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Intel Compute Stick Review

At CES 2015, Intel quietly announced its upcoming Bay Trail-based Compute Stick. Last week we got to check out a sample unit up close and personal.

Testing Methodology

In benchmarking the Intel Compute Stick, we had to borrow several different methods from some of our recent tablet and network tests. We also had to keep in mind that we're not dealing with a high-end system here. We kept our expectations reasonable, especially since this isn't a gaming device or workstation. If anything, what we'll really find out about the Compute Stick is that, rather than being a performance-driven device, it's really just a convenient way to add on some computing power to an existing television.

Video-wise, we used a 24 inch Asus VS247 HDMI display with the Compute Stick and plugged it into the back of the monitor to run the CPU, graphics and storage testing.

Network testing was done using the same Asus display, however we used a mobile cart to help test throughput at different distances between our reference ASUS RT-AC66U Dual Band router and an Ethernet wired ASRock VisionX Mini-PC (Core i7-4712MQ, AMD HD8850M graphics, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD and 2 TB HDD).

For the Compute Stick's quad core Atom z3735F CPU, we used Primate Lab's Geekbench 3. Geekbench is a cross-platform benchmarking tool used to test CPU and memory performance. One of the grander advantages of using Geekbench is having access to the Primate Labs' large database of tested devices, including those running Windows, Apple and Android platforms. For Geekbench, we'll be looking at scores coming from its single- and multi-core tests using integer, floating point and memory workloads.

In order to test the Compute Stick's Samsung-based storage, we're using CrystalDiskMark to measure sequential and random read/write speeds.

We tested end-to-end Wi-Fi networking using PassMark's Advanced Networking module. Configured in a client/server configuration, the software is installed and started on each computer with one machine marked as a server and the second machine set up as the client. We used the default fixed block size of 16384 Bytes to send test TCP traffic from the Compute Stick to our test ASRock Mini-PC with the test results showing data received, data sent, average Kbits/sec and the CPU load. Since the Compute Stick only runs at 2.4 GHz, we restricted the other devices in the networking test to the same range.

Since the Intel Compute Stick is used primarily as a web browsing tool, we also ran BrowserMark, Peacekeeper and Octane to get an idea of how Internet Explorer and Google Chrome perform in comparison to other systems.

For comparison data, we used machines from the mobile realm, including:

  • Dell Venue 11 Pro (Processing, Storage, Web Applications);
  • Lenovo Thinkpad 10 20C1 (Processing, Storage, Web Applications);
  • HP Elitepad 1000 G2 (Processing, Storage, Web Applications);
  • Sony Vaio SVSS13112FXS with a Linksys AE3000 N900 USB Wi-Fi adapter (Networking);
  • Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T (Networking).

As mentioned earlier, we're not expecting astronomical results from the Compute Stick. We chose the Dell, Lenovo and HP tablets because their components help us get to closer to an "apples to apples" type comparison. For networking, we used another Atom based tablet and a regular laptop with a Wi-Fi adapter, because they would have 802.11n Wi-Fi capability similiar to the Compute Stick's.

  • John Philips
    Would like to see the Ubuntu stick performance...
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • John Philips
    Probably it could be faster with Enlightenment Desktop.Or one day somebody can put Windows xp or anything else...
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Shankovich
    Can't use WiFi and Bluetooth at the same time...............................
    Reply
  • uzm
    Does it support uhd/4k tvs?
    Reply
  • 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.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • StarBound
    I'm curious as to the light gaming this can deliver.
    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply