Here are key points about the Intel Compute Card and Dock.
CPU, DRAM, Storage, and WIFI in a Card: The whole purpose of the Computer Card is to be easily upgradable. You don't ever need to change out wires or mounting to switch out the card, and that means you can switch out the card when it goes bad or when you need more power, and that is a big advantage for rapid deployment of hardware that needs to be replaced or upgraded. When the next generation of cards comes out, users can just upgrade with the press of a button and swap down the last generation to systems that don't need much power but require a slight upgrade.
WIFI Controller: We find Intel's Wireless AC 8625 card in high-end notebooks and desktops, and now we find it in Intel's card sized PC. The card is integrated into the card itself, which is impressive, to say the least. It's a high performing card, and compared to Intel's other Computer Stick offerings, it's significantly superior.
The Dock: The dock provides features you wouldn't typically associate with a card sized PC or the Compute Stick such as Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, and multiple types of display outputs. The connections on the dock are also connections that typically don't go out of style quickly, such as HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB 3.0. The Kensington lock is also well thought out and should prevent theft of the device. The dock also cools down the card since it has no active cooling.
It's quick: The Intel Compute sticks, both the first and second generations felt like sluggish PCs, they could typically only easily handle one task at a time. However, the Compute Card is much different. Since it has a higher cooling capacity, a quick NVMe drive with solid random access times, and dual channel memory, the card provides a decent experience for basic office tasks, display tasks, or even industrial tasks.
Noisy: It's not that quiet, the fan constantly spins up to keep the unit cool. It does keep the card cool from what we can see, as the exhaust temperatures aren't that high.
Upgrade at Once: You can't upgrade the storage, RAM, or WIFI without upgrading the CPU, storage, RAM, or WIFI altogether. It would have been nice to have the CPU and RAM on a single stick with the storage and WIFI in the dock.
Audio Only Through Display: Audio output is only provided through the HDMI and DisplayPort connections, so if your monitor doesn't have audio, you need to use an external device.
The Intel Compute Card is really a credit card sized PC. Inside the card, we get the CPU, the iGPU, RAM, storage, and even the WIFI controller. That is impressive, but it also limits you, as you will have to upgrade storage, RAM, WIFI, and the CPU all at once. Obviously, those things have been optimized for each other, and the NVMe storage and WIFI are impressive in regards to size and speed. I could see the concept of the Compute Card catch on, and the price of the card and the dock together can be kept under $500, and I could see that being very attractive.
I handle IT services for a few local medical offices, and they have to upgrade once every five years to handle the newer software requirements, and a lot of their infrastructure is built into place. Monitors use special mounts, wiring is fixed and hard to replace, and sometimes replacing all IT hardware can be expensive. For those scenarios, being able to spend less than $400 for a total upgrade would be a huge advantage.
If you are looking for a very small form factor PC that can be upgraded with the press of a button, at a reasonable price, and don't need crazy processing power, then the Intel Compute Card system is worth it.
|Overall TweakTown Rating||92%|
The Bottom Line: Intel's Compute Card and Dock provide the ability to quickly and simply upgrade PC infrastructure, and while they are small, they do pack a performance punch.
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