PC sticks: Have Windows, will travel

PC sticks are popping up all over. These are tiny devices that are full PCs that can be plugged into any TV or monitor and used securely. We've rounded up a few of the top ones for consideration.

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Archos PC Stick

PCs have shrunk to a very small size, barely bigger than a USB flash memory drive. They have a CPU, memory, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and secure local storage. Plug them into a TV or monitor with an HDMI port and you have your personal Windows system. Add a wireless keyboard and mouse and it's an instant full service Windows PC with your own apps and files.

These are typically cheap, ranging from $100 - $150. They are useful for those who travel a lot for work, and who prefer to keep off the grid to a certain degree for security reasons. When you unplug the stick and walk away there is no trace of your actions on the equipment you leave behind which wouldn't be the case if you borrowed a computer.

PC sticks are also an easy way to set up a kiosk at a trade show. Just plug one in to the HDMI port on a TV and you have an instant streaming kiosk display.

All of the sticks listed below have an Intel Atom processor, Windows 8.1, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, one or two USB ports, and a memory card slot for adding storage except where noted. They vary in size but all are only slightly bigger than a USB flash memory stick.

We've taken a look at PC sticks and identified a few that look to be solid solutions. We haven't tried these but they all have capable tiny components in the small package.

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Intel Compute Stick
Intel Compute Stick

Intel has four sticks of varying capability and price. The cheapest is $99.99 and the most expensive stick from Intel is $149.99. The cheapest stick only has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage while the expensive one has the standard 2GB/32GB.

The $150 stick is available from Amazon.

Lenovo Ideacentre 300

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This stick from Lenovo has an SD slot that provides additional storage and a microUSB port. It will be available soon for $129 and ships with Windows 8.1 as do the other sticks in this roundup. Lenovo has stated it will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 when it is available later this month.

The Lenovo Ideacentre 300 doesn't appear on Lenovo's web site at the time of publication, but the company has stated it will be available in July.

Quantum Access Mini PC Stick

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Quantum Access PC Stick

This is configured like the other sticks covered but has an antenna for improving Wi-Fi connections. This runs along the side of the device and extends away from the stick.

The Quantum Access Mini PC Stick is $129.99 on Amazon.

Archos PC Stick

This stick has the standard configuration like most of the competition but with one difference. It will ship with Windows 10 for only $99. Archos hasn't announced a date of availability for the PC Stick.

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