The success of UCFF PCs have made vendors realize that small and power-efficient computing platforms are here to stay. ARM SoC manufacturers, finding that the tablet market had reached saturation, kick-started 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 joined the game in CES 2015 with the Bay Trail Compute Stick. The first iteration was, to put it kindly, a bit underwhelming. However, Intel showed its commitment to the form factor by announcing three new Compute Stick models at CES 2016. They included one Cherry Trail (Atom) and two Core M models.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

The Intel Compute Stick we are reviewing today is the Cherry Trail model (PPSTK1AW32SC) that comes with Windows 10 Home (32-bit) pre-installed, making it ready to roll right out of the box. The specifications of our Intel PPSTK1AW32SC review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel PPSTK1AW32SC Specifications
Processor Intel Atom x5-Z8300
(4C/4T x 1.44 GHz, 14nm, 2MB L2, 2W SDP)
Memory 2GB DDR3L @ 1600 MHz
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) SanDisk DF4032 32GB eMMC
Networking 2x2 Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 802.11ac
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with audio over HDMI
Operating System Windows 10 Home x86
Pricing (As configured) $159
Full Specifications Intel PPSTK1AW32SC Specifications

The Atom x5-Z8300 belongs to the Cherry Trail family - the set of SoCs with Airmont Atom cores that target the tablet market. These SoCs are very similar to the Bay Trail SoCs, except that we have a process shrink from 22nm to 14nm and the integrated GPU is a bit more powerful. The clock speeds are also a bit higher compared to the Bay Trail SoCs while maintaining a similar power envelop.

The Intel PPSTK1AW32SC kit comes with a pre-installed OS, but no extra software is provided. Drivers and recovery BIOS (if needed) are available for download on Intel's site. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 15 W (5V @ 3A) adapter with a micro-USB power delivery port. The cable is more than 3ft in length, which solves one of the complaints about the Bay Trail Compute Stick and the short power cord. We also get a HDMI extender cable to help use the Compute Stick in recessed or otherwise inaccessible HDMI ports.

We had a very difficult experience managing our previous mini-PC reviews with just 32 GB of eMMC storage. Fearing a similar situation, we decided to reuse the Patriot EP series 64 GB microSDXC card that we had used in the Bay Trail Compute Stick review.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel PPSTK1AW32SC 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 PPSTK1AW32SC when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel PPSTK1AW32SC
CPU Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Intel Atom x5-Z8300
GPU Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics
RAM 2GB DDR3L
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2GB DDR3L
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
Storage SanDisk eMMC DF4032
(32 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
SanDisk eMMC DF4032
(32 GB; eMMC 5.0-compatible)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $159 $159
Performance Metrics
POST A COMMENT

80 Comments

View All Comments

  • Gunbuster - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Yeah okay, plugs into HDMI, guess what people have... 4K TV's. Reply
  • easp - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    No, most people don't have 4K TVs and aren't rushing to buy them. Sorry. You see, you can't both have bragging rights for buying the latest and greatest and claim that everyone has them. Reply
  • kaesden - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    its a shame there isn't a power over HDMI standard for devices like this so they could exist with no wires and just plug into a tv or monitor and be done with it. Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    And also USB over HDMI so you can use the TV's USB ports for extra storage etc...
    And while we are at it, make the TV expose its tuners and CI slot for use by the stick as well.
    Reply
  • icrf - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    MHL is the closest we get. I don't know that many TVs have it. I think one of the ports on my receiver does. I think the Roku streaming stick uses it. Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    What are the odds we soon get a TV that's got one of these things built-in instead of sticking out? Lots already run Android or such, why not switch to x86 and full Windows? Reply
  • Visual - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    (tho I do appreciate the mobility aspect of a stick too) Reply
  • easp - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    And upgradability... Reply
  • Bull Dog - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    "Netflix streaming evaluation was done using the Windows 8.1 Netflix app."

    Should that read the Windows 10 Netflix app?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Thanks for pointing out the typo - it is fixed now. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now