While the smartphones have taken over everyone’s attention, there comes a device every once in a while , that aims to remind the people of the world, that there is a lot more out there than just the handheld pieces of technology. One of those devices is the new Intel Compute Stick. While the device may look just like a regular USB stick from the outside, its whats on the inside thats got everyone buzzing. Now before I go in depth about the Intel Compute Stick, let me take a moment to basically tell you what this Intel Compute Stick is in the first place. Basically, the Intel Compute Stick is an experimental or ‘Beta’ device which, when plugged into a television with USB capabilities, transforms the same into a basic computer device. Now, the common question people might have in mind is that ” What then, is the difference between the Smart TVs and this device ? “. Well, the answer might not be concrete as of today, but when you look at it from the application point of view, A smart TV doesn’t really give you the functionalities of a PC device. Its more of a TV with internet access. The Compute Stick on the other hand, comes loaded with a basic processor and on board graphics, which are just enough to convert the TV device into a computer. To get a better understanding of this very short explanation, lets get right into the review –
Hardware and Design – One look at the Intel Compute Stick, and you know that Intel really didn’t make design their No.1 priority. The Compute Stick , in plain and simple words, is a Black, plain looking USB stick, with the looks that will practically go unnoticed by anyone. The only bit of neat designing on the chassis is the sleek white Intel logo on the back and a few vents which serve as outlets to some of the smallest fans ever seen on any device in the market. As this is the only device in the package, its quite obvious that its going to be busy with slots. So, to start with, we have a single USB slot, which is clearly not enough since you will have to connect both, the mouse and keyboard to the TV . So, if you are planning to invest in the Intel Compute Stick, make sure you have a USB hub ready, as one USB port just isn’t enough. Next, we have a Standard micro USB which connects to the AC adapter, a microSD card slot, which allows for memory expansion up to 128GB, and a power button accompanied by a simple blue LED indicator. Overall, the Intel Compute Stick is a highly primitive device which aims to assist users to create a computer on the move in a highly portable form, but it also serves as a benchmark for other OEMs to work upon, and bring out a host of highly refined alternatives in the days to come. Now, as far as commenting on the design goes, I would say that while Intel has made a few visible blunders and that the inclusion of a solitary USB port just doesn’t cut it, its still a device that screams innovation . So all in all, not so grand a design, but highly innovative idea nonetheless.
Setting Up and Device Performance – Setting up the Intel Compute Stick is quite easy and only requires patience in the input and Power supply areas. Coming to the input, you have already read in the design section aforementioned, that the Compute Stick has a single USB port, so make sure you have the USB hub ready to go in order to get the keyboard and mouse set up. Once you have got those ready, lets move onto the power supply . Now, when it comes to other USB accessories, like the Chromecast for instance, the USB cable can be attached to the TV directly as a power supply . The Intel Compute Stick however, is a tad bit different. The Power supply comes in the form of an AC adapter, whcih must be plugged in to power your Compute Stick at all times. So , make sure you have a wall socket vacant to house this AC adapter as the TV itself cannot work as an alternative.Once you have the requisites mentioned above, using the device is just like any Windows 8 device. Now, plugging the Control Stick into a regular monitor will give you a stock computer experience. The real fun begins when you plug this beauty into one of those huge displays. It really is something else when you get to do your computing on a nice big 50 inch TV , if you are into that sort of thing. So, coming to the main question – ” How well does this device actually perform ? “Well, for those who have this question in mind, here are the key specifications of the device –
1.3GHz Atom Z3735F (with burst speeds up to 1.8GHz)
2 GB of RAM
32 GB of on board storage.
While the specifications are quite basic, it will let perform basic productivity based tasks with relative ease, but the stress lines begin to appear once you start loading the device beyond its capacity, which, I am afraid to say, isn’t really a lot to go on with. The look and feel , as well as the performance of the device screams experimental through and through, so if you are expecting heavy gaming experience, this device is a strict No-No. That said, its not a paltry first attempt either, so if you are willing to get a first hand feel of Intel’s plan for the future, do surely give this device a swing.
Next up is the question of Competition – The Intel Compute Stick is a whole new concept, so it might be a common misconception that there is no competition yet, but funnily enough, there a few alternatives out there. The few existing alternatives include MeeGoPad T01, and the FXI Cotton Candy Stick. The true competition however, comes from the recently announced Google Chromebit, which costs $100 and runs Chrome OS and comes with 2GB of RAM. Then there are the low price budget laptops, such as the $200 HP Stream, which come with HDMI capabilities, and are also fully functional Laptops.
In conclusion, I would like to say that Intel has taken a bold step forward in the realm of technology, and while their entry is not really a feast for the eyes, its still a concept that people can actually buy and experience, rather than just read about them. Over the years, we have seen Intel try and fail to woo audiences when it came to mobile processing, but I believe that, with the the Compute Stick, Intel seem to have finally found a strong base to build upon. The only factor they must keep in mind is the time to market. Realistically speaking, the Intel Compute Chip will surely not get blockbuster sales ,compared to Google’s Chromcast, or even the budget Laptops, but if Intel were to head back to the drawing board, and get a few good designers on board, and bring out a more refined iteration ( Compute Chip 2.0 ? ) , then success will come for certain.