Over the holiday, I gifted a neat little compute stick for a family member, called an ASUS VivoStick PC (VS10). This gift was purchased as an inexpensive home theater PC, as it had Windows 10 and all the supported codecs for Audio/Video/Pictures and could run Plex Media Server. I originally had purchased a Roku 4 device to give, but in testing, I found out that it didn’t support all of the video codecs that would be needed. So, I decided to throw in the towel and buy a full Windows PC for best long-term use, as that’s what I’ve been using for my media center for several years.
While I was setting up the compute stick for use as a media center, I was surprised to find it supported a 4K resolution (3840×2160) with its low-end Atom processor and embedded Intel graphics. So, I decided to give it a whirl for use as an inexpensive endpoint for Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop and VMware Horizon! I liked the device so much that I decided to buy one for myself, to have around and do some more testing. The original device that I purchased was $87, but when I went back to order mine, another seller was running a special for only $77 with free shipping for Prime members!
The video below goes into detail on my findings, but first let’s start with some technical details and product links.
ASUS VivoStick (VS10) Technical Hardware Details
Product Description: ASUS VivoStick TS10-B017D Intel Atom 2GB 32GB eMMC Stick PC
Operating System: Windows 10 Home
CPU: Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8350 Processor
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics
Memory: 2 GB LPDDR3 at 1600MHz
Storage: 32GB eMMC + 100G ASUS Webstorage for 1 Year free usage
Wireless Data Network: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac , Bluetooth V4.1
Side I/O Ports:
1 x Micro USB (For Power Only)
1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
1 x Audio Jack(s) (Mic/Headphone Combo)
Front I/O Ports
1 x HDMI Out
Power Supply: 18 W Power adapter
Dimensions: 135 x 36 x 16.5 mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 0.17 lb
Testing Findings and Alternatives
I did a bit of testing using this device with a 1080p and 4K resolution. The 1080p resolution is certainly better for user experience, but for the price there are a lot of Thin Client viable solutions for a single monitor at 1080p. Particularly if you’re going to use Citrix on the backend, the Raspberry Pi has been a compelling option, and even Viewsonic is now shipping them fully configured with Thin Client management software baked into the price. If you watch carefully or have a bulk order, you can pick one of Viewsonic’s Raspberry Pi’s for around $99.
What was interesting about this device, was the proposition to support a single 4K display, with full Windows 10 Client Application support, so any apps that will run as a client on Win10 will work. Add in a basic wired keyboard and mouse combination for about $15, and you have a pretty decent device for the price!
I’ll probably do a couple others tests with the ASUS VivoStick, including loading Windows Thin PC (free version of Windows, provided to Microsoft customers with SA/VDA subscriptions) and ThinLinX. ThinLinX has a build optimized for Intel NUC and Compute Sticks, which I suspect will work great as long as all the drivers are properly detected. That option would add another $15 to the price. If I stick with Windows, to add a bit of management or to simply lockdown the device, I could always load a couple software products, including ThinKiosk (my personal favorite, thanks Andy!), IGEL Universal Desktop Converter, or the Citrix Receiver Desktop Lock.
Below you will find a fairly lengthy demo video, showing the out of box experience and some basic user experience results. My apologies in advance for the video quality, this is not intended to be production quality!
Here are a couple screenshots that you probably can’t see clearly in the video:
For Citrix, to configure hardware acceleration for the H.264 Decode using the registry, you can use the following:
reg add “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Citrix\ICA Client\Graphics Engine” /v HWacceleration /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
Configuring this setting via Group Policy is covered in great detail in this blog post. Since this system is running Windows 10 Home edition, I didn’t have access to Group Policy or GPEdit.msc, so I had to figure out which Registry Key was being set by the policy.
While I didn’t show a video of testing the device with native RDP in a Windows 10 VDI or Windows Server 2016 RDS environment, it will work for any organizations that want to remove the Citrix or VMware licensing and costs from the equation. This device would also work with a technology like Workspot, which provides an alternate management experience for brokering RDP VDI connections.
All told, I am very impressed with this device, and could see the Compute Stick concept being adopted for commercial and enterprise applications. There are certainly shortcomings with this device, and this is not intended to be a sales pitch that you should go out and buy thousands. I simply wanted to share what was possible with some of the new devices coming to market, and am very excited with what Intel and others are doing in the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) market. Very awesome stuff, can’t wait to share more!
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or want to leave feedback, feel free to do so below!