Intel Compute Stick Review
Last Updated on October 4, 2021 by Daniel Osakwe
Have you ever considered a stick PC that functions as a desktop when it’s connected to a TV, but the Intel Atom processor really isn’t powerful enough for you? Then Intel’s newest Compute Stick is right up your alley. Additionally, the Core m3 has better connectivity, a doubled memory size, and a higher price. This year’s Compute Stick runs at $129 for the base version, but $379.99 for the upgraded model we reviewed. If you’re going to accomplish anything, that’s not that bad.
Design and Features
Upon first glance, the Core m3-powered Compute Stick looks almost identical to the Atom-based version: it’s a black slab shaped like a chewing gum pack, measuring 0.5 by 1.5 by 4.5 inches (HWD). While it looks like a chunky USB memory stick, the HDMI connector sticks out when it would normally be plugged into a USB port. Most stick PCs share dimensions within a few fractions of an inch, but this Compute Stick is a bit more compact than the Asus Chromebit or VivoStick, or the upcoming Azulle Quantum Access LAN Windows 10 Fanless Mini PC Stick and Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300.
Upon plugging it in for the first time, you’ll notice a difference. An HDMI port allows it to be directly connected to your TV, but there’s no micro USB port (like on Atom-equipped Compute Sticks). Additionally, the much larger power adapter has a pair of USB 3.0 ports. Both the power and the signals from the USB 3.0 ports are provided by the USB-C cable that comes with the Compute Stick. In addition to the USB 3.0 port, the system includes a microSD card reader. Since the Compute Stick cannot run without power, an additional USB-C port would have been nice for newer solid-state drives (SSDs) and the like. Even still, it’s amazing to have three USB 3.0 ports, since you can connect a mouse and a keyboard, and still have a port for an external drive.
Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 handle wireless communication. To control the Compute Stick, Android or iOS devices can be used with the Intel Remote Keyboard app. Wireless devices like a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and Remote Keyboard require a USB keyboard and mouse to set up, but you can control them remotely after that. It is the only stick PC that includes an Ethernet port, but most users will be fine with (mostly) wireless connectivity thanks to the Azulle Quantum Access LAN Windows 10 Fanless Mini PC Stick.
A Compute Stick with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash memory is available. It’s twice as many as Atom-equipped models. Additionally, you’ll get Windows 10 64-bit, which allows your Core m3 model to run 64-bit programs, such as some multimedia benchmarks. We’ve seen a lot of stick PCs lately that use 32-bit Windows, which is losing support from developers. I was able to open multiple browser tabs and run several programs simultaneously without experience any noticeable lags thanks to the extra memory.
With programs such as Adobe Photoshop, extra storage is helpful when storing project files and using the program. Even the IdeaCentre stick 300 supported loading multi-gigabyte video files. This was not possible with Atom-based systems. While a Core m5 compute stick is available, it is more expensive ($485) and does not include an operating system, as it is intended for businesses that can supply their own copy. A three-year warranty comes standard with the Core m3 model, triple that of the cheaper Compute Stick.
Our real justification for this updated model is its better performance. Despite its use of parts that guzzle electricity, the Compute Stick managed to do well on our benchmark tests thanks in part to its Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor. Neither PCMark 8 Work Conventional (1,981 points) nor Photoshop CS6 (8 minutes, 3 seconds) failed. To see how it compares with the VivoStick, visit our benchmark chart.
That model took 19:27 to complete the Photoshop test and almost 2 minutes longer on HandBrake (7:22 versus 5:23). Upgrade to Core m3 if you’re going to perform any tasks aside from browsing the Web. For small-form-factor desktops, the Asus VivoMini($399.00 at Amazon), has a faster Core i5 processor, but it costs $120 more and is larger physically.
In comparison with what we saw on the Atom-powered Compute Stick, 3D performance was good, but still tepid: 13 frames per second in the Heaven test and 15 frames per second in Valley (both at medium quality). With the Compute Stick’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 515, you might be able to play Minecraft or World of Warcraft, but Overwatch($34.95 at Amazon) and Doom($9.99 at Humble Bundle) are probably out of the picture.
Core m3 hardware means the Intel Compute Stick is capable of doing more than Web browsing and video playback. In case you must create a PowerPoint presentation from scratch the night before a sales call in your hotel room, for example, this is a better option than Atom-equipped stick PCs. It can be used anywhere there’s a free HDMI port. In that regard, it replaces our inaugural Compute Stick Editors’ Choice. For those wishing to save money and just use the Chrome browser on their TV, we recommend the Asus Chromebit.
|Includes Windows 10.||Only one USB-C port.|
|Light, compact design.||USB mouse and keyboard are required for initial wireless setup.|
The Intel Compute Stick, with a Core m3 processor, excels as a fully functional PC that fits in your pocket and can be viewed on a TV.