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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
While smart TVs are on the rise, you probably won’t use all of their features. 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.
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 to be up and running.
The current lot of Android Stick PCs are good for gaming and multimedia, 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) 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. And yes, you can turn it into a Roku-like streaming device for free.
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.
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.
Will you wait for Intel’s Compute Stick, buy the MeegoPad T01, or are you happy with something like the Roku Streaming stick?