27 Jul 2015
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Hands-on review: Intel Compute Stick

By Sara Barker

Fancy having a full PC that fits in your hand? Intel have ambitiously created the next generation of portable computing by creating the Compute Stick, which is a complete PC operating system that unobtrusively plugs into the HDMI port of your TV.  Take it to different rooms, take it to a friend's house, take it to work, take it wherever you can find a compatible TV. Your entire PC is right there on a Compute Stick. Think of the Compute Stick as the smaller, worthier successor to the portability and power of a netbook, without the keyboard and mouse. It isn't meant to be a complete replacement to computers, but an innovative solution to portability and accessibility. The Windows 8.1 OS takes up a sizeable chunk of the 32GB storage (you can also choose Compute Sticks loaded with Ubuntu), so if you want to build an extensive media library then the MicroSD card slot will be useful, while a home network or cloud storage may work for you.

Intel's Quad Core Atom (1.33GHZ) is a relatively low-end processor. Coupled with 2GB RAM, too much load can cause system lag. If you're looking for a quick way to play memory-intensive games through Steam or do heavy tasks like video editing or graphic design, this isn't the product for you. Basic tasks like playing music, creating documents, presentations, web browsing and streaming videos all work well, while the HD graphics and HD audio make everything crystal clear. 1080p video streaming is fantastic: smooth playback, amazing graphics and if you've got a great TV, the magnificence is amplified.

There is only one USB port because this Compute Stick was optimised for Bluetooth and wireless peripherals like your mouse and keyboard. USB expansion hubs will connect more accessories but although the Compute Stick is sturdy, try to limit the amount of things you hang from it to ease the pressure on the wiring. The power cord and HDMI extender lead are both quite short so you may need extension cords - while this slightly detracts from the device's tidiness and portability, it's a minor issue compared with the fact that your TV can now be a fully-fledged PC.

Intel's Compute Stick is for people who want to take their entire computer with them without the bulk. Group collaboration is no longer held back by a lack of computers so the potential uses for the Compute Stick as a small or backup IT component mean that it could be a worthwhile investment for your business. It's also for people who want an entire Windows package on their TV screen, not just a couple of apps and Wi-Fi on a drive. Intel's Compute Stick is the full package that far exceeds the capabilities of Google's Chromecast, the primitive look of the Raspberry Pi and almost every other product I've seen on the market. I'm excited to see how Intel improve and innovate their Compute Sticks, because this is definitely a fantastic start.

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