GB), RAM (between 1GB and 4GB), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, operating systems (e.g. a version of Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS), and an HDMI connector. Some computer sticks also offer microSD card slots, micro USB, and/or USB 2.0/3.0 ports for storage/device expansion. How to Use a Computer Stick Computer sticks are simple to set up and use (just as with media streaming sticks) as long as you have the necessary equipment. To get started, you’ll need: A free HDMI port on a television or monitor screen (or even a desktop/laptop PC)Power from a nearby USB port or outlet (the cables and adapters are like those that come with smartphones)Keyboard and/or mouse (Bluetooth wireless models will prove more convenient) Once plugged in, the computer stick will start its boot sequence; switch the television/monitor input to the HDMI port with the computer stick in order to view the system’s desktop. After you pair a keyboard and mouse for full control (some computer sticks have mobile apps that serve as digital keyboards) and connect the computer stick to a local wireless network, you’ll have a fully-functioning computer ready to go. Due to the limitations of hardware, computer sticks don’t make the best choice for processor-intensive programs/apps (e.g. Photoshop, 3D games, etc.) and/or multi-tasking. However, computer sticks do have an attractive price-point — generally between $50 and $200, but some can cost upwards of $400 or more — and are ultra-portable. When combined with a folding Bluetooth keyboard (generally not much larger than many smartphones) with touchpad, computer sticks gain the advantage of flexibility and power for the size. Advantages of a Computer Stick Given that we have desktops and laptops for home/work computing, as well as smartphones and tablets for mobile entertainment/work, it’s understandable for someone to question the practicality of also owning a computer stick. While not for everyone, there are situations that make a computer stick truly useful. Some examples are: Secondary family PC: Instead of getting the kids their own desktop (and desk and chair and finding space to put it all), you can turn any compatible television into a computer for them to use. This lets them surf the web, run apps, or play games, all on a big screen and without you having to grant access to your personal/work devices. Plus, if it’s on the main family television, it’s easier to monitor the kids’ activity.Smarter than a Smart TV: Smart TVs are great, but they do have some constraints (e.g. limited apps/support versus what mobile devices have with Google Play or iTunes, connecting a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard can be finicky, TVs aren’t very portable, etc.) that are hard to get around. A computer stick can do everything a Smart TV can (and more) as well as turn any television (with HDMI port) into a Smart TV.Travel companion: Laptops (with power brick and cables) can be heavy and bulky to carry around, especially on flights/vacations. Have a work presentation or trade show to do? Plug a computer stick into a projector/TV to run (and even edit on the fly) PowerPoint slides or video. Relaxing in a hotel room? Use a computer stick like a media center to stream your favorite media (e.g. Hulu, Netflix, etc.) or music on the room’s TV screen.