Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

Intel has also been putting some effort on the software side for the Compute Stick platform. One of the main problems with the platform is the limited availability of USB ports. In addition, the use-cases often tend to rule out wired I/O peripherals (keyboard and mouse). However, in certain situations (such as the 'entertainment' use-case), the consumer often has a second screen available (either a tablet or a smartphone). Intel has a free Android / iOS app - the Intel Remote Keyboard - to take advantage of the second screen.

The host application comes pre-installed on the Compute Stick and is active at startup as a service. Therefore, one can use it to even enter credentials for system login. It allows the second screen keyboard to act as the primary keyboard for the Compute Stick and the screen itself to act as a trackpad for the mouse pointer on the Compute Stick's display. In our evaluation, the app worked well. Our only wish is for the in-built keyboard in the app to have a 'Tab' key.

Moving on to the business end of the review, we complained in our Bay Trail Compute Stick evaluation that 32GB of primary storage does not cut it on any computing device other than a tablet or smartphone. Unfortunately, the Cherry Trail Compute Stick doesn't solve that problem. Initiating Windows update after boot-up installs the latest build. However, after the whole process is done, Windows basically backs up the previous install in Windows.old. It leaves only 5GB of free space in the eMMC drive (no other programs installed). One needs to manually run Disk Cleanup to remove the previous installation. In the meanwhile, performance suffers. On top of that Windows loses its activation status in the update and refuses to activate.

More importantly, the latest build doesn't have the Wi-Fi drivers for the machine. So, the unit can't communicate with the network at all until the the WLAN drivers are downloaded on another machine, brought in to the Compute Stick via USB and installed manually. It is surprising that the AC7265 drivers are not part of the Win10 update installation.

Coming to the thermal solution, the fan curves are very annoying. In a quiet room, the fan kicks on and off randomly (depending on the CPU temperature and load), and the sudden whine is not pleasing at all. It is very similar to the Bay Trail Compute Stick in this respect. That said, most of the time, the unit is quite silent - almost as if the fan is not running at all.

On the plus side, it is very nice to get a 2x2 AC7265 802.11ac WLAN card in the unit. The improved GPU along with the updated media playback capabilities is also very welcome. CPU performance is not improved much over the Bay Trail version, but the Core M Compute Sticks due later this year should help address that aspect. Intel has been listening to feedback on the Bay Trail Compute Stick and the Cherry Trail iteration has managed to address many of the problems. A few still remain, but there is no reason why these Compute Sticks can't become as popular as the NUC a couple of generations down the line.

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • zepi - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    How about testing the H265 as well? I'm sure people will stumble upon it more and more as everyone wants to save in bandwidth costs.
  • ddriver - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Come on now, would it kill you to put 4 gigs of ram instead? That would significantly improve the usability.
  • utroz - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Probably has something to do with the fact that it has a 32bit version of windows so they skimped on the ram. Or they used 32bit windows because they skimped on the ram.. Either way it was a bad call. 64bit windows and 4GB of Ram or more are a must..
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    I think that's intentional in order to push people up into the Core m3 and m5 Compute Sticks.
  • Blibbax - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Iirc it's because (if you're an OEM) you can get a cheaper Windows license for a low-end system like this.
  • mkozakewich - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    2 GB is usable, at least. Windows takes up about 1 GB after boot, so the devices of 2014-2015 were horrible after the eMMC ran out of spare blocks.
  • andychow - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    The cpu only supports max 2 gigs of ram. So 4 gigs is impossible.
  • Samus - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    It's also windows licensing issue. Until basically get windows 10 for free on these devices if they ship with <32 GB NAND and 2 GB RAM.
  • Teknobug - Saturday, January 16, 2016 - link

    The X5 Z8300 is a 64bit processor, just like Samus said, devices with 32GB storage and 2GB or less memory gets free Windows license.
  • ddriver - Sunday, January 17, 2016 - link

    So they crippled that poor product so it can get free spyware/spamware with it :)

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