Updated April 2022
Good things often come in very small packages. This has been the case with TV sticks since day one; just plug this dongle into the HDMI port of your TV and all of a sudden you have a smart TV.
Not all TV sticks are the same, though!
You really need to choose between a TV stick and a PC stick. A TV stick is designed specifically for streaming, like our top recommendation: the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. These are optimized for streaming all your favorite content, but they aren’t designed to do much else.
A PC stick would be a better option when you want to turn your TV into a lightweight PC for work or gaming. In those cases you will need something more powerful and inevitably more expensive, like the MeLe Mini PC. This will let you do almost anything you can do on your PC on your big screen instead.
Let’s take a closer look at the real differences between a TV stick and a PC stick to help you decide which one you are looking for. We will then take you through our top five choices for the best Android TV sticks and PC sticks that you can buy today.
Quick Look: Top 5 Picks
- Fire TV Stick 4K – Best TV stick For streaming
- Dynalink Android TV Box – Best for Google OS
- TiVo Stream 4K – Best for live TV
- EKO 4K Ultra HD Dongle – Best affordable option
- Mini PC MeLE PC Stick – Best mini PC
Fire TV Stick 4K
Dynalink Android TV Box
TiVo Stream 4K
What Is The Difference Between A TV And A PC Stick?
We have already mentioned the difference between a TV stick and a PC stick. One is designed specifically for media streaming, while the other is a more complete PC. But what exactly does that mean?
Well, first and foremost, PC sticks are larger. TV sticks tend to be the size of a dongle, while PC sticks will look like a bigger version and will be about the size of a small remote control. This is necessary as they need more under the hood.
Both sticks are like a mini PC, but a TV stick is designed from the ground up to primarily be used for streaming media content via apps, though there is also usually an app for the internet as well. For this reason, they are optimized for this activity and everything else is stripped out.
PC sticks, however, don’t specialize in the same way and are designed to let you do everything you can do on your PC, including gaming, running Office programs, showing presentations, and much more.
This means that while TV sticks need a great graphics card, they don’t need as much processing power or memory as a PC stick which, in turn, makes them a lot cheaper.
While a PC stick can do everything your PC can do, they are nowhere near as fast as a modern PC, and anyone used to working on a quality desktop may find it frustrating.
PC sticks have much more limited memory and power than a standard PC, which means they will feel sluggish. While they are ideal if you want to share documents or presentations on the big screen, you won’t really want to complete complex PC tasks on a PC stick.
1. Fire TV Stick 4K – Best TV Stick For Streaming
This is for the simple reason that it is one of the only Android TV sticks or TV boxes for under $100 that will unlock the most popular streaming services – Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – in 4K.
While other devices might have the tech under the hood to deliver full 4K, these streaming services are sluggish in authorizing 4K access to their 4K content to any but the big-name hardware manufacturers. That means that most of the affordable Android TV devices are not on the list.
You can read about how access to Netflix and Prime Video in 4K works here.
If you want access to these services in 4K for less than $100, the Fire Stick 4K at about $50 is your only choice to make the most of your 4K TV and Dolby Digital sound set up.
The Fire Stick 4K comes with a lot of other nice features too. It has full voice command with the Amazon Alexa remote, and you can integrate the stick with your Alexa smart home system if you have one set up.
Not everyone likes the Amazon Fire interface when compared with the unadulterated Android interface, though. It is especially annoying that searches always show Amazon results first, even if you have free access to the content through another application you use.
You are also restricted in some of the apps that you can download, as you must go through the Amazon store rather than the Google Play Store, but all the big streaming apps are available and there are workarounds if there is something else you are desperate to download.
Overall, for what you get in return, this is a small price to pay. You can read our complete review of the Fire Stick here.
Find The Best Price On The Fire TV Stick 4K At Amazon.com
The Dynalink feels pretty much like the Fire TV Stick 4K, except it runs off the Google OS rather than the Fire OS. While there are people out there who won’t like this, anyone who is frustrated by the limitation of the Fire OS will welcome this feature.
Because of its Google OS, it also has a Google certification which means that it is one of the few affordable Android streaming devices that is authorized to unlock Netflix and Prime Video in full 4K. For many streamers this is essential, so it’s a big tick in Dynalink’s pro column.
In terms of specs, it is very similar to the Fire Stick with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of ROM, running on the Android 10.0 OS with Google layered on top. This Google layer means seamless integration with Google voice assistant and smart home integrations. This is another perk that you get with the Fire Stick (through Alexa) and the Dynalink but won’t see on other affordable boxes.
While most streamers aren’t casting from their smartphones anymore, this diminutive box does have Chromecast built in, which is just a nice extra touch. You can read our complete review of the Dynalink here.
Find the best price for the Dynalink Android TV Box on Amazon.
3. TiVo Stream 4K – Best For Live TV
The main selling point for this device, aside from its very affordable price tag, is that it is working hard to give you the seamless all-in-one experience that we tend to associate with cable. The TiVo app, which runs on the device, integrates content from all your streaming apps into a single interface, then gives you a live TV and streaming menu that feels polished and offers up smart recommendations.
Unlike other affordable sticks, the TiVo stick also has a great voice remote and integrated Google Assistant smart home integration.
Do bear in mind that this is a lightweight device that does not have the power or the space to do things like run Kodi or game simulators, but if you just want to stream content it is an excellent option. You can read our complete review here.
Find the best price for the TiVo Stream 4K on Amazon.
4. EKO 4K Ultra HD Dongle – Best Affordable Option
This is technically a dongle rather than a stick, but it still belongs very much on this list as a small, more affordable device designed for basic streaming but which comes with some of the bells and whistles that we expect from premium TV boxes.
This is another Android 10.0 TV box that is running the Google OS on top. This means that it has the Google certification, and you will be able to access the 4K content hoarded by the likes of Netflix and Prime Video. You also get the voice remote powered by Google and the Google smart home integration options.
This is another option for less than $50 that will make your streaming experience feel premium, as long as you don’t ask it to do any heavy downloading or manage complex game simulators.
Find the best price for the Eko 4K Dongle on Amazon.
5. Mini PC MeLE PC Stick – Best Mini PC
For my favorite PC stick for Ubuntu, I like the latest offering from MeLE, which comes with Windows 10. It is designed to support both Linux and Ubuntu and does a better job of it than any other device I have seen.
It is a powerful beast, about the size of a small remote control, with an Intel Celeron J4105 chip, HDMI 2.0 output support for 4K HD resolution watching and playing, and 64 GB of memory. It comes with two USB 3.0 points for the fastest possible transfer. It is also fanless, which means it is nice and quiet.
One of the updates that differentiates this from earlier MeLE models is the 1,000 Mbps Gigabit ethernet connection and 5.8G+2.4G dual-band Wi-Fi capability. There is also Bluetooth 4.0, so you have all the fastest and most stable options when it comes to connecting.
This mini PC really feels like a PC when you are browsing on your big screen, like a TV box when you are watching, and like a gaming console when you are playing.
The stick supports a TF card up to 512 GB, which means it has the capacity if you choose to use it to bring your PC games onto your TV screen.
Find the best price on the MeLE PC stick at Amazon.com
FAQs About PC Sticks
What Is A Computer Stick Called?
There are various names given to computer sticks including PC sticks, mini-computers, and screenless PCs.
What Does A PC Stick Do?
The best PC sticks are basically a computer that sits in the palm of your hand so you can take it with you everywhere you go, but unlike a laptop or even a tablet, it does not have a screen. To access the content, you need to plug it into the HDMI port on a computer or TV.
These mini-computers claim to be able to do everything your PC can, but they are understandably significantly less powerful and also much slower. They are great for streaming movies, gaming, bringing presentations onto the big screen, or even just browsing the net.
They won’t come with a mouse or a keyboard, so you will have to buy these separately and connect via Wi-Fi. It is also possible to connect these extras via Bluetooth, but bear in mind that on most PC sticks you can’t use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at the same time, so it’s not typically a good idea for an overall solution.
What Is The Difference Between A TV Stick And A PC Stick?
PC sticks and media streaming or TV sticks look pretty much the same and are often used for the same things, but they are quite a bit different under the hood.
They are both mini-computers, but TV sticks are optimized for media streaming and related activities so things that aren’t necessary for those processes have been left out. PC sticks are designed to do everything your PC can do, including running Windows and programs such as Office.
While both will stream films and other entertainment in excellent quality, you can do a lot more with your PC stick. This means that PC sticks are a lot more expensive, as they need to be much more powerful, but they still won’t beat or even closely match your PC in terms of power and you will notice that all of your PC activities take much longer.
Can The Intel Compute Stick Run Office?
Yes, your Intel Compute Stick, and all genuine PC sticks, can run Office but you will find this a much more frustrating experience than you are accustomed to as these sticks are much less powerful than a normal PC which means they start to run slowly, especially when they are doing more than one thing at the same time.
A PC stick is a great way to access Office on your big screen when you need to, but you probably don’t want to use it as your main source of Office.
There you have it: our guide to the best TV and PC sticks for every operating system.
What type of stick is best for you depends on what you want to do. If you just want a stick to make your TV smart so you can stream all the best entertainment, you can afford a cheaper stick that is easy to use and optimized for streaming such as the Amazon Fire Stick 4K or the Xiaomi Mi Stick.
If you want to be able to do more, such as play PC games, deliver presentations, share office documents, or occasionally do your coding on your fancy big screen, you will want to invest more in a PC stick, like the Intel Compute Stick.
Remember, while PC sticks are a great way to bring your PC to the big screen, they are no substitute for a PC. There is just no way that something that small can be anywhere near as powerful as your standard PC!
What do you think? Do you have a preferred choice that’s not on our list? Let us know in the comments below.