Ubuntu's $70 computing stick could fit nicely behind your TV

Want to turn a TV into a Ubuntu computer? The very orange MeLE PCG02U just might be what you’re looking for. This tiny stick computer costs only $70, meaning you can add a desktop to any TV for very little money. It’s the first Ubuntu device from Mele, a Chinese manufacturer that until now has focused on Android and Windows devices.

Of course, $70 doesn’t go far, so you can’t expect premium performance. This fanless PC stick features an Intel BayTrail Z3735F processor, which is outdated and not exactly zippy. There’s only 2GB of memory and 32GB of internal storage, so don’t expect to multitask much or store your video collection. Even compared to the Intel Compute Stick, there’s not a lot of power to be found.

But the Compute Stick costs $160 in its cheapest Windows 10 configuration, so that’s not entirely a fair comparison. And there are some features offered by Mele that Intel doesn’t bother with: an external antenna for Wi-Fi 802.11n/g/b connections, and a 10/100 ethernet port for wired connections.

Unfortunately, there are other downsides. There’s only one USB port, meaning plugging a separate keyboard and mouse in at once is impossible. Even worse: the USB port is 2.0, not 3.0, so file transfers to external drives will be really slow.

But maybe the weirdest thing here is the choice of operating system. Ubuntu 16.04 just came out last week, and is a long-term support release. Why is this computer shipping with the two-year-old Ubuntu 14.04? Users can easily upgrade, sure, but it seems like an oversight given the timing.

Overall, the Mele isn’t a powerhouse, but at $70, it doesn’t need to be. We’re sure many Linux users will be excited to see more devices shipping with their OS of choice, and a few other potential buyers might want something they can quickly install media center software on. For those people, this could be an interesting little buy.

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