A nice little gadget appeared on my desk at work today: An Intel Compute Stick. Here are my first impressions of this device.
So what is an Intel Compute Stick? It’s a teeny tiny PC designed to plug into a HDMI display (monitor or TV). The device runs full blown Windows 8.1 (with Bing) on an x86 CPU (64-bit instruction set according to the spec page). It sets up just like a normal PC, and runs programs and apps like a normal PC. Think of it as an x86 Windows tablet without a monitor (hence the HDMI port). The device is powered by USB (phone lead) – I found that the supplied lead and DC power adapter were required because the Sony TV I tried it with didn’t output enough power.
Intel Compute Stick turns HDMI devices into PCs [Image credit: Intel][/caption]The device has a number of ports:
- USB 2.0: Required to set up the machine and pair a Bluetooth (4.0) keyboard and mouse (the eventual devices you’ll use to interact with the Stick)
- Micro-SD: Add on up to 128 GB of storage to supplement in internal 32 GB (18.9 GB free)
The device spec:
- Quad-core 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3735F – no EPT so you won’t run Client Hyper-V or WS2016 Hyper-V on here
- 2 GB RAM
- 32 GB storage (18.9 GB free)
- WiFi 802.11bgn
The spec of the Intel Compute Stick [Image credit: Intel][/caption]Setting the machine up was tricky because it did require a USB keyboard. I had fun because I tried to set it up while it “drew” power from the TV and eventually it died. Rebooting it on DC power lead to a loop of repair modes, so a keyboard was required to navigate the options. There is no Bluetooth pairing button, so I set up the eventual peripherals using Settings in Windows. After that, it was Windows 8.1 as usual. The machine is not going to be confused with Alienware, but it is fast enough for what it’s intended for: light usage and media streaming. I streamed HD videos over wireless and it handled it well enough.
Let’s not be foolish here; the Intel Compute Stick will not replace the family PC. However, if you’re like me, and you like to have a “PC” connected to your TV (MiraCast suffers audio/video timing issues), then here’s another option (not the only one). What I would like to try is presenting (monitor in the conference room or HDMI projector) with this device instead of using the wireless display adapter.
A next-gen version of the Intel Compute Stick will feature:
- Intel Core M processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 64GB of SATA storage
- USB 3.0
- 802.11ac WiFi
- Support for 4K displays
- MHL (draw power from TV via USB)