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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  • ToTTenTranz - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    IMO, lack of Ethernet and terrible WiFi performance kills the product from the start.
    This is obviously intended to turn a TV into a media host device with the added functionality of running Windows, but if a very slow WiFi connection is the only way to get connected, then the product is rather useless.

    With a decent WiFi AC receiver, this would be the ideal Steam Home Streaming client.
  • Krysto - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Slow and expensive for what it offers - I'd say that defines Intel pretty well these days.
  • Krysto - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Oh and don't forget this is the kind of "Celerons" and "Pentiums" we're going to see from now on - for $100-$160 a chip.
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Not really sure why you're ignoring the $50 Celeron G1820 which is a 2.7Ghz Haswell chip, but hell if it makes you feel better go ahead.
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Edit: And if you're referring to mobile bay/cherry trail parts, it's not like consumers can personally buy those anyways.
  • Refuge - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Thats right, because Microsoft lets Intel use Windows for FREE.

    Forgot that deal.
  • v1001 - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Wait a minute so every single one of these is going to crap out when people go to add the windows updates?? How is that acceptable? They can't seriously expect everyone who buys this to find a work around do they? Is Windows 10 smaller? Any luck there with upgrading to that in July? I want to buy a few of these for some TV's. But I'm not going to cut it that close on the updates, I mean what happens on the next windows update and that's it, you went over and can't do a single thing after that...
  • Marc GP - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    Looks like you'd be much better served with something like the HP Stream Mini.
  • Uplink10 - Thursday, April 23, 2015 - link

    Stop advertising HP Stream Mini, Zotac miniPC or Gygabite BRIX barebones are better and you can even put in youtr desired HDD and RAM and they only cost around 120$. See my post above.
  • dtgoodwin - Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - link

    I'm surprised that they had issues with updates. I'm running a Winbook 7" with only 1GB of ram and 16 GB on board storage. I've added a microSD 64-gig card, but windows updates will only stage/install on the c: partition. I've got less than 1 GB free, but all the updates have applied - I just got this two weeks ago, so I'd consider it a fairly comparable situation. I did run disk cleanup including system updates, but I never ran into an error. It is too bad that there's no way to extend the drive space of c: using a microSD, or to have Windows seamlessly use it for temp files, or be able to move other files to it. It would also greatly help if they allowed you to move the "recovery" partition to a USB stick and be able to recover by placing that back in the device. Recovering 5 GB of space would be really helpful. Of course, my tablet only cost $40.00. It also plays NetFlix and Youtube output to HDMI acceptably, and even my medium bitrate Blu-Ray rips.

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