Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC Review with Cherry Trail

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Intel Compute Stick Gets The Latest Intel Atom Processor – Cherry Trail

The Intel Compute Stick was introduced in April 2015 and received a luke warm welcome as the tiny HDMI computer stick certainly had a number of faults.  Most people need to keep in mind that the Intel Compete Stick was a first generation product and Intel was just testing the waters. At CES 2016 we learned that Intel was greatly expanding their Intel Compute sticks and announced three new Compute Stick models at the show. If you are an Ultra-Compact Form Factor ( UCFF ) lover, these new models might bring the additional features and performance that you’ve been waiting for if you were a bit underwhelmed by the original. The old Bay Trail powered Compute Stick that debuted in 2015 has been replaced by a more powerful Cherry Trail powered Compute Stick and two faster Core M models.

Intel will be shipping two versions of the new Compute Stick. The first version will be sold under part number STK1AW32SC and it will be running Microsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit) for around $159.99 when it launches later this month. The other is a version that comes without any operating system under part number STK1A32SC and is only available in 10-pack bundles. Intel explained to Legit Reviews that the version without an OS is intended for the commercial market and that the only way an average consumer could find one was if a retailer broke up a 10-pack and sold them individually.

  • Intel Compute Stick – STK1A32SC  Without Windows – Only available as a 10-pack for the commercial market
  • Intel Compute Stick – STK1AW32SC with Windows 10 Home 32-bit – $159.99 Plus Shipping

“Amazing meets affordable. The Intel Compute Stick is a tiny device the size of a pack of gum that can transform any HDMI TV or display into a complete computer. But it’s what’s inside that’s really incredible: a quad-core Intel Atom processor that gives you balanced performance for work or play. The Intel Compute Stick delivers an affordable plug-and-play PC in a device that fits in the palm of your hand.” – Intel

Intel Compute Stick ppstk1aw32sc

Intel sent Legit Reviews an early pre-production sample of the Intel Compute Stick with Windows 10 to test out. The part number on this model is STK1AW32SC and this PC on a stick comes with an Intel Atom quad-core ‘Cherry Trail’ processor x5-Z8300, 2 GB of DDR3L memory, 32 GB of on board storage, a micro SD card slot (with support for up to 128 GB of additional storage), 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB ports and Windows 10 Home 32-bit.

Intel Compute Stick Specifications – STK1AW32SC – Windows 10 Home

  • PROCESSOR: Intel Atom Processor x5-Z8300 Quad-Core (2 MB Cache, 1.44 GHz base, 1.84 GHz burst)
  • GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics (HDMI 1.4b output)
  • MEMORY: 2 GB Single Channel DDR3L-RS 1600MHz @ 1.35V
  • DISK DRIVE: SanDisk 32 GB eMMC built-in for primary storage
  • STORAGE EXPANSION: microSDXC v3.0 Card Slot w/ UHS-I Support
  • CONNECTIVITY:  dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0
  • AUDIO: Intel HD Audio via HDMI, Supporting Multi-Channel Digital Audio
  • OPERATING SYSTEM: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 32-bit x86
  • POWER: 5V, 3A Wall-Mount AC-DC Power Adapter to micro-USB Power Port
  • DIMENSIONS: 113mm x 38mm x 12mm

Intel Compute Stick Bundle

Inside the packing we discovered the Intel Compute Stick, AC-DC power adapter that has a 6-foot long cable on it, instructions and an optional an HDMI extension cable to ensure the best compatibility with the thousands of  different HDTVs and PC monitors out there. It should also be noted that the AC-DC power adapter has a 6-foot long cable on it, which is longer than the original model to ensure that it will be long enough to make it to the power outlet on most large TV sets.

Intel Compute Sticks

The original Intel Compute Stick (left) measures 103 x 37 x 12 mm (LxWxH) and the new Intel Compute Stick (right) is 113mm x 38mm x 12mm. It hasn’t gotten any thicker, but it has gotten longer and wider. The housing has more matte finishing touches on it and the fan grill holes look precision cut this time around. The slightly larger size on this years Intel Atom Cherry Trail model doesn’t really bother us much as this PC-On-A-Stick will likely be plugged into a side of a TV and won’t be seen.

Intel STK1AW32SC Side

One of the big problems of the original Compute Stick was the lack of USB ports on the device. One USB 2.0 port just wasn’t enough and most household don’t own Bluetooth peripherals, so there was a fairly substantial cost that was needed after the initial purchase to get a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse ordered in. This time around Intel made the enclosure larger in order to be able to add a second full sized USB port. The Intel STK1AW32SC Compute Stick has a USB 3.0 port and USB 2.0 port for your devices and then uses a micro-USB port for power. We still highly recommend taking advantage of the Bluetooth 4.0 support to free up one or both USB ports.

intel compute- stick x5 Z8300

The Intel Atom x5-Z8300 Processor has a Scenario Design Power (SDP) of just 2W

Intel Compute Stick STK1AW32SC microSD Slot

On the other side you have the microSD UHS-I card slot and that is it other the the ventilation holes that are on either side of the black plastic housing. Let’s take a look inside the Intel Compute Stick!

Intel Compute Stick Inside

Intel has managed to pack a good number components inside this miniature computer along with a decently sized heatsink and the smallest fan that we have ever seen in a PC!

sunon ub5u3

Intel went with a SUNON UB5U3-524 fan that is 30mm square with a thickness of just 3mm. This fan puts out around 0.630 CFM of airflow and only kicks in when a certain temperature threshold is reached. Despite the blower fans extremely small size it has a noise rating of just 39.2 dB and you can barely hear it a few feet away in a fairly quite home environment.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what the Intel Compute Stick is and what makes it tick we can get to the performance testing that you’ve been waiting so diligently for.

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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…

    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 – I’m not sure how easy it is to buy a replacement Sunon Mighty Mini Blower fan, but it is likely possible.