Buying Guides

The Best Media Center Mini PC for Under $100

Dave LeClair 11-07-2016

Media center PCs used to be impractical—you needed to hook an expensive, full-size desktop to your TV. The mini-PC smashes down all barriers to entry, with small size and low-cost.


You can get quality mini-PCs that run great media center apps for under $100 (best media-streaming sticks).

Whether you want one that runs Windows, Linux, or Android, we’ve done the research to find five of the best choices under $100. If you’ve been meaning to get a PC, but you don’t want to break the bank, now is the perfect time!

1. Kangaroo Mobile Desktop


Kangaroo MD2B Mobile Desktop Computer (Intel Atom, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC) Kangaroo MD2B Mobile Desktop Computer (Intel Atom, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC) Buy Now On Amazon

If you want a Windows-based mini PC that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it, all accounts point to the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop being the king of the castle. It’s a bit bigger in terms of physical stature than some of the stick PCs we’ll get to later, but don’t let that fool you. Its dimensions are 0.52″ by 3.17″ by 4.88″, which essentially means it’s not much bigger than a smartphone! And to top it off, it weighs less than half a pound!


It also comes packed with some pretty serious specs, especially when you consider that it will only set you back $100. Here’s what you’ll find under the hood:

  • Intel Atom X5-Z8500 1.44 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB onboard storage
  • Intel HD Graphics
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in battery to run without power cable for up to 4 hours
  • Fingerprint reader

The reviews are in, and everyone seems pretty happy with Kangaroo’s PC. The folks over at TomsGuide gave it a 9/10, citing it as “one of the best bargains in tech, this $99 Windows 10 mini PC combines solid performance with a host of unique features…” PC Mag gives it a 4 out of 5, saying that it “is a unique device that turns a monitor, an HDTV, or even an iPad into a Windows 10 PC.”

2. Matricom G-Box Q²



The G-Box Q² is another mini PC with a slightly larger form-factor. The big difference is the OS, as you’ll be trading out Windows 10 for Android TV.

What makes this particular device stand out from the crowd in the Android TV space is the degree to which the OS is open. It has full access to the Google Play Store, so you can do pretty much anything with it, from downloading media playing apps (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), to playing games. The creators also promise that it’s meant to work with Kodi (how to configure Kodi/XBMC), which makes it really solid for all kinds of media consumption.

The specs are quite solid. Have a look:

  • Amlogic s812 Quad Core 2GHz processor
  • Mali-450 octa-core 3D iGPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB onboard storage
  • Android Lollipop 5

There are not a lot of critic reviews out there for this, but user reviews are solid, with a 4-star rating on Amazon from over 2000 reviews. If you want an Android mini-PC, this one definitely seems like the most flexible, and its specs are quite impressive for a bit under $100.


3. Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick 300 Computer


Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300 PC Mini Desktop (Intel Atom Z3735F, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB HDD + 32 GB SSD, Windows 10) 90F2000CUS Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300 PC Mini Desktop (Intel Atom Z3735F, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB HDD + 32 GB SSD, Windows 10) 90F2000CUS Buy Now On Amazon $499.77

When it comes to PC makers, Lenovo is one of the more respected brands on the market, and with good reason. Whether laptops, desktops, or in this case, stick PCs, the company tends to deliver pretty solid devices across the board.

In the case of the Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick 300, you’re getting a pretty powerful Windows PC that isn’t much bigger than an Amazon Fire Stick or an original Chromecast. It plugs right into a TV’s HDMI port, and features a USB 2.0 port, as well as microSD slot for additional local storage. You can always hook a USB hub to this (a powered one is best) for more ports.


The specs on this are pretty comparable to most other stick PCs (like the Voyo V2) out there, although its older Atom processor makes it compare less favorably to the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop):

  • Intel Atom Z3735F 1.33 GHz Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB onboard storage
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
  • Onboard graphics

As for the reviews, WindowsCentral says, “Overall, at just $99, it’s really hard to complain about the IdeaCentre Stick 300.” It has a 4.2-star rating on Google’s user review platform, and 3.9-star rating on Amazon. In pretty much every way, it’s on par with the Intel Compute Stick, except that it’s cheaper!

4. Azulle Quantum Access Mini PC Stick


Azulle Quantum Access Fanless Mini PC Stick 2GB/32GB - Portable Business or Home Computer Device with Windows 10 Azulle Quantum Access Fanless Mini PC Stick 2GB/32GB - Portable Business or Home Computer Device with Windows 10 Buy Now On Amazon $129.99

Going down a little further in the budget, we have the Azulle Quantum Access Mini PC Stick. When I list the specs, you’re sure to notice some pretty serious similarities between it and Lenovo IdeaCentre. They’re identical.

But with the Quantum Access, you shave $10 off the price, but lose the more recognizable Lenovo brand name. Technically, the launch price of both this and the Lenovo are $130, but with time the prices have dropped, and the Quantum Access has come out in terms of value.

Here’s a look at the aforementioned specs (I’ve bolded the spots where they differ from the Lenovo):

  • 1.33 GHz Atom Z3735F Processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB onboard memory
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Onboard graphics

Would you look at that, nothing is bold! Like I said, they’re basically identical as far as what’s under the hood.

As for the reviews, I actually wrote about the Quantum Access for MakeUseOf—and I quite liked it! My overall impression: “the Quantum Access Mini PC Stick is highly recommended if you want more than just a simple streaming device.” I rated it a 7/10.

5. Raspberry Pi 3


Is there a mini-PC in the world more recognizble than the Raspberry Pi? It requires more tinkering than the devices above (you’ll need to install an OS and all that good stuff), but it costs about a third of the price (granted, with the Windows PCs, you’re paying a bit extra for that license).

The latest Raspberry Pi comes with some pretty solid specs, especially when you consider its low cost:

  • 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 Processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4 USB ports
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • No onboard storage, microSD card slot

As for reviews, PC Mag gives it a 4/5, and says, “The introduction of wireless connectivity and a boost in performance over its previous iteration make the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B appropriate for a wider variety of projects—and it still costs just $35.” Android Authority says, “If you haven’t bought a Pi until now then there really hasn’t been a better time to get one.”

What’s the Best Mini-PC?

That’s a lot to take in, huh? In short, if you want a mini-PC with Windows The Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More With Windows, Android, or Chrome OS Want a smaller computer? Check out the mini-PC. Recent technological advancements have made computers smaller than ever before. And they're slowly replacing old-fashioned desktops. We've got 10 of the best models. Read More , you should get the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop. If you need the smallest form-factor, go with the Quantum Access stick (only because it’s $10 cheaper). If brand names matter, get the Lenovo.

Tinkerers, go with the Pi—but keep in mind its limitations and be ready to jump over some hurdles to get it all up and running.

And last, if you want Android, go with the Matricom G-Box Q². While it was the only Android device featured, it’s also really the most feature-packed one on the market, under $100. However, for those of you who enjoy installing your own operating system, there’s the Remix OS 2.0, Android-based installable A Real, Android-Based Alternative to Windows: Remix OS 2.0 Read More image.

Elsewhere, you can also get mini PCs for the latest video games. Here are the best mini PCs for gaming The 5 Best Mini PCs for Gaming If you're a PC gamer, desktop computers aren't your only option. Fortunately, you can consider one of the best mini PCs for gaming instead. Read More .

Related topics: Buying Tips, Media Streaming, Mini PC.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Mihir Patkar
    July 23, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    It looks really cool, but Android can't compare to Windows yet :)

  2. Don
    July 16, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I must have been away for awhile,because,I'm not sure I understand this miniPC thing? What do you use it for and why would you plug it into your TV?I'm feeling rather inadequate right now to be honest,and I think I better do a shit load of reading!

    • Anonymous
      July 21, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Good for taking a PC with you anywhere you go (most hotels and motels will have a TV with an HDMI port you can use), media playback (Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, local files), emulation (NES/SNES/arcade, etc), work (Windows mini PCs should support Office, Photoshop, etc.) and anything you'd want to take with you, where a laptop wouldn't do (not enough room to take on a carry-on bag, for example).

  3. rayj00
    July 13, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I would like to experiment with one of these but which one? I'd like to install Virtual Box onto one of these, preferably one with Windows 10, but I would also consider one where I can install Ubuntu. Ideas?

  4. Zinc Whiskers
    July 11, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    You should clarify the distinction between "Android TV" and a generic TV box that runs the Android OS.

    Only a couple of devices are certified to run "Android TV" and the G-Box isn't one of them

  5. Jose Enoc Perez
    July 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Kangaroo is the best, I have this art piece of PC and it is amazing what it does for the price, well but there is a cost it just have 32 GB In disk so what I did I bought a 1T usb Flash drive and then I install everything in my usb, even Kodi and voila! there is working as a charm I love it.

  6. activoice
    July 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I would be interested to know if any of these could handle the new X265/HEVC codec. It will slowly replace X264/AVC but requires a lot more processing power to decompress the video. Therefore many of these devices will be obsolete in the near future.

    For example the Raspberry Pi is not capable of playing X265 720p or 1080p video back. My Nexus 7 2013 can playback 720p x265 using the ARCHOS player, but not 1080P. Although a full HTPC is much more expensive it will never be obsolete, you can constantly upgrade it.

  7. Shirley Woods
    July 11, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    We have an Amazon fire stick to watch movies and shows, but I don't think it has a computer access. If it does I didn't know it.
    Do you use a wireless keyboard with these? I am not familiar with any of this. I have computered since 1997 so somewhat literate.

    • Anonymous
      July 11, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      On a FireTV, you can just pair a Bluetooth keyboard if you'd like to use one. There's also a very useful FireTV remote control app that lets you use the display and on-screen keyboard from another Android device if you have one.

      A FireTV is fundamentally an Android device with Amazon's Store framework overlaid instead of Google's. You can install many Android apps, but some of them won't run unless you have the right pieces of the Google Play Framework installed. Some pieces of that framework are just incompatible with Amazon devices.