Intel Compute Stick (review)
This may be one of the most difficult items I have ever been given to review simply because this device can be so many things to so many different people. The Intel Compute Stick was one of those products that, upon unboxing and holding it in my hands, made me think, “I had no idea that this technology even existed.” If you are wondering what makes this device so extraordinary it’s the fact that the Intel Compute stick is a full blown Windows 10 operating computer that is about the same size as a pack of gum. Now, there are other products on the market that harness similar technology in this micro form factor like the Roku or Chromecast, but these devices utilize their own proprietary software, and the scope of what they can actually accomplish, is very narrow. You almost have to hold it in your palm and use it for a little while before it really sinks in on how advanced this thing really is.
Installation and initial startup were extremely intuitive. The Compute stick plugs into the HDMI port of your TV or monitor and you provide it with power using the power cable they conveniently provided you with. In the Compute Stick’s first boot up, it was immediately able to recognize my wireless media keyboard, which for me, was the Microsoft All In One Media Keyboard, and I was gently ushered through your typical Windows 10 setup menus. After no more than 10 minutes from when I plugged it all in, it booted into the OS, and I was soon free to explore. I was very happy to see that there was virtually no bloatware to be found, not that it would be wise to bog down a PC this small anyways with frivolous programs. After just a few days of use, and only installing programs like Google Chrome and Steam, the C drive only had 12 Gb left of the 32 Gb that it had total, before the operating system. If you are a person who would be using this device heavily, it would really be wise to invest in some major cloud storage. There is a micro SD slot on the device, as well, so that you can use for expanded physical storage space, if you are not a fan of the cloud.
In my testing, the Intel Compute Stick performed very well in nearly everything I tried to do with it. It was able to run everything in the Microsoft Office Suite, Photoshop, and, most importantly for me, ran very smooth as a remote desktop interface to my primary desktop… sort of. While the compute stick does boast a dual band wireless internet card, I had a hard time getting a solid signal in my house, even in the exact same spot where my Roku and Chromecast would work perfectly. With optimal signal, I was able to stream DOOM from my primary PC to the Compute Stick and it looked really clean and the controls had virtually no lag. Moving the Stick a few rooms over was another story entirely. Streaming DOOM was extremely choppy, Street Fighter V was playable, but it didn’t look very good. To be completely honest, streaming games that are that graphically intensive is a huge task for any streaming device. Games like Castle Crashers, Nidhogg, and Freedom Planet all worked perfectly, and looked awesome, even from across the house. I pushed the Compute Stick to its remote streaming limits, and from a gamer’s perspective, it really did impress me, under ideal Wi-Fi circumstances. If you live in a larger house, though, and intend on trying to use the Compute Stick to do some remote PC gaming, you will likely need to invest in either some good Wi-Fi extenders, or utilize one of your USB slots for a USB-to-network adapter.
What’s in the Box?
Typical of Intel, the retail packaging is sleek and without much wasted space. The size of the box is much more than what you would expect to see, housing a CPU, and not a complete PC. Included were the standard safety and precautions paperwork that comes with everything these days, as well as the basic Intel Compute Stick user manual, that I do recommend reading before setup, just so you know how to get your configuration and wireless peripherals working correctly the first time without having to backtrack. Thankfully, there is also an HDMI male-to-female dongle adapter, which is a necessity for people who don’t have much room on your HDMI TV ports, or have any port obstructions from a wall mount. They were also generous enough to include not only the wall wart, but also all of the different wall adapters, based on whatever region you live in. Last and most importantly in the box is the computer, itself.
The computer is powered by the aforementioned wall wart, which connects to the Compute Stick via micro USB plug-in. There is one blue USB port for USB 3.0 and one black port for USB 2.0, a physical power button, and a mini-SD slot to expand on the 32 Gb of physical memory that comes stock with the computer.
Processor: Intel Atom x5-Z8300 (2M Cache, Up to 1.8 GHz)
Storage: 32 GB
Memory: 2 GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics: Intel Integrated
Intel Wireless 802.11ac w/ Bluetooth 4.0
Check The Complete Specs HERE
I think that the Intel Compute Stick is damn impressive. The most difficult thing for me – when trying to review it – is imagining who this device is for. It’s a little too expensive and less user-friendly when trying to justify using it as an alternative to the Roku or Chromecast. While its form factor is incredibly small and portable, it’s not quite powerful enough to compete with a solid productivity tablet or netbook. From a pure consumer standpoint, this is something that is really cool , but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to my mom and dad, due to the level of effort it takes to maintain it. Windows updates, the potential for viruses, needing to keep a wireless keyboard handy, they all require the user to be pretty technical. On the other hand, in the business and professional settings this thing is astonishing. Setting this thing up to run simple programming macros, slideshows for the television of your small business lobby, or performing presentations at a conference are just the tip of the iceberg of what this thing is capable of. This thing is a Swiss army knife of functionality. While many of its functions can be done by other products in a more focused capacity- and do them arguably better- the Intel Compute Stick can still get the job done, as well as a dozen other jobs you might not even know you need it to do yet. Plus, its small enough to wear around your neck!
The STK1AW32SC Intel Compute Stick was provided to Nerd Reactor for this review by Intel