Small and power-efficient computers in the form of NUCs and Compute Sticks have emerged as bright spots in the PC market over the last few years. The Compute Stick form factor is the x86 version of the popular ARM-based HDMI sticks. The first-generation x86 Compute Stick came from Intel and used a Bay Trail-T SoC. At the 2016 CES, Intel introduced a Cherry Trail version, as well as two Skylake Core M-based models. We reviewed the Cherry Trail version back in January, and it is now time for one of the Core M versions to be subject to our mini-PC evaluation routine.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

The Intel Compute Stick we are reviewing today is the Core m3-6Y30 model (STK2M3W64CC) that comes with Windows 10 Home (64-bit) pre-installed, making it ready to roll right out of the box. The specifications of our Intel STK2M3W64CC review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel Core m3-6Y30 Compute Stick Specifications
Processor Intel Core m3-6Y30
Skylake x86, 2C/4T, 900 MHz (up to 2.2 GHz), 14nm, 4MB L2
4.5W TDP (cTDP up to 7W, cTDP down to 3.8W)
Memory 4GB LPDDR3
14-17-17-40 @ 1866 MHz
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 515
Disk Drive(s) Kingston eMMC M52564
(64 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260
(2x2 802.11ac - 866 Mbps)
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 3x USB 3.0
1x micro-SDXC
Operating System Windows 10 Home x64
Pricing (As configured) $390
Full Specifications Intel STK2M3W64CC Specifications

The Core m3-6Y30 belongs to the Skylake Core M family. It is meant to target the fanless 2-in-1 market, but, in the Compute Stick, it is actively cooled.

The STK2M3W64CC comes with the OS pre-installed, but, it is suggested to update the drivers that ship with the system. Drivers and BIOS updates are available for download on Intel's website. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 21.44W (5.2V @ 2.2A Type-C + 2x 5V @ 0.9A USB 3.0 Type-A ports) adapter with a Type-C power delivery port that can also ferry data between the main unit and Type-A ports. The cable is more than 3ft in length. We also get a HDMI extender cable to help use the Compute Stick in recessed or otherwise inaccessible HDMI ports.

The gallery below presents a closer look at the chassis design of the Core m3-6Y30 Compute Stick and the packae contents.

We had a very difficult experience managing our previous mini-PC reviews with just 32 GB of eMMC storage and/or 32-bit versions of Windows pre-installed. Fortunately, the STK2M3W64CC comes with 64GB of eMMC and Windows 10 Home x64 pre-installed. We were able to set up the system with a 20GB internal partition after shrinking the partition on which the OS was installed.

The BIOS of the Core M Compute Stick has a lot of interesting features compared to the ones in the Atom-based units. One of the notable optons is the ability to completely turn off the fan. The default setting is to keep it off till needed, and speed it up based on the thermal load.

We also have a good deal of control over the behavior of the front LED from the BIOS. Bluetooth devices can be authorized in the BIOS to make them available even before the OS is up and running.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel Core m3-6Y30 Compute Stick against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel Core m3-6Y30 Compute Stick when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel Core m3-6Y30 Compute Stick
CPU Intel Core m3-6Y30 Intel Core m3-6Y30
GPU Intel HD Graphics 515 Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM 4GB LPDDR3
14-17-17-40 @ 1866 MHz
4GB LPDDR3
14-17-17-40 @ 1866 MHz
Storage Kingston eMMC M52564
(64 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Kingston eMMC M52564
(64 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260
(2x2 802.11ac - 866 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260
(2x2 802.11ac - 866 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $390 $390
Performance Metrics - I
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  • damianrobertjones - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    A combination of a very slow SSD and 2Gb is never a good thing no matter what CPU. Reply
  • Arbie - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    I use Process Lasso on low-end machines like this and it helps a lot. Even a 2010 netbook became reasonably useable with Office etc. Try the free version. Reply
  • mkozakewich - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    2 GB was generally enough. Even when there was plenty of free RAM, though, the Atom processor was barely able to load heavy web pages. Chrome in particular seemed to run sluggish (especially on infinitely scrolling pages, like Tumblr). Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - link

    Chrome is burdened more than other web browsers because the system is not only busy logging and reporting user activity to Microsoft, but also doing the same with browser activity to Google plus the site you're surfing is usually keeping an eye on your usage too. The double/triple data mining penalty is pretty hard on a low-power chip like the Atom. Firefox with a noscript (as long as you don't mind breaking a lot of website functionality and then having to pick through individual blocked script sources to find the right ones to restore those functions) usually will vastly improve web performance on an Atom CPU. Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    We're using a few of the Cherry Trail sticks (STK1AW32SC) for simple slideshow-style screens at work; their footprint is miniscule compared to the laptops we used to have, meaning we can hide them away. The m3 would be overkill in this case, plus I can get three of the Atom models for the same price which work just fine. Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    How is the Linux support for these sticks? Reply
  • nfriedly - Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - link

    Excellent in my experience. Ubuntu 16.04 works perfectly out of the box, and 14.04 mostly works (no wifi drivers, though).

    Intel sells a m5 version with no OS, although it's more expensive honestly not much faster than the m3 version with windows.
    Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - link

    Cheers Reply
  • CaedenV - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    I am pretty excited that these are getting better... but who are these supposed to be marketed to exactly? The specs aren't quite there for an office or school machine (but close! just ditch the fan and give a bit more onboard storage). For the HTPC market (is that really a market outside of a few video enthusiasts?) it is just about right on specs, but for the price there are far better options if you don't mind a slightly larger form factor.

    If intel wants to sell gobs and gobs of computers then they really need to do the following:
    Quad Core CPU (or dual with HT), m series is actuially fine, but an i3 would be better
    8GB of RAM
    128GB solid state storage (SSD or even eMMC)
    GPU (and ports) capable of 2 1080p displays, and hardware acceleration for newest video codecs (HEVC and VP9/AV1)
    Fanless
    Headphone jack (seriously, have a bunch of NUCs without a jack... such a pain!)
    Secure-able (so they don't walk off when plugged into the back of a monitor)
    Win10 Pro preloaded
    Compute Stick or NUC form factor
    3 year warranty
    $400 or less

    Schools and businesses would buy these up in droves! NUCs are almost there, but they tend to have fans, and system builders typically exceed the $400 price point once configured with RAM and SSD; business could build it themselves for less, but they are in the business of doing business instead of building their own custom PCs. Maybe another year or two and we will see this happen?
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 27, 2016 - link

    In Core Ms ~5W power envelope, I suspect most people would be better on a dual, even if they think they want a quad.

    In such low power spaces a quad just means each core is running at a significantly reduced clock over a dual. It's the same reason why there was that 28W quad which no manufacturer picked, as the dual cores were faster 90% of the time. Especially for, you know, most people getting a 28W CPU, let alone those getting a 5W one.
    Reply

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