Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Once upon a time, the idea of a personal computer in someone’s home was laughable. But the miniaturization of technology and Moore’ Law have shrunk the PC down. Today, it’s the size of a pen drive. The Intel Compute Stick wants to be a truly portable PC in your pocket.
The exciting part lies in why the Intel Compute Stick matters. Unlike the Google Chromecast or the Roku Streaming Stick, this is an entire PC that is not dependent on any other device or smartphone, and has a full-fledged operating system on it. Intel is currently supporting both Windows and Linux operating systems.
But wait, don’t rush out and buy one! I’ve been using a Compute Stick for over a month and there are a few things you should know.
Pro: Full-Size USB Port, Easy Installation
It’s the most “It just works” gadget I’ve seen in a long time. Connect the power supply, plug it into the TV, press the power button, and the Compute Stick will load up Windows 8. Go through the setup process and you’re in the familiar Windows environment. The video above is a perfect illustration of how easy the whole thing is. It’s great!
Con: You Can’t Use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Simultaneously
Of course, you’ll need a keyboard and a mouse to use the Intel Compute Stick. Go with a good wireless RF all-in-one keyboard. That single USB port might be a pain, but I still won’t recommend using Bluetooth. Why? You can’t use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at the same time.
Weird, I know. The Compute Stick will be connected to your Wi-Fi and to a Bluetooth device, but the moment you start using the Bluetooth keyboard, you’ll find that the Wi-Fi connection drops; or the latency rises dramatically such that when you type on your Bluetooth keyboard, the letters show up on the screen after a severe lag. You’re better off with a wireless RF keyboard.
Pro: Proper Windows/Linux Makes a Great Smart TV
The current generation of smart TVs are frustrating. They have a smart OS, but the “apps” are limited and the web browsers are terrible. With the Intel Compute Stick, you get proper, full-fledged Windows or Linux environment. And the moment you use that, you can’t imagine going back to one of these Smart TV operating systems. Both Windows and Linux are so much more superior. When you add the convenience of great Windows software like Microsoft Office, Chrome/Firefox, Plex, and so on, you’ll wonder how you ever lived with a restrictive Smart TV operating system.
Con: Severely Limited Memory & Power
While it’s a great smart TV and the perfect first HTPC, that’s what it is. Don’t think of it as a great PC because the Compute Stick just doesn’t have enough computing power. If you want to watch a 1080p video, you can without a problem — as long as you aren’t doing anything else. Maybe a lighter Linux distro would do better.
Pro: It Works Off a Power Bank!
This is one of the coolest features of the Intel Compute Stick. Even if you don’t have access to a plug point, you can run it fine with a good battery pack. Since the Intel Compute Stick is powered by a standard micro-USB port, you will be able to use the same cable that fits into any Android or Windows phone and tablet.
Con: It Can’t Mirror Your Phone
Unlike the Google Chromecast, it won’t mirror your phone’s screen or sync up in a way where your phone is acting as a remote.
The best connection between your phone and your Intel Compute Stick is if you turn your Android smartphone into a keyboard and mouse.
Do Not Buy It as a Portable PC, It Doesn’t Make Sense
Here’s the biggest piece of advice you should know before you think of buying this as a portable PC in your pocket: Don’t. It doesn’t make sense. Why? Because you’re dependent on too many other factors:
- A screen with an accessible/available HDMI port.
- A power socket or a power bank.
- A keyboard and mouse, or your phone being set up with a virtual keyboard and mouse for that particular Intel ompute Stick.
And all of that costs you $134. Instead, you can buy a Windows tablet PC for the same price and that comes with its own screen, its own virtual keyboard and mouse, and no need for a power bank. Carry a mini-HDMI connector and it’s a better portable PC solution.
Yes, a Windows 8 tablet cannot replace a PC, but neither can the Intel Compute Stick. All the accessories you will need to make a Windows tablet into a functioning PC are the same as what you’ll need with the Compute Stick; in fact, the Compute Stick needs a few more.
Bottomline: The Intel Compute Stick is great to turn a TV in a Windows TV. And that makes it a backup PC too. But it’s not a good enough portable PC.
Ask Me Anything
Do you have a question about the Intel Compute Stick? Go ahead and ask it in the comments. I’m ready to test and get you the answers.