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JN_ye
Beginner
2,147 Views

Will a compute stick work for me

My main goal is to rip and store my cd collection using an external storage device and a stand-alone optical drive. I intend to use a compute stick to run the system. I have very limited computer knowledge. Will this work, will this give me lossles cd quality playback? Will this give me quick and easy access to my music files? If so, any specific recommendations on storage( 1or 2 tb ) or reader devices? There are audio devices for this purpose but at three times the cost, so am I sacrificing anything by taking this route instead? Any feedback or suggestions are much appreciated. Thank you

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25 Replies
n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

Which Compute Stick? Model Number, please.

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Due to my very limited knowledge, this is just a rough plan. There are four sticks listed on this site. Only two come preloaded with Windows. I assume one of these would be my better option since I have used windows in the past but never installed it. Unless of course there is some advantage I am unaware of to using a system other than windows. The processor seems to be the main difference between the two windows sticks. Is the atom sufficient for my use? Or, will I be frustrated in the long run unless I get the core? Sorry to be so vague but I am new to this stuff. I am equally unsure of the specifics on the storage and drive devices so any advice or tips are welcome on any of this. Thanks again

Leon_Merts
New Contributor II
430 Views

Hi Joeporch,

If you never installed a Windows before, my advise is to go with one of the two models that come with windows 10.

To see the differences between the two models look here: https://ark.intel.com/compare/91980,91065 Intel® Product Specification Comparison

Main differences are:

Atom - Windows 10 32 bit <--> Core m Windows 10 64 bit

Atom 1 USB port <--> Core m 3 USB ports (two are located in the power supply

Atom 32 GB internal disk space <--> Core m 64 GB internal disk space (Both minus the space used by the Windows installation)

Atom 2 GB RAM 12.8 GB/s <--> Core m 4 GB RAM 29.8 GB/s

Atom Max FullHD via HDMI <--> Core m 4K Display support

Atom 1 Yr warranty <--> Core m 3 Yr warranty

Both sticks have a MicroSD slot that can handle at least 256 GB (2 TB max I think) and if you want more storage, USB and network drives are an option.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Leon Merts

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Thank you for the tip but I am way ahead of you. I tried to do the research and check the specs before posting on various forums. My problem is that I don't speak the language. To me it looks like this stuff is written in Martian. Even tried to take it one step further and look up the meanings but the definitions are always given in further Martian. My hope is that someone can give me more direct advice...using plain English ( and words without too many syllables ). Feel free to comment as if you were speaking to a dummy. This dummy won't be offended . In those rare cases where I do have some understanding of the specs, I still don't understand how they apply to my specific situation. If anyone can help, you will be proving that it is in fact possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Again, thanks in advance.

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

If all you want to do is rip your CDs and manage their storage on a secondary drive, the Atom x5-Z8300 processor has plenty of compute power to support this. The issue is going to be that this model only has two USB ports (one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0) and you are going to need at least three. Since you will want the USB 3.0 port for connecting your portable hard drive, you will need a powered USB 2.0 hub to connect the portable CD/DVD drive as well as your keyboard and mouse. Alternatively - and slightly better - you could use the USB 2.0 port for your keyboard and mouse and use a powered USB 3.0 hub to connect both the hard drive and the CD/DVD drive.

On CDs, music is stored in a PCM-encoded form with a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. You can read audio tracks and store them in .WAV files at this same sampling rate (i.e. completely lossless). You can then compress these files using any of a number of varying lossy/lossless formats, depending upon how much disk space you want to save.

Many companies make and sell portable hard drives. In a quick check of Amazon, both Western Digital (WD) and Seagate offer hassle-free 1, 2, 3 and 4 TB (terabyte) portable USB 3.0 hard drives and all are priced below US$100. A terabyte hard drive can store approximately 200,000 songs or 17,000 hours of music.

Similarly, many companies make external CD and DVD drives. You only need USB 2.0 speeds for reading from these drives, but it would be better to go with USB 3.0 if you want an ability to play video files.

I think that covers it. I dumbed this down as much as I could. If you have any further questions, just let us know...

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Thank you Mr. Pearson!! Your very first sentence answers my main question perfectly! Of course all the rest was good information too and is appreciated even though I was already aware of all that. So the question of the stick is settled. As for the optical drive I think I know enough to make the right choice. Which brings me to one last question. As I understand it, an external hard drive can be either spinning disc or solid-state. I read that the solid-state is much faster. It is also two to three times the price. When used for music files, will this extra speed be significant/noticeable and worth spending the extra $$ ? Or is SS likely to be good enough? As always, thanks for the tips.

ps. Thanks for the down dumbing...:)...I actually understood every word ( for a change )...even the big ones!

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

Well, extra speed is always welcome, but it isn't absolutely necessary. It is certainly true that SSDs cost significantly more.

I have an alternative for you to consider: Seagate (amongst others) makes a new drive type called a Solid-State Hybrid Drive (SSHD). This is a HDD and a SSD combined into a single drive unit. The SSD is used as a high-speed cache, accelerating the read-write performance of the HDD portion of the drive. The cost difference between a HDD and a SSHD is relatively small. For example, on Amazon, you can purchase a 2TB 2.5" HDD for US$80 (see here: https://www.amazon.com/Seagate-BarraCuda-2-5-Inch-Internal-ST2000LM015/dp/B01LX13P71 Amazon.com: Seagate 2.5" 2TB BarraCuda HDD). The equivalent 2TB 2.5" SSHD will cost you US$95; only US$15 more (see here: https://www.amazon.com/Seagate-FireCuda-Gaming-2-5-Inch-ST2000LX001/dp/B01M1NHCZT Amazon.com: Seagate 2.5" 2TB FireCuda SSHD). They also make 1TB and 500GB versions of these.

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

2tb, extra high speed and only $95 might be the perfect choice. But is this an external standalone device? It kinda looks like something one would install in an existing machine.

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

It's an internal 2.5" drive. Another US$10 will get you an external USB 3.0 drive bay to put it into.

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Bingo! Can't thank you enough. Appreciate all your advice and especially your patience. It took weeks to get here but now I believe I'm fnally ready to go shopping. I started this journey on audio related forums because that's a field I know and this is a music related project. Obviously I should have come here in the first place. Move over Batman, N Scott Pearson is my new hero!

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

Not my goal in life. My wife says my head is swelled up enough without comments like this...

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Not to worry. I may have some good news for your wife. As it turns out my questions may not be completely answered after all. Went to Amazon to look into Seagate Fire Cuda and enclosure. Looking into customer questions and reviews I found someone had asked specifically about the Seagate Fire Cuda fitting into the enclosure. The answer given was no. The explanation was that these enclosures are made for laptop hard drives. The Seagate is a desktop hard drive and therefore would not fit. Does this ring true? If so, where would you suggest I look next?

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

That person is a complete and utter idiot. The drives are made in both 2.5" (laptop internal) and 3.5" (desktop internal) sizes. Of course a 3.5" drive will not fit in a 2.5" enclosure!

The prices I quoted are for the 2.5" drives. I bought a whole bunch of these drives on Black Friday when they were on sale (for US$60!) and use them for testing with many of the NUC and Compute Stick products. I don't have a little portable USB 3.0 drive bay; I test with this instead: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBE17JG Amazon.com: Utechsmart USB 3.0/2.0 SATA Hard Drive Docking Station for 2.5" & 3.5" drives.

To make this easier for you, here is a (US$9) drive bay that you could use: https://www.amazon.com/DREVO-External-Enclosure-Silicon-Adapter/dp/B077257L5G Amazon.com: DREVO USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure for 2.5 Inch SATA HDD/SSD (can't you tell I am a regular on Amazon?). This is just one example; there are a whole bunch of these USB 3.0 portable drive bays at roughly the same price.

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

Yes, I also am a regular. Pretty good place for shopping. Apparently not as good for information. When that comment suggested I was looking at the wrong item I tried searching for the right item. That search brought me right back to the same page I was on in the first place. Seemed kinda fishy. Seemed like the best thing was to come back here and doublecheck with those who really seem to know. I hear (from one who seems to be a more reliable source) that "that person is a complete and utter idiot". Thanks to your help I am now completely convinced that my original plan should basically work. Any final thoughts on improving or fine-tuning my plan? The end goal is full CD-quality sound on playback. I already pay for a streaming service which I love. Convenience and an amazing selection. But when I stream an album that I already own a copy of for comparison's sake, my own discs sound significantly better. This is why I don't just get rid of my old discs. If I am sacrificing Any sound quality at all then the whole plan is pointless. Other than choosing the best software is there anything else to consider?

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

Alright, so let's put all of this in perspective (or retrospective, as the case may be)...

Using a Compute Stick, you are going to have a monstrosity with USB 3.0 hub attached to stick and portable hard drive and optical drive hanging off of that; a real rats nest of cables.

If it was me making the decision, I would be purchasing a SFF chassis (likely mini-ITX) with internal HDD and ODD. I would purchase a motherboard for it that has a good Atom processor mounted to it. Alternatively, I would purchase a socketed motherboard and a Pentium/Celeron-class processor initially. The overall cost of this would be slightly higher, but it would be clean and upgradeable in the future. It would also come with LAN support (since wireless support (range) in the older Compute Sticks can be an issue) which would be a boon for streaming. Going even a step further, you could get all this in a turnkey system that eliminates you having to pick and choose and integrate every piece separately (and it could still come with Windows already installed).

Make sense?

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

All makes perfect sense. You basically raise two issues. Impractical connectivity and my choice of processor. I'll address the rats nest first.

The optical drive is temporary. Whenever not actively ripping I see no reason to leave it connected. It might as well live in the back of the closet. Instead of an ordinary enclosure for memory how about a NAS? Wouldn't that work on Wi-Fi and eliminate one more wire? You mention connectivity issues with the older stick. I was looking at gen2. Has that problem been resolved? Speaking of the stick, I've been basing all this on the stk1aw32sc. But I have considered stepping up to the stk2m3w64cc. This would give me an extra port. This would also mean I'll have to come up with additional uses for it. I just hate the idea of paying for something that I know I will never use. Maybe at age 60 it's not too late to take up video games . Issues of tidiness don't really worry me that much. The only real and absolute priority is that whatever comes out of my speakers is in no way diminished compared to actual cd playback.

Of course I've known from the beginning that the best option would be something purpose built. I am pretty handy. I even have my very own set of nutdrivers! But putting together a system on my own is impossible. What's a SFF chassis? What's a mini ITX? Or for that matter what's a maxi ITX? Or a medium? To me ODD means unusual. And when I hear motherboard I think I should put on a pot of tea and offer to play a few hands of gin with her. Someone would have to choose every last nut and bolt for me, and explain each choice. So I'm pretty much stuck with something off the shelf.

You do mention turnkey options other than the stick. What, specifically, might those be? And what, specifically, would the advantages be?

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

I am 60 too, but spent my career in the field, so this all comes naturally to me. Unfortunately, I spent 21 years at Intel and they are big on acronyms, and I forget the audience sometimes. I will explain the acronyms as I go along.

I am not a gamer (even watching my kids play makes me nauseous) -- unless playing card games counts.

ICS - Intel Compute Stick

The SC (Sterling City) ICS has significantly improved WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities compared to the previous generation FC (Falls City) ICS. There's a 'but', however. USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 also utilize the 2.4GHz frequency range, so poorly shielded cables can cause WiFi interference (and way too much of the USB cabling you see today is poorly shielded). It is thus important (if you know how) to utilize the 5GHz frequency band to avoid this interference.

I have examples of all four ICS varieties. The Core m3 and Core m5 versions of the CC (Cedar City) ICS are *significantly* better performing. Unfortunately, they are also *significantly* more expensive.

SFF - Small Form Factor

ITX - Information Technology eXtended - is a form factor for small motherboards and for the chassis that they go into. Mini-ITX is the most common one.

ODD - Optical Disk Drive - Your basic CD, DVD or BluRay drive.

UCFF - Ultra Compact Form Factor - this is the form factor designation that Intel uses for its NUC products.

NUC - Originally stood for Next Unit of Computing.

What I was getting to is that you can purchase turnkey (i.e. already built and with Windows already installed) SFF systems. Right now, going this route can actually be cheaper that going the do-it-yourself route.

What I was heading towards (but never really got there) is that there is an alternative I want you to consider -- I mentioned the NUCs above. There is a NUC that comes with a Celeron processor (big brother to the Atom processor in the SC ICS), 2GB of memory, a 32GB SSD and Windows 10 home already installed. It has an empty drive bay right inside this thing that you can put a 2.5" HDD or SSHD or SSD into and use for storing your Music, etc. You would still use an external CD/DVD drive with this NUC, but that would be it. Its advantage is that it is a turnkey system without the hassles of the ICS. Take a look at it here: https://www.intel.com/buy/us/en/product/desktop/intel-nuc-nuc6caysaj-150ghz-j3455-black-grey-mini-pc... Shop Intel: Intel® NUC NUC6CAYS and here: https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BOXNUC6CAYSAJR-NUC-Kit-NUC6CAYS/dp/B01MXYZ8V5 Amazon.com: Intel NUC Kit NUC6CAYS.

Hope this helps,

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
430 Views

When I started this thread I thought I had a simple question. Every answer just seems to lead to new questions. So on to the next round...

First off gen1 was never in the running. I was looking at gen2 from the very beginning. You mention significantly better performance from the core version. Does that apply to the Wi-Fi interference issues or is that still a problem with any ICS? You mentioned that the price difference is significant. Cost is certainly a factor but not the priority. I intend to use this for years to come. If it aggravates me every time I turn it on I will feel like I have wasted my money. I would be more comfortable spending a 1000 than wasting 300. So instead of choosing between Windows ICS with Atom vs Windows ICS with Core, Perhaps I should be choosing NUC vs Core ICS?

You are not the first to suggest using a NUC. At first look I was scared off the idea. Far too many options for me to make an intelligent choice with my limited knowledge. I now have a specific NUC to look at. NUC at 200ish with Celeron (Slight step up from Atom?) is an extra 100, provides better Wi-Fi and eliminates the wiring rat's nest. Have I got that right so far? The next $100 step provides a "significantly better" processor but does it reintroduce the Wi-Fi problem? If so, and I am back to the NUC, is there one that would give me more of an apples to apples comparison to the sticks? That is, closer in price and or processing ability to the sticks?

n_scott_pearson
Super User Retired Employee
430 Views

No, the major issues with wireless reported against the FC ICS do not occur with the SC or CC ICS (they have Intel wireless whereas the FC ICS, well, didn't). Personally, I found the wireless on the FC ICS to be completely unusable, even when the router was only a few feet away. I bought a USB Ethernet adapter to use with it instead.

Yea, most of the NUCs are sold as kits and you have to make decisions regarding how to complete the system. This is not the case with the NUC6CAYS; it is a complete, ready to go, system. I have one and, while I am pretty spoiled by the high-end processors in other systems, I found this to be a nice workable solution. Let's do a comparison...

Use this link to see Intel's ARK tool compare the two systems: https://ark.intel.com/compare/91065,95078 Intel® Product Specification Comparison.

Use this link to see Intel's ARK tool compare the two processors: https://ark.intel.com/compare/87383,95594 Intel® Product Specification Comparison.

Now, here is my highlighting of the differences that matter:

Category STK1AW32SC NUC6CAYS

---------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------

Windows 10 System Drive 32GB eMMC SSD 32GB eMMC SSD

Expansion Storage None 2.5" SATA III SSD/SSHD/HDD (up to 2TB)

Optional Storage MicroSDXC (max 128GB) SDXC (max 256GB?)

Memory Included 2GB 2GB

Maximum Memory 2GB (i.e. no expansion) 8GB (1x8GB or 2x4GB) DDR3-1600

USB Ports 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0 with charging capability

Monitors Supported 1x HDMI 1.4b 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x VGA, dual monitors supported

Summary: NUC is more expensive but alleviates a lot of the issues. The Celeron J3455 is roughly 2X the performance of the Atom X5-Z8300. No external USB hubs (etc.) would be necessary. Storage - even including a 2TB 2.5" SATA HDD - is all internal to the box (only the CD/DVD drive would be external). NUC also offers future expansion options - more memory, more storage, second monitor (or monitor+TV), larger monitor (4K possible).

There are NUCs that are cheaper than this unit, but once you (also) pay for Windows 10 License, Storage and Memory, they are equally or more expensive.

Hope this helps,

...S

JN_ye
Beginner
113 Views

Wasn't really looking for cheaper. More interested in better. I've already pretty much ruled out stk1aw32sc. Also according to Amazon both come preloaded with Windows. According to Intel's comparison page nuc6cays comes with no operating system. Normally, I would be inclined to believe Intel over Amazon when it comes to an Intel product. But didn't you already say that this did have windows? Just a little more confusion.

So that I am not comparing apples to oranges, is there a ready to go, off the shelf NUC more comparable to the stk2m3w64cc in price and or performance? If so, is there still any advantage in going with the NUC rather than stick? Or is the nuc6cays a one-of-a-kind and in that case is there any advantage in going with the slightly more expensive stick. I understand one has the better processor but how does that translate to real world use/application?

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