Sunday, 23 Jun 2024
Technology

Intel Compute Stick Review: Good, But Not Perfect

As technology continues to advance, computers are becoming more powerful while simultaneously shrinking in size. Traditional desktops have largely been replaced by portable and lightweight laptops. One of the latest developments in this evolution is the emergence of “Stick PCs,” which pack basic computing hardware into an incredibly small form factor. The Intel Compute Stick is one such Stick PC and is probably the most well-known.

The Intel Compute Stick is designed to provide truly on-the-go computing. It only requires an HDMI-capable display, a mouse, and a keyboard to transform any screen into a fully functional computer. But how well does the original Intel Compute Stick actually perform? In this in-depth review, we will take a closer look and determine whether it’s worth the nearly $150 price tag.

What’s in the Box?

The Intel Compute Stick comes in two variants: a Windows version with 32 GB of onboard storage, and a Linux version with 8 GB of onboard storage. This review focuses on the Windows version, specifically the STCK1A32WFC model.

The Intel Compute Stick comes packaged in an attractive slide-out box, adorned with brand trademarks, copyright information, and product images. Inside the box, you’ll find:

  • 1 Intel Compute Stick (Model No. – STCK1A32WFC)
  • 1 HDMI extension cable
  • 1 Micro USB to USB Type A cable
  • 1 AC adapter
  • 4 Plug attachments for electrical wall socket compatibility
  • 1 Quick Start Guide
  • 1 McAfee AntiVirus Plus subscription for one year (redeemable online)

Technical Specifications

Here are the technical specifications of the Intel Compute Stick:

  • Dimensions: 103 mm x 37 mm x 12 mm
  • Processor: Intel Atom Z3735F 1.33 GHz Quad Core
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 with Bing (upgradeable to Windows 10)
  • On-board storage: 32 GB eMMC
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
  • Audio: Intel HD Audio via HDMI
  • Ports: 1 HDMI 1.4 port, 1 Power port, 1 USB 2.0 port
  • Expansion slot(s): 1 MicroSD card slot
  • Other features: Power button, Security notch for lanyard
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Setup and Configuration

Setting up the Intel Compute Stick is incredibly easy. All you need is an HDMI-compatible TV or computer monitor, Wi-Fi connectivity, and basic input devices such as a mouse and keyboard. The details can be found here.

General Usage Performance

To assess the performance of the Intel Compute Stick, we conducted several general usage scenarios, including web browsing, video playback, and document editing. We executed each scenario for approximately 15 minutes to evaluate the device’s capabilities.

1. Web Browsing (using Google Chrome)

For the most part, web browsing on the Intel Compute Stick worked well. Websites loaded quickly, and the overall browsing experience was satisfactory. However, when multiple browser tabs were opened, the limited memory of the Compute Stick caused the browser to become unresponsive or crash. Inactive tabs were frequently suspended, affecting the browsing experience. While the Compute Stick is suitable for casual browsing, multitasking may not be its strong suit.

2. Video Playback (offline and streaming)

Video playback on the Intel Compute Stick was smooth and efficient. High-definition videos played flawlessly using VLC media player, including streaming on YouTube. However, the Atom processor struggled with 4K video playback, resulting in buffering and delays. If 4K video is important to you, the Compute Stick may not meet your expectations.

3. Creating/Editing documents (using Word, Excel & PowerPoint)

The Compute Stick performed well when using Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It proved to be a reliable on-the-go solution for working with spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents. However, performance slightly decreased when editing documents alongside resource-heavy programs like Google Chrome. As long as you avoid running too many demanding applications simultaneously, the Compute Stick should serve you well.

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Performance: Summary

Based on our observations, the Intel Compute Stick is capable of handling everyday computing tasks with ease. However, it is not suitable for intensive programs and should not be considered a replacement for a high-powered desktop workstation or laptop. The Compute Stick excels as a bare-bones PC for casual browsing and document editing.

The Good and The Bad

Pros:

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Relatively easy to set up
  • Comes with multiple plug attachments for global electrical socket compatibility
  • Works well for lightweight computing tasks

Cons:

  • Additional hardware, such as a USB hub, mouse, and keyboard, may be required for full functionality
  • Single chip for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can hinder performance
  • The operating system consumes a significant portion of the onboard storage
  • Multitasking capabilities are limited

Intel Compute Stick: Some use cases

The Intel Compute Stick has multiple applications, including:

  • Home entertainment: Using home theater applications like Kodi or Plex
  • Kiosks: Utilizing Windows’ kiosk mode
  • Thin Clients: Working with files stored in the cloud online

What the competition has to offer?

While the Intel Compute Stick is a revolutionary product in terms of its compact size, it is not the only Stick PC on the market. Several alternatives are worth considering, such as the ASUS Chromebit, which runs Google’s Chrome OS. Additionally, the MeegoPad T02 offers similar hardware specifications to the Compute Stick but includes a 3.5 mm audio jack. For more options, check out our coverage of the 8 best Stick PCs.

Intel Compute Stick: Headed the right way, but not there yet

Undoubtedly, the Intel Compute Stick demonstrates the exciting future of computing. Who would have imagined being able to carry a PC the size of a candy bar just a few years ago? However, while the Compute Stick is an impressive product, it still has room for improvement. It excels in casual computing but falls short of being a fully polished product. If you’re after a more refined experience, waiting for the second generation of the Compute Stick may be a better option.

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What are your thoughts on the Intel Compute Stick? Is it something you would consider purchasing, and if so, for what purpose? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Devinder Maheshwari for further details.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can the Intel Compute Stick handle multitasking efficiently?
The Intel Compute Stick is designed for casual browsing and document editing rather than intensive multitasking. It may struggle when running multiple resource-heavy programs simultaneously.

2. Can the Intel Compute Stick play 4K videos smoothly?
The Intel Compute Stick is not optimized for 4K video playback. Attempting to play 4K content may result in buffering and delays.

3. What are some alternative Stick PCs available on the market?
Aside from the Intel Compute Stick, other notable options include the ASUS Chromebit, which runs Chrome OS, and the MeegoPad T02, which offers similar hardware specifications along with a 3.5 mm audio jack.

4. Is the Intel Compute Stick a suitable replacement for a desktop workstation or laptop?
The Intel Compute Stick serves as a lightweight and portable solution for basic computing needs. However, it is not intended to replace high-powered desktop workstations or laptops.

5. What are some recommended use cases for the Intel Compute Stick?
The Intel Compute Stick can be used for home entertainment, kiosks, and thin client scenarios, allowing users to work with files stored in the cloud online.

Conclusion

The Intel Compute Stick represents the future of computing with its compact size and impressive capabilities. While it is a great option for casual use, it still has some room for improvement. As technology continues to evolve, future generations of the Compute Stick may offer even better performance and enhanced features.