Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Review: Skylake On A Thumbstick

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Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Summary And Conclusion

Performance Summary: Unlike the previous two Compute Sticks we evaluated, the Core m3 model (STK2m3W64CC) doesn't feature an Atom processor and instead graduates to a Skylake-based Core m3-6Y30 CPU. It also features twice as much RAM at 4GB and double the storage at 64GB, the result of which is a Compute Stick that doesn't limp along when tasked with more demanding computing chores. Not all of our benchmarks here have the Compute Stick Core m3 at the top of the chart, but that's because we pitted it against burlier systems this time around. Perspective is needed when looking at the results.

For example, the Compute Stick Core m3 ran circles around its Cherry Trail predecessor in GeekBench 3, posting a single-core score that's 200 percent higher and a multi-core score that's more than twice as high. Whereas the previous Compute Sticks could handle basic productivity chores, the Core m3 model simply handles them better, faster and more smoothly.

The Compute Stick was an interesting product when it was introduced in 2015 and it is even more intriguing product with some key upgrades, not the least of which is the CPU. Intel's Core m3-6Y30 zips past the Bay Trail and Cherry Trail Atom processors that drove its predecessors, and the additional RAM and storage are both welcome performance enhancements as well. There's even an extra USB 3.0 port to play with, albeit two of the three are now placed on the power adapter. And we shouldn't forget it now comes with a really solid OS in Windows 10, thanks to advancements in the platform from Microsoft. However, Redmond's pricing model does command a higher licensing fee once you hit 4GB of memory and up. Regardless, the question is, what can you do with this Compute Stick?

This is where things get tricky. With the aforementioned upgrades, the Compute Stick does everything that the Atom-based models can, only faster and with much more headroom. Beyond that, this Compute Stick approaches the level of power and usability afforded by the growing number of mini PCs out there, though it doesn't quite reach parity. For that, Intel would have to swap out the eMMC storage for a traditional Flash memory SSD-based storage subsystem, and possibly go with an even faster CPU. Both of these upgrades are certainly achievable and it will be interesting to see what Intel can do with Kaby Lake under the hood some day. 

Intel Compute Stick Core m3

Don't take that to mean we think you should skip over the current Core m Compute Stick. It has the chops to function as a general purpose PC or even a productivity machine knee deep in Word and Excel documents. Its capabilities for content creation are limited, and nobody's going to buy this thing for gaming. Fair enough, but as a work-slash-entertainment device that plugs away at spreadsheets and Internet research by day and streams videos at night, this Compute Stick will handle that kind of workload with aplomb.

What might get in the way for potential buyers is the price. At $349 for a piece of equipment that can slide into a shirt pocket like a thick pack of gum, the natural reflex is for the brain to think about what other PCs are out there for the same or similar amount of money. There are Windows laptops that can be had about the same price, and those come with a display. By that same token, a laptop won't fit in anyone's pocket, so it's all relative as they say.

We happen to like where Intel has taken the Compute Stick and are looking forward to what future iterations bring. As for this model, it gets over the performance hump that stood in the way of its predecessors, but you'll have to assess your own use case requirements to decide whether your need for capable horsepower in an absolutely miniscul footprint is worth the investment.

  • Super portable
  • More powerful Skylake Core m3-6Y70 CPU 
  • Double the RAM and storage of its predecessors
  • Three USB 3.0 ports
  • Expandable storage
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • eMMC storage is slow compared to SSDs
  • Price jumps to $349 versus $149 for the previous model

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