A real notebook for less than two hundred greenbacks? That’s exactly what you get with the HP Stream 11, a core Windows 8.1 experience with only the working necessities accounted for. If you couldn’t bring yourself to embrace Chromebooks and its browser-based “all or nothing” design, this affordable Microsoft laptop appears ambitious in a market dominated by the likes of the Google-powered Toshiba Chromebook 2 and Acer C720 Chromebook options.
Without a doubt, this is definitely compelling as an inexpensive ultraportable, if you’re strictly after a “no-frills” machine.
With a plastic fanless chassis and downward-facing DTS studio speakers sitting underneath, the Stream 11 remains light at 2.8 lbs and dimensions of 11.81 x 8.1 x 0.78 inches. Connectivity is dwindled to the basics like the usual SD multi-format card slot, HDMI, headset jack, and two USB ports (2.0/3.0) on all sides; while 802.11b/g/n (1×1) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are inside. This is a fairly easy laptop to live with as your college workstation or modern accessory, but only comes in bright blue (also known as Horizon Blue by HP) or Orchid Magenta; which by itself is the loudest color out of the pair. HP also forgoes the pseudo gloss for a matte surface, although the feel is unusually coarse like grain.
Open it up and you’re treated to an adequate HP TrueVision HD webcam and non-reflective 11.6” display boasting 1,366 x 768 of resolution, good for reducing glare as opposed to the typical glass screen. You can also expect decent color reproduction, good head-on visibility with narrow viewing angles, and obviously no touch capability whatsoever.
The chiclet keyboard isn’t backlit but still comes pretty slick in white and not totally uncomfortable for moderate use — in fact, it’s probably one of the better island-style keysets that’s nearly full-sized. However, the touchpad is probably the weakest physical link here, and has a tendency to erroneously register anything as a gesture swipe for app switching near the edges and corners. A constant problem since the damn thing is so small but can fortunately be turned off.
Hewlett-Packard has tailored this laptop with a 2.58GHz Intel Celeron N2840 CPU with Turbo Boost and 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM comes standard, but has a larger 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) for local storage but still a far cry. These are specs firmly within Chromebook territory, but they’re kind enough to offer 1TB of cloud storage through Microsoft OneDrive for a full year.
12 months of Office 365 Personal is generously included also and almost makes us forget about the other preinstalled apps (McAfee, HP Connected Drive, HP Connected Photo, and HP Connected Music). No matter what though, you’ll get Windows 8.1 with Bing 64 which is a low-cost OEM/manufacturer version that leaves out some enterprise features and non-Bing software (though you can still install competing browsers on your own afterwards).
The Stream 11 is clearly focused on straightforward productivity before anything else. This works as intended for mild YouTube playlists and full compatibility of the actual Microsoft Office suite. It can do most things with relative ease except for gaming and even the simplest of Photoshop tasks, where the Stream 11 lagged heavily when working artistically or editing photos. With a conventional work test done on PCMark 8 Professional we received a score of 1,763 points, which are appropriate benchmark results for a PC of this caliber.
A three-cell 37-watt (Wh) battery is built-in and provided an impressive 9 hours (9:03) of external power from a full charge — similar to most other Chromebooks previously reviewed. Really, you shouldn’t have a problem using this throughout a typical work day or during classes.
The HP Stream 11 is a solid choice against the wave of recognized Chromebooks already available. You get the familiarity of 8.1 (with Bing) along with a terabyte OneDrive and Office 365, workplace applications that handily trump most of what Google has to offer. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to accept some degree of lukewarm performance and the lesser components that make up this machine, especially the abject implementation of synaptic control.
But if you’re going purchase a ultraportable and want something larger, you can pony up the extra dough and just get the HP Stream 13. For a mere $30 extra ($229.99 base) you can have the same convenience and plethora of cloud services, but also a larger 13.3″ display, a much better touchpad, and an option to add mobile broadband (4G HSPA+). Regardless, either version of the HP Stream dutifully fulfills the promise of computing bargain for the money.