In our ongoing series of reviewing all things Microsoft, today I'm turning my attention to the latest entry in the "inexpensive" Windows laptops: the 11 inch HP Stream. I tell you what: I'm not sure you will find a better $200 Windows machine.
I am so sick of reading articles that say a product is sub-par because it's missing certain features, either from a hardware or software perspective. This is especially frustrating when these complaints are directed towards lower-end products. My feeling is: If you want more, pay more. But for US $200, HP did an INCREDIBLE job of putting a ton of features into this little blue notebook!
It's so good that there have been some articles asking if the HP Stream 11 is a Chromebook Killer. The Answer is: YES! Or should I say, it should be a Chromebook killer! The only things holding it back are poor marketing, the Microsoft Windows experience (which I've detailed before) and how HP distributes the product, because the product itself is EXCELLENT! So if I read one article about what should be added to this thing, I'm going to flip out.
I will give out the specs later, but below is a hands-on, stream of consciousness analysis:
The laptop is SOLID. The blue color of the case is kind of cool and the slightly grainy texture perfectly complements the color…
The screen is what you wold expect for the price: Viewing angles are okay, contrast and colors are decent. It's better than other inexpensive products that I have used. The keyboard is fantastic. I would almost say that it's as comfortable to type as my MacBook Pro. The touch pad is a bit sensitive but it has all of the multi-touch functionality you need to use Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. One of my favorite swipes is from left to ride on the touch pad to cycle through active applications. I find the touch pad a bit sensitive from time to time, swapping through apps when I'm just trying to click on something.
The HP Stream 11 is capable of running a number of applications concurrently. I am able to bring up Mail, Word, and a couple Windows UI applications without any issues. I have about 10,000 files on OneDrive and my favorite feature is the "Online only" feature, so I don't use much of the 32GB of space available on the notebook as "Online only" will only give me access to those files when I'm actually online. This is different than Google Drive, which downloads and syncs all of your files locally with your online Google Drive account.
I can easily play Windows UI Games. For example, Asphalt 8: Airborne is a neat little game and the HP Stream 11 plays it surprisingly well!
I was very surprised by having a USB 3.0 port, but the HDMI seems like it's limited to v 1.1 so you can only use 1080p on a second monitor. I was hoping it would work with my 2560x1440 ASUS monitors, but that's only supported by HDMI 1.2. Yeah..first world problems.
The speakers are great for such a little machine. It's not going to knock your socks off, but like everything else on this Notebook, it's all very usable and, well…surprising.
I believe HP is trying to market this as having an 8 hour battery life. That may be true if it's just sitting there doing nothing, but having Office products open, doing some Web browsing and shopping around the Windows store gave me about 6.5 hours, which is still very respectable.
The Windows Updates for 8.1 took about an hour but were seamless.
Overall, using the HP Stream was a very pleasant experience. This machine "just works." And because its a true Windows 64-bit with 2GB of memory notebook, and only costs $200...Yea, it kills a Chromebook! I can see a lot of people who do limited work being VERY happy with this portable notebook.
BTW, I didn't mention it provides Office 365 for a year. If you take off the $70 that would cost, your getting this Notebook for $130.
Sitting out in the backyard with our 3 dogs and 6 kids, I am finding myself picking up this little bad boy instead of the $2700 MacBook Pro or $2000 Surface Pro 3... and when the kids want to see something I hand the Stream to them instead of holding onto my device for dear life while they watch :)
Congrats to HP and congratulations to Microsoft on making Windows 8.1 work VERY well in 2gb of memory. I never thought I would see that day.