Review Index:
Feedback

Intel Compute Stick Review - Bay Trail Micro PC for $150

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

A Big Look at the Tiny Intel Compute Stick

Well, just look at it. Isn’t it cute?

View Full Size

Externally only revealing a black plastic shell and the HDMI connection that allows for direct plug in to your TV or monitor, the Intel Compute Stick is deceptively complex. That Intel Inside logo rests between a pair of air ventilation grills to allow air to move through the device to help passively cool the Atom quad-core processor running the show.

View Full Size

This rainbow shot shows the HDMI 1.4a connection that you’ll utilize to get the Compute Stick up and running. Yes, it is very likely that you’ll have to use the included HDMI extension cord to get this up and running on many TVs and/or monitors, especially if you have other HDMI devices already plugged in and utilized on the display. If you have an HDMI plug that goes straight out, rather than parallel to the display, you might find it difficult to VESA mount the concoction – again, another use for that extension cable-saver.

View Full Size

On one side of the Compute Stick you’ll find the full-size USB 2.0 port, the microUSB port for power input, and the power button to fire it up. Keep in mind that even though this has Bluetooth support for keyboard and mouse, you are likely going to need a wired USB set to pair the Bluetooth devices initially. Or you could use a Logitech micro-receiver USB connection, attach a webcam, or plug in a USB hub. There are quite a few use cases for that lone USB port.

View Full Size

Opposite of those ports is the microSD card slot, capable of SDXC v3.0 and UHS I-support allowing you to add to the local storage capability of the device. Installing another 64GB of microSD to the integrated 32GB of local storage should allow for convenient multimedia playback or even room for a ton of Steam/MAME game storage.

View Full Size

Here you can see the Intel Compute Stick in its natural habitat, surrounding by the cable extension, the USB cable and 5V power adaptor for supplying power should your TV/monitor lack the capability.

View Full Size

Though it can be hard to really appreciate the size of the device with simple measurements, this image should help move things along for you. The Compute Stick is about the same length as a 2.5-in SSD yet is able to pack a complete PC inside those guts.

Video News


April 22, 2015 | 11:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

POS applications sure, but how does this type of tech handle running remote desktop connections? I can totally see this device being used in tons of call centers where the various reps log onto the stick locally to log time, emails, etc, and then from there connect to a remote desktop to run whatever apps they need for their daily work routine.

April 22, 2015 | 11:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

These would work great to run a thin client.

April 22, 2015 | 12:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Will these devices support external CD/DVD/Blu-ray. It would be a great device if it does. If not they kind of missed part of the market they intended.

April 22, 2015 | 07:15 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Of course, so long as it's USB-based.

April 24, 2015 | 09:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks. I never had any luck with these SOC's in tablets (Asus transformer for one) running an external Blu-ray drive. Just wondering if they had fixed the issue.

April 22, 2015 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why do the video streaming testing in Chrome? That is possibly the worst browser choice on low end hardware. Chrome has one of the biggest memory footprints and its video decoders (looking at you VP9) are NOT hardware accelerated in any way.

Try your Youtube test again in Internet Explorer or in h.264 mode in Firefox and I bet you see that CPU usage cut in half for 1080p.

April 22, 2015 | 12:36 PM - Posted by collie

Well, one school of thought would be see the toughest it can do and assume it would do better on lighter.

April 22, 2015 | 12:53 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

True, this is worst case. We actually did test Amazon and Netflix in FireFox and it worked a little better.

April 22, 2015 | 12:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Cool device. Looking forward to utilizing one as a JRiver music streamer.

Does the Compute Stick work with an HDMI to DVI or DP adapter? For those who want to use it with a display lacking HDMI input.

Thanks.

April 22, 2015 | 04:04 PM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

+1 on the question weather it works on a HDMI to DVI adapter.

I have a mom and dad application in mind, but they are limited to DVI imput on a rather old but awesome 24" monitor

April 22, 2015 | 05:03 PM - Posted by djotter

If it does work, don't forget to get an HDMI->DVI with an audio splitter. Or get an USB sound card.

April 22, 2015 | 12:52 PM - Posted by jiyang1018

$69 for this stick may be better.
HP Stream 7 has similar specs except 1 GB memory, but it also has a 7 in screen and a battery built in. It is usually $80. Plus, it has one year for Office 365, some Skype minutes, and Windows Store credit.

April 22, 2015 | 08:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's not a stick it's a tablet you dope. JC

April 23, 2015 | 10:33 AM - Posted by jiyang1018

Exactly my point, a tablet is cheaper than that stick with similar specs.

April 22, 2015 | 01:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder if you can power this device with a portable battery like you would use to charge a cell phone with. That would make it easier to take the device with you and not have to attempt to crawl behind someone's TV to plug it in. Use Wifi tethering from your phone and fire up teamviewer on your phone for control of the device and it might make a decent portable solution. Given the fact that it isn't going to be much larger than a thumb drive it's not a deal breaker to add to your pocket. (Especially if you are already carrying a portable battery around)

April 22, 2015 | 07:19 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yes, you should be able to do this, just make sure it's up to the task amperage wise.

April 22, 2015 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Because of the form factor and the lack of any kind of active cooling, thermal throttling will kick in rather soon."

Pretty sure you said the same in the video review...

http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/stck1a32wfc/sb/CS-0354...

Processor Intel® Atom™ Processor Z3735F
Base frequency: 1.33 GHz
L2 cache: 2 MB
Spec code: SR1UB
Active fan cooling

April 22, 2015 | 07:46 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Well crap, I totally missed that. Ken looked for me and it DOES have a fan, though we never once heard it spin up. 

Sorry, corrected in the story!

April 22, 2015 | 03:19 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

Hey, PcPer guyse, do you think maybe you could test this thing with a couple of most popular low-power emulators out there (like, NESTOPIA for NES/Famicom, Fusion for Genesis, ZSnes/BSNES for SNES/Super Famicom and pSX/ePSXe for PSOne) to see how it performs with those? If it performs at all, that is.

April 22, 2015 | 06:38 PM - Posted by Will (not verified)

That is what I am hoping it will be able to run too.
The HP Stream 7 with the same CPU was able to run PSP emulation and some ps2 games (not the most graphical ones however).

Doing some youtubes on the HP stream 7; people have had a few decent games running, Fallout New Vegas / crysis at 15-25fps isn't really playable, but it is impressive none the less.

A gen 2 with a celeron chip would be amazing if they ever make it, however might as well go with a NUC for a faster CPU/APU.

April 22, 2015 | 09:51 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

Both the PSP (PPSSPP) and PS 2 (PCSX2, obviously) emulators depend much more on cores and their PPC, rather than on graphics. To run at 40~55 FPS almost all of the PS 2's games currently capable of running on PCSX 2 (on lowest/slightly above low settings/graphical tweaks, but still...), all you really need is a decent (read "above Pentium 4 HT", lol) two-core processor (usually a mid-range Core2Duo is already enough. In AMD's case, though, you need to have at least Phenom II X4) or better. Same goes for PPSSPP. PPSSPP in particular works especially well with modern two and four core CPUs, almost completely disregarding your video (seriously, there was a point when I was testing latest PPSSPP with an i3 2130 at 3.3GHz while using pretty old and weak HD 4730 as a video solution at the time of testing, and I was easily getting out 60+ FPS out of the 3rd Birthday, Crisis Core, Dissidia, and Uncharted Golden Abyss, all maxed out/with most best graphical tweaks applied. When I tried same video in combination with i7 2600K and FX 6300, results were INSANE).

April 24, 2015 | 12:48 PM - Posted by Shortwave (not verified)

I've managed to get nearly half of my 200 game steam library running at 45fps or better using a 1GB first generation Bay-trail tablet that cost as much as this "stick". It also has HDMI out, you can put in ANY micro-sd size and install games on there. (I really didn't notice any performance hits..)

My prime achievement was getting the game War Thunder to work at 60fps.
Seeing as how that's what Nvidia's 400 dollar tablet promised.

Intel is Wintel.

April 24, 2015 | 04:57 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

You must understand, though, that this here "compute stick" (seriously< I still can't get used to this naming scheme) is a much smaller and, very obviously, very cramped device. Even though it's Bay Trail, it probably heats up quite significantly, especially if you try running games on it (let alone emulators).

June 1, 2015 | 12:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Heats up?
The tablet is SEALED, and this not only has exhaust for heat but FAN as well. If anything, it should run better.

April 22, 2015 | 04:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What I want is a device that I can plug into a laptop's USB port(2.0, or 3.0) and have it show up as a networked computer. A mini device that could be utilized to augment the computing power of a laptop, and deliver through a client interface some extra computing power to a laptop. Better yet some way for the device plugged in through the USB port that would actually show up to the system as extra processing/cores to the OS and begin having workloads sent directly to it via the OS, without having to have a client/middleware intermediary to send work to the mini computing device(a little bit harder to implement).

Augmenting a laptops rendering(Ray Tracing), or for other uses, capabilities via a client/s running on more than one computer(Laptop and networked computer) is already available in Blender 3d, but no one has made such a device that could network interface through USB, and it would be a simple as having a driver written for the task, If someone would just make such a device to network over USB, and the device could be powered by the USB port, the USB Type-c plug standard has more than enough available power to run a small device like this.

May 6, 2015 | 10:47 PM - Posted by jgstew

USB isn't really the best bet for something like this. The bandwidth is low and the latency is high.

Also, to really be of a significant benefit, the device you'd be plugging into your laptop would need to draw much more power.

If you tried to do what you are talking about with this Intel Compute Stick, the overhead would probably make everything slower.

April 22, 2015 | 09:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So, what was the consensus on Media Center?

June 1, 2015 | 12:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd get the Linux version and simply put on Linux+Kodi (probably done at once with Kodibuntu).

You can try Kodi with Windows and it works quite well once you learn how to use it. I'd need a REMOTE though so if that's all you want then a ROKU or similar device may be better.

The x86 Kodi approach will have much more codec support than ROKU.

April 23, 2015 | 07:22 AM - Posted by Aaron (not verified)

Does this work with the first gen kinect and media center?

http://www.themediacenterproject.com/KinectForMediaCenter

You will probably need a USB hub or splitter of some kind.

April 23, 2015 | 07:55 AM - Posted by hosko

The review didn't say if the stick supports HDMI-CEC. I use Kodi on a RasPi and with CEC the TV remote becomes the input device. Would be silly to not include support.

April 23, 2015 | 08:42 AM - Posted by fur4x (not verified)

Is it possible to install a different OS on this stick like Windows 8.1 pro?

April 25, 2015 | 07:36 PM - Posted by PhoneyVirus

I'll be going with Ubuntu instead of Windows 10 if someone purchases it before the first year of launch. I done with Windows and the mount of Maintenance it takes. Oh and I know noting about Linux, all but making love to the Terminal.

PhoneyVirus
http://twitter.com/PhoneyVirus http://phoneyvirus.wordpress.com/

April 26, 2015 | 12:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I want one !

April 26, 2015 | 12:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wow...never thought a person could ever buy a pack of gum and a monitor and have a fully functioning PC.

April 27, 2015 | 09:25 AM - Posted by elel (not verified)

"when you start to compare the included features of the Compute Stick like the microSD card slot, on-board storage, HDMI and wireless networking that would cost extra for the Pi" Nice article, but someone had to point out that only two of the four things you listed as extras for the Pi are not already built in. It does have HDMI and microSD already.

August 10, 2015 | 12:18 AM - Posted by Venkatesh (not verified)

Hi,

I wonder how to use the Webcam with Audio in( Mic) and Audio out ( Speaker) for this device. Any body help me in this regard.

Venki

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote><p><br>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.