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

Testing The Intel Compute Stick

The Compute Stick isn’t meant for high-performance computing applications. It’s designed for basic computing tasks and packs the kind of hardware you’d normally find in tablet-type form factors, sans the screen. As such, we’re not going to run an extensive array of benchmarks, but rather test the Compute Stick in a few of the scenarios it was meant for. With that said, we do have a few numbers to share just to give you all some reference points.

san cpu
Processor Arithmetic
san mm
Processor Multi-Media
san mem
Memory Bandwidth
san disk
Physical Disk

In the four SiSoft SANDRA modules we ran (Processor Arithmetic, Multi-Media, Memory, Physical Disk), the Intel Compute Stick performed as expected. The Atom processor at the heart of the device performed about on par with a Celeron N2910. In the Multi-Media benchmark, performance was in the range of some older Core 2 Duo-class processors. Memory bandwidth of the single-channel of DDR3 RAM in the Compute Stick peaked at just over 7GB/s. And the internal storage—which incidentally uses Samsung flash memory, and not Intel—put up some nice numbers, in the 165MB/s+ range.
We also ran SunSpider to get an idea as to how the Compute Stick performs while browsing / executing JavaScript, using Internet Explorer, and got a score just over 469ms, which puts the Compute Stick ahead of an NVIDIA Tegra 3, but behind an AMD A4.

In the types of scenarios the Compute Stick is designed for, it works very well. We also played back a myriad of videos—streaming from the web, from a local network, and local to the device—accessed other systems remotely, and even streamed games using Steam in-home streaming capabilities.

Jurassic World Trailer - YouTube

Streaming SD and HD videos from YouTube went off without a hitch. The image above is from an HD version of the Jurassic World trailer, set to 360p, but scaled to full screen, and it played back smoothly using only the built-in WiFi to connect to the web. Regardless of the resolution, this clip played back smoothly, however, and CPU utilization remained relatively low. We just happened to snap the screenshot while testing the scaled 360p version.

Avengers Age Of Ultron Trailer In 4K - YouTube

This shot is from the Avengers Age Of Ultra trailer, streaming from YouTube at 4K. Now, the screen resolution was set to only 1080p, but the clip being streamed was 2160p / 4K. As long as we let this one buffer a bit, it played smoothly too, with relatively low CPU utilization as well, as you can see.

In addition to streaming from the web, we also played an assortment of 1080P MP4 files, grabbed from a NAS or copied locally. All of them played back without a hitch as well. The only caveat is the wireless connection. If we were far from our wireless access point and tried to play a high-bitrate MP4 from the NAS, it would occasionally drop some frames. This wasn't due to the CPU performance of the Compute Stick, but rather the performance of our wireless connection.

TeamViewer Running On The Compute Stick
We didn't expect any issues here, but the Compute Stick also worked perfectly using Windows' built-in Remote Desktop tool or remote support tools like TeamViewer. Accessing a higher-end system remotely from the Compute Stick shouldn't be a problem at all. In fact, we could see some IT departments loving the Compute Stick for cheap, pre-configured corporate systems for telecommuting purposes. Intel also foresees the systems being used for digital signage or embedded into interactive kiosks, etc.  Considering how cheap the Compute Stick is, we can see it being used for any number of scenarios where a basic PC could be useful.

We also tested the Compute Stick with Steam in-home streaming. Intel recommends using a hard-wired USB Ethernet network adapter or an 802.11ac dongle with the Compute Stick ideally. Unfortunately, we didn't have either on-hand, so we gave it a go with the device's built-in 802.11n WiFi. And it actually worked fairly well.  We did see some instances of annoying latency and dropped frames, but for the most part it worked well.  With the ideal, recommended network connection, the Compute Stick can be used for Steam in-home streaming.

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