Intel Compute Stick Cherry Trail Review: Pocket-Sized Windows 10 PC

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A Closer Look At Intel Compute Stick

Like its predecessor, the latest Intel Compute Stick has a form factor not unlike some larger, high performance flash drives or USB dongles. That protrusion at the front isn’t a USB connector, though; it’s an HDMI connector.
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In essence, the Intel Compute Stick is an entire, quad-core Cherry Trail-based PC, crammed into a chassis that’s only 113mm long, by 38mm wide, and 12mm thick. The device is designed to plug right into a display’s HDMI port, to turn that display into a basic PC. The Windows 10 version of the Compute Stick is packing an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor, with a single-channel of 2GB of DDR3L-RS 1600 RAM and 32GB of internal storage, though out of the box only 19.5GB is usable. There will also be a version sold without any OS installed, with the same memory and storage configuration.

The Atom x5-Z8300 is a 14nm quad-core processor (4 cores, 4 threads), with 2MB of L2 cache, and a max burst frequency of 1.84GHz (the base clock is 1.44GHz). The processor has a design power of only 2w and features integrated Intel HD graphics, with a base clock of 200MHz and burst clock of 500MHz. The Atom x5-Z8300 won’t be winning any performance awards, but it’s not meant to. The x5-Z8300 is the kind of low-power processor you’d find in ultra-mobile devices, not a high-performance PC, and as such the Compute Stick is meant to be used for basic, everyday computing tasks like browsing the web, or as an entertainment consumption device or thin client.
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Looking around the new Compute Stick, we find a security notch and micro-SD expansion slot on one side (with support for cards up to 128GB). Though there isn’t much internal storage space available out of the box, the additional storage space afforded by the expansion slot should suffice for the type of applications the Compute Stick was designed.

The other side of the Compute Stick is home to a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, a micro-USB / power port and the power button. Note that the micro-USB / power port cannot be used for connecting devices. That is the port where the included micro USB power adapter connects to provide power to the Compute Stick.
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At the back end of the device, you’ll find an angular, decorative edge and the HDMI connector resides at the other end at the back. On the top there’s a big “Intel Inside” logo, below a blue power LED. The whole thing is encased in a matte black plastic enclosure – save for the glossy portion where the loge resides – with numerous vents all around. The Compute Stick is tiny, but the 2W processor inside does generate a bit of heat under load, necessitating its venting and active cooling inside. The Compute Stick barely gets warm to the touch, though, so it should have no problem when mounted in relatively tight quarters, like behind a television, as long as there is some space to draw in cool air.

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