How Intel's Compute Stick Is Once Again Redefining the PC

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-04-08
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    How Intel's Compute Stick Is Once Again Redefining the PC
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    How Intel's Compute Stick Is Once Again Redefining the PC

    By Don Reisinger
  • Previous
    It's the PC That Can Fit on Your Key Chain
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    It's the PC That Can Fit on Your Key Chain

    It's remarkable to think that years of boxy, bulky PC CPUs have finally been reduced to the size of a typical USB storage drive or HDMI dongle. It can readily plug into just about any port on a monitor or television.
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    Windows 8.1 Is Available
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    Windows 8.1 Is Available

    Intel says that it will ship one version of its Compute Stick with Windows 8.1. While that may not set the world on fire, considering how unpopular Windows 8.1 has proven to be, at least it will come with a free upgrade to Windows 10 when that operating system launches later this year.
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    It Will Run Linux Out of the Box
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    It Will Run Linux Out of the Box

    Intel is committed to being a dual-operating-system company. The firm says that in addition to Windows 8.1, it'll offer a Linux model of the Compute Stick. The Linux model will of course be cheaper than the Windows option because of licensing charges, so that may make it even more appealing.
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    It's All About Wireless Connectivity
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    It's All About Wireless Connectivity

    Since the Compute Stick is so small, it's perhaps no surprise that the device supports wireless standards out of the box. So in order to connect a keyboard or mouse, be sure to pick one with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. The Intel Compute Stick also supports several WiFi standards, including 802.11n.
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    Bring On the Intel Atom Processor
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    Bring On the Intel Atom Processor

    In order to build such a small and lightweight computer, Intel was forced to nix some of its higher-end chips for the company's Intel Atom line. The Compute Stick will come with the Intel Atom quad-core processor, code-named Bay Trail. Intel isn't providing too many details on the chip, but it says that it will perform simple tasks just fine. Just don't expect to do any video encoding with it.
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    Storage Depends on the Version You Pick
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    Storage Depends on the Version You Pick

    The amount of storage built into Compute Stick depends on the version customers choose. The Windows option comes with 32GB of onboard storage before the operating system is installed, while the Linux option will only come with 8GB of storage. In its consumer fact sheet, Intel says it hasn't chosen a Linux distribution yet, so it's unknown how much room the operating system will take up. Either way, you should know that the Compute Stick has a microSD card slot for expandable storage.
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    Bring Your Own Keyboard, Monitor and Mouse
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    Bring Your Own Keyboard, Monitor and Mouse

    This may seem obvious, but the Compute Stick requires users to bring along their own keyboard and mouse. And since it plugs into an HDMI port, everything from a TV to a regular computer monitor can be used for the display. That will add some cost to owning a Compute Stick, but considering how cheap it is, that's not necessarily a big deal.
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    Intel Is Actually Pitching This to Business Users
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    Intel Is Actually Pitching This to Business Users

    Believe it or not, Intel believes that the Compute Stick can appeal to enterprise customers. Sure, it might seem like a consumer device at first, but Intel says the Compute Stick can be used as a thin client for small and medium-sized businesses. Of course, having the Compute Stick in place will require more stringent control on employees who might use the device on-the-go. The device's small size also runs the risk of being dropped or lost, leaving sensitive information in the wrong hands. It's still likely that businesses will find productive ways to use this new class of computers.
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    The Price Is Ideal for Simple Computing
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    The Price Is Ideal for Simple Computing

    You can't beat the price on Intel's Compute Stick. The Windows-based version will be available for $149, while the Linux option will ship at $99. Some pricing on certain sites might be lower, but overall, the price is right. For that small amount of cash, customers are getting a full computing experience.
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    Worldwide Availability at the End of April
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    Worldwide Availability at the End of April

    So, when will the Compute Stick finally go on sale? According to Intel, the company will offer worldwide availability starting in late April. Intel hasn't provided a full launch schedule, but preorders have already started, and e-retailers are promising sales will start by the end of April in the U.S. It's unclear when the Compute Stick will be available elsewhere around the world.
 

Intel's Compute Stick is one of the most interesting new computer designs to arrive on the market. The device is little more than an HDMI dongle, like Google's Chromecast or Amazon's Fire TV Stick, but unlike those products, which offer streaming services, the Compute Stick is a self-contained PC. The Compute Stick is part of Intel's plan to expand the definition of a personal computer. It also demonstrates the level of miniaturization that has come to the computer industry. Intel has several processors that can run in a wide range device formats. The Compute Stick is a way for the company to showcase the combination of mobile-friendly components in a surprisingly versatile computer. Best of all, it's an extremely cheap way to get computing power into the hands of anyone who needs to get some work done. This slide show covers the key features of the Compute Stick and how it can be used. The device might be small and its components aren't especially powerful, but the Compute Stick is grabbing the attention of computer users intrigued by Intel's latest redefinition of the personal computer.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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