- It's a small, low-cost, low-power PC
- Acceptable performance
- Full-sized USB and microSD card slot
- Bluetooth performance skittish
- With small size come hardware limitations
- Form factor necessitates accessories (keyboard and mouse)
The Quantum Access Windows 8.1 Mini PC Intel Stick works as advertised, and rivals any low-priced Windows or Android device in terms of performance. Its inherit limitations negatively affect its utility for most users, however.
What is this odd HDMI dongle? It looks like a Chromecast prototype with an old-school antenna. It has a full-sized USB input, and microSD card slot. This can’t be a PC, can it?
It is, and it’s part of a new breed of low-cost Windows devices. Intel calls it a Compute Stick. Lenovo names it the Ideacentre Stick 300. Archos just announced a PC Stick, while Quantum Suppliers, makers of the dongle pictured here, dubs it the Quantum Access Windows 8.1 Mini PC Intel Stick.
For $130, this is a full-on, Atom-powered, Windows PC that’s little bigger than a pack of gum. Can this possibly be a viable product?
Build & Design
There’s no better way to describe it. The Mini PC Intel Stick looks like a Chomecast or Roku Streaming Stick prototype thanks to its bulkier build and antenna. Keep in mind that “bulkier” is a relative term here, as the Mini PC Intel Stick only measures 4.33 x 1.53 x 0.47 inches (hwd) and weighs .4 pounds. It has a plastic build with an unpleasant texture on the sides, and it feels like a budget device that could easily be snapped, especially the antenna, which easily comes out of the socket.
That said, it’s small and light enough to travel well, and it handles the “wear and tear” of being plugged into the back of a monitor just fine. There’s no real need for a rugged Mini PC.
Despite its size, the Mini PC Intel Stick has a full complement of ports and inputs. A power button, power input, and full-sized USB 2.0 port rest on one side, while the other side houses the antenna, microUSB port, and microSD card reader. A small indicator light resides on the back edge, while the male part of an HDMI jack juts out of the other end.
The ports and inputs are absolutely necessary, especially during the initial power up, which required a wired mouse and keyboard (we could not get any Bluetooth keyboards or mice connected before going through the Windows setup process). This also required a USB splitter, which unfortunately made for an awkward setup, exacerbated by the fact that we plugged it into the back of a large and crowded HDTV. Once set up, we were able to rely on a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse exclusively.
As mentioned, the Quantum Access Windows 8.1 Mini PC Intel Stick needs power. It doesn’t have a battery that can hold a charge. We were able to power it through the USB port on various HDTVs, though any mildly intensive task overwhelmed the stick and shut it down. The Halo: Spartan Assault Windows game from 2013 was a frequent offender. Plugging it into the wall with the included adapter kept it up and running otherwise.
All of this betrays the Stick’s portability promise. After all, it’s not like you can just carry the Mini PC Intel Stick wherever you travel. You also need the power cord, a keyboard, mouse, and perhaps a USB hub or micro-to-full USB adapter.