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
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
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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  • Deelron - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Pretty much this, plus if you're already invested in a moderate sized or greater NAS solution, it seems like it'd be pretty cost efficient to just step up to a low priced NUC anyway, unless the form factor of a large stick out the back of the TV is absolutely critical.
  • zeo - Sunday, April 26, 2015 - link

    Unless your device is using one of a few select Celeron branded Bay Trail's then it does support Quick Sync... Bay Trail uses a Gen 7 (Ivy Bridge) GPU that's just scaled down to 4EU's and slower clock for mobile usage but still supports features like Quick Sync...
  • joex4444 - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Running a 1Gbe connection over 480Mbps USB 2.0 is inherently going to limit you. Still better than the 50Mbps or so you *might* get over the 802.11n, but really... running a CAT5 cable out to your TV is bordering on the non-trivial. Even if feasible it's not clean.
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    It's no more complicated than any other cable and is every bit as clean. I bought this a few years ago and it has made it trivial to run all my cables (HDMI, speaker wire, networking) through walls. Very feasible and clean.

    As for the 1GbE connection over USB 2.0 - it is slower than real GbE - but the gains in latency and throughput make it possible to stream so much more than the weak wifi permits. It's worth doing.
  • Hulk - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    This is an interesting idea but for me there are too many limitations for me to consider it. Now at 10nm with a lower power x86 2/4 processor and 120GB of controller based storage I'd be interested as a HTPC or computer for my kids.
  • jjj - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    So a SoC that due it's perf is worth 5$ , the NAND+RAM are less than 25$, the wifi must be 3$ or less and all in all 150$ is way too much. Damn x86 monopoly.
  • Refuge - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    You can bet a lot of it is probably licensing for Windows 8.1. This isn't Windows with Bing.
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    The WIndows license is $40. The Ubuntu version is $110 vs $150 for the Windows 8.1 version.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Note that there is 24 GB of extra eMMC for the Win 8.1 version.
  • BMNify - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Ubuntu version is cheaper because it has just 1GB of ram and 8GB storage, Windows 8.1 version has 2GB ram and 32GB of storage.

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