Intel Compute Stick has been around for a few years. The concept is a complete computer on a stick. Plug the HDMI on one end into a monitor, TV or commercial signage and that is it!
Why would you want an Intel compute stick?
These are non-upgradable, specific purpose devices. You buy the power, memory and storage you need for the task.
I have seen them used in enterprise as thin clients. I have seen them used in commercial signage as the brains behind smart signage. And increasingly seen them in small business running things like a point of sale system or just streaming video and audio to speakers.
The Compute Stick Range (prices are current ‘street’ prices)
Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Processor supports 1080p graphics
2/32GB Embedded Storage (19GB available)
Wi-Fi AC 7625 dual-band 2×2 and BT 4.2
1 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0
As above with Windows 10, 32-bit Home Pre-Installed Operating System (As reviewed)
Intel Core m3-6Y30 Processor
4/64GB Embedded Storage
Wi-Fi AC 8260 and BT 4.2
2 x USB 3.0
Windows 10, 64-bit Home Pre-Installed Operating System
Intel Core m5-6Y57 Processor
4/64 Embedded Storage
Wi-Fi AC 8260 and BT 4.2
2 x USB 3.0
vPro and TPM 2.0
All have a microSD slot (UHS-1), support HDMI 1.4b (1920x1080x120Hz), and use a 5V/3A USB charger. The Atom version can run off a 5V/1A power supply.
Review Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC
At A$160 (street price) this seems to be the sweet spot as it also includes Windows 10 32-bit Home.
You would rightly say an Intel Atom is underpowered and the 2GB/32GB of RAM/eMMC storage is a joke. But you are measuring it by traditional PC paradigms. Ask not what it can’t do but what it can do.
The four-core 1.44/1.84GHz Atom with HD graphics supports 1920x1080p. It will work as a media server (accessing network storage). In signage solutions its dual-band Wi-Fi should enable it to receive graphics updates up to 100 metres from a router. It can run Microsoft Office 365 and most Windows Store Apps. Apparently, there is quite a following in the grey-nomad market as well as a computing, email, internet and media device.
With 2GB RAM (shared with the GPU) it is no powerhouse, but it will get there.
As this is the Windows version lets skip the Windows setup.
Attach a USB-A keyboard and mouse (or a Logitech Unifying receiver keyboard/trackpad). You can’t initially set it up without these. Afterwards you can attach Bluetooth devices.
Plug unit into a 1080p monitor or signage. It will work with a 4K TV that upscales as well
Power up using the 5V/3A micro-USB adaptor (as stated you can go as low as 5V/1A and it still works)
You get the typical Windows 10 set-up screen.
Speed wise the eMMC drive is marginally faster than a microSD.
Wi-Fi AC dual band 2 x 2 is great. At two metres from our D-Link AC 5300 router it was rock solid at 867Mbps – as fast as you can get. The 10 metres martk it was 230MBps (5GHz) and 30 metres it swapped to the 2.4GHz band and had a respectable 70Mbps.
Speed wise there is no appreciable lag in loading Office or Edge Browser. We did notice it grind to a halt during Antivirus scans and Windows 10 Updates.
Unlike a laptop there is no battery inside. A signage provider said that he runs these via a Power Bank, more for filtering as the shopping centre suffers micro-power-outages. Makes sense.
Gadget Guy’s take. Intel Compute Stick is fit for purpose. You just need the right one!
It is not for everyone. But if you have the right use case, e.g. portability, it hits the spot. It is light, small and almost instant boot. It hides behind your TV and saves carting a laptop or desktop around.
The Atom version can work on lower amperage (tested with a 1 and 2A socket)
Fast Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2
Two USB ports
HDMI male to female cable provided for tight spaces
Bluetooth 4.2 is excellent for adding speakers. Pair a couple of Ultimate Ears Boom for stereo.
Must use a USB Mouse and Keyboard for initials setup. Then install a Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad combo like the Logitech K830
Only 19GB available but you can add a microSD card (no upper limit stated or run up to a 2TB SSD from the USB-A 3.0 port.
We reviewed the Atom version with Windows 10. At A$160 you can’t beat that.
However, I would go for the Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, 4/64GB version at $499. But at that price, it may pay to look at an entry-level notebook.
The key here is fit for purpose.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Features: 4 out of 5 – Nothing missing perhaps except USB-C port (which is on the m3/m5 version)
Value for Money: 4 out of 5 – At $160 what is to lose? The m3 version at $499 is just getting into laptop space
Performance: 4 out of 5 – Totally fit for purpose if that is within the Atom/2/32GB space
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Its Windows – simple
Design: 4 out of 5 – Compact and has a HDMI cable adaptor