Intel Compute Stick Review

Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

First Impressions

Initially, we thought that the Intel Compute Stick would make a great travel buddy that can turn any HDMI-enabled television into a working computer, but that would mean that the traveler would have to carry around a keyboard and mouse. Instead, the Compute Stick finds its happy place in a home setting. The device can turn your large screen TV into a working computer, letting you browse the internet, Skype-chat with friends or send emails, all from a familiar Windows interface. The problem we see in this scenario is the Compute Stick running out of processing power and memory once you use multiple programs. We can easily see using up the 2 GB of RAM embedded within the hour. Running single applications will work well, and at least there's no worry about multi-tasking.

Though small in size, one of the big issues with the Compute Stick is its physical shape. Being 4.5 inches in length, you need to make sure you have space for it to stick out behind the screen. Some TV manufactures have HDMI ports along the sides of the TV display, but there are other mounted displays that sit too flush against the wall and wouldn't have the right amount of clearance to hold the Compute Stick. In the latter case, a female to male HDMI cable solves the problem.

The review unit we received from Intel included an 8 inch HDMI extension cable, however we used a 3 foot female to male HDMI extension so that the Intel Compute Stick could be mounted in front of the LCD, providing better access to the stick's single USB port and power button. For those that don't mind leaving the Compute Stick dangling out of sight, the device is light enough to leave hanging off the back of the display using the supplied 8 inch extension cable.

Speaking of USB ports, depending on the number of devices connected to the Intel Compute Stick, you'll need a USB hub, especially if you don't have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Intel confirmed that the space inside the Compute Stick is definitely the issue preventing additional USB ports from being added. Also, an HDMI-enabled TV is a must when using the Computer Stick. The company also confirmed that the Compute Stick will only work using a direct HDMI input.

  • John Philips
    Would like to see the Ubuntu stick performance...
  • elbert
    I would like to see xbmc performance. I would also like to see if the stick can both run playon server and watch playon on this single device.
  • TechyInAZ
    Thx for the review Tom's Hardware!

    No matter how slow that usb "PC" is, it's still amazing that you can run a computer off a single little thumb drive shaped device and doesn't have problems even overheating.

    I think this stick is designed more for demo purposes. Demonstrating that technology is advanced enough now that we can pack PC's in form factors unimaginable a few years ago.
  • John Philips
    Probably it could be faster with Enlightenment Desktop.Or one day somebody can put Windows xp or anything else...
  • americapat
    why a fan? Strange that the networking sooo slow, shouldn't be par with Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T? Price a little high too.
  • Shankovich
    Can't use WiFi and Bluetooth at the same time...............................
  • uzm
    Does it support uhd/4k tvs?
  • mapesdhs
    "... single channel DDR3L running at 1333 GHz ..."

    Really? Can they put that in next-gen GPUs? ;)

    Overall, I don't see the attraction over a normal HTPC, and in time TVs
    are going to become more than quick enough to run general apps. Wouldn't
    surprise me if the next move with TVs is to integrate a small PC inside
    them somehow, assuming TV makers see a market for it.


  • StarBound
    I'm curious as to the light gaming this can deliver.
  • zodiacfml
    Pricey. The Linux version price is more logical yet it could have at least have 5Ghz WiFi.
    Only small business can appreciate this for signage/display purpose. For home, you're better off with a Windows based tablet with HDMI output.