Intel Compute Stick transforms any HDMI screen into a desktop computer
With the NUC 2.0, Intel is attempting to deliver horsepower wrapped in up a small package for a reasonable price. The little Intel box seems to make a great home theater PC or your own unofficial Steam Machine, but even though it’s small, it’s more of a set-and-forget, low-profile stationary desktop than it is hardware you can carry around. It’s more Mac Mini than laptop, but Intel has a solution for this portability problem: the newly revealed Intel Compute Stick.
Revealed at CES 2015, the $149 Intel Compute Stick is a Windows 8.1 computer in the slim body of an HDMI 1.4a dongle media streamer, like the Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick. A quad-core Atom Bay Trail processor powers the Stick, accompanied by 2GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage. A micro SD slot allows you to expand the meager storage, a USB 2.0 port provides a slot for peripherals, and while a micro USB port supplies the power, Intel aims to fully power the stick through the HDMI connection in the future. Connectivity is provided through 802.11bgn WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel will also include an HDMI extender.
Not a fan of Windows 8.1? Intel will also offer an Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick, but with lower specs at a cheaper price: 1GB of RAM and 8GB of on-board storage, selling for $89.
Intel’s other low-cost, tiny computer, the NUC.
If you’re interested in the prospect of a low-profile HDMI dongle giving your TV the features of a desktop computer, but aren’t thrilled with the currently low specs, Intel hints that it has plans to update the hardware inside the Stick with Bay or Cherry Trail chipsets, and maybe even Core M processors.
While the Compute Stick’s lower-end specs likely won’t replace anyone’s main home or work computer, it’s an affordable price for sprucing up the living room television with desktop functionality. The only foreseeable issue with the Stick is the single USB port. Like everyone experienced with the original Raspberry Pi Model B, one or two USB ports just aren’t enough. If you’re using the Stick as a traditional desktop, you need a port for a mouse and another for a keyboard. You can solve this by attaching a USB hub, but that’d almost certainly compromise the stick-on-the-back-of-the-TV form factor, assuming it didn’t weigh down the Stick jutting out of the TV’s HDMI port in the first place. A keyboard with a USB pass-through would work, but then you’d not only be limited in your peripheral choices, but wouldn’t have another USB port for anything else. People made do with the two USB ports on the Raspberry Pi, so the single port on the Stick should only be somewhat of an inconvenience rather than a deal-breaker.
The Intel Compute Stick will begin shipping this March, so set aside a hundred and change now to turn your TV into a computer in a couple months.
Now read: Dell’s Project Ophelia is a $100 Android PC that plugs into any HDMI TV or monitor
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