Edge of Innovation

The 2nd-gen Compute Stick puts a Windows 10 PC in your pocket

The Compute Stick debuted at CES 2015 – a smart, Chromecast-like device that squeezed a quad-core Intel Atom processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 32GB of on-board storage into a package no bigger than a Mars Bar.

Plug one into any HDMI-equipped monitor or HDTV and, with the addition of a wireless keyboard and mouse, you could transform it into a fully functional Windows PC.

The good news is that the 2nd-generation Compute Sticks are now becoming available, upgrading the original in several key areas. Redesigned and refined, they now run Windows 10 and enjoy a significant speed boost in the shape of new Cherry Trail Atom x5, Core m3 and Core m5 processors. These replace the Atom Z3735F chip baked into the older Windows 8 stick.

Raw speed and Windows 10 aren’t the only improvements, however. Where the first Compute Stick only came with 802.11n Wi-Fi, the newer dongles boast faster 802.11ac connectivity. The new Compute Sticks also include extra USB ports (two on the Atom x5 model, three on the m3/m5 variants). The original only had one.

Like the original, the entry-level Compute Stick packs 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage, plus an SD card slot to add extra capacity (up to 128GB). But the m3/m5-based Compute Sticks push the technology much further, doubling the RAM (4GB), doubling the internal eMMC storage (64GB) and even adding support for 4K video.

The m5-powered stick also comes with Intel vPro technology for hardware-level security. So while the x5 and m3 models with Windows 10 make good home computing solutions, the m5 stick is built for business and enterprise applications.

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“Well, Intel did it,” wrote Devindra Hardawar on Engadget. “The Compute Stick bundles just about everything you’d need for a basic computer into a compact, inexpensive package, and unlike its predecessor, it works.”

“Cherry Trail’s graphics still lag behind the faster integrated GPUs that Intel ships with its higher-end chips,” said Arstechnica in its review, “but the new Compute Stick could make a decent machine for older PC games, emulators, and Minecraft­-level titles… The Core M versions of the Compute Stick look more promising if you’re looking to replace an aging desktop tower with a nearly-invisible computer or turn a monitor into a functional all-in-one.”

The new Compute Stick is available now for around £125 with the more powerful (and more expensive) Core m3 and m5 versions due soon. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

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