There are a number of reasons you might use a PC stick as a front end for your media consumption, such as size, low price and the fact that it runs Windows 10.
The very idea that something is powered by Windows means you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the software and hardware you can use. Being the most popular desktop OS on the planet has its advantages.
If you're currently or thinking of using a small PC stick as a media center, the best thing you can pair it up with is a NAS drive. Here's what you need to know.
Why use a NAS?
A PC stick is a tiny computer, and for that reason you're extremely limited on what will actually fit inside of it. With all the bits a PC needs to actually run squeezed in with an HDMI output and a couple of external ports, you're not going to find huge specs.
There are some options, such as Intel's Core m powered Compute Sticks, that take it up a notch. But for the most part, you're limited when it comes to storage and processing power.
To house your own media library, just use a NAS and host it elsewhere. It's a more elegant solution than hosting it all on another PC, and you can still access your files from any other computers or mobile devices in your home.
It's also a much more efficient way to organize your library, especially if it's large, compared to just plugging in a thumb drive or a microSD card to a PC stick directly. You'll get the best overall performance from your PC by just allowing it to be the streamer.
Getting up and running with a NAS isn't as scary as it sounds, and there are lots of consumer-friendly options out there to choose from. Thankfully for you, we've got a roundup of the ones that are worth your time:
Great software for Windows media streaming
Besides being able to hook into Netflix, Groove, Microsoft's own Movies & TV app and many more services besides, Windows has some excellent media centers to choose from.
Three that are definitely worth your attention are Plex (opens in new tab), Emby (opens in new tab) and Kodi (opens in new tab). All of them are available to download from the Windows Store, and after you've done the initial setup work of pointing your chosen one to where your media lives, it's easy street from there. Kodi even allows for Plex integration as well as OneDrive and a whole lot more.
All options are fairly friendly to the big screen, too, which is good, but if you're using Plex it might be worth checking out the Plex Media Player application for Windows. It's designed as a big-screen-friendly front-end for Plex, making it easier to navigate on the TV.
Plex Media Player is a separate download than the Windows 10 app, and it's available on the official Plex site (opens in new tab).
If all of this sounds like your dream media center solution, the articles below might be of further interest. And if you have tips for PC stick and NAS users, be sure to share them in the comments below.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine
A lot of NAS content lately..... not a bad thing
I was thinking the same thing. Lots of articles trying to get me to buy a nas lately.
I was going to invest in 2017 in a Netbook replacement since my Windows XP 1GB of RAM Atom Netbook is really slow, but after seeing Netbooks are more expensive where I live, I'll get an Intel Compute Stick Instead, good news is I already have mouse, keyboard and monitor so I just need this nerdy little gadget to get support for a secondary device I need when I don't want to carry my laptop since its too heavy.
What I would like is for there to be an Xbox-like UI that can be enabled for TV-connected devices that can be operated with a controller, some kind of remote, or a phone. Like a feature of continuum or something. This would make PC sticks a viable alternative to Chromecast or FireTV. Having a UI shell like this could also make Windows 10 IOT a good smartTV OS.
That's a quality idea. Sort of what I wish tablet mode on windows 10 would do or something. Would Be a fantastic little device then.
Kickstarter time! You can be fraud-ing people out of money left and right with this idea. Lol
Microsoft has the technology. Check out Windows Media Center, especially the web and sports features, now gone, from days gone by. It needs a champion.
Yeah I would also love a Windows-based streaming stick with access to the Windows Store for movies, etc. I would make my own but Windows IoT doesn't support the store as far as I know and full Windows 10 is a bit too much for a simple streaming stick. Plus the UI wasn't exactly built for that kind of use case either.
Kodi has an official remote app, Kore. Really great!
What's the advantage of NAS over OneDrive?
NAS just rums over your local network, so it is more reliable. Plus you can have pretty much as much storage as your wallet can stretch to. And if your internet goes down, you don't have to worry.
Hmmm...I like the idea of rum.
What NAS can I build with a Microsoft OS? I don't do third party operating systems if I can help it. Win10 RAID? Server 2016?
Last time I checked windows 10 pro can do software raid or Windows sever 2012 or 2016 would do but depending on your hardware you might want to invest in a raid card
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