Aaron: stay away from those unless you are doing it for free and have told you client it may not work...soon down the track.
1. Those $30 devices have very little thermal engineering and will be even less reliable then the fit-pc in the long term.
2. They are basically Android Tablets without a screen - so if some app works on tablet it will usually work on the HDMI sticks - but not always! (due to lack of touch and other idiosyncrasies that the app expects to be available for navigation)
"I'm not excited about loading Linux (or any OS) onto a cheap/small PC, now were are impinging on the whole TCO issue. The firmware based, preloaded, Androids and Raspberry PI's seem like less of a hassle" - this is a notion carried by many, and though not wrong per se, can be avoided in practice. Let me explain:
With Raspberry and Androids - the firmware is not necessarily stable for the app you want to run (let me tell you that remote viewing apps the load multiple H264 stream tax the device like no other load can) - however - if this is the case you are mostly stuffed - because good luck getting a firmware updates to fix the problem for a $40 device.
With a $200 mini PC like the Giada i35V - this is what we do:
1. Do research to find driver compatibility with the Linux distro in mind.
2. Load the OS, drivers (where applicable) and thick clients for your VMS (where applicable)
3. test performance and stability
4. create a disk image with Clonezilla and stash it (guard with own life, etc...) - this is now your "firmware" - next time it takes just 10 minutes to load the image on top a new device and you go to go.
If effect this is what company like Exacq does to make their NVRs: configuration-testing-validation-image
IF you can afford it, the Intel NUC would have the lowest hurdles to jump over initially dues to great Intel support for Linux drivers wise.