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Intel Compute Stick "2" STK1AW32SC 2GB Windows 10 Review

By: Steven Bassiri | SFF PCs in Computer Systems | Posted: Feb 10, 2016 5:40 pm
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Intel

The Teardown

 

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The new Intel Compute Stick looks very similar to the original, but I didn't expect much of a change because of the form factor, which doesn't offer significant wiggle room for creativity. There are some differences between the two internally, but the easiest to see is that the heat sink is slightly larger on the new stick. One of the issues with the original Compute Stick was that users would complain about a noisy fan after long streaming sessions like watching Netflix. Intel looked to combat this two ways, by improving both the cooling and shifting compute resources towards graphics.

 

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The new Compute Stick also has an extra antenna for the 2x2 WirelessAC/Bluetooth 4. The heat sink is also held down with multiple screws, and the CMOS battery is at the top of the stick.

 

An interesting difference is that the new Compute Stick features the same fan, but a different model which adds a third wire for speed monitoring/control. This extra wire allows Intel to employee finer fan control, over a curve which allows the fan to start spin-up earlier and stay quieter for most operation. In the original Compute Stick, the system was setup to start the fan almost near full speed, which was very noticeable. Since the small heat sink would readily become saturated because of the lack of airflow internally, the fan would kick into full speed until the temperatures dropped.

 

The new system starts up the fan at a very low RPM, so low you won't hear it, and noise only becomes noticeable when you are doing very intense tasks. Before the heat sink could become saturated and, temperatures would hit close to 60C just watching Netflix, but now temperatures will hover around 50-55C, which means the fan isn't going to spin fast enough to cause irritating noise.

 

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The back of the new stick has a larger shield compared to the original.

 

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Removing the heat sink reveals that the SoC uses a thermal paste while the power control IC is being cooled by a thermal pad.

 

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There is also a thermal pad on the rear shield which cools the SoC from behind by cooling the PCB directly beneath the SoC.

 

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The Intel Atom x5 Z8300 Cherry Trail-based SoC is the predecessor to the original Compute Stick's Bay Trail SoC. The new SoC is based on Intel's latest 14nm lithography and has four processor cores with a base frequency of 1.44GHz and a 400MHz added burst which can take the cores to 1.84GHz, and it has a slightly lower SDP than its predecessor. Intel has upgraded the graphics core of the SoC so that video tasks can be done with more ease and less pain than the original Compute Stick. Intel's HD graphics has a base frequency of 200MHz with a 500MHz burst and features 12 EUs. Memory has moved from 2GB of 1333MHz Samsung DDR3L to 2GB of 1600MHz Kingston DDR3L. You can also catch a glimpse of a 64Mbit Winbond BIOS ROM. A block diagram of the SoC can be seen on the right. The eMMC remains 32GB, but vendors have changed from Samsung in the Original to a SanDisk drive.

 

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Intel is using the SanDisk SDINADF4-32GB eMMC for storage, and the remainder of RAM is located on the back of the stick. Intel upgraded the low-power Realtek Wi-Fi solution on the original Compute Stick to the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 unit which offers much stronger Wi-Fi performance.

 

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An AXP288C is a power management IC (PMIC) which takes in the USB 5v and provides multiple different low voltage rails for the different devices (SoC, Memory, eMMC, etc.). Those black squares around it are low profile inductors.

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