Intel’s Compute Stick will from next week be available in a version pre-installed with Canonical’s Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the firms have announced. But should enthusiasts take this device seriously?
The new Compute Stick offers Ubuntu users a way to run the OS by hooking the device up to a TV set or computer monitor via an HDMI port, all for the budget price of $110 (probably £80), making it the cheapest computer on the market bar perhaps the Raspberry Pi and Imagination Technologies’ C120 Creator board.
For that the user gets a pretty basic specification, with Intel’s quad-core Atom z3735f chip running at up to 1.83Ghz (with integrated graphics), 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 8GB of eMMC internal storage and a microSD card slot for adding more.
Wi-Fi is used for networking up to 802.11n , backed up by Bluetooth, and there is one USB 2.0 slot, a power port and even a power button to turn it on. Cooling is through a tiny fan.
Some have pointed out that this specification is lower than for the Windows version of the Computer Stick which launched the platform back in January, which features double the RAM and 32GB of storage for $149.
Ubuntu doesn’t, of course, need as many resources as the bloated Windows 8.1, but it’s still shame that the RAM spec isn't the same -almost any OS needs 2GB of RAM to be happy these days, including Ubuntu 14.04.
“Consumers are looking for a more personal, flexible and cost-effective computing experience, and also looking for a choice of OS,” said Canonical Group CEO, Jane Silber.
“It’s great to see Ubuntu becomes part of the Compute Stick Family. This is another example of how we’re working with Intel to bring a wide range of devices to market to give as many people as possible the chance to discover Ubuntu.”
The bigger question is who this device is for. Canonical is promoting it as a cheap way for consumers to use their TV sets to stream media, play games and access email but most people would be better off investing money in a cheap Chromebook to do most of that.
More likely, firms already using Ubuntu in some capacity will give workers this kind of device to use at home but there are also plenty of cheap Ubuntu laptops that can do that more effectively.
As for Intel’s ambitions for the platform, that remains unclear. Add a bit more power to this type of device and it might have a future as a portable device but until then minor inconveniences such as having to plug it into the mains will outweigh the convenience of being able to boot up a computer.
Frankly, for $150 there are better options on the market.