Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Review: Skylake On A Thumbstick

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A Closer Look At The Intel Compute Stick Core m3

The latest Compute Stick maintains the same overall form and shape and form factor of its predecessors, which is similar to a large USB flash drive or some of the media streaming sticks that are out there. An HDMI connector hides underneath a glossy cap protecting it from dust and debris when not in use.

Intel Compute Stick Core m3

There is an entire PC built around Intel's Core m3-6Y30 processor housed inside the Compute Stick, a remarkable feat for a diminutive gadget that measures 114mm x 38mm x 12mm and weighs less than a deck of playing cards. As a point of comparison, the Core m3-6Y30 is the same Skylake-based processor as found in Microsoft's least expensive Surface Pro 4 ($899) configuration, a system that Microsoft markets as a "tablet that can replace your desktop." On the graphics side, the Core m3-6Y30 features Intel HD Graphics 515 with a 300MHz base frequency and 850MHz max frequency.

We're not talking about supercomputer processing and graphics here, but as a productivity PC, this Compute Stick is far better suited than its predecessors. It's not just the CPU, either. With double the amount of RAM at 4GB, which we confirmed was running in dual channel mode, and twice as much onboard storage at 64GB, this is essentially an entry-level PC that's been zapped with a shrink ray. The only thing that Intel couldn't fit inside was the power supply. The Compute Stick is not capable of drawing power over HDMI so it has to be plugged into an AC power adapter. 

Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Left Ports

Though the Compute Stick ships with 64GB of onboard storage, a chunk of that gets eaten up by Windows 10, leaving users with a little over 40GB. If more is needed, there is a micro SDXC memory card slot on the left side of the Compute Stick for expansion.

There's also a USB Type-C port for connecting the Compute Stick to the power adapter that plugs into the wall, and some side ventilation to keep the system from cooking itself since it is a fanless design (it gets warm to the touch but not scorching hot).

Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Right Ports

Over on the other side is more ventilation, along with a power button and a full-sized USB 3.0 port. The USB configuration is a compromise between the original Compute Stick, which had a single USB 2.0 port, and the follow-on Cherry Trail update with two USB 3.0 ports. It is back to one USB 3.0 port on the Compute Stick itself, though two more are found on the power adapter for a total of three USB 3.0 ports.

The design can be clunky, as using all three with wired devices means having cables scattered in different directions. However, using a wireless dongle can eliminate that problem, especially ones like Logitech's unifying receiver that's capable of communicating with a mouse and keyboard at the same time. That would leave two USB 3.0 ports open for things like digital cameras, USB flash drives and so forth.

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