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.
“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)