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Introduction

During the last few years, more consumers and professionals are moving away from the Desktop PC and into mobility. Recently, Intel released the Compute Stick which changes the way we access the Internet and complete daily computing tasks.

In an effort to keep up with the rapidly changing computer market, Intel has been working on a series of new products that will help to keep current devices relevant while increasing mobility.  One of the products is known as the Compute Stick which allows you to convert any television or monitor into a fully functional PC.

It’s a computer on a stick, so you can carry all of your documents in your pocket.

What is the Compute Stick?

The Compute Stick is a computing device which can be used right out of the box and is about the size of a USB flash drive or slightly larger.  The small device is capable of fitting into your pocket and is able to do just about everything a PC or tablet device can do.

The Compute Stick is designed for consumers and business professionals that require a cost effective way to access daily computing tasks, engage in video-conferencing, browse the Internet, stream videos, or just play games.  It is basically a full PC that fits in your pocket and is equipped with storage, memory, connectivity ports, and an operating system.  Similar to a PC, the Compute Stick is ready to go as soon as you remove it from the box.

The Compute Stick is not designed for power users or hard core gaming, but it does provide everything you need for general everyday use.  The device is offered in a Windows 8.1 version and another version which runs on the Linux/Ubuntu 14.04 LTS operating system.

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Design

The Compute Stick is an impressively small device with dimensions of 103 x 37 x 12 mm, comparable to carrying 4 USB sticks together.  It also contains an internal cooling fan with external vents that help to keep the device running cool.  On one side of the device is a micro-USB port which powers the Compute Stick, security port, a power button, full-sized USB port, microSD card slot, status light, and HDMI port.

To put it bluntly the design is pretty boring.  There’s a plain white logo that is the focal point of the little black plastic device.  The cooling vents (which will gather dust) and port connectivity are strategically placed so they blend in with the device design and that’s as exciting as it gets.  The cooling fan is a definite plus since the Compute Stick is equipped with an Intel Atom Processor capable of operating under a full load.

At one end of the device you will find an angular design which protrudes from the device.  On the other end is the HDMI connector that connects to a television or monitor.

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Technical Specifications

For a device of this size, the Compute Stick offers a lot of technical specs that help you access daily computing tasks and bring your entertainment with you on the go.  Although the Compute Stick is not designed for heavy gaming, it is capable of handling light games and can easily stream media without breaking a sweat.

The Compute Stick runs on the Windows 8.1 operating system which is upgradeable to Windows 10 free of charge when it becomes available later this year.  If you choose the Linux/Ubuntu operating system, this is expected to be available sometime during June of 2015.

Other specifications include:

Processing Performance

The Compute Stick with Windows 8.1 is equipped with an Intel Atom Quad-Core Bay Trail Processor running at 1.33GHz with 2GB of DDR3L memory.  This is a processor commonly found in many of the Windows tablet devices.  The DDR3L memory runs at 1333MHz and includes 32GB of flash memory.  Approximately 23GB of flash memory is available after the operating system has been installed.

Additionally, the Compute Stick includes a high definition graphics processing unit which runs at 311MHz. The Intel graphics processor offers HDMI 1.4a output which powers the device connectivity to a monitor or television.

The Linux/Ubuntu version has 1GB of DDR3L memory and only 8GB of internal storage.  It is important to note that the specifications are slightly different for the Linux/Ubuntu version.

Storage

The Compute Stick is equipped with 32GB of internal storage using a Samsung eMMC (Multimedia Card).  After installing Windows updates you are left with approximately 15GB of storage, which isn’t exactly loads.  There is no room for a disk drive or hard drive due to device size.  However, the capacity is also expandable using the SDXC Card Slot with UHS (Ultra-High Speed)-I support capable of supporting an SD card with up to 128GB of storage.  This provides you with a respectable amount of storage space for a device of this size.

Port Connectivity

In terms of port connectivity, the Compute Stick is equipped with a micro-USB port which powers the device using the included micro-USB A/C adapter.  Additionally, you will find a full-sized USB 2.0 port for connecting external devices and a full-sized HDMI port for connecting the Compute Stick to a flat screen television or PC monitor.  As mentioned earlier, there is also a microSD card slot capable of handling an additional 128GB of storage.

The Compute Stick is also equipped with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for wireless connectivity and Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a keyboard or mouse.

Audio

The Compute Stick provides relatively decent audio with access to Intel high definition audio via HDMI.  The HD audio technology is also capable of supporting multi-channel digital audio as well.

BIOS Function

BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System and contains key settings for device performance.  This is a nice feature in the Compute Stick since it allows you to access the BIOS using a keyboard function to adjust device performance. This helps to increase the processing speed and overall performance level of the Compute Stick device.

In the Box

The Compute Stick comes with an included A/C adapter for powering the device, in addition to a micro-USB cable.  Intel kindly include an 8-inch extended HDMI cable which comes in handy if the HDMI ports are close together on your television or monitor.

For detailed benchmark test results we suggest that you visit this page.

Can the Compute Stick Replace Your Laptop or PC?

In most cases, the Compute Stick is capable of doing just about everything your laptop or desktop PC can.  As we mentioned earlier, it is not for the power user or hard core gamer, but it is definitely a computer that will serve every other type of function on the go.

With a quad-core processor, full-sized port connectivity, and support for two different types of operating systems, you can definitely use the Compute Stick for business or personal use.  Business users can use the device to edit documents and presentations using office software, video-conference using Skype, and to perform other professional related tasks.

The Compute Stick can also be purchased by businesses which can load enterprise software on each device and then distribute the devices for use during travel or working at home.  The Compute Stick is also capable of handling remote desktop software which makes it convenient for workers to access work computers regardless of their current location.

For the consumer, the Compute Stick is a cost effective way to access the Internet, work with email, stream online videos, play light games, and perform other computing tasks on the go. It is also possible to install additional software such as video or image editing applications to increase the functionality of the device.

The Compute Stick does not exactly have cutting edge speed but, it does boot up very quickly and handles daily tasks without a struggle.  Plus, you can easily connect it to any monitor or television to convert the device into a full-fledged PC, including connecting a Skype webcam to take advantage of the video-conferencing capability.

How Does the Compute Stick Work? Is it Practical? How is it Powered?

The Compute Stick basically works like a regular PC.  The device itself is a computer which can be connected to a PC monitor or television.  You can also use the connectivity options to connect a Bluetooth keyboard or USB mouse to increase the functionality for editing documents and performing other computing tasks.  The device can also be used with digital signage and other type of advertising technology, including kiosks.

The Compute Stick is powered by the micro-USB port and AC adapter that plugs into an electrical outlet. The device is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand which allows you to take your computer with you on the go. You basically use all of the connections as you would a tablet PC or other mobile device, except you must have access to a monitor or television to view the content and applications on the Compute Stick.

It’s a lot smaller and lighter than carrying a laptop around with you, but you have the inconvenience of having to find access to a monitor as well as a mouse and keyboard, one of which must be wireless, as there is only one USB port.

When you see it in action, it is easy to understand how it can be used to perform computing tasks or to create a home media centre.

 

What are the Pros and Cons?

The Compute Stick is a next generation device you can begin using right out of the box.  It offers decent versatility and functionality at an affordable cost.  To complete the review, here are a few pros and cons:

Pros

  • Compact size allows you to easily carry your PC with you.
  • BIOS can be accessed and adjusted to improve overall performance.
  • Full-sized ports increase computing ability.
  • Security port allows you to secure the device on the go.

Cons

  • Without the HDMI cable, the device may be difficult to connect to a screen where the ports are close together.
  • Performance is a bit slower than other mobile devices.
  • Only one USB port on the device.
  • Requires vents and a fan.

Where Can I Buy One?

The Compute Stick is not exactly cheap but, it is still very affordable.  Dabs, an independent computer software retailer in the UK, offers the Windows 8.1 version for approximately £130.  Additionally, Newegg, an online retailer also offers the Compute Stick for around the same price.

If you want to try and purchase the Compute Stick at a reduced price, Amazon UK also offers the device from a number of sellers.  If you shop around, you will find the prices will vary starting at around £125.23. Global distributor Mouser Electronics is currently shipping the Compute Stick with Windows 8.1 as well.

Final verdict. Good.

The Compute Stick creates an interesting option for both business users and consumers alike.  It is also possible to stream media from just about any website using Bing which comes pre-installed on the Windows 8.1 version.

On the flip side, if you are a power user, it is important to keep in mind that there is not a lot of internal storage.  If you do not mind using a USB storage device or the SD card slot, then this shouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, the wireless connection tends to be limited when it comes to range.  This is important to keep in mind if you plan on streaming a lot of videos.

Overall, the Compute Stick is highly portable and relatively low cost which means it is good value for getting things done on the go without breaking the bank.  It is great for routine computing tasks and streaming videos.  Additionally, you can leave it connected to your home entertainment system for any time access.
The Compute Stick can also be connected to any network, converted to a media server, connected to a larger external hard drive, or used as a highly portable backup option for files, applications, and documents.  It is definitely worth considering if you do not require a laptop and are looking for an affordable way to carry your PC with you wherever you go.

About the Author

Our IT Department is a professional IT services organisation with offices based in Central and East London. We provide fully managed onsite and remote IT services to small and medium business in the city and surrounding counties. Take a look at our IT Unlimited page for more details on what we do.

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