The Intel Compute Stick with Windows 8.1 has been available for some time now, but Intel has been planning a cheaper model with Ubuntu pre-installed, rather than Microsoft's operating system, and with less storage capacity. It has been a long wait, but next week this new version of the Intel Compute Stick will finally go on sale. Although the operating system is the biggest difference, the changes under the hood might make the Ubuntu-flavored Compute Stick a hard pill to swallow for some.
The Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick will utilize Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Long Term Support) OS, which is the most recent Ubuntu LTS version. The ISO for 14.04 LTS OS is only about 1 GB in size, and the installation shouldn't be far off, meaning the space required to hold the OS is substantially less than Windows.
The rest of the system changes could negatively affect performance but may be redeemed by the OS. On the one hand, the smaller size of the OS obviously saves more storage space on the device. This would be great, but Intel shrunk the storage from 32 GB in the Windows version to 8 GB in the Ubuntu model, so it is hard to say which model will actually have more free storage space.
Another benefit of having Ubuntu is that it requires fewer resources -- just 384 MB of RAM for the installation compared to Windows 8.1 x64's (opens in new tab) 2 GB of RAM. Again, though, there is a downside here, because Intel also reduced the RAM size from 2 GB in the Windows version to 1 GB in the Ubuntu model.
Overall, though, the Ubuntu version should still operate faster, because the OS needs less memory, storage and processing power than the Windows version. You lose the wider software support that Windows offers, but the Ubuntu platform has plenty of applications for a limited PC like this.
In the end, reducing the storage and RAM also allows Intel to sell the Compute Stick for a lower price, coming in at $110. That is undercutting Lenovo's Ideacentre Stick by $19, but it is still $11 more than Archos's Windows-based PC stick. Users on a budget will likely move for the Archos model because of the price and familiarity of Windows, but those more experienced with Linux may still opt to pay the extra bit of cash for a system that might perform better thanks to the less demanding OS.