Intel Compute Stick PC Review: Tiny, Sleek, And Versatile

A Close Look At The Compute Stick

As we’ve mentioned, the Intel Compute Stick has a form factor not unlike some larger, high performance flash drives or dongles. That protrusion at the front isn’t a USB connector, however. It’s an HDMI connector.

The Intel Compute Stick is an entire PC crammed into a chassis that’s only 103mm long, by 37mm wide, and 12mm thick. The device is designed to plug right into a display’s HDMI port, to turn it into a basic PC. The Windows 8.1 version of the Compute Stick is packing an Intel Atom Z3735F processor, with a single-channel of 2GB of DDR3L-1333 RAM and 32GB of internal storage, though out of the box only 19.2GB is usable. The Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick has as a similar CPU, but is packing only 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

The Atom Z3735F is a 22nm quad-core processor (4 cores, 4 threads), with 2MB of L2 cache, and a max burst frequency of 1.83GHz (the base clock is 1.33GHz). The processor has a design power of only 2.2w and features integrated Intel HD graphics, with a base clock of 311MHz and burst clock of 646MHz. The processor won’t be winning any performance awards, but that’s not what it’s designed to do. The Z3735F is the kind of processor you’d find in a tablet, not a high-performance PC, and as such the device is meant to be used for everyday computing tasks like browsing the web, or as an entertainment consumption devices, thin client, etc.

intel compute stick 3
If we take a quick tour of the Compute Stick, we find a 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 for.
intel compute stick 4
The other side of the Compute Stick is home to a security notch, a USB 2.0 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 cable connects to provide power to the Compute Stick.
intel compute stick 5
At either end you’ll of the device you’ll find an angular / pointed, decorative protrusion and the HDMI connector. And on the top there’s a big “Intel Inside” logo, below a power LED. The whole thing is encased in a glossy, black plastic enclosure with numerous vents all around. The Compute Stick is tiny, but the 2.2w processor inside does generate a bit of heat under load, necessitating its venting and active cooling inside. The device barely gets warm to the touch, though.

Related content