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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

Here are key points about the new Intel Compute Stick (Cherry-Trail Atom x5)

 

What's Hot

 

Cherry Trail with Graphics Shift: The Cherry Trail Atom x5 that replaces the previous Bay Trail based SoC is much better suited for the Intel Compute Stick. While keeping close to the same thermal limits as the original Compute Stick, Intel shifted compute resources to better handle graphics-heavy workloads, and it shows. The new Compute Stick does not immediately shoot up to its maximum temperature while streaming Netflix like the original, and that is because the SoC isn't being overtaxed.

 

 

2x2 Intel Wireless AC: Since the Compute Stick doesn't have a wired internet connection, wireless bandwidth becomes very important. The shift from a Realtek wireless-N solution to a 2x2 Intel wireless AC solution results in much greater Wi-Fi speeds.

 

Improved Fan Technology: Here is the deal, the fan on the original Compute Stick would emit a noticeable (if you were close enough) squeal as soon as the temperature of the Compute Stick rose above a certain limit. On the original Compute Stick, this limit was set high (around 50C+), and the fan would blow at full speed until the temperature came down. Intel swapped out the two-wire fan for the three-wire version. The third wire adds monitoring of the fan speed, which has allowed Intel to apply a much more efficient fan curve.

 

Unlike the original Compute Stick, when the surface temperature of the new one hits around 40-45C the fan turns on, but you cannot tell since it is silent and at a very low speed. The fan speed then gradually increases with temperature, and it only becomes noticeable at above 55C. Otherwise, you literally will have to turn your ear towards the Compute Stick, which has to be less than 1 foot away to hear the fan. Instead of letting the device become saturated with heat, the new Compute Stick allows for active cooling even at small workloads to continuously remove the heat and lower temperatures.

 

Added USB 3.0 Port: The single USB 2.0 port of the original is complimented by an additional USB 3.0 port on the new Compute Stick. You can now attach a dedicated keyboard and mouse instead of using a combo port. I assume that most users will opt to use the Intel Remote Keyboard application instead of a dedicated keyboard and mouse, so you can now use the ports for extra storage or devices like an Ethernet adapter.

 

Cost Effective: Instead of 32-bit Windows 8.1, the new Intel Compute Stick comes with 32-bit Windows 10 (it does support 64-bit, but the 32-bit version is preinstalled). The price of the new Intel Compute Stick is only $10 more than the original, and you are getting the OS for free. In my opinion, it is still a great value, and I prefer Windows 10 to Windows 8.1. Booting is also much faster with the Windows 10 based Compute Stick.

 

What's Not

 

Still a Little Sluggish: Even with all the upgrades and the increased length of the new Intel Compute Stick, I felt it still was a bit slow. I would say that the performance improvements for CPU based tasks haven't improved much compared to the original, but overall it is a usable device. If you want much faster speed, perhaps even desktop class, then you should probably check out the Core m3 and m5 version, but they will cost you much more.

 

2GB RAM isn't that much: My qualm with the new device is that Intel still only provides 2GB of RAM. It's enough to carry out basics tasks, but I would have liked to see more RAM. This downside is addressed in the Core m3 and m5 versions which come with 4GB of RAM. However, if you want an Atom x5 based version with 4GB of RAM, you aren't totally out of luck. Intel has licensed this designed out to its partners, and they might provide 4GB Atom x5 based sticks.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Is there a night and day difference between the new Compute Stick and the original? I would say almost. The new Intel Compute Stick is a different beast on many levels. The new Compute Stick is quieter, faster, and overall improved compared to the original Compute Stick. However, it still is form factor limited. The Intel Compute Stick will not replace a modern desktop, but that isn't its primary intended use.

 

intel-compute-stick-2-stk1aw32sc-2gb-windows-10-review_52

 

The Intel Compute Stick is designed for use cases where the software requirements outweigh the need for intensive processing power. Digital signage is a big area where the Compute Stick can do well, especially the Core m3 and m5 versions, which should be out soon. In my mind, a perfect use for the Intel Compute Stick is with your TV. While many TVs sold today are to an extent "smart", many of them cannot come close to the capabilities of the Intel Compute Stick.

 

Overall, Intel has made huge strides to improve upon the original Compute Stick. They probably made a list of the top five grievances and addressed all of them, resulting in a well-rounded, affordable Intel branded ultra-tiny-mini PC.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Performance85%
Quality including Design and Build95%
General Features88%
Bundle and Packaging93%
Value for Money95%
Overall TweakTown Rating91%

The Bottom Line: Overall, Intel has made decent strides to improve over the original Compute Stick, resulting in a well rounded affordable Intel branded ultra-tiny-mini PC.

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