Tech DeKoded — Stick PCs have muscled up

Intel Compute Stick Gen 2

Intel Compute Stick Gen 2From PCs that took up entire rooms to PCs the size of a bubblegum pack, computing has indeed shrunk a long way. And out of this shrinkage, an interesting category has emerged — the Stick PC. These are tiny devices that you plug straight into a TV, making them ideal for use as HTPCs or as ‘travel PCs’ you can toss in a bag and take along. Currently, you can buy Android-based sticks, or the Chrome OS toting Chromebit, or ones that bring Linux and Windows to the stick party.
But they all have a major weakness — while these compact devices are just fine for a bit of video streaming or browsing, they lack the muscle for multitasking and heavy-duty computing. After all, even the Windows ones come packed with a lowly Atom processor, a measly 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard space — that rapidly gets gobbled up by the OS, ongoing updates and patches, and the programs you install.
However, the good news is that the next wave is here, and the specs are looking great. At CES 2016, Intel demoed the follow-up to last year’s Compute Stick, which was generally panned for its average performance, flaky wireless and, yes, its bland and boxy looks. But Intel appears to have gone back to the drawing board, and even dragged along a product designer — the 2016 versions are curvy, shiny and do not look like something straight out of the Soviet era. And this time, they come in at least five models, instead of two.
Intel Compute Stick Gen 2The base versions packs in Cherry Trail Atom processors and upgraded WiFi/ Bluetooth modules, but continue with the 2GB/ 32GB RAM/storage config, The other two models, however, sport the latest Skylake Core M processors capable of outputting 4K@30Hz, while boasting of 4GB RAM plus 64GB internal storage. They also include a USB 3.0 port and the latest wireless chipset for AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2. As before, you can plug in a Micro SD card. Another interesting bit — the power adapter comes baked with two additional USB 3.0 ports. Finally, you have the option of buying a Compute Stick with Windows 10 pre-installed or one that comes without any OS — Linux buffs, rejoice! Price for the Cherry Trail model with Windows 10 is set at $159, while the top of the line Core M5 version will cost you $499.
Though this is just the beginning. We expect similar sticks will be outed by the likes of Asus, Dell and Lenovo in the coming months. Some may even beat the Intel offerings with slicker, more powerful alternatives at cheaper prices. We will, of course, update you when comparable alternatives pop up.