Intel Compute Stick

Intel Compute Stick
26 Nov 16

So we recently wanted to be able to turn our TV screens in the offices and warehouses into information displays to show stats to staff about our daily performance (orders received, to pack, that sort of thing). We had a couple of Intel Compute Sticks lying around from an earlier attempt at making thin clients, and we decided to dust them off and give them a second chance.

Considering the small form factor that these tiny PCs have you could be forgiven for thinking that they would be lacking in any power. Granted they won’t be rocking Photoshop or editing videos with Sony Vegas but for everyday low level tasks – surfing the web, basic office or even streaming – these little guys just about hold up.


They come in two flavours: Windows and Ubuntu. Both have identical specs with the exception of the RAM and storage. Intel has used their Atom 1.83Ghz Processor which allows it to be reasonably responsive. The Windows ones which I have used are considered the “premium” edition in that it has a 2Gb DDR3L memory module, which is non-expandable as you would expect, whereas a 1Gb module in the Ubuntu one. Connectivity is handled via a single USB2.0 port with complimentary Bluetooth, Micro-SD and 802.11bgn Wireless.

There is no output for audio on the Compute Stick which is a bit of a blessing when you consider that you won’t have to trail a cable into your sound or TV system. However it has integrated HDMI which carries the sound for your basic needs but for the more discerning audiophile please don’t expect high level performance.

The storage is the slower Embedded Multimedia Card which is limited to 32Gb in the Microsoft stick or 8Gb in the Ubuntu. Not the most responsive in terms of read/write but considering that we aren’t using them for any serious work it does the job. For those who are savvy enough you can install Linux instead of Windows and get an increase in storage as well as performance. Let’s be honest, the reason you need the bigger version is not only the freedom of programmes you can run but because of the sheer volume of Microsoft Updates! To be fair you can use an SD card for additional storage or if you have a home file server setup you could stream to your heart’s content. Speaking of Microsoft updates, they do have an annoying habit of breaking the integrated audio driver, so if you do have one keep the Intel supplied one to hand just in case.

Aesthetically it does poke quite noticeably from behind a TV. When you look at the likes of the Google Chromecast that has a flexi-cable which lets you tuck it away, the Compute Stick detracts a lot from the look of clean and stylish media setups. However, one work around is to buy a HDMI male to female cable and you can easily hide it away.

The device is solid enough in that it doesn’t creak when you grab it to add or remove cables but it does feel cheap with its all-round plastic casing. Not to mention the garish Intel logo branded front and centre, at least in the newer updated models they have moved it down and added far better looking fan vents than in the last-gen sticks. I suppose that considering you wouldn’t otherwise see it when it is plugged in it shouldn’t make much of a difference, but if it is on display then it doesn’t make it for the prettiest attachment.

Also the lack of multiple USB ports does mean that you’re reliant upon a hub for multiple devices. So be prepared to remote desktop to it so that you can use a mouse and keyboard. As a result when you start adding other peripherals to it you begin to eliminate the advertised portability of it. You can however use the Intel Remote keyboard which turns your phone into a keyboard for use with the Compute Stick; it boils down to what you prefer to do.

The flawless integration with various HD TV’s does make setting them up straightforward but we are forever rebooting them due to memory limit messages (not entirely the sticks fault as Chrome is notorious for memory leaks). When coupled the use of a standard 5v Micro-USB charger which is supplied with most tablet or mobile phones at least you should have a spare which you can use if you find yourself missing the power plug.

Granted this is a device which is now a few years old and has been superseded by a its next generation younger brother there are far better options out there and for the cost I would personally go with a Chromebit or something similar which has more juice and crashes less.
I can’t help but think that Intel wanted to get a small portable PC onto the market and took a gamble but ended up swinging and ultimately missing.

This review comes from Jason Turner


Paul Wright


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