Introduction and Setup Impressions

The success of the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs have made vendors realize that small and power-efficient computing platforms are here to stay. ARM SoC vendors, finding that the tablet market had reached saturation, kickstarted a new product category in the form of 'HDMI sticks'. As a computing platform, they were smaller than the ultra-compact form factor PCs - just looking like an oversized USB key. Intel announced the Compute Stick at CES to bring one of the first Wintel platforms into this space. Late last month, Google also introduced the Chromebit, a Chrome OS-based HDMI stick. Both of these point to the 'stick' computing platform being more than just a passing fad. The Intel Compute Stick we are reviewing today comes with Windows 8.1 with Bing (32-bit) pre-installed, making it ready to roll right out of the box.

The specifications of our Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC Specifications
Processor Intel Atom Z3735F
(4C/4T x 1.33 GHz, 22nm, 2MB L2, 2.2W SDP)
Memory 1x 2GB DDR3L-1333 C9
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) Samsung MBG4GC 32 GB eMMC
Networking 1x1 Realtek RTL8723BS 802.11n W-Fi
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System Windows 8.1 with Bing x86
Pricing (As configured) USD 150
Full Specifications Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC Specifications

The Atom Z3735F belongs to the Bay Trail-T family - the set of SoCs with Silvermont Atom cores that target the tablet market. Analysis of the Bay Trail SoCs has already been done in some of our previous reviews.

The Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC kit comes with the OS pre-installed. The drivers are available from Intel's site. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 10 W (5V @ 2A) adapter with a USB port along with a USB Type A to micro-USB cable, a HDMI extender cable and different detachable power plugs for usage anywhere around the world.

We had a very difficult experience managing our ECS LIVA review with just 32 GB of eMMC storage. Fearing a similar situation, we decided to augment our review unit with a Patriot EP series 64 GB microSDXC card.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. In fact, the review model is the only one of its kind that we have evaluated so far. That said, we are including systems that have comparable cost - so that users can get an idea of how much they are sacrificing or gaining with the stick form factor. 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 PPSTCK1A32WFC when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel PPSTCK1A32WFC
CPU Intel Atom Z3735F Intel Atom Z3735F
GPU Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics
RAM 2GB DDR3L
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
2GB DDR3L
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
Storage Samsung eMMC MBG4GC
(32 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Samsung eMMC MBG4GC
(32 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Wi-Fi Realtek RTL8723BS 802.11n SDIO Network Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Realtek RTL8723BS 802.11n SDIO Network Adapter
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $150 $150
Performance Metrics
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  • BMNify - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    This is free windows license, windows with Bing is mentioned in the review which is provided free to OEM's. Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    Uh, except it is Windows with Bing. As mentioned in the article. Reply
  • Marc GP - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    It's huge compared with the Asustek Chromebit, it can't be much comfortable to carry with you everywhere.

    No thank you. Put that capability on the phone instead (that I have no problem to always carry it).
    Reply
  • tekeffect - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    I considered preordering this. Thankfully I did not. Thanks for the review. Can anyone suggest the best device to use for plex on 4 k TV ? I would like as small as possible without massive sacrifices Reply
  • Marc GP - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Have you considered the Asus Chromebit ?

    http://www.cnet.com/products/asus-chromebit/

    It's fanless, much smaller and powerful (specially the GPU, that is capable of 4k).

    It comes with Chrome OS, but looks like there is a Plex app for Chrome.
    Reply
  • Uplink10 - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    Google's Chrome OS can't even compare to Windows or Linux, it is more like a Thin client. Reply
  • Dug - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Too limiting for my needs. I just picked up an HP stream mini for $10 more.
    Yes it's bigger, but still fits in the palm of your hand. Added 8GB of ram and stuck to back of TV and good to go.
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    It's also more versatile because it can be used without a TV since it has a screen. Reply
  • BMNify - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    HP Steam Mini does not have a screen, you are confusing HP stream laptop with HP stream Mini desktop PC. Reply
  • Uplink10 - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    HP Stream Mini is also limited, you can't put in 2.5" drive without some additional cable.

    Better to buy Zotac miniPC (ZBOX ID18,...) or Gygabite BRIX with 4-core Bay Trail CPU and add additional 4GB RAM and 2.5" HDD.
    You will pay: miniPC (120$) + RAM (35$) + HDD (45$) = 200$
    But you will have much better hardware and BIOS which will undoubtedly support Legacy BIOS booting option and more options thatn HP Stream Mini.
    Reply

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