Review Index:

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

Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel


When I first was handed the Intel Compute Stick product at CES back in January, my mind began to race with a lot of questions. The first set were centered around the capabilities of the device itself: where could it be used, how much performance could Intel pack into it and just how many users would be interested in a product like this? Another set of questions was much more philosophical in nature: why was Intel going in this direction, does this mean an end for the emphasis on high performance componentry from Intel and who comes up with these darned part numbers?

View Full Size

I have since settled my mind on the issues surrounding Intel’s purpose with the Compute Stick and began to dive into the product itself. On the surface the Intel Compute Stick is a product entering late into a potentially crowded market. We already have devices like the Roku, Google Chromecast, the Apple TV, and even the Amazon Fire TV Stick. All of those devices share some of the targets and goals of the Compute Stick, but the one area where Intel’s product really stands out is flexibility. The Roku has the most pre-built applications and “channels” for a streaming media box. The Chromecast is dirt cheap at just $30 or so. Even Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is clearly the best choice for streaming Amazon’s own multimedia services. But the Intel Compute Stick can do all of those things – in addition to operating as a standalone PC with Windows or Linux. Anything you can do I can do better…

But it’s not a product without a few flaws, most of which revolve around the status of the current operating system designs for TVs and larger displays. Performance obviously isn’t peeling the paint off any walls, as you would expect. But I still think at for $150 with a full copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing, the Intel Compute Stick is going to find more fans that you might have first expected.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Compute Stick!!


The Intel Compute Stick will ship in two forms: one with Windows 8.1 and one with Linux. The Windows version is the one I will focus on today (STCK1A32WFC) and will also be the first to make it to market.  The only difference between the two units besides the OS will be the on-board storage capacity. Windows 8.1 will ship with 32GB while the Linux version only includes 8GB.

  Intel Compute Stick - STCK1A32WFC
Processor Intel Atom Z3735F (Bay Trail)
Motherboard Custom
Memory 2GB DDR3L-1333
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB eMMC
MicroSD Slot
Wireless 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Connections HDMI 1.4a (male)
USB 2.0
Power MicroUSB (required)
OS Windows 8.1 with Bing
Total Price $150 -,

Intel is using the Atom Z3735F quad-core processor based on the Bay Trail architecture and the 22nm process technology, running at a base clock of 1.33 GHz and a peak Turbo clock rate of 1.83 GHz. Even though the processor is capable of 64-bit processing, Windows 8.1 with Bing ships as a 32-bit operating system, so keep that in mind as it might affect a handful of application’s compatibility. The CPU has an SDP (scenario design power) rating of just 2.2 watts and though Intel doesn’t list a TDP for it, expect it to peak around 5 watts. Because of the form factor and the lack of any kind of active cooling (Edit: there is a VERY tiny fan in there, though I never once heard it spin up!), thermal throttling will kick in rather soon.

Graphics is listed as a generic “Intel HD Graphics” with a clock speed of 311 MHz base and 646 MHz Turbo. Intel HD Audio supports multi-channel digital audio though only through the included HDMI port – there is no optical audio or analog audio connection.

The Z3735F is a relatively under utilized processor that was released in early 2014 but the specifications are very similar to the other Bay Trail based platforms on the market. There are quite a few Windows and a couple of Android based tablets using the Atom Z3000-series of SoC with varying levels of success and acceptance by the market. In general, you should expect the Intel Compute Stick to run slightly behind those tablets in terms of raw performance thanks to the thermal constraints of this new form factor.

View Full Size

The system includes 2GB of single channel DDR3L memory running at 1333 MHz at 10.6 GB/s which is cuts it close for a Windows 8.1 installation.  However, the Intel Compute Stick is able to pull it off. This is the physical maximum memory supported by the processor itself,  so don’t expect any upgraded iterations of the Compute Stick with this design to hit a 4GB level. Internal storage on this model is 32GB of eMMC that actually runs faster than expected, supplied by Samsung.

Wireless connectivity is supplied in the form of 802.11bgn support that peaks at 54 Mbps theoretical and in our testing was able to reach ~40 Mbps. This is 2.4 GHz only and is likely only a 1x1 radio so you are going to have some limits in terms of streaming capability and even some potential interference in heavy 2.4 GHz areas like apartments, etc. I would have loved the inclusion of a 5.0 GHz radio but obviously Intel is trying desperately to keep costs down. Bluetooth 4.0 is included as well for device connectivity including mice, keyboards and even gaming controllers.

View Full Size

You get a surprising amount of ports and connections on the Intel Compute Stick as well including an HDMI 1.4a connection (along with an extension cable should your HDMI ports get overly crowded), MicroSD slot for storage expansion, a full-size USB 2.0 port for accessory add-ons. I’ll go into more details on the next page during the device walk-around.

In terms of physical space, the Intel Compute Stick looks like a large USB thumb drive. It measures 103mm tall (including the HDMI connection), 37mm wide and just 12mm thick.

It does require external power supplied to the microUSB connection either from a full-size USB port on your TV or through a wall outlet with the included 5V USB power adapter.

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.


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...

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?

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.


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)


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.


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

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