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Intel wants to help you turn any TV into a Windows PC, for the low cost of $149. All it takes is a little stick, much like the much-loved Google Chromecast Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More . Meet the all-new Intel Compute Stick.

The Compute Stick is essentially a complete PC, but in the compact form factor of a slightly large pen drive. It connects to a TV via HDMI, but also has to be powered with a microUSB cord. Here’s a quick look at the important specs:

  • 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F processor
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128GB)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Full-size USB port
  • HDMI 1.4
  • Windows 8.1 Bing

It will also be available with Linux, but that version will come with 8GB of storage and 1GB RAM. That model will retail for $89, Intel said. Check out the full specs.

The Z3735F processor does not support 4K hardware decoding. Windows 8.1 Bing looks and behaves just like Windows 8.1—it’s a low-resource version preset to have Bing in all the search engines, but you can manually change that.

Why The Intel Compute Stick Matters

Intel-Compute-Stick-Windows-8-on-a-stick-low-cost-full-PC

While smart TVs are on the rise, you probably won’t use all of their features What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today Most televisions you look at now will be smart TVs, but what is a smart TV and which ones are the best on the market right now? Read More . That’s because it’s not a full-fledged desktop operating system running there. You can’t run Microsoft Office on your smart TV, after all.

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Google’s Chromecast streams content from other connected devices. You can’t use the Chromecast without a second phone, tablet or computer. But the Compute Stick will just need a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or some fantastic wireless all-in-one keyboards 6 Of The Best Wireless All-In-One Keyboards For Mac and PC 6 Of The Best Wireless All-In-One Keyboards For Mac and PC Wireless all-in-one keyboards turn a boring living room computer into an exciting home theater PC. We've rounded up five of the best models around. But which one is best for you? Read More to be up and running.

The current lot of Android Stick PCs are good for gaming and multimedia, What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? Miniaturization has been a computing trend for decades, but it seems to have accelerated over the past five years. Even Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing), a hockey-puck sized PC, looks large compared to ARM... Read More but Android itself can’t compare to Windows when it comes to getting work done in a desktop environment. Similarly, the Roku Streaming Stick (read our review Roku Streaming Stick Review and Giveaway Roku Streaming Stick Review and Giveaway All the features of a full Roku experience, in a small form factor that plugs straight into HDMI - does the Roku Streaming Stick deliver? Read on to find out and win one for yourself. Read More ) is great for watching movies and TV shows, but little else.

Plus, at $149, it’s still far cheaper than our recommended DIY HTPC build DIY Budget HTPC Media Center Build and Giveaway DIY Budget HTPC Media Center Build and Giveaway We built a sub-$400 yet energy-efficient HTPC media center running Ubuntu. Now, we're giving it away. Read More . And yes, you can turn it into a Roku-like streaming device for free Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Getting your stick computer streaming media requires very little effort and money nowadays. Considering that it provides an excellent replacement for a more expensive device, getting a stick PC can actually save you a fair... Read More .

More Than Just A Media Player

The Intel Compute Stick is for more than just multimedia though. Essentially, this is a complete PC you can carry around with you anywhere you go. In fact, it’s your PC on a stick—connectable to any device with an HDMI port.

CNET got some hands-on time with the Compute Stick and describes how it would be useful:

As someone who likes to travel but loathes toting a laptop around, keeping something like this with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse in my luggage would be a compact way to get a more robust computing experience than my iPad is going to offer, without tipping the scales or putting much of a dent in my wallet. I don’t expect to be able to edit photos or play World of Warcraft while I’m on the road, but this could prove to be a great tool for toting vital files and Windows apps around, and getting the full-PC experience wherever I can find a spare HDMI port.

Tom’s Guide echoes this opinion, stressing it will be fine for the usual multimedia requirements, but it can also do a bit more:

Atom Baytrail processors are not great for gaming or crunching video, but they can handle light productivity work, Web surfing, email and social networking very smoothly.

You Can Buy One Right Now! (But It’s Not Officially From Intel)

Intel has said it will be selling the Compute Stick directly, and that it will launch later this year. If you’re in the market for an HTPC, you might want to wait it out if you can.

Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Windows 8.1 (BOXSTCK1A32WFC) Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Windows 8.1 (BOXSTCK1A32WFC) New Generation compute one device that transforms any HDMI display into a fully functional computer Buy Now At Amazon $105.00

However, if you aren’t too worried about the Intel branding, you can grab one of these right now. As Liliputing points out, Chinese company MeegoPad is already selling the exact same model.

The MeegoPad T01/TB05 has the same hardware as the Compute Stick, complete with an Intel logo to prove its legitimacy. You can buy it for $115 on Amazon.

GizChina got its hands on the MeegoPad T01 and says it runs Windows 8.1 out of the box, and it looks like a pretty neat device, as you can see in the unboxing video. However, on Amazon, we weren’t able to ascertain if these devices shipped with Windows 8.1 preloaded on them or not—they all strategically say it “supports Windows and Android”, so we’d exercise caution.

If you’re willing to risk the $140, the MeegoPad T01 seems like a good way to get your hands on the Intel Compute Stick early, but be warned that you might have to load Windows yourself. Here’s how to install Windows 8 from a USB stick How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick If you’re looking to install Windows 8 and your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you’re not alone. Whether you have a Windows 8 DVD or a Windows 8 ISO file you've downloaded from Microsoft,... Read More .

Will you wait for Intel’s Compute Stick, buy the MeegoPad T01, or are you happy with something like the Roku Streaming stick?

Image credits: Ambrozjo (FreeImages), CianDesign (DeviantArt), Intel (WSJ), Intel, Microsoft

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