Computing with a Stick!
You can carry the PC hardware and software in your pocket. But is it worth it?
 
Computing is becoming truly mobile. Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, has come up with a device so small that it fits in your pocket, but can turn any monitor or TV with high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port into a smart computing device. Intel’s Compute Stick with Windows 8.1 is available in India on Flipkart at Rs9,999. Another version may cost a little less (it was not available in India when I was writing this piece). While, as a concept, the Compute Stick definitely looks promising, the question is: Can it be a game-changer, especially for a country like India? Remember, India is a country obsessed with low-cost mobiles and hungry for more power (processor with higher speeds and big random access memory or RAMs).
 
The Intel Stick is powered by Intel Atom processor with integrated graphics, 2GB of RAM, 32GB inbuilt storage and micro secure digital (SD) slot for expandable memory. It has a universal serial bus (USB) 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 and connects to a TV or monitor through an HDMI port. The device also has a mini USB that is used for power. The Stick with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS has 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory. Since the Stick does not have a battery, you need to keep it powered either through the charger or through a power bank. Don’t worry, it consumes very little power. 
 
According to Intel, the Compute Stick can transform any HDMI TV, or a monitor, into a full computer, allowing you to search the web, share your vacation photos, keep up on your email or do any of the tasks that you do on your computer today. All you need is a wireless keyboard and mouse, and you are set. As per reviews from major tech portals, this device is only good for basic computing. “You can run a real browser, install plug-ins, and stream 1080p video from any source. You can run Office just fine and even Photoshop at a pinch. Generally, you won’t notice its limitations, but with 2GB of RAM, you won’t want to multi-task too heavily or at all,” a review in PC World says. 
 
One hurdle is requirement of a wireless keyboard and mouse, combo preferred. At best, the Stick can be used to turn your old TV or monitor into a ‘smart’ device, the reviews say.
 
In India, most of us still use wired keyboards and mouse. Therefore, you have no option but to carry your wireless keyboards and mouse combo. Since the Stick has just one USB port, you must have a combo for keyboard and mouse, else you can use only either of them. 
 
Another issue specific to India is the availability of HDMI port in old TV or monitors. Some of the old TVs have RCA connectors, while old monitors came with digital video interface (DVI) or video graphics array (VGA) ports. This means that you need to buy an adaptor with HDMI port and then use the Compute Stick. Most users are not that adventurous and, thus, would turn away from using old TV or monitor with the Stick. On the other hand, the majority of the latest TVs (read LCDs/LEDs) are being sold as ‘smart TVs’ do have some other basic functionality to browse the web and watch videos or view images. 
 
Apart from Intel, there are several others who are selling similar devices. Unfortunately, not many are available in India. There are a few devices—either available or upcoming—like iView Cyber PC Compute Stick, Tronsmart Mk908II, Lenovo Ideacentre Stick 300, Archos Stock PC, iBall Splendo PC-on-a-stick (Rs8,999) and Asus Chromebit. All of them can be bought for less than Rs10,000. Additionally, since most manufacturers take advantage of Windows with Bling from Microsoft, you will find this OS on many of the Sticks. Very few feature Android and Linux, though.
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