The Intel Compute Stick continues the trend of the shrinking computer, and at price point that beats most desktop and laptop computers. Like the Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Compute Stick resembles a USB flash drive on steroids, except it runs a desktop version of Windows and operates like a desktop or laptop. Intel markets the mini-computer not as a workstation replacement, but rather a light-compute device for monitors and televisions. We explore several business uses for the Intel Compute Stick.
Intel managed to shoehorn an impressive amount of hardware inside the Compute Stick, which packs a quad-core Atom Z3735F processor with 2 MB cache, 2 GB RAM running at 1333 MHz for Windows (1 GB for Ubuntu), Intel HD graphics, audio via HDMI, 802.11bgn, Bluetooth 4.0, built-in 32 GB storage, and one USB port.
Connect the Compute Stick to a HDMI port and you are nearly ready to go—just find a power source and connect a keyboard and mouse. Priced at $150, it costs less than many desktop and laptop computers while offering very capable performance. Think of the Compute Stick as a more user-friendly and ready-to-go alternative to the Raspberry Pi.
For peripherals, the Compute Stick features only one USB port, so you need a USB hub if you plan on using several USB peripherals. The mini-computer provides up to 500 mA of power through the USB port, which allows you to connect low power consumption accessories such as keyboards and mice. For more demanding devices, you need to get a powered USB hub. Alternatively, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to avoid using a USB hub and having cabling hanging from your display.
Compared to many desktops and laptops, the Compute Stick looks to be fairly lightweight in the processing power department. But you shouldn’t expect to deploy it throughout the office as a productivity workhorse. Instead, the Compute Stick lends itself more towards scenarios that require tablet-level processing power. In a PC World Intel Compute Stick review, benchmarks showed it had processing power equivalent to Atom- or Celeron-powered tablets.
Based on its hardware and form factor, the Compute Stick presents several cases for business-use.
Digital Signage – Digital signage solutions can cost a lot because of costs with the media streamer, client systems, and supporting networking equipment. A Compute Stick lowers costs by integrating the functionality of the media player and client device into one device. And since it runs a desktop version of Windows, you can install digital signage software directly onto it to customize your display.
Mobile Presentation Computer – Scenario: You’re on the road for a business trip and need to do a presentation. The venue has a projector and screen but doesn’t have a computer for your PowerPoint presentation. The Compute Stick lets you not only play your presentation but also lets you edit it on the fly.
Thin Client PC – A strong case for the Intel Compute Stick is its ability to offload the computing load to the cloud. If you don’t want to install desktop versions of Office, you can use cloud-based solutions such as Office 360 or Google Docs. This has the added bonus of potentially saving you costs on software licensing down the road.
Though it may not have the most processing power, it is still a capable media streamer and web-powered thin client computer. While you may not use it for creating graphics in Photoshop, at $150 you get a nearly full-function PC. What business scenarios would you use the Intel Compute Stick for? Let us know in the comments below.