Lenovo and France-based device maker Archos are joining Intel and other vendors in the compute stick market.
Both companies this week unveiled their respective products in the space for USB-drive-size devices that can be plugged into displays—such as TVs or monitors—with High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) ports and turn them into a complete PC that offers a full user experience. Vendors are looking to give users an easy way to bring their PC experiences with them—in this case, something they can put in their pockets.
"We've looked at the computing needs of travelers, business people and families, and realized that a truly portable and affordable solution would be a significant benefit to users of all kinds," Jun Ouyang, vice president and general manager of worldwide desktop and visuals at Lenovo, said in a statement. "Our goal with the ideacentre Stick 300 is to give those users a sense of freedom and enhanced mobility, while packing a serious punch in a small device."
The Stick 300 and Archos' PC Stick join others flash-drive-size devices that are part of a larger trend in the PC market in meeting the demands of an increasingly mobile world. Intel earlier this year launched its Compute Stick, which comes preinstalled with either Microsoft's Windows 8.1 or Linux operating systems and armed with a quad-core Atom Z3735F "Bay Trail" system-on-a-chip (SoC).
Dell last year rolled out the Wyse Cloud Connect computing device, an idea first introduced the year before under the code name Project Ophelia. The device essentially can turn any display into a cloud-based computer—Dell also launched an app that can take any device based on Google's Android operating system and turn it into a keyboard and mouse.
Both of those are similar to Google's Chromecast dongle and Amazon's Fire Stick offerings.
Lenovo's Stick 300 has similar capabilities to Intel's offering. It's 15mm thin and is powered by Intel's Atom Processor Z3735F. It also has 2GB of memory and 32G of storage, and initially will offer Windows 8.1 when it starts shipping next month, though there will be a free upgrade to Windows 10 starting July 29. It also comes with WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
It can plug into any HDMI-compatible TV or monitor and offers users a complete PC experience when a 2.4GHz wireless keyboard and mouse are used, Lenovo officials said, adding that it can be used for everything from Web browsing to video chatting to content creation.
The key difference is price. The Windows version of Intel's Compute Stick starts at $149 (the Linux model comes in at $89). Lenovo's device starts at $129.
Archos' PC Stick has similar capabilities to those from Intel and Lenovo. It can be plugged into any HDMI-equipped display, and will automatically boot to a PC environment that includes access to a range of Windows mobile programs, according to officials. Customers can connect keyboards, mice and other peripherals through Bluetooth or a USB port. The device also is compatible with all keyboard applications and game controls for Windows, Android and Apple's iOS mobile OS, so customers can use any smartphone or tablet as a keyboard.
The device will come with Windows 10 and such preinstalled Microsoft software as World Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile, and users will be able to grab other applications from the Windows store to run on the PC Stick, officials said.
It's powered by a quad-core Atomr Z3735F and comes with 2GB of memory and 32GB of flash. External storage comes through Via Micro SD and connectivity via WiFi, RF, Bluetooth Smart Ready, Micro USB and USB.
Price is also a differentiator for Archos. The company's PC Stick starts at $99.
"Companies have constantly pushed boundaries to make computers smaller, and we've taken this challenge to the next level by offering a matchbox-sized PC for less than $100," Archos CEO Loic Poirier said in a statement. "Mobility is at the center of our lifestyles and the PC Stick allows us to be on-the-go and productive."