Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously observed that computing power doubles roughly every two years.
This axiom, dubbed Moore's Law, has held true for half a century. And we have gone from mainframe computers that took up an entire room to the new Intel Compute Stick, a tiny computer slightly larger than a standard flash drive.
Plug the Intel Compute Stick into an HDMI port on a display, connect its power cable and you will be browsing the Internet using Windows 8.1 in less than a minute.
However, the current smartphone-toting generation may not be overly impressed. After all, they carry a very capable computer of their own in their pockets.
Besides, Intel does not make it easy for anyone to love the Compute Stick. The chip giant is obviously brilliant at the engineering part, but design is not its forte.
The plasticky Intel Compute Stick looks like a Wi-Fi dongle, but minus the antenna. Give it to Apple or even Samsung, and you would probably get a sleek metallic device that will appeal better to consumers.
Apple and Samsung may also have done a better job of concealing the air vents. Yes, this tiny computer packs a really tiny fan. The noise is audible in a quiet room, though not loud enough to be distracting.
Other connectors include a USB 2.0 port and a microSD card slot (up to 128GB storage). Intel provides a micro-USB charging cable with an AC power adaptor. An HDMI extension cable is also bundled in case there is insufficient space to plug the Compute Stick directly into the display's HDMI port.
Given the single USB port, a USB hub is practically a must. I tested this device with a wireless keyboard and mouse. Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11n are supported.
Powering this computer is a quad-core Intel Atom chip. This low-power processor is meant for tablets and other mobile devices. Unsurprisingly, there is just 32GB of internal storage, though actual free space is roughly half of that with Windows 8.1 and a few apps already installed. Intel says its Compute Stick is good as a home theatre PC, a basic computer for the workplace and to power outdoor displays.
During my testing, this device runs office productivity software reasonably well. But I would not recommend opening too many documents or having multiple browser tabs. Casual games, such as those found on mobile devices, should run fine.
The Compute Stick scored 2,360 in PCMark 7, putting it at roughly half of the performance level of the latest ultrabooks.
Videos played without a hitch, but the limited storage means you would probably have to stream the content, or add a really large microSD card.
At $229, the Intel Compute Stick is affordable enough. But factor in the cost of peripherals and you might be better off getting a budget Windows laptop, such as the $349 HP Stream.
Processor: Intel Atom Z3735F (1.2GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Connectivity: USB 2.0, HDMI, microSD card slot
Value for money 4/5
This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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