Ever since the Raspberry Pi came along, I’ve been wondering just how long it would take before a manufacturer had managed to fit an assortment of hardware capable of running a fully-fledged copy of Windows into a similar form factor. Turns out that answer was “Not very long”, as along came the Hannspree PC On A Stick. I did also wonder how close they’d be able to get the pricing of that device to the Pi, in an effort to be as competitive as possible, which as it turned out was only just over double the price of the top-level Pi. Not bad... not bad at all.
After boot up, it presents you with a pre-installed Windows 8.1, which upgrades to Windows 10 without issue and the Windows interface feels snappy enough given the relatively low specs on the micro PC. It did show noticeable signs of slowdown when performing file operations, such as moving or copying, though I’d attribute this to the flash memory that’s in use for storage.
I then ran through various operations you might want to use this for;
Browsing the net
The PC On A Stick handled standard web browsing just fine across Internet Explorer, Edge and Chrome. Watching a video on YouTube was a bit choppy, more so when you upped the resolution of the videos, though it never got so bad that you couldn’t watch them at all.
Using various office software, such as Word and Excel was fine - no real hold-ups to report. Launching the software may take a little longer than you’re used to but once you’re up and running it’s fine. Web apps like Google documents worked fine in this regard also.
DTP and other design tasks
There’s enough space to fit an install of Creative Cloud on one of these devices which means you can have a backup solution for getting things done. I wouldn’t use it for this purpose primarily, as InDesign was quite sluggish to run, and any advanced actions in Photoshop would take a considerable amount of time to complete.
This is very likely the primary application for this device and the one most will be looking at one of these for, given it’s direct-to-TV approach with the HDMI connection. Suffice to say, that playing files both locally and over the network from a NAS device worked splendid, with 1080p playback going without a hitch through both Kodi and VLC. Kodi’s interface was mostly a smooth experience, with occasional skips when the software was scanning new files or loading thumbnails.
4K content chewed up the processor and had massive frame-drops, so I wouldn’t recommend it if that’s the level of playback you require.
With Steam installed, I tested a couple of games. Given the limited storage space and low specs of the machine, I wasn’t going to go installing big games like The Witcher 3 and have it play in ultra graphics at minimum 60 FPS - that was a given, so I tried Absolute Drift and Dig or Die. Unfortunately, both games were an absolute non starter. Absolute Drift got less than 1 FPS throughout, and I had to force quit the game. Dig or Die fared only slightly better, in that I had around 20 FPS or so, but the game suffered from massive warping problems. Likely due to the processor not being able to keep up with the required physics simulations. Games like Microsoft Solitaire work fine though, so you can at least procrastinate in some way with the PC On A Stick. Since the media player aspect of this unit was so apparent, I fired up Big Picture mode in Steam. This also struggled with a low FPS.
It did shine with In-Home Streaming however, allowing me to stream games from my main rig with good framerates. The lack of an ethernet port means you’re relying on Wi-Fi for this as standard, but if you’re not playing twitchy FPS titles and settling for a slower paced strategy game, then you should be alright.
In summary, it’s clear that this PC On A Stick is intended as a smart media player for your TV, that happens to allow you some of the benefits of having a fully-fledged PC in tow.
Hannspree PC On A Stick Review
A great little PC to act as a smart media player for your TV, or a backup to keep in your bag should your laptop decide to go south.