CES 2015: Intel Compute Stick Runs Windows for $149

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 12:56 AM |
Tagged: x86, Raspberry Pi, Intel, compute stick, chromecast, ces 2015, CES, atom

The Chromecast (and its open siblings) and the Raspberry Pi are interesting devices because they shrunk our concept of a compute device, which put them into new roles. Whether it is streaming media to your TV or controlling electronics on a high altitude balloon, you can use a full computer to do it. Full computers in new roles sound exactly like something Intel wants to research into lately.

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The Intel Compute Stick, aptly named, seems to fit somewhere between these two devices. It is an HDMI dongle enclosing an x86, quad-core, computer with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Intel eventually plans to have the device powered by the HDMI port, but it currently requires power over micro USB. Besides power, it also has a standard USB (Type A-Female) port and a micro SD card slot. It also has 802.11n wireless networking inside it. Being a full Windows device, you can stream media, browse the web, and use many other applications on it.

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The Intel Compute Stick with Windows will cost $149, which is significantly more than either a Chromecast or a Raspberry Pi. A Linux version, with 1GB of RAM (half of the Windows version) and 8GB of storage (a quarter of the Windows version), but at a significantly lower price of $89.

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Source: Intel

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January 7, 2015 | 02:04 AM - Posted by alkarnur

This is very interesting, especially if in later iterations they shrink it down further and maybe replace the HDMI and USB combo with a unified USB 3.1 for both data and video.

I assume its fanless, right?

January 7, 2015 | 02:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd love to see how this does with Steam streaming.

January 7, 2015 | 02:57 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

That's an excellent point...

January 7, 2015 | 04:12 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

It should be able to do this if the WiFi can handle it

January 7, 2015 | 06:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great time to be alive for a stick enthusiast.

January 7, 2015 | 06:26 AM - Posted by lantian (not verified)

I can say one thing that would make this insanely popular, if you could use this stick as a hardware accelerator for your desktop pc after all a quad atom should give a bit of boost to say pentium and i3 systems, would be awesome

January 7, 2015 | 01:03 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Externally connected Thunderbolt GPUs would be insanely popular, but how is that doing, The Laptop OEMs are going to frown on making it easy to add additional power for any Laptop, it may be easier for PCs.

Just how does this device connect over a PC's/Laptop's available USB controller/controllers, and what about available bandwidth? Does it appear as just another device connected to the network, and will it work at USB 3.0/3.1 speeds. I would love to have something like this running Full Linux, and Blender 3d in client mode, doing networked distributing CPU rendering workloads(ray tracing) to about three of these hooked up to a USB hub, and my quad core i7 based laptop. Will these Intel compute sticks support enough bandwidth for data intensive transfers. Why does the Linux version only get 1GB, and the Windows version 2? Clearly the Linux version may use less memory, but getting these with 2 GB for Linux and running Blender's Networking rendering mode, it would be better if each Linux based stick had 2GB. You can never have enough CPU cores/RAM Memory for ray tracing rendering workloads, and even the ATOM cores could help with ray tracing workloads.

I could see taking an extra laptop, and filling up the available USB ports with such devices, and then networking the laptop to my main laptop running the master Blender 3d instance, while the extra laptop/Sticks, each running their own copies of Blender 3d in networked client mode, providing a render farm, and plenty of extra CPU cores for ray tracing.

They should offer the Linux version with 2GB, and charge a little more, but the windows version costs too much, and Blender 3D works fine with Linux, I hope someone gets one, or more, of these and does some distributed rendering benchmarking, sure they cost more than a PI, but they offer 4 cores, and the more CPU cores the better for ray tracing.

January 7, 2015 | 01:41 PM - Posted by Andrewt (not verified)

Ah.... This is not a USB device, the connector on it is hdmi not usb. Its powered from a usb power source, to make use of this, it connects directly to a TV for its GUI by way of the HDMI plug.

January 7, 2015 | 01:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Then it is of no use for distributed rendering, without jumping through hoops, and spending the extra money for a kludge, to make it work. It is just getting power, Thanks for the info.

this is just another consumption device, and until/IF ever they make a device that can get power, and network over the USB/Other, then it is just a way for Intel to get rid of unsold stock. They could make such a device, but the boys in the smoky back rooms, are the same ones putting the breaks on support for external GPUs over Thunderbolt, and laptops, eventually the support will be there, once the Chinese/others begin making the devices that can, by the container loads.

January 7, 2015 | 07:50 AM - Posted by collie

Wow, turnin your tv into a computer, VIC 20 RIDES AGAIN!!!!!!

On a serious note, I'm looking forward to the benchmarks. I would love to see if it can play crysis! I'm serious, first thing I did when I got my wife her transformer book was install crysis and see. Yes it was at 800/600 YES it was at lowest settings, yes it was 20-30 fps, but it was cool to know that this little atom powered tablet with a keyboard stapled on CAN run crysis. Would love to see the same test on this guy. Any word on cpu? I know you said X86 4 core but that could be anything from quark to atom to core-m

January 7, 2015 | 02:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If it can not be easily networked back to the PC, Or laptop that it is plugged into, then it's nothing more than a limited hobby, or glorified display adaptor. It will not even make a Pi competitor, of sorts, and provided a keyboard can be attached maybe used for limited programming, etc., but not near as flexible as the Pi, with its pins, and such for experimenting. That is the one big limiting issue with these devices, and the marketing buzz surrounding them. Make a general purpose computing device USB networkable, and powered, at the same time, and able to provide the extra processing power via a networked USB/Other connection, then watch the sales take off. No Sale for you, Intel!

January 7, 2015 | 02:45 PM - Posted by collie

I get what you are saying, but I think you are confused about what this product is. This isn't a chrome-cast style device, nor it is a streaming device. This is a full low power X86 Windows (or linux) mini pc that attaches directly to a hdmi port, connects to a keyboard through Bluetooth (or the one usb port I suppose) and uses wifi for the internet connection. that can fit in your pocket. That is all.

The pi is a completely different thing. This is plug and go, the pi is for, well everything that pi is for.

January 7, 2015 | 04:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, I appreciate that it can be a computer, but by itself there are so many better systems, the one thing that would definitely seal the deal, would have been, A computer on a stick, that you could connect directly into a laptop's USB port and show up as a network connected computing device, with the ability to augment the computational ability of a laptop/PC.

And I would like someone to test this Intel product out, say connect it to a laptop plug in and install a USB to Ethernet converter on the stick's full size USB port(If the stick has enough power to drive The USB to Ethernet converter in the first place) With the available power it gets from the micro USB(Power Only) connector, and then be wired into a Ethernet switch, or router, or ad hoc connected back to the laptop/PC, Ethernet port to Ethernet port.

USB, as a standard, means a lot of different things, as far as power delivery is concerned, as opposed to power delivered over a motherboard trace to a USB port, and controller/s. This little "computer" as it is marketed, may not have the power traces, and enough power delivered through its USB(Power ONLY) plug, to drive a USB to Ethernet converter by itself. I am talking a kludge style hack to get it to network, wired via its own USB that is next to the micro USB(Power Only) plug/port. Maybe even a wireless dongle, will do the trick, but this is all very dependent on the available hardware drivers, that Intel has whitelisted to work on this SKU. and Intel may or may not allow it. There are certainly interesting things that can be done with any USB device, as ANY thumb drive has a CPU, be it called a controller, or not, that can be programmed up to a certain extent.

This device appears limited. and I wish there were more images of this device so I could tell more about it, I may get one to experiment with, the Linux version, perhaps. but not without reviewing the full data sheet for the device.

An AMD device of this sort may be more of what I want, simply because an AMD APU mat be able to leverage the GPU more to do RAY tracing, along with CPU cores, owing to the fact that AMD is perusing its version of HSA, and in HSA aware hardware systems(First used in the 1960) CPUs and Vector Processors first began being used together for general purpose compute, long before there was the limited vector processors that are todays GPUs(with the branch logic removed, etc.) Intel, other than maybe having support for OpenCL(HSA aware API software) is not so interested in making the necessary tweaks to its SOCs, to get HSA into the hardware, at least not as much as AMD, ARM, and others are. Other than a more space constrained use, it would be better just getting a cheep chromebook/box, or other device and attach it to a TV, this Intel Device is just not there, and as for any learning, its better to learn on an ARM/MIPS based system, because that's where the money is, in the market for these types of devices. I can not wait for AMD's K12 ARMv8 Custom product to hit the market, an APU with AMD custom ARM core, and HSA aware hardware, may be able to do ray tracing, via HSAIL on the GPU, as well as the CPU cores, for sure that UMA(AMD's marketing monkeys call it hUMA), but unified memory address space between CPUs and GPUs will be done by all eventually.

January 7, 2015 | 08:42 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)



January 7, 2015 | 07:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Only if Intel passes out brown envelops filled with contra revenue to the judges! And now Brian Krzanich is showing off some form of wearable CPU/SOC type of device, OMG Intel has mothballed CHIP fabs, full to the iron rafters with these unsold ATOM chips. It's button sized, and I hear he will be flying over disadvantaged neighborhoods in a blimp, throwing these coin sized button computers out of the windows, in a desperate attempt to get those Mobile market share numbers a little higher. Everybody poor and middle class already have their mobile needs met, it's looking more and more like a Les Nessman thanksgiving, "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly".

January 7, 2015 | 10:15 AM - Posted by Ruff Kadiddlehopper (not verified)

But I can already get a TW700 quad core tablet with Windows 8.1 for $59 at Microcenter. It plays 1080p60 flawlessly, unlike the $200 Celeron notebooks (Intel is obviously sandbagging in the PC market to protect their high-end). Why does it increase the price to add a screen?

January 7, 2015 | 02:34 PM - Posted by collie

I susspect this is just the intel stock demo. If this is a popular product (and I hope it is, this is nuts) there will be lots of similar devices, posibly even made with intel subsided cpus (like most of the budget x86 tablets, android or windows) on the market. Give it a year and, if they take off, expect one of these from some chineese company you've never heard of, RE-BRANDED by some american company you've never heard of for 60$ or less, and they are probably gona be just as good as all these just fine 60$ or less tablets that seem to have showed up everywhere just after Christmas.

January 7, 2015 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Can the tablet be Ethernet/other networked, and do distributed computing, and who needs the LCD, what is needed is the processing power that devices like these sticks can offer. If I could wire the tablet up and network it to a laptop, and get it to share the workload of any computing task I need it for then fine, but tablets are not made for it, and the complete functionality of the Stick has yet to be fully described and benchmarked, if it can be plugged into a laptop and provide a networked connection over USB, then yes, if it is just using the host's USB for power, and provides no directly accessible, via USB/other, way to share its CPU power with say a laptop, then it is no good for my needs. If they can build any device, using any CPU that can support a Full Linux, or Windows, OS, and have it plug into the USB, and be available as a networked computer, then I can use it, and as long as it can be directly connected, Via USB(data networked), OR Ethernet, and maybe even wirelessly(Not as Good for bandwidth, as wired) then I could use Linux on the stick(to save money), and the windows on my laptop, it does not matter the OSs on the individual devices may be different, as long as the application is available under both OSs, and the application has networking ability/client mode distributed computing ability, a stick computer could come in handy.

P.S. I not sure If this stick computer can be networked directly to a laptop/PC via the micro USB, so until I can find out otherwise, it may or may not be what I am looking for.

January 7, 2015 | 10:56 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

Ruff the answer is because its a different form factor.

January 7, 2015 | 11:33 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

Whoever comes out what a decent Intel based stick, all gravy.

January 7, 2015 | 08:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

As a TV PC it would be great. Watch HULU on your TV without paying them the $8 a month. Watch Netflix with a real PC interface and not the strange thing you get with the apps that are in things.

January 8, 2015 | 12:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, this Compute Stick is so much better than running dumb apps.

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