Intel Tops HP With Windows 8.1 'Stick PC'

John Lister's picture

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is in full swing, with Hewlett Packard (HP) unveiling its $180 Windows 8.1 PC that's less than six inches square. Now, it appears that Intel is upping the ante with its Windows 8.1 computer that's just slightly larger than a USB thumb drive.

Dubbed 'The Compute Stick,' the computer-on-HDMI is just four inches long. While the exact size is not yet confirmed, pictures suggest it's about an inch wide and around half an inch thick. Despite its tiny form factor, the device is as powerful as some entry level PCs seen in the market today.

The Compute Stick: How it Works, and Specifications

The Compute Stick plugs into an HDMI port on a television set, which then acts as both a power source and screen connection for the computer. There's also a USB slot for plugging in a keyboard or mouse, plus a micro SD slot for adding extra storage.

Inside the Compute Stick is an Intel Atom Z3735f quad-core processor at 1.83 GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, plus a WiFi transmitter and support for Bluetooth, which gives another option for connecting a mouse or keyboard wirelessly.

The Windows 8.1 version costs just $149. An alternate version runs a Linux-based operating system, allowing it to work with more basic hardware (1GB of RAM and 8GB storage), which is reflected in the much lower price of just $89.

Intel PC Stick Includes Cooling Fan

This isn't the first "PC on a stick" device of its kind; a similar gadget, with an identical name and almost identical specs, is available from a firm called CTL and is produced by a Chinese manufacturer.

The big difference is that Intel's Compute Stick includes a tiny built-in cooling fan. The fan allows the use of a more powerful processor, which means the computer can cope with more intensive tasks or running more applications at the same time. (Source:

Intel believes three main audiences exist for the device. One is people on a very low budget who still want to get something that can serve as a "real" computer, including the option to run Windows. (Source:

Business Travelers Among Potential Buyers

The second is people who want something to plug into their television set for a hassle-free way to watch online video without having to worry about incompatibilities (as is the case with many chrome-based sticks). Similar to HP's mini-PC, the Compute Stick can play virtually any video source accessible through a web browser.

The third audience is people who travel a lot for work and want the option to compute on the move without needing to carry around a laptop or even a tablet PC. Of course, such users would be reliant on hotel room TV's having an HDMI port, and would still need to carry round a keyboard and mouse of some kind.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think increasingly tiny Windows devices serve a genuine purpose, or are manufacturers simply trying to play catch-up with lower-spec, Chrome devices of a similar nature? Can you think of another situation where Intel's Compute Stick would be an efficient and good value solution? Are the compromises on memory and storage space an acceptable tradeoff for a low cost and small form factor?

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Dennis Faas's picture

This would work great as a very small Media PC for the purpose of streaming video network shares, or similar. I personally use XBMC (xbox media center) on all my TVs through the house. I stream the content through a matrix of HDMI repeaters, with one main PC serving the video. Intel's Compute Stick would certainly be a welcomed alternative and allow for greater freedom over what I want to watch.

As for the form factor: plugging something like this into the side of an HDMI port may be awkward and prone to bumping into / breaking. But, one could easily get around the issue by purchasing a flexible 1+ foot HDMI extension which would allow for a more hidden placement of the device.

For those who don't have an HDMI connection: this can be overcome by purchasing a powered HDMI converter to run the device on older monitors and televisions.

Some IT Guy's picture

Some explanation of the capabilities of networking would have been welcome in this review. Yes, it was mentioned that it is Wifi, but at what speeds? How much bandwidth can it consume? These are important considerations for streaming from sites such as Netflix and HuluPlus. It needs to be able to pull at least enough for HDTV. My guess is it will not handle 4K at all, but almost all 4K UHDTVs have their own processing/smartness built in.

I guess I would like to see it in action somewhere before I would purchase. It would be great for travelers who are used to using an HTPC at home, and want some of the capabilities available to them on the road. It also sounds like a great solution for those who want to turn their Dumb HDTVs (got two of those) into smart devices. I actually built rigs for both of the dumb TVs, first with old Gaming Rig parts, and the second from really cheap ITX form factor parts. They both work pretty great, but they both have dedicated higher end video cards with 8GB of RAM. Not sure how the performance would be on such a small form factor as this new stick pc.

Many of these will be sold. They could be used on the very small screens: Kitchen TVs, Bathroom TVs, Bedroom TVs. It might be nice to create an option adapter for use in USB ports as well, but not really necessary. It would be really great if we could use these with the entertainment systems now in cars.

RonE314's picture

I am not sure that you an truly say that Intel tops HP in this case. If you compare Intel's Compute Stick to the HP Stream Mini and Stream 11 laptop, then the only thing that the Compute Stick wins is size. The HP products are a little faster, have more ports, and provide keyboards and mice. Small size is not always an advantage, especially when you have a bunch of cables hanging precariously.

None of these products are going to overpower any user with compute speed, but they all can serve their niche.

ecash's picture

Something that I suggest to my customers and many friends..
3-4 small computers around the how to do the MINOR things would be the best way to have computers..
A media computer, which would have USB/FW/Esata inputs..for external devices, Flash/HD/DVD
Play music and movies thru you stereo and TV..
A NET TV for wondering the net, watching Stuff on the net, Email, facebook, something with GOOD Virus and bot protection..
Gaming emulator..a small computer with most of the emulators to play MOST of the old console games, android emulation..
Network hub..something to network all the devices, as needed, with GREAT protections.

And all of them for less then $100 each..

jsteedley2's picture

As Spock said, "Interesting."
I'm still thinking about a mini/micro PC, to stream the 'net on, to my flat screen.
Without more info, it looks like the HP would be the better choice,
but the cheaper Intel might be Android-capable.
Even w/ a Linux distro,
it *should* do about anything any of the current crop of "media streamers" does.
The Android capability would be nice, because of the vast numbers of apps available.
Hey, does anybody here know what Intel chips/chipsets are Android compatible?

Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!