Have you ever wanted to take your PC on the go? Or even just plug it into your big 4K TV in the living room? Unless you like lugging around 50+ pounds of equipment, you probably don’t move it around all that often.   

What if I told you there was a better way? A way where you could stream, check email, and even play some indie PC titles anywhere, without lugging a bunch of equipment around. And no, I’m not talking about your phone or some sketchily modded Switch. I’m talking about an actual portable PC — smaller than a laptop or tablet, in the shape of a large USB device. Let me introduce you to the PC stick.

How Does a PC Stick Work?

If you’ve ever used a FireTV Stick or Google Chromecast, you pretty much know how a PC stick operates. All you need for it to work is an open HDMI port (and sometimes an HDMI cable) on the device you’re looking to connect to, and a free wall outlet.

Intel Stick

The primary difference between streaming sticks and PC sticks? While FireTVs and Chromecasts are meant explicitly for digital streaming, a PC stick is literally a portable desktop. It isn’t passive storage, like an external hard drive. Instead, it utilizes individual CPUs to operate without the help of another device.

It’s an entire PC in your pocket!

Who Does a PC Stick Benefit?

Now, let’s be upfront. You won’t be able to play most AAA or online PC titles with a PC stick. The current models simply aren’t powerful enough. But just because you can’t play graphically intensive games doesn’t mean a PC stick can’t be useful. 

In fact, the PC stick is perfect for those that:

  • Travel often 
  • Like the option to work on email, documents or browse social channels from their TV
  • Like to stream movies, TV or music in an open ecosystem
  • Need access to a remote desktop or cloud storage
  • Enjoy indie PC titles on the go

If you fit under any of those use cases — but aren’t sure which PC stick to purchase — read on for our list of the five best PC sticks currently available in 2020.

Zoom In: 5 Best PC Sticks of 2020

Let’s start with the most capable PC stick and work through options with differing or unique features.

1. Intel CS325 PC Stick

Intel Compute Stick CS325

The best PC stick overall

Manufacturer: Intel | OS: Windows 10 | CPU: Intel Core m3 | RAM: 4GB | Price: 💰💰💰

The Intel CS325 is the closest thing you’ll get to a full-fledged PC at a reasonable price. It can multitask more efficiently than other stick models and has the potential to operate more intensive programs such as Adobe and even most Steam games. 

Its Intel Core m3 CPU is incredibly quick, and it has enough RAM and additional storage to make running multiple programs or tabs a breeze. You can easily stream in 4k without any stuttering, and its storage is expandable via a Micro SD slot. 

Thanks to the power adaptor that features multiple USB ports, you can also connect your keyboard and mouse without additional adaptors or hardware. Wireless more your thing? No problem! Connect via BlueTooth and use this versatile device for all your basic computing needs.

By far the most well-balanced stick on this list, it’s worth investing in if you need a reliable PC wherever you may be.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Expandable storage
  • BlueTooth 4.2 capable
  • Powerful CPU capable of running more games
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Known to overheat when overutilized 
  • Rare instances of failure after 3-6 months 
  • USB ports on power adaptor don’t always work

2. AWOW Mini PC Stick

AWOW Stick

The best mini PC stick

Manufacturer: AWOW | OS: Windows 10 | CPU: Intel Atom Z8350 | RAM: 4GB | Price: 💰

The AWOW Mini PC stick truly lives up to its name. A bit bulkier than other models, it was designed with heat distribution and quiet operation in mind. To that end, it boasts dual fans to ensure the device never overheats and maintains silent operation even under the highest level of utilization.

While it may not be equipped with as powerful a processor, the AWOW Stick still provides a well-balanced PC experience thanks to the 4GB of RAM, 32GB of additional storage, and pre-installed Windows 10 OS. And thanks to the Ethernet port, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and SD Card slot, it really functions as a mini PC.

All that said, it does falter a bit due to the somewhat mediocre hardware. It has difficulty streaming 4K resolution, meaning you’ll often be limited to HD. It will also buckle and freeze if too many programs, tabs, or performance-intensive games are open. But issues aside, the AWOW is a great multimedia device that is perfect for those looking to work or stream on the go for a reasonable price.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Expandable storage
  • Incredibly quiet due to dual fan system
  • Versatile port structure including Ethernet 
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Streaming quality limited to 1080p
  • Pre-installed Windows OS can be buggy
  • Incapable of managing multiple programs at once

3. Azulle Access Plus PC Stick

Azulle Stick

The best Windows 10 PC on a stick

Manufacturer: Azulle | OS: Windows 10 Pro | CPU: Atom Z8300 | RAM: 4GB | Price: 💰💰

The Azulle Access Plus emerged as the original top-dog in the PC stick space. A bit bulkier than previous models, it was designed to be a practical working machine. Equipped with an Ethernet port, audio jack, WiFi antenna, and multiple USB ports, it provides a versatile and flexible experience regarding hardware. 

And that versatility extends to the processing power and memory of the device. Thanks to its reasonably powerful 1.44 GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, you’ll be able to run multiple programs and tabs flawlessly. The only limitations you’ll see come from the mediocre processor that (unfortunately) hinders the incredible storage potential.

The best addition to the Access Plus (and the one that makes it the best Windows PC on a stick) is the fact that it comes with Windows 10 Pro installed. While most sticks come with some variation of Windows 10, this is one of the only ones to utilize Pro and its additional features. The remote desktop capability is especially useful in this case.

Overall, the Access Plus is a versatile and powerful device that’s only lessened by poor hardware choices. While not necessarily the best option for a dedicated streaming device, the reasonable price and pre-installed Windows 10 Pro OS make it an excellent option for the working professional.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Sturdy metal casing
  • Comes with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed
  • Versatile port structure including Ethernet 
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Known to overheat 
  • Middling CPU limits potential
  • Limited 4K and HD streaming

4. ASUS Chromebit CS10 PC Stick

ASUS Chromebit

The best Android PC on a stick

Manufacturer: ASUS | OS: Chrome | CPU: Rockchip Mali T764 | RAM: 2GB | Price: 💰

The primary benefit of early streaming devices was how they effectively leveraged cloud storage and online capabilities. And any device that utilizes Google’s Chrome OS, even a stick PC, doesn’t stray away from that concept. The ASUS Chromebit CS10 leverages internet-based operations perfectly and rewards you with an incredibly low price point.

Currently the smallest Chrome device available, ASUS really leaned into the weight and size benefits of PC sticks. But in doing so, they had to sacrifice integrated storage, processing power, and the number of external ports. The equipped hardware makes it far more powerful than the original Chromecast but not nearly as capable as a Google Chromebook.

But that’s the unique benefit of this device. It’s meant to give you access to online storage, websites, and streaming services using the smallest tool possible. No additional features or meddling required.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Simple interface
  • Access to fully online storage
  • Incredibly small and lightweight
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • USB 2.0 only external port
  • Internal hardware is fairly limited
  • Limited capabilities for a portable PC

5. Intel CS125 PC Stick

Intel Stick CS125

The best Linux PC on a stick

Manufacturer: Intel | OS: Windows 10 or Linux | CPU: Intel Atom Z8300 | RAM: 2GB | Price: 💰

I wanted to include a PC stick that features Ubuntu as its OS, but the Intel Compute Stick 1A8LFC is incredibly hard to track down nowadays. Thankfully, the CS125 serves as a great introductory device that works as a viable alternative. While it may not come equipped with Linux, it’s a fairly common practice to install the OS on Intel PC Sticks, meaning this is the next best thing.

And luckily, the CS125 is a fantastic PC stick in its own right. While not as powerful as the 325, it’s built with a reasonably powerful CPU and paired with a decent amount of storage. While PC gaming may be a bit of a stretch with this device, most other functions like streaming and accessing documents will run smoothly and seamlessly.

The only drawback with this option is that there is a more robust and efficient model available. You can’t stream in 4K consistently, and the integrated storage may not be enough to serve your needs if you regularly use it.

I recommend choosing this device if you plan to use it exclusively for PC work or add Linux as the OS. It’s an inexpensive option that won’t be quite a loss if something goes wrong. Otherwise, pay a bit more and go for the 325.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Inexpensive 
  • Expandable storage
  • Easily install Linux OS
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • WiFi connectivity varies
  • Limited integrated storage
  • Video streaming quality varies

Buyers Guide: PC Sticks

While PC sticks may not vary in capability and quality quite like traditional PCs, there are still some things you’ll want to consider before buying. Check out our guide to help you decide what matters to you. 

PC Stick

1. CPU

The processor will define the usability of your PC stick. While none of the options currently available feature vastly powerful CPUs, you’ll still want to find one that can reasonably handle what you’re looking to do. You’ll likely want one that can achieve at least 1 GHz clock speed, allowing you to stream in HD and access multiple web pages without freezing.

If you want to push for 4K streaming or attempt to play any PC games, you’ll want to look for more advanced CPUs to ensure it’s possible. It’s really up to you and what you’re looking to do with your PC stick.

2. Storage Size

A CPU is only as good as the RAM and integrated storage available. If you don’t have enough, you can’t take advantage of the power of your CPU. You’ll likely want to have at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of additional storage to handle any intensive data processes. 

That said, if you plan on solely working with online storage, such as Google Drive, this may not be as important to you.

3. Additional Features

Lastly, you’ll want to consider any other capabilities. Do you want multiple USB ports? An Ethernet port? The ability to add external storage? Is BlueTooth connectivity relevant to your experience?

While additional capabilities are relatively limited, there are enough port, connectivity, and peripheral compatibility options you’ll need to consider.

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Our Process

For this guide on PC sticks, our writers spent 5 hours researching over 30 of the most popular options from brands big and small. After comparing this data, we then read over 85 user reviews and narrowed our list down to the top 10 PC sticks on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

We hope you’ve found the perfect model for your setup. Happy Gaming!

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