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How many Chrome products do you use in a day? The Chrome browser? Chrome OS? A Chromebook or a Chromecast? Chrome is taking over the computing landscape, and with the release of the Chromebit, a new stick PC, they’re one step closer to domination.

But what is the Chromebit? How does it work? And how does it stack up against the Intel Compute Stick? Let’s find out.

The Chromebit: A Tiny, Tiny Computer…

In short, the Asus Chromebit is a sub-$100 computer the size of a large USB stick. The dongle is a few inches long, brightly colored, and includes a phenomenally useful swiveling HDMI head. The other end also sports a full-size USB port.

Plug it into the HDMI port on a TV or a computer monitor and you have yourself a Chromebook Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) I've adopted, studied every Windows OS, adapted, and eventually learned to love each of them for different reasons. Are you curious to know why as of today, I'm a Chromebook guy? Read More in stick form. The dongle packs Chrome OS and a web browser, letting you access the Internet and run Google apps on any screen you can find.

chromebit

The stick itself contains a quad-core Rockchip processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band 802.11ac wireless capability, and a USB 2.0 port. Plug a mouse or keyboard into the USB port or pair it up using Bluetooth and you’ll have — basically — a fully-functional Chromebook on your TV or monitor.

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Obviously you won’t be playing any serious video games or doing high-level statistics work with this, but the ability to get on the Internet and use Google’s browser-based apps without carrying a laptop is great for road warriors and remote workers. Google also expects it to be popular among small businesses and in third-world countries due to its low cost.

Unfortunately the Chromebit isn’t out yet, but we’ve been promised a “mid-2015” release so it shouldn’t be much longer before it arrives.

…But Not Exactly an Innovation

If the Chromebit sounds like something completely new in the computing world, you may have missed the release of Intel’s Compute Stick, a similar stick PC that packs a full version of Windows 10 or Ubuntu 14 Intel Compute Stick Turns Any TV Into A Windows PC For Just $149 Intel Compute Stick Turns Any TV Into A Windows PC For Just $149 Read More which we discussed earlier this year.

Because it runs Windows, it means you can run Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other Windows-based apps on the Stick. And with a web browser giving you access to email, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a small-business owner or traveling writer who needs much more than what’s offered in this small package.

compute-stick

The specs are similar to the Chromebit: a quad-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, Intel HD graphics, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 port, and a micro SD slot are all included. These slightly better specifications will cost you a little more than the Chromebit.

Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Windows 8.1 (BOXSTCK1A32WFC) Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Windows 8.1 (BOXSTCK1A32WFC) New Generation compute one device that transforms any HDMI display into a fully functional computer Buy Now At Amazon £289.64

There are a number of other stick PCs available too, like these Android stick PC models What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? Miniaturization has been a computing trend for decades, but it seems to have accelerated over the past five years. Even Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing), a hockey-puck sized PC, looks large compared to ARM... Read More as well as several other Windows options from companies like iView, Lenovo, and Archos. The Chromebit is cool and new, but it’s certainly not the first in its field (though it does look a lot nicer than the other options).

Is It Time to Buy a Stick PC?

With the introduction of the Chromebit, the stick PC market is sure to get a lot more attention. It’s still a young field with a relatively small number of options, but the competition between them has been fierce. Prices are dropping and it’s not hard to get a stick PC for less than $150 — in fact, the Tronsmart Mk908II is available for as low as $60.

But there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you buy one.

First, do you need the ultra portability? If you carry a laptop right now and it isn’t a big deal, you may not need to go any smaller. If you do, a Chromebook may solve the problem. Even though a stick PC is extremely portable, you’ll sacrifice some computing power compared to a laptop, especially when it comes to multitasking.

laptop-usb-stick

Second, will you always have a TV or monitor available for use? If not, you’ll have a pocket-sized computer that you won’t be able to run, and what good would that be? If you end up having to carry around a small monitor, you’re much better off with a laptop.

Third, which operating system do you prefer? If you’re willing to switch to Chrome OS The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User's Day on a Chromebook The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User's Day on a Chromebook What are Chromebooks like for someone who's used to a Windows or Mac setup? As a newcomer to Chrome OS, I'm here to tell you. Read More , you’ll be set for less than $100. If you need more powerful apps, like the Microsoft Office Suite, then the Compute Stick will better meet your needs.

chrome-os

Finally, ask yourself if you might be better off waiting a bit.

Having the coolest, latest thing is always great, but don’t jump on the bandwagon 5 Reasons Why Being An Early Adopter Is A Bad Idea 5 Reasons Why Being An Early Adopter Is A Bad Idea Are you the type of person who pre-orders the newest tech gadgets as soon as they’re available? Then you’re an early adopter. Is there a downside? Let's find out. Read More just because it’s in front of you. Many people are worried about the small size of stick PCs making them easy to lose, which would be especially bad if you use it for work. People already lose USB sticks all the time, plus they may be easy to break if they’re dropped or accidentally put through the wash.

And if you compare stick PCs with the best mini-PCs available What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today A new generation of mini PCs is making its way into our homes and offices now. Read More , they just don’t stack up. They might perform well for how small they are, but they’re still not that great in the bigger picture.

The Winner: Depends on Your OS Preference

When it comes down to it, you should probably buy the Chromebit if you’re alright with Chrome OS and the Compute Stick if you want Windows and Microsoft Office. If you decide to buy a stick PC, that is, which is recommendable only if you need the absolute maximum portability.

What do you think of the new stick PCs? Would you go with a Chromebit or a Compute Stick? Do you have any plans to buy one? Share your thoughts below!

Image Credits: Google, Intel, Surapong Naowasate via Shutterstock.com, Google

  1. albert
    March 2, 2016 at 11:17 am

    it is possible format chromebit and reinstall OS ubuntu?

  2. Howard Blair
    October 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    The Tronsmart is "currently unavailable," and has been so for a while.

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Ah, thanks for pointing that out. Hopefully it'll be back up soon!

  3. ALT FEED .com
    October 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

    (-) You have a Synology NAS in your home, with Surveillance Station, and you want live view of your 4-8 surveillance cameras on a large TV screen. (But you don't want to buy an expensive computer and/or you don't have any place to put one) (-) You're tired of mainstream TV and would rather surf Youtube using Chrome and a wireless keyboard. (-) You have an old TV or monitor with HDMI and want to turn it into a nice little workstation. (-) You want to turn your television into a dynamic photo album or a music station.

    • Dann Albright
      October 5, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Those all seem like good uses to me!

  4. Denise Roche
    October 1, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    I could see one potential use for this kind of computer. Kids who do not have access to a computer could carry one of these with them. It should work well enough for homework. That would allow them to go to a friend's house and borrow the TV or a monitor. They may even be able to do this at home. I think it would be worthwhile for schools to look into these for poor kids. Since they are inexpensive, more schools could come up with the money. Most schools still don't have the ability to provide laptops to students.

    • Dann Albright
      October 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      That's definitely an interesting idea. You'd still need a keyboard and mouse to interact with it, but those can be found pretty cheaply if you look in the right place. $100 per student does seem like a pretty good deal for providing a computer, especially if it has all the power you need for homework and the like.

      Thanks for sharing! I like this idea.

  5. Xhris Oligbo
    October 1, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Would it accommodate vlc media player& make it possible to watch all movie formats on the tv through it?

    If it does that, then we have a winner!

    • Dann Albright
      October 5, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      As far as I'm aware, you can install VLC on the Compute Stick, but I haven't seen any evidence that the Chromebit supports it yet. Maybe it will in the future! I imagine that would be pretty important to a lot of people.

  6. likefun butnot
    October 1, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I have a generic compute stick. It's sort of interesting, but it needs a whole octopus of cables and extra junk (USB hub for storage, wireless input transceiver, AC power...) to be even moderately useful. I don't see a Chromestick addressing those issues. I think the stick form factor is a promise that isn't really deliverable yet. A box sized similarly to a pack of playing cards that can integrate more of the necessary components is probably a more practical option overall than current stick designs.

    • Dann Albright
      October 5, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Interesting. I think a pack of playing cards is a pretty reasonable size for a portable computer, but because everyone always wants the smallest form they can get their hands on, I don't see that being very likely. It certainly would make it more useful, though.

      I think their target market is people who don't really need a USB hub—running everything from web-based apps deals with that problem. And because these are self-powered (or draw power from the TV / monitor), that would eliminate another cord.

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