After waiting longer than expected, the Intel Compute Stick is finally here. The compute stick is a PC-on-a-stick designed by Intel to provide a full personal computer experience with a dongle the size of a larger flash drive.
The device is a slim HDMI dongle that plugs in to any HDMI-supporting monitor to turn it into a full PC. Intel first unveiled their computing stick at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The black little stick packs an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 2 GB of onboard RAM, and 32 GB of onboard storage, with Windows 8.1 running on top. Should you need more storage, a Micro SD card slot is available. It connects to peripherals via a USB port, or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
There is also a Linux version available, but that downgrades you to 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Given the significantly less bloat that most Linux distributions contain compared to Windows, this downgrade shouldn’t be significant. Again, a micro SD card slot is available for storage expansion.
Today, the device went on sale for preorder via Newegg, with an official release date of April 24th, and devices arriving to customers on May 1st. The Windows version will run just $150, but for those who spell Microsoft with a dollar sign might opt for the Linux version for $40 less. Amazon is currently listing both versions, but without any pricing information available at the present time.
Getting the device running on a new monitor is simple enough; just plug it in to the monitor’s HDMI port and a micro USB power supply and you’re good to go. Once it boots up, the operating system of choice will be running and once paired with a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse (or USB), you’re ready to go. Intel doesn’t aim to compete with laptops or desktops, but rather as an alternate option for those who are on the move and want to get some work done where a monitor is available.
A competitor of the Compute Stick is the Asus Chromebit, which was announced last week. Both are HDMI dongles which connect directly to a monitor, and can provide a full computing experience once connected to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. A dealbreaker for some may be the fact that the Chomebit is running Google’s Chrome OS, rather than a more fully featured operating system like Windows or Linux. These users will likely pick the Compute Stick, although the Chromebit is slated to launch this summer for under $100.