Although the market is still young, Asus appears to have announced the world’s smallest Windows 10 computer at the IFA show here in Berlin.
The Asus Vivo Stick appears to be what Asus previously called the “Pen Stick,” a prototype that it showed off at the Computex show in Taiwan. Two things stand out: first, it is perhaps the first compute stick to use Intel’s latest Cherry Trail Atom processor, and second, it runs Windows 10.
Intel launched its own Compute Stick earlier this year, and the market frowned: it was somewhat laggardly, ran Windows 8, and was powered by the previous iteration of Atom, code-named Bay Trail. The Asus Vivo Stick jumps up to the next Atom iteration (dubbed Cherry Trail), runs Windows 10, and even costs less than what Intel offered: $129, versus $150.
Otherwise, the Vivo Stick appears to be somewhat comparable to the Compute Stick: it boasts 2GB of memory and 32GB of eMMC flash storage. But Asus has somehow squeezed both a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 connector onto it, plus a microUSB connector for power. There’s even an audio jack. Inside, Asus has included 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. And, of course, it’s all mounted on a dongle that plugs into your HDMI port (1.0? 2.0? Asus didn’t say) on your TV.
What isn’t clear, however, is whether Asus can or will be able to solve the fundamental problems that we identified earlier in our review of Intel’s Compute Stick, including a naturally narrow memory channel that will limit overall graphics performance. The 32GB of memory will also be eaten up partway by the Windows 10 installation, and the low amount of memory will preclude memory-intensive browsing across multiple tabs or other apps. On the other hand, including two USB connections means that you can connect a mouse and keyboard at launch, making the initial setup substantially easier.
Why this matters: You don’t buy a product like the Vivo Stick to play Battlefield: Hardline. You buy it to futz around with a PC on your TV, to take something like a Chromecast and put the entire Windows environment on top of it, or to have a portable Windows PC you can slip into your pocket. And if the price keeps shrinking while the performance consistently improves, more and more people will be picking them up.