ASUS VivoStick

Up to this point I’ve mostly written about Stick Computers that use either Android or Linux as their primary operating system. The devices in this category sprouted from the Linux kernal, primarily because it suited the needs of a fast and light operating system. It also suited the needs of the hobbyist, who prefers their operating systems to be open. Somewhat recently, Mini PC’s have begun to show up pre-loaded with the long-running desktop king – Windows. Earliest attempts at making Windows based stick computers was met with much chagrin as the products failed to even reach the low expectations set by Android enthusiasts.

Now a couple of years down the road, the Windows based Stick Computers are starting to turn a few heads. Both the performance and price of these neoteric competitors have brought them into the realm of serious consideration for both the novice and experienced user. These recent entrants have been facilitated by a growing array of low-power and high performance processors from market giants Intel, Nvidia, Broadcom, Qualcom and others.

If you need to, or have to run Windows, you should seriously consider the Asus VivoStick as a great alternative to a cheap laptop, Chromebook or even Android Stick. While the specs aren’t going to blow anyone away, they are certainly impressive for the size and price. I mean, a Quad-Core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor is no slouch. You get Cherry Trail performance on a Maraschino Cherry budget. The rest of the specs are impressive, too, with two Full Size USB ports (including 3.0), a headphone jack, and 32GB of Flash Storage. Because it’s an Intel chip, it also includes Intel HD Graphics, so you know you’ll have decent rendering in all the compatible formats.

What I like about the Asus VivoStick

I’ve already admitted that I’m a Linux/Android kind of person, but I have to say it’s pretty impressive to get all this performance, including a licensed copy of Windows 10 for this price. It has all the specs you need for a replacement desktop or more appropriately as a mobile media center. Because it’s Windows, it requires little configuration on your part and many media apps can be installed from the Windows Store, including Kodi.

Having a USB 3.0 Port is a luxury for those of us that have limped along with 2.0 devices. You can connect USB 3.0 devices or connect them through a hub, as I’ve written about in previous posts. Whichever way you go, you’ll get better data throughput from all of your external storage devices. Just don’t forget to get a powered hub.

The VivoStick includes 2GB of DDR3 RAM, which some might consider the bare minimum for running Windows. The specs say you can run Windows 10 with 1GB RAM, but as we all know there’s a difference between specs and real world. It would be better to have more RAM here, but 2GB is sufficient for the way this stick is intended to be used. The L2 Cache on the Atom chip should help with performance issues relating to memory.

Speaking of memory, there’s a decent amount of built-in storage on the VivoStick. A 32GB Flash RAM is included for running Windows 10 and storing your data. Unfortunately, much of that storage is taken up by Windows, but with some careful uninstallation of programs storage space can be freed up substantially.

To get a tiny bit more technical, the ASUS VivoStick comes with the Quad-Core Intel Atom™ x5-Z8350. This little gem runs at up to 1.92Ghz with the GPU and memory controller integrated onto the processor die. The GPU is based on 8th generation (Broadwell) Intel HD Graphics (400), and supports DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.2 (on Windows). By way of comparison, the VivoStick contains the same processor used in the Intel Computestick with a couple of extra gighertz thrown in for about a 25% lower price.

On top of all of that, the VivoStick comes with 100GB of free online storage for the first year.

As I’ve mentioned several times, this is a Windows device, rather than Android or Linux. While that might be a deal killer for some, in my mind it doesn’t take away from the benefits of this Stick. If you do need to add or upgrade the operating system, I’ve put a tip in the FAQ below to help you to do that.

Overall I would give the VivoStick 4 out of 5 stars due to some issues listed below in the Pros and Cons section. As an alternative and pioneering entry into Windows Stick Computing,  VivoStick does a fine job of bringing the joys of Mini PC’s to an as-yet-untapped market of Windows enthusiasts.

Company Product Information

ASUS is a Taiwanese company headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan. Its manufactures and markets a variet of electronics products including PC Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks and other mobile devices and accessories. Asus is one of the world’s top 5 computer manufacturers.

In the fall of 2015 they began production of the quad core Mini PC known as the VivoStick.

 

What’s in the Box

  • ASUS VivoStick TS10-B017D Intel Atom Z8350
  • HDMI Extender Cable
  • Micro USB Power Cable and Power Adapter
  • Mounting cradle
  • Quick Start Guide

Here’s an unboxing video to show you what’s in the package:

The audio is Christmas music only – if you want to turn speakers down.

Features, Specs and Tech Details

Quad-core Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8350 processor for capable multitasking
Intel HD Graphics 400 GPU clocked up to 500 MHz
2GB DDR3 RAM, 32 GB Internal Flash Storage
Built in Dual Band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi wireless network access
HDMI, USB 2.0, 3.0 and Power ports

Screen Resolution 1080p
Max Screen Resolution 1080P
RAM 2GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Disk 32GB Flash
Graphics Intel HD 400 Graphics
Wireless 802.11a,b,g,n,ac
Bluetooth 4.1
Number of USB Ports 2 Full Size (3.0 x 1; 2.0 x1)
Dimensions 5.3 x 0.6 x 1.4 inches
Weight ~ 2.6 oz
Color Black
Power 12v 1.5A 18w

Pros

  • Comes with Windows License
  • USB 3.0 Port
  • Audio out Port
  • Powerful Intel Atom Processor
  • Extra storage space with 32 GB Flash

Cons

  • No SD slot
  • Windows 10 is sluggish
  • 4K Video Struggles

 

Tips/FAQ

Linux

Because the VivoStick uses an Intel Atom chip, you can find a variety of Linux distributions that will install.   The first thing you’ll have to do is disable fast boot in the BIOS so you can load another operating system.   Users have reported success with Ubuntu MATE and other flavors of Ubuntu.  Check with Linuxquestions.org and other helpful Linux sites to see what distro others have run on the VivoStick.

Some customer reviews

I got tired of buying $500 PCs that would work for a year or two. I got this for the cost of a replacement motherboard

Seems to decode 1080p just fine! very smooth video, looks great, very fast. Loving it.

I was looking for a media canter device that could be hidden from view, the Vivostick is great for that.

Quite an impressive PC, operates faster than i was expecting.

Conclusion

This Mini PC is a versatile and cost effective entry into Windows Stick Computing.  The specs are well above average in all areas.   I’d have no problem recommending it to the hobbyist or to the dedicated media streamer.  Performance is acceptable for either task and with the addition of keyboard/mouse and some external storage it can stand up as either a media center PC or as a full desktop replacement.