Traditional laptops are a thing of the past already. Nowadays, people either go for expensive Ultrabooks or cheap netbooks. Google was controlling the market with their cheap and casual Chromebooks. And people loved them. Surely, Microsoft couldn’t take it anymore. And that’s why Microsoft came out with a lower cost version of Windows 8.1 that PC makers could use to build small, lightweight devices inexpensive enough to take on Chromebooks. And that’s how The HP Stream 11 was born, one of the first of these Chromebook alternatives. Basically, it is an 11.6-inch laptop with a colorful plastic shell and an Intel Celeron processor, running full Windows and priced at just $200.
Decent battery life
Free cloud storage and Office 365 subscription
Poor ventilation system
Model: Stream 11
Processor: Intel Celeron N2840
Chipset: Intel Bay Trail
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
Memory: 2GB DDR3L-1333
Storage: 32 GB eMMC
Optical Drive: none
Display Type: Matte TN display with LED Backlit
Screen Size: 11 inch
Screen Resolution: 1366×768
Audio: Stereo Speakers with DTS Studio Sound
Keyboard: Island style full sized keyboard
Navigation: 3.75 x 2.5inches touchpad
Camera: 720p HD Webcam
Video Ports: HDMI
Audio Ports: Combo headphone jack
Total USB Ports: 2
USB 2.0 Ports: 1
USB 3.0 Ports: 1
Media Ports: SDHC
Wi-Fi: 802.11n WiFi Realtek RTL8723BE
Battery: 3 cell 37 Wh
Battery Life: 8 hours
Width: 11.8 inches
Depth: 8.1 inches
Height: 0.8 inches
Weight: 2.72 pounds / 1.2 kg
Operating System: Windows 8.1 with Bing
Warranty: 1 Year Limited
Base Price: $199
Build and Design
The HP Stream 11 looks nice for a $200 laptop. It comes in two versions, ‘horizon blue’ and ‘orchid magenta’. The version I reviewed was blue. The body of the laptop is all plastic, but the outside is not glossy and seems fairly resistant to fingerprints. The plastic itself is soft to the touch, and any sweaty marks it picks up from clammy fingers fade away in seconds. An HP logo cut from a piece of shiny silver metal sits in the center of the lid, while four rubber feet sit on the bottom and stop the PC from sliding around on table tops.
The top of the laptop features a bright chrome HP logo. The lid is fairly flexible, but opens and closes on a firm feeling hinge. The bezels on all sides of the screen are large, and the base unit is clad in a two-tone, PowerPoint-style gradient effect.
Overall, the design is nice. It is small, portable, fairly light, but feels solid. HP has basically taken the design of a Chromebook and put Windows on it.
The keyboard of the Stream 11 is really good. It is full sized with decent spacing and have good travel time. All of the buttons offer a nice amount of travel, which allows for speedy, accurate typing. It would be nice navigation keys were full size, but the bevel between the keys makes it fairly easy to use.
The only niggles are that it’s not backlit and the Shift key on the left-hand side is quite small, so it’s easy to accidentally hit back slash (\) instead of the Shift key.
On the other hand, the touchpad of the Stream 11 does not live up to the keyboard’s standards. Although the size is fine for a small laptop, the performance is not really pleasing. It feels cheap and flimsy. It was hard to perform all windows 8.1 gestures with such touchpad. Moreover, with no dedicated buttons for left/right click, you often will misinterpret a left click for a right click.
From a cheap laptop like this, you shouldn’t expect the vast connectivity feature. But, the good thing is, Stream has just enough.
On the left side, there are SDHC Slot and Kensington Security Slot along with AC Power Connection.
While on the right, there is an HDMI Connection, 1 x USB 2.0 port, 1 x USB 3.0 and the Headset Jack.
To be honest, the screen of the Stream 11 is nothing special. Basically, it is an 11.6-inch, HD 1,366 x 768 TFT display with LED backlight. It is neither very colorful nor that bright. However, Viewing angles are quite good, so you’ll still be able to hold mini movie screenings with some people.
With the 11.6” diagonal dimension, this display comes in at 135 pixels per inch, which is actually higher than the standard 96 DPI Windows was founded on. It is not high DPI by any means.
Also, as I mentioned the brightness is not that appealing. But, at 220 nits it is fine for indoor use. The matte finish would help somewhat for outdoor viewing, but would still make for a poor experience. High black levels result in a very poor 356:1 contrast ratio, which is further hampered by the viewing angles of the TN TFT.
Ultimately, the screen is exactly what was expected from a laptop this cheap.
There are two bottom mounted stereo speakers on the Stream 11. It was kind of unexpected, but the sound quality of the speaker is surprisingly amazing. DTS did a good job with their hardware. Beside the quality, the speakers are impressively loud, too, making the Stream 11 good for listening to. They can also stand up to the sound of a noisy shower, which is good, and you won’t need to go anywhere near the top volume setting with a pair of headphones plugged in. The only downside is that, due to the placement of the speakers, they’re prone to getting muffled when you place the Stream 11 on a soft surface, like a bed.
The Stream 11 doesn’t shine very bright, when it comes to performance. Though it uses an Intel Celeron N2840 processor similar to what you’ll find in many Chrome OS devices, it feels slower, mostly because Windows 8.1 requires more power to operate. Along with the Celeron processor, Stream 11 sports 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, around 13GB of which is actually available. Looking at the specs, you can say it was built totally for students. Light activities like word processing and browsing the web are its main callings, though you can watch movies or listen to the music on it as a bonus.
As for graphics, The Celeron N2840 carries Intel’s HD Graphics, but with far fewer cores at lower clocks than the Core parts. There are only four execution units, so graphics performance will not be even close to traditional Intel HD graphics. I tried to play Dota2 on it, but it was barely possible. On the other hand, having 20-35 FPS, league of legends on low settings and minecraft were pretty playable.
However, though the specifications would have you believe that the system is slow and sluggish, unless you are doing something that is very hard on the processor it will never feel that way. Of course, there are faster Chromebook out there. But considering the operating system, personally I am happy with the performance of Stream 11.
HP claimed that, the stream 11 can last 6 hours without charging. And HP was right. As surprising as it is, under light work, the Steam 11 can last around 8 hours! Even when I was listening to the music and browsing the internet, it was able to support me for 5 hours and 55 minutes. As I see, this is where the Bay Trail Celeron processor shines. While the performance of this processor is obviously lower, the efficiency is very high.
Heat and Noise
Like the any other netbook, the Stream 11 also came with a Fanless design. So, whatever happens, this laptop won’t make any noise. While on the other hand, heating can be an issue here as the laptop gets warm under medium to heavy use. However, luckily the touchpad and keyboard stay cooler, even when the bottom of the laptop is pretty hot.
At $200, the Stream 11 actually costs less than most Chrome OS devices. Moreover, as this one is running on Windows 8.1, instead of Chrome OS. You will have access to all desktop apps and be able to operate offline, which is not possible with Chrome OS. Though it has some drawbacks, beside the screen, rests are not really that much noticeable. So, if you can live with its below average screen, the stream 11 is surely the perfect netbook for you.