It’s fairly common to see a mini PC in the form of a TV stick require USB power. Even if your’s wasn’t supplied with one, AC mains USB power adapters are available everywhere for next to nothing. But if you have a single-core TV stick like the old CX-01 or the original Allwinner A10-powered MK802 or MK802+, there’s a pretty simple way you can power these particular units with just two AA batteries.
And that’s to use a USB emergency charger from eBay. These little devices take two AA cells and churn out 5VDC output at a Type-A USB socket. And yes, they can use Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) cells too. We use Sanyo’s Eneloop cells, which keep 85% of their charge after one year.
Basically, you’ll find a tiny DC-to-DC converter inside that upscales the 2.4/3.0VDC battery voltage into 5VDC. Typically, these little inverters have enough grunt to output around 700mA or so, enough to power a single-core Cortex A8 chip like the Allwinner A10. (The CX-01 with its lower-power Cortex A5 core would be an easier option again).
You’ll find these chargers on eBay for under $3, and that usually includes shipping.
If you’re thinking of powering up a dual or quad-core mini PC, a USB emergency charger probably won’t do the job – these devices require upwards of 800mA to run, which is more than these chargers can deliver.
You’ll also find single-cell chargers that also output USB/5VDC power – these use 3.7V Lithium-on cells like the 18650 (pre-soldered inside the charger) and are able to output up to 1000mA. We’ve not tried these but they should also work for single-core TV sticks and other low-power computing devices.
The larger the capacity of cell you use, the longer you mini PC will run, but you should expect to get a couple of hours running a basic single-core mini PC/TV stick.
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