Create a Computer Lab on the Cheap with New Intel Compute Sticks

For a few thousand dollars, a school or district could stand up an entire lab.

Technology has a way of getting smaller as it gets better, and Intel has taken this idea to a new level with a device about the size of a thumb drive that can transform any high-definition monitor into a fully functioning computer.

The Compute Stick, which Intel unveiled early this year at the Computer Electronics Show and will make available this spring, is just 4 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. When you plug it into the HDMI port of any monitor, you get a computer powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F processor, which powers many Android tablets.

128GB

The storage capacity that the Computer Stick’s micro SD slot can support

SOURCE: Intel

Cost-Conscious Option

Intel believes this pocket-sized, plug-and-play device could be an attractive option for schools looking to add computing power on a budget.

Just plug the devices into a room of monitors and “you’ve got a lab full of PCs that are consuming a lot less power and are less noisy than traditional PCs,” says John Deatherage, Intel’s director of marketing for channel innovation and solutions.

Trevor Shaw, director of technology for the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey, says he’s intrigued by the concept, especially for creating a low-cost computer lab.

But he worries the Atom processor might limit the types of things that students can do with the Compute Stick. “If I had to supply every kid with a computing device on a shoestring budget, I might look at Chromebooks before I considered a device like this,” Shaw says.

A Little More, a Little Less

Intel has two versions of the device: The more robust stick runs Microsoft Windows 8.1; the less expensive one runs Linux Ubuntu. Both versions come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a USB port for adding a mouse and keyboard.

The Compute Stick also can be used to power digital signage, Deatherage says, and its portability makes it a draw for the roving student, who could take the device home and plug it into an HDTV to continue working on their files.

Mar 25 2015

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