Ditch the desktop and hit the couch with our favorite stick PCs

Ever since Intel released the Compute Stick, we've seen a rush of tiny PCs built onto HDMI dongles. Some take advantage of the free-to-manufacturers Windows with Bing offering, while others use more traditional free operating systems like Android or Linux. While a number of stick PCs use Intel's reference design and specs, these options stray from the norm to provide extra value.

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Intel Compute Stick ($149)

The new standard for the PC on a stick, Intel launched the first iteration of the Compute Stick back in March of 2015, and ever since a number of other stick PCs have picked up on the standard specs and carried them. It's powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F processor and 2GB of RAM (1GB if you opt for the Linux version), and 8 or 32GB of eMMC storage. For connectivity, the Compute Stick attaches to a TV or monitor via HDMI, and has a USB 2.0 port, MicroSD slot, and a micro-USB for power. It has built-in Bluetooth 4.0 for keyboard and mouse support, and 802.11bgn Wi-Fi.

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iView Cyber PC Compute Stick ($149)

The iView Cyber PC Compute Stick initially looks similar to the standard Intel version on paper. It has the same Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and Windows 8.1. There are a few key differences though that add some value to the iView option. The Intel reference design isn't too noisy, but the iView is a fanless design, so it's silent. You also don't need to plug it into an external power source if your HDMI port is equipped with MHL. Instead of buying one separately, the iView includes a handheld Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Built like a gamepad, it features full navigatio controls, shortcut keys, and a trackpad with scroll zone.

Available at: Amazon

MK908II ($59)

Traditional desktop operating systems aren't your only choice, and Android-based stick PCs have actually been around for a few months. Instead of jamming this device straight into your monitor, it has a female HDMI port on it, and is powered by a Cortex A9 quad core CPU with a Mali 400 GPU. It runs Android 4.2, and sports Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The same design is produced by a number of different manufacturers, and the main difference between all of them is price and support.

Available at: Amazon

Coming soon

Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300 ($129)

Lenovo's response to the Intel Compute Stick isn't as much an improvement as it is almost a carbon copy. The Ideacentre Stick packs in the same internal components -- including the same model processor -- but does swap out the MicroSD card a full-sized SD slot. It's also available for $20 less than the Intel option. We expect to see quite a few more devices start to roll out with these specs, which raises the value of long-standing manufacturers like Lenovo. No word on a release date yet, but it will probably roll out without much fanfare in the coming months.

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Archos Stick PC ($99)

Lenovo's Ideacentre Stick beat out Intel's option by providing the same performance for $20 less than the Compute Stick. Archos beats out Lenovo by chopping another $30 off that price. Other than that, the real difference between the devices is while the Intel version has Windows 8.1 with Bing installed out of the box with a Windows 10 upgrade on the 29th, the upcoming Archos option will have Windows 10 right away.

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Asus Chromebit (<$100)

If you've used ChromeOS recently, you know it has become a robust and utilitarian operating system with a large variety of uses. The Asus Chromebit plans to put all of the functionality of the OS into a small dongle that plugs right into your HDMI port for less than $100. Details are still slim, but it's expected to make use of the low power Rockchip RK3288 quad-core chip, and have 2GB of RAM, plus 16GB of storage. It's mostly destined for education and office uses, but should see a retail release soon as well.

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