The idea of a computer with the size of the usual USB flash storage stick is appealing to a lot of people, so Intel delivered and created the Compute Stick, a device that can instantly turn a monitor or TV into a computer through an HDMI connection.

While the concept was spot on, it had a couple of limitations that more or less makes it almost useless – spotty Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and a slow, unbearable processor. This time around, Intel showcased the new Compute Stick lineup that houses the latest Skylake processors at CES 2016, removing said restrictions.

"Building on the success of the Intel Compute Stick introduced last year, at CES 2016 Intel unveiled new Compute Sticks based on 6th Gen Intel Core M and the latest quad-core Intel Atom processors," Intel says.

Specifications

First off, Intel also pitched in an improved entry-level Compute Stick that features the Atom x5-Z8300, 2 GB worth of RAM, 32 GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port.

The two variants have sixth-generation chips, where one has the Core M3-6Y30 and the M5-6Y57 for the other. They both offer 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. That's almost the same specs as extra portable laptops.

What's more, the power adapters that come with the Core M models have two extra USB 3.0 ports.

The entry-level and M3 models run on Windows 10, whereas the M5 one comes with Intel's vPro technology minus an operating system.

As for the cooling systems, they each sport a tiny fan. Apparently, a passively cooled Compute Stick is out of the question – for now, at least.

The additional USB ports probably caught the eyes of the owners of the original Compute Stick. It can finally function like a real computer even without a USB hub.

The problem before was that the first-generation Compute Stick used only a single chip for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and came with just one USB port. The only logical but unreasonable solution to connect either a wireless mouse or keyboard to the device was to disable Wi-Fi, which is definitely not going to happen when it's used for work or whatnot. Obviously, one USB port can't exactly accommodate a combo of the two peripherals.

Now, it looks like Intel heard what the people had to say and crammed in a ton of ports.

Design

A quick word about the design – it seems to be made out of matte plastic for the most part and has rounded corners, making it a lot sleeker compared to the original clunky-looking version.

Functions

4K Streaming

With a compatible TV or monitor, the Core M models can deliver 4K videos at 30Hz, according to Intel. What that entails is providing steady 4K streaming, which is pretty much a convenient version of what the Apple TV and other similar devices offer.

Business

Running like any other functional computers, the Compute Stick can load up applications such as PowerPoint programs. That means it can open business presentations anywhere as long as there's a TV, monitor or projector with an HDMI port.

More to the point, it supports cloud-based functions, allowing users to access their files practically anywhere. In other words, they can work from home or at a coffee shop with everything they need.

As mentioned earlier, the M5 has Intel's vPro technology, so it can keep data, user identities and network access secure, making it the better model for business.

Gaming

The updated Compute Sticks have better capacities to run games. On top of that, they have improved Bluetooth versions which wireless gamepads can work well with. Just don't expect them to run demanding games such as Fallout 4 at 60 fps. Think somewhere along the lines of Angry Birds.

Pricing And Availability

The Atom Compute Stick is priced at $159, the M3 at $399 and the M5 at $499. Yes, the prices for the high-end models were raised quite a bit, but that comes as no surprise considering the specs.

The low-cost version is already in production, whereas the other two are scheduled for February 2016.

The Compute Stick has done a respectable job in providing function, but it's definitely more focused on logistics. Nevertheless, a fully working computer roughly as large as two fingers will remain as an interesting innovation for quite a long time.

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