There’s a hot new trend showing up in the computing world – the ultra-portable “stick” computer. This is a complete computer that is literally about the size of a USB flash drive. Typically, it plugs into an HDMI port on any available TV, and contains a complete Windows, Linux, or Chrome computer.
What’s it good for? Well, if you’d like a “smart” TV but don’t feel like buying a new TV, one of these might fill the bill for around $100. But, I think they’re over-hyped. You might think something like this could be a laptop substitute for someone who likes to travel light. Eh, not so much. You still need a mouse. And a keyboard. And a power cord, usually. So it’s not just the stick; you’re pretty much back to having a valise rather than a pocket. Plus, there’s the hassle of finding a TV with an HDMI port that you can actually get to. (Most wall-mounted TVs need not apply…)
If the idea of web browsing from your couch appeals to you, these aren’t too bad of a deal, as long as you understand what you’re getting. Make sure you know what operating system you’re buying. As mentioned earlier, these come with either Windows (8.1 or 10), Android, Linux, or the Chrome OS from Google. The Android devices are generally the cheapest, followed by the Chrome or Linux versions, with the Windows versions the most expensive. Android versions can cost as little as $35-$40, with Windows sticks starting at around $100.
For TV/couch use, you’ll probably want a wireless keyboard/touch-pad combo, like this one from Logitech. If you like to be in a darkened room, Logitech’s got you covered, there, too. (For more money, of course!)
Bottom line: If you want something for light use such as web browsing, and you don’t have a lot of space or money to spare, and you understand that you’ll still need to add a mouse (or touch-pad) and keyboard, a computer-on-a-stick might be for you. Shop carefully, though. some are too under-powered for even light use.
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