Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC Review with Cherry Trail

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Intel Compute Stick General Performance

3dmark

In 3DMark Ice Storm the new Intel Cherry Trail powered Compute Stick scored a rather impressive 15,123 points and was rated at 76.2 FPS on Graphics Test 1. The overall score in 3DMark Ice Storm is up by 65%, so there is a huge performance gain to be had from the new Compute Stick thanks to the boost improved GPU performance. The original Intel Compute Stick scored 9,183 points overall in the same benchmark test and was rated at 41.3 FPS in Graphics Test 1 to give you an idea of the hard numbers. The Physics test went from 28.9 FPS to 39.4 FPS, so even on the CPU side of things there are nice gains seen on the new SoC. Since the Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Quad-Core Processor did so well in the standard Ice Storm benchmark test we also ran Ice Storm Extreme and Cloud Gate. The new Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC scores 10,907 in Ice Storm Extreme and 1,402 in Cloud Gate.

7zip

The benchmark built-in 7-zip showed that Intel ‘Cherry Trail’ Compute Stick had a total MIPS rating of 4,172 versus a score of 3,479 on the original version.

truecrypt

In TrueCrypt 7.1a the Intel PPSTK1AW32SC had a mean score of 452 MB/s in the AES benchmark. The Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Cherry Trail processor has AES-NI support, so it has decent performance for a processor of this power level.

aida64

The AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchmark shows 7240 MB/s read and 8082 MB/s write speeds with the memory have a latency of 129.8ns. AIDA64 shows the 2GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory is running at 11-11-11-28 timings with a command rate of 2T by default.

memory

A quick look at the memory performance showed we are getting 5.56 GB/s of bandwidth on the 2GB single channel DDR3L 1600MHz embedded memory solution. This is up from 5 GB/s of memory bandwith on the original Thumb Stick that had slower 1333MHz memory.

processor

In Sandra Processor Arithmetic the aggregate native performance score was 12.77 GOPS.

multimedia

The Sandra Processor Multi-Media aggregate performance score was 16..88 MPix/s.

sunspider

We ran the SunSpider 1.0.2 JavaScript Benchmark on Google Chrome 42 and received a score of 838.5 ms.

bootracer

The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 5.0 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 10 Home 32-bit. We found that it takes 15 seconds to get to the welcome dialog and another 21 seconds everything ready on the desktop! This meant our total boot time was right around 36 seconds.

Video Playback

Since the Intel Compute Stick with the Cherry Trail SoC will more than likely be attached to a TV we took a look at a number of video types on the device to see how it would perform as a HTPC as many people might be looking into buying the version without the OS to install Kodi. We took a quick look at DXVA checker and found that the Cherry Trail SoC offers hardware acceleration for MPEG-2, VC1, H.264, HEVC and VP9. When it comes to audio bitstreaming the device supports DTS, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus.

dxva checker

The Intel Compute Stick has the basic Intel HD Graphics and lacks support for technologies like Intel QuickSync (hardware accelerated decode and encode) and Intel Clear Video HD (hardware accelerated decode). We were really curious how video playback be handled, so we ran a few tests at 1080P and 2160P to ensure there were no Full HD issues to be had.

youtube 1080p

In the screenshot above we played 1080P music video on YouTube and found that we were using up about 60% of the available processing power once the video was cached. It played smooth and our system had no issues with online HD video unless we were multitasking and then you’d drop frames and run into caching issues.

youtube 4k

We tried a random 4K music video on YouTube and found that it used 100% of the CPU and it was unplayable due to all the stutters.

bbb-details

We also downloaded Media Player Classic – Home Cinema along with the Big Buck Bunny, Sunflower 2160p, 30 FPS clip and found that while the Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC supports 4K resolutions it is not able to play clips.  In just over 70 seconds of 4K video playback we had 41 dropped frames, an average sync offset of -532ms and were getting just 17.39 FPS on the 30 FPS clip.

hwinfo

It should be noted that we tested our device with UEFI version 18 that came out on January 7th, 2016 along with Windows 10 Threshold 2 (Build 10586) and Intel HD Graphics Driver 20.19.15.4331. We’ve seen higher scores from this Compute Stick model on other sites, but they were done using UEFI Version 16 and an older version of Windows 10. Our system was fully up to date on January 19th, 2016 when this article was published!

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  • Bobby Kinstle

    I bought this model of compute stick to put my AcuRite weather station online and it’s absolutely the bomb for low power server, IOT, and automation gateway applications. The tiny size and low power make it perfect here as many of the applications above only support windows natively and require a bunch of work to get working on a linux platform. You can pick them up around $100 on ebay, still new in the box. I also had the problem of wifi getting disabled after the five hour long initial update process concluded, but after a reboot I could enable the wifi network adapter and it worked fine since then.

  • CyberGusa

    Uh, Intel ATOM GMAs have supported QuickSync since Bay Trail… Here’s a link for a detailed brief on the x5-Z8300…

    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/embedded/products/braswell/atom-x5-processor-z8300-product-brief.html

    Intel just doesn’t always list everything anymore in their general listings but things like QuickSync are practically standard now even on Celeron/Pentium models that previously excluded them…

    The only thing is the encoding hardware acceleration is usually limited, except for phone SoCs, but decoding is pretty much standard now…

  • kyone

    Microsoft also needs to recognise these type of devices with only 32G drive space and allow for half of the operating system to be installed on the microSD card. I would be certain that half of the files (probably many more) would not be needed for high speed instant access.

    With my stick I map all of the “doc”, “pic”, “downloads” etc folders to the SD card. Saves space and more importantly if the system dies you still have access to your very important files. And its great when doing a clean install of an operating system.

    • basroil

      Microsoft has been one step ahead of you for a few years now! What they allow on certain systems is WIM booting, where they compress the entire OS image back down to ~4GB (even for 64bit) for use in systems with disk sizes as small as 8GB. If you don’t know how to use all the (pretty awesome) features of the OS it’s your own fault, they have plenty of documents on how to manage WIM images on technet/msdn

      • kyone

        From the first article I read about it
        “Microsoft does offer a guide to creating WIMBoot images, but it’s not intended for the average Windows geek. Besides, if you already have a Windows PC — even one with a small 64 GB of storage — you’re probably better off not using WIMBoot. Using WIMBoot will just slow down your PC, even if you go through the trouble of setting it up properly. Sure, you could theoretically get some additional space — but it probably isn’t worth the cost.”

        As I said they should factor in stick computers having a microSD card and allow for a large portion of the file systems to reside there, uncompressed !!

        • basroil

          It’s called compromise, use WIM, gain space, lose CPU performance for some functions; use SD (not possible, but if it was), gain space, lose a ton of disk performance and slow access (250us minimum latency); just use the SD for programs and data and deal with a tiny SSD space. Right now WIM is actually pretty great for the purpose of compact installs that this very device benefits from

        • kyone

          Stick computers, currently, don’t have any processing power to compromise.. so keep 50% on the eMMC that is CPU sensitive and the non critical ones on the SD card. WIM is ok but I think, im not sure, that my way would be better.

          Doesn’t really matter.. I’m sure in about 6 months from now 64G will become the standard and CPU will be faster.

        • basroil

          1) You CANNOT install to SD (even WindowsToGo), and Windows (and in fact most OSes) can never be installed on two volumes. No sense considering it.
          2) The point is that you do have to compromise one way or the other. Do you think writing to SD is cheap? (computationally)

          3) These sticks are meant to be used in single tasks, not as general computers. That also means that Windows will be mostly just what’s loaded in memory, so WIM or not there’s little disk access. Why do something complicated when at most you might have a 5% performance increase?

  • timoric

    Sounds like it is still isn’t quite powerful enough. I think 4K video playback is a must for these to be really cool. Believe upping to 4gb of Ram and a better processor will do that. If you have a 4K TV you should get 4K video playback.

  • Ken McIntosh

    OK, it looks like there is a single screw holding the unit together at one end and hinged tabs at the other. Thank you for notating what model fan they are using. Is the fan replaceable? I went out to the SUNON site, but cannot find that part. Small fans are notorious for having sort life spans. That is why I ask.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Correct, there is one Philips screw that is under a rubber pad and then you need a ultra-thin pry tool to pop the clips along the seam. Here is a link to the Sunon product catalog that has a similar UB5U3 fan listed – http://bit.ly/1JYLJxw I’m not sure how easy it is to buy a replacement Sunon Mighty Mini Blower fan, but it is likely possible.