Intel Compute Stick

It’s been a few years since I’ve taken a look at the Intel Compute Stick. Quite frankly, the original version didn’t hold up too well to scrutiny.  First, it came with Windows 8.1.  While that was certainly better than if it had shipped, with Windows 8, only marginally so.  I’ll say this for it, the boot times were good.  If you go back through the reviews for the product you’ll see that it was riddled with issues, including reliability (strange for an Intel Product), slow application response time and general WiFi issues.

On top of that it was really pretty big and clunky for a Stick Computer.  Compared to the Android Mini PC’s shipping around the same time, it was nearly twice as big.  That’s not a huge factor, but when you’re counting the benefits of Stick Computers, and chief among them is portability, it does become an issue at some point.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Intel learned their lessons from the first version of this Stick and remade it with nearly everything remedied. The new Intel Compute Stick CS125, the entry level version of a three stick family, comes with Windows 10, a faster processor for better application speeds, a new WiFi chip that provides much greater reliability and a form factor that smaller and less clunkier than the original.

Because it has many of the same characteristics of the earlier Stick there’s not a lot feature-wise to talk about, other than to say this is a much improved product at an even better price. I’ve you tried or thought about trying the first version of this stick and were scared away by the reviews it’s time to take a second look.

What I like about the Intel Compute Stick CS125

The heart of the latest edition of the Compute Stick comes equipped with a Quad-Core Intel Atom Cherry Trail x5-Z8300. Compare this to the earlier versions Intel Atom Bay Trail Quad-core Z3735F 1.33 GHz Processor. One of the primary differences in the two, aside from the performance boost is the inclusion of Broadwell graphics, which allows for much improved graphics execution speeds.

As I mentioned above, this newer version also ships with a licensed copy of Windows 10. Aside from the fact that you no longer have to spend two hours updating from Windows 8.1, it also performs significantly better on Cherry Trail chips. The only gripe here is that it ships with a 32 bit version of the OS. I suspect this was done for the primary reason of licensing cost and the fact that the memory is hard wired to the board without means of upgrade, so you’ll find little benefit from the 64 bit OS, unless of course your app requires it.

Memory and storage is good with 2GB of DDR3L memory and 32GB of eMMC storage on board.  You’re left with about half of that storage space after Windows is installed.  As I’ve pointed out in earlier reviews, you might be able to free up some of the storage with selective uninstalling. 2GB of RAM isn’t a lot for Windows, but for what we’re interested in as a streaming device or limited desktop, it’s more than adequate.

The integrated dual-band wireless 802.11ac is a nice improvement from the single band in the earlier device. It was the source of many an issue and has been fixed with the inclusion of this chip. You should have no problems connecting to more distant routers or using Bluetooth 4.0 connected devices while you stream.

The addition of a USB 3.0 port is a welcomed upgrade.  Although the USB ports are located quite close to each other, chances are you’ll need to connect the 3.0 port to a powered hub anyway if you want to have access to storage and other USB 3.0 devices.

I like that it has both an easy power/reset button located on the side. This makes it nice for both managing the power state and also for a cleaner solution than simply unplugging. I am also glad to see a well-placed power-on light on the top of the unit where you can clearly see it.

As I brought up earlier, the Graphics capabilities on the new Compute Stick are improved and the streaming results show just that. Both streams at 1080p and 4K(UHD) ran fine at full resolution, full frame rate and without skipping.

The Compute Stick CS125 is actually the baby in the new Compute Stick family, with the bigger CS325 and CS525 rounding out the trio. The other two sticks use the Intel M processors for even greater speed and graphics processing. They also double the RAM, Storage and add an extra USB 3.0 port. The more expensive units also include a 64 bit version of Windows 10. They do come at a cost, however, with prices running 3 to 5 times higher than the CS125.

Company Information

Intel Corporation is an American technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California.  It was founded in 1968 by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. It is the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker.

Intel also manufactures motherboard chipsets, network interface controllers and integrated circuits, flash memory, graphics chips, embedded processors and other devices related to communications and computing.

In the Fall of 2016 they began shipping the 2nd Generation Intel Compute Stick.

Intel Compute Stick CS125

Product Highlights

 

  • Quad-Core Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Processor
  • Windows 10 (32-bit)
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 2 GB DDR3L 1600 MHz soldered down single-channel memory
  • Integrated Wireless 802.11ac (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265)
  • One USB 3.0 and One USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth 4.0

The Second Generation Intel Compute Stick is winning over critics and converts from other SFF computers with it’s excellent price/performance and the backing of Intel.

FAQ

Linux

While intended to be used as a Windows 10 PC, the Compute Stick can be used as a Linux computer.  Buyers have reported success with a variety of Distros, including Ubuntu and OpenELEC.  If you wish to run Linux on this stick, you’ll have to download a compatible distro onto a USB drive and configure the BIOS to support WIndows 64 bit first.  Once this is done you can start up the stick to Boot options mode and choose your Linux version from the USB stick.  Check with Ubuntu forums, or Linuxquestions.org for further information.

Some customer reviews

The performance of this little guy is pretty impressive. It’s great for digital signage applications. Runs 1080p video at up to 60fps no problem.

It took Intel a second try to make the BEST TV Stick on the Market today. If you come from Windows you will find a familiar and easy to use product to use.

Unbelievable for the price this works so well. Its as fast as my laptop.