The Intel Compute Stick is a tiny PC that plugs directly into the HDMI port on your TV or monitor. A model with Windows software launched earlier this year for $150. Now you can buy a model with Ubuntu Linux for $100.

It’s available in the United States from Best Buy, Micro Center and Newegg.

intel compute stick

The tiny computer features an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core Bay Trail processor, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, a microSD card reader, a full-sized USB 2.0 port, and a micro USB port which is used as a power jack.

The Linux model comes with Ubuntu 14.04.2 LTS 64-bit software pre-installed.

While the Windows model has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, the Linux version has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage (with less than 1GB of free space for files, software, and other data).

Want to run Ubuntu on the more expensive version? You can install it yourself. We have step-by-step instructions for doing that.

But if you want to save $50, don’t need the extra storage and memory, and/or don’t want to pay for a Windows license you’ll never use, it’s nice to have that option.

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28 replies on “Intel Compute Stick with Ubuntu launches for $100”

  1. Does this device and OS have GPU accelerated fully working? The ‘older’ chinese HDMI sticks with Linux never got this to work because of the MALI based GPUS…

  2. Seeing that there is no “Windows tax” since Windows 8 with Bing is free then no one can complain if a 2 GB RAM version with Ubuntu costs the same as the Windows one.

    Also, there are no technical reasons for justifying crappier specs for running Ubuntu. It’s not like it’s preloaded with Lubuntu, Chrome OS or just a command line only Linux distro. Just running the base OS plus a web browser with the typical tabs people would could go over that 1 GB of RAM.

    Anyway, the crappy Realtek WiFi is enough to make me stay away from this, no matter if I’m using Windows or Linux.

    1. No technical reasons, perhaps, but maybe Intel just does see enough demand for high end Linux versions.

  3. So, what if I want to install a Linux distro myself on this? What’s the driver situation for the WiFi chip?

  4. I feel that the people who’d actually buy PC sticks are the people who’d want to run Linux on them. Most others will get a Roku or similar, tablet or notebook.

    Making a neutered version is not the solution to solve the supposed “Windows tax” perception, which people who won’t even be buying this (Linux version or otherwise) spout. Linux desktop distros use much more resources now and Windows is less bloated compared to previous versions. So unless you’re running a server distro on it, there aren’t many technical reasons for the spec differences.

    Anyway, I don’t see much consumers buying the Windows version. I also don’t see much enthusiasts buying the crippled Linux version nor jumping through hoops installing a Linux distro on the Windows version.

    1. Lol this is why I bought my cheap lil tablet .. Why do people bother with this nonsense when you get a full tablet for way less

      1. Because the want a small simple device that plugs into their TV and doesn’t spy on them? (But doesn’t Ubuntu spy on you now too?)

    2. These are singing pigs, dancing bears, etc. and not intended as practical devices. They are meant to sit in the junk drawer next to your ChromeCast after 15 minutes of play and don’t need a serious use case.

  5. I’m happy to see they went with the current LTS version for Ubuntu. I just wish they made it available with the better hardware. Why do manufacturers continue to put Linux only on devices with the minimum specs?

    1. Linux is supposed to be leaner and meaner than Windows, right? Maybe it’s a victim of its own marketing success?

      1. Not really, people just expect devices sold with a Linux OS to be cheaper than those sold with Windows… The so called Windows tax as they call it, but many of these devices are being given highly discounted licenses and thus the price difference is minimal…

        While GNU/Linux typically runs fine with less resource requirements than Windows, traditionally, and these devices are configured for minimum requirements of the OS… Mind, Windows has to deal with updates, etc that can quickly eat up free space and means that 32GB is treated much like Ubuntu treats the 8GB… In both cases you really need more to comfortably be able to install apps, store files, etc.

        There’s also a much smaller consumer market for Linux devices, unlike the embedded and server markets the general PC consumer market for Linux users is less than 5% of the market… So it’s not unusual to try to get the lowest possible price to help them sell…

        Besides, Linux is usually much more flexible with storage and makes using the microSD a good compensation versus Windows that forces users to install Windows Metro/Modern apps on the C: drive and won’t give that kind of flexibility until Windows 10 comes out…

        You can even run whatever distro you want from the microSD and not rely on the internal drive space with GNU/Linux as it’s far less picky on where you keep its files than Windows and typical Linux users usually have the skills to easily customize their distro…

        Mind, these are also niche products and neither the Windows or Linux versions are intended to fully replace traditional PCs… thus they target those who want to either experiment or just want a cheap secondary device for minimal usages…

        1. Yep. If the Linux market for this type of device was as big as the Windows market, this wouldn’t be an issue.

          1. This is a new market for most people. We don’t know what the Linux market is for a PC like this priced at less than say $300. In this price range, people considering starting with Linux might appreciate having the same hardware as that provided for other operating systems. There is really no good reason to assume the contrary. Someone simply decided (or agreed) to give the Microsoft option the advantage of better hardware.

            And btw, the fact that this is a niche experimental product weighs in favor of the argument that the Linux market for this sort of device is apt to be larger that the market for a version with Microsoft. People using Linux already are likely to be more prone to experimenting with new devices and many people considering trying Linux would probably not be sensitive to the $50 price difference between the OS options.

        2. I’m sorry. Your piece reads a lot like justification to make it sound palatable that the hardware on the Linux version is yet again severely crippled in comparison to the Windows version.

          Intel had to rig up a second production line for the lesser version. They could have used one type of hardware and load less numbers with Ubuntu. That would probably have been cheaper overall. Paying $ 150 for decent hardware is something Linux users will do. The toy version for $ 100 is an insult.

          I was interested until I saw the meaningless differentiation in hardware and Linux playing second fiddle again. This echoes of the netbook debacle. I’m not going to buy the Windows version and load up Linux. I refuse to be counted yet again as a Windows sale when I don’t want Windows one way or the other. I won’t be relegated to bare minimal hardware either. Intel just lost a sale.

          The first Chinese manufacturer, who lines up a comparable stick with a 64 bit, standard UEFI and Linux friendly hardware, gets my money.

          1. You just read my mind!!
            I just want to add that I find despicable that a manufacturer like Intel, would rather incur the extra hassle/cost of setting up another line of production instead of just using one. Possible explanations? Someone doesn’t want to show the difference in price given the same hardware and just differing in OS (call it Windows tax or whatever). Another explanation could be that someone is interested in showing a bigger number of units sold with its OS.
            Still, sucks to be treated as a second class without a solid logic; I guess that’s just the imperfections of the free market.

          2. I’m wasn’t trying to justify anything… just pointing out some of the facts and how the hardware actually compares for its intended purpose…

            Like it or not Windows simply has higher system requirements than most Linux distros and the end result is the 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage is just as limiting to the Windows user as 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage is to the a GNU/Linux user… Ubuntu is just one of the larger distros but you could always replace it with a much lighter one…

            Really, your complaints are no more justified than the Windows users who complain that anything less than 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, in 2015, is insulting and worthless…

            Neither of these devices are getting as much RAM and storage as each respective user base wants because again they are niche devices to begin with and cater to the lowest price point for each…

            While market realities have been what they are for well over a decade and they’re not going to change any time soon, no matter how much you may complain!

            Sure, some users like you may be willing to pay a bit more for hardware but you don’t want to compromise on things like what OS may come pre-installed and thus limit your own options among already limited options…

            But most other Linux users simply aren’t willing to pay a premium and anything close to the same cost as a Windows device is usually automatically assumed to be price gouging and doesn’t sell!

            A clear problem when Windows can be sold on mobile SoCs for either a very low discounted price or even free… Leaving very little room to leverage the pricing enough to convince most buyers…

            The reality is such devices as these PC sticks caters to the actual market trends and what it actually takes to sell devices in a low demand niche market are usually the ones that are the lowest priced… Meaning, unless the majority of consumers change their buying habits then this won’t change!

            Besides, mini PCs that aren’t that much bigger than these PC Sticks are available in bare bone configurations that let you configure it anyway you want and would provide you much more performance…

            Things like the eMMC will suck in performance regardless of capacity compared to a real SSD, for example… Even a Braswell or Bay Trail M/D SoC are far more flexible with SATA support for connecting either M2 or 2.5″ SSD drives… full 64bit support, Proper sized ports, etc. and they can still be mounted behind monitors/TVs…

            These Stick PC’s are really just for a very small user type that either wants to experiment or just want a convenient secondary PC they can pull out of their pocket in a moments notice…

          3. It’s running Ubuntu. Adequate specs are pretty much the same as Windows 8.

          4. Not really, unless you go back to XP Windows minimum spec requirements are still much higher than even Ubuntu, which is one of the much heavier Linux distros.

            Like I said, even compressed you could never fit W8 on a 8GB drive and expect it to be usable for the average user.

            It’s also about the apps because traditional Windows desktop apps aren’t that efficient either but you can find many Linux apps that are very light and easy to run.

            Even Windows 10, which will be the lightest and most efficient version of Windows in over a decade, will still not be able to be compressed into a drive much smaller than 10GB, though, Metro/Modern and Universal Apps may be usable with only 1GB of RAM but the selection for Windows is still very limited without resorting to using more traditional desktop apps.

            While Linux is usually far more flexible and that means you can not only customize but put just about any file anywhere you want. So the Linux install can make far better usage of the microSD option as compensation and even run the entire OS from the microSD instead of the eMMC but you can’t do that with Windows!

          1. Don’t worry, I know what a ellipsis is… but you don’t know everything I try to state :-p

            Besides, you can also extend a sentence with three dots!

          2. I disagree, as I said it’s not just used to show missing text, but also to extend a sentence. Also, when placed at the beginning or end of a sentence, the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy or longing, as well as indicate there is more left unsaid…

            Not to mention it is often interchangeable to use it with a (—).

        3. “Not really, people just expect devices sold with a Linux OS to be cheaper than those sold with Windows… The so called Windows tax as they
          call it, but many of these devices are being given highly discounted licenses and thus the price difference is minimal…”

          Still a highly discounted license is more than a zero cost license.

          1. Sure, but something less than $15 is usually automatically considered price gouging because many over estimate the Windows tax and most don’t understand what costs, regardless of OS, the vendor has to deal with…

            Regardless, more significantly to this discussion is that there are price ranges that trigger what is often called impulse buys that the vendors try to target and the $99/$100 is one of those trigger points…

            This is also why you see so many devices often reach similar price ranges but often seem to have strange compromises on the specs that vary for each device because the companies are finding different ways to reach those price range trigger points…

            It also doesn’t help that most people don’t have a clue what the actual costs are for making these devices and are similarly clueless about how certain parts are heavily leveraged by the industry to handle the profit margins the hardware companies rely on to make sufficient profit even has they cut costs on just about everything else…

            Namely RAM and especially storage are heavily used in the mobile market to leverage profit margins… Like charging $30-$50 for a doubling of storage from 16-32 GB when it actually costs them around $8-$9…

            While despite this being marketed as a PC device… It’s still using mobile parts!

            So it’s using the same RAM and eMMC storage as mobile devices use and thus fall into those pricing schemes… Mind, Intel doesn’t make all the parts that go into these devices… So they also have to cater to the going rate for these parts…

            Making it pretty hard to get to certain price points without compromises… and it doesn’t help that Intel can’t use their subsidizing on a non-tablet device…

        4. The Windows version comes with the FREE Bing version…

          The price of a same specced Linux version is expected to be the same.

    1. Because LTS is better for mainstream consumers that don’t want to suffer potential cutting edge version bugs.

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