“The Compute Stick from Intel is an innovative device that may not be for everybody, but still stands out for what it brings”
Our smartphones these days have become so powerful that it wouldn’t be wrong to call them mini PCs, but with the Compute Stick, Intel has sort of changed things for us. Unveiled at CES, the Compute Stick is very aptly named – it’s a computer on a stick.
Think of it as a lollipop (the traditional variety, not the last version of Android), as it essentially holds a treat in the form of a stick. But it isn’t for everyone. Let’s delve slightly deeper into what the device is, and what it can do.
With the Compute Stick, Intel has basically crammed a full-fledged, Windows-running computer into an HDMI dongle just slightly bigger than a Google Chromecast. It’s not much by way of design – at one end, you’ll see an HDMI connector, while on the sides, you’ll find a micro-USB port for power, a microSD card slot and a full-sized USB 2.0 port. There are a few vents on the sides as well, whereas the top bears an Intel Inside logo and a couple of tiny fans that keep it from getting too hot.
Inside sits an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core processor that runs at 1.33GHz (with burst speeds up to 1.83GHz), and it also comes with 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. The latter can be expanded by another 128GB via the aforementioned microSD card slot. The Compute stick hooks up to any available HDMI port on a monitor or a television, and basically converts it into a proper PC. The device can’t draw power over HDMI, and a wall charger and a micro-USB cable are provided in the box.
An HDMI extension cable is also included, so you can connect it without hassle. The single USB port lets you connect peripherals like external storage devices etc, but the Compute Stick also features built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you can hook it up to the world wide web and input devices such as Bluetooth keyboards.
Setting the Compute Stick up is child’s play – just plug it into an HDMI port on a display or a TV, attach the power adapter, power it up, and voila – your screen is now a computer. Bear in mind though that you’ll need a few basic things to be able to use it. Apart from the display of course, a wireless keyboard and mouse (either Bluetooth or those that work with USB transceivers) form the essentials. A USB hub is also recommended so you can get more USB ports at your disposal than the one provided. Better yet, get a powered USB port since the Compute Stick’s USB port can’t handle peripherals that need extra juice.
Now that you have a fair idea of what the Intel Compute Stick is all about, let’s ponder over what it can do and whether it can really replace your existing PC or laptop. The answer to the latter is easy – and it’s a no. The Compute Stick doesn’t really have enough to replace your computer, and you can’t really expect it to be a powerhouse in terms of performance. However, it works great for basic browsing and productivity tasks. You can also use it as a souped-up streaming stick for viewing YouTube vids or playing media off a USB drive. Intensive tasks like graphics work or playing heavy games are a no no though.
Thanks to its size, the Compute Stick can be carried wherever you go – calling it a computer in your pocket wouldn’t t really be wrong here, since it’s literally just that. However, it’s really a device for enthusiasts and hobbyists who’d want to tinker with it and come up with some cool use cases. As we mentioned earlier, it’s also a great option as a streaming dongle or a media player. It’s priced at $149 in the US, but isn’t officially available in India. As far as similar options are concerned, ASUS recently announced the Chromebit, an HDMI dongle that runs Chrome OS, but that’s not out yet. However, you should take a look at the new iBall Splendo, a device that brings exactly the same specs as the Intel Compute Stick, and for a price of Rs 8,999, also includes a wireless keyboard and mouse so you can get going straight out of the box.