The affordable desktop has returned. Yeah, Hewlett-Packard has brought the indispensable but often flouted home PC back with the Stream Mini, a very economical but fairly capable machine that fulfills the basic “everything you need” moniker.
This is the one-two punch that HP initially threw starting with the Stream 11 Laptop from a few months ago, and for the money you got a decent workhorse, at least for the misery sum of $200 smackers spent. It begins with its 2.9 lbs of mass and a refreshed Haswell-based Celeron 2957U processor that puts efficiency first and usability at a close second. Is small and cheap your thing? Then this could make sense.
Obviously, you have to point out the look of the Stream Mini which only comes in a baby blue scheme and rounded shell (2.25 x 5.71 x 5.71 HWD) that comes off as more home decoration than actual computer. But it is unquestionably adorable and I really like the way it brightens up any dull desk or workspace with charm — blatantly cute or otherwise. It also helps that physical connectivity is relatively equipped too: you get four USB 3.0 port (two front/two rear), a full-size HDMI, DisplayPort, headphone jack, Ethernet (10/100/1000BASE-T), and finally a lone 3-in-1 SD card reader (up to SDXC formats) situated on the right side.
The internals are surprisingly capable with 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and 2GB of DDR3L memory. On paper that’s pedestrian but it’s the potential that’s attractive, since there’s enough room to upgrade both the RAM and SSD if the need arises. Admittedly, the most of the extra space is a holdover from the straighter-laced Pavilion Mini desktop that preceded our variant, and upgrading is possible with some degree of compromise. HP accommodates by including a wired mouse and keyboard, it’s a far cry from more expensive and (most likely) wireless setups but at least they were considerate enough to pack them in.
Because this has Windows 8.1 with Bing this will cheerfully run Microsoft Office or pull double duty as a discreet HTPC, if you’re willing to make the latter work – but you’ll probably want to keep the Stream Mini and its sizable power brick regulated to the computer room. Performance-wise that’s where it belongs as Firefox tabs, Skype, and very casual Photoshop projects are doable as long as you keep multitasking and bottlenecking down to an absolute minimum. And as if you had to be told, serious gaming on the Stream Mini was pretty much a no-go unless it was something straightforward with most the enhancements disabled such as Worms World Party or Final Fantasy VIII through the integrated Intel HD graphics.
The Geekbench 3 score of 2151 will be irrelevant but the SSD storage of 32GB is lacking to say the least, before the two years of complimentary 200GB OneDrive storage. After Windows with Bing takes its piece, and then mostly preinstalled bloatware (McAfee LiveSafe 30-day trial, TripAdvisor, Netflix, Dropbox, and mysms) you’re left with just two-thirds of space for yourself. Some will do well by either buying an external hard drive, relying on USB/SD media, or taking a minute to open up the Stream Mini and creatively installing an mSATA module.
Regardless, I do like the Stream Mini Desktop as a tiny and super-affordable $180 PC. The “potential” to be fairly better allows you to cheaply upgrade is attractive, although it’s definitely not a powerful machine. But if your needs include documents, email, and the occasional media streaming when hooked up to an TV, HP has a budget desktop for you.