Low-end laptop competition

Check out the HP Stream 13: Chromebook hardware running Windows

We didn’t mention Chromebooks in our 2014 wrap-up, but the devices certainly gained momentum this year. No, the browser-based devices aren’t for everyone. They’ve found a place in schools, though, and in homes where people spend most of their time on the web. Chromebooks also gained the attention of Microsoft: The company admitted in June that it won’t cede the low-end computing market.

I still use the Chromebook Pixel I bought in March of 2013. It’s powerful enough for everything I need to do on a daily basis, has a superb 2560 x 1700 display and came with 1 TB of [company]Google[/company] Drive storage. I’ve also tested a number of other Chromebooks since then. What I haven’t tried lately is the competition: The latest low-cost [company]Microsoft[/company] Windows with Bing laptops meant to sway consumers away from Chromebooks.

Last night, I noticed that the online Microsoft Store was offering the HP Stream 13 laptop for $30 off, so I pulled the trigger and paid $199 for the Signature Edition laptop. It should arrive before the new year.

hp stream 13 magenta

The [company]HP[/company] Stream 13 — there’s also a smaller Stream 11 model on sale for $179 — is essentially Windows 8.1 running on Chromebook hardware. Look at the hardware specifications and if you didn’t know what operating system the device ran, you’d think this is a $200 to $300 Chromebook, not a modern-day netbook:

  • A 2.16 GHz [company]Intel[/company] Celeron N2840 processor
  • 13.3-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • 2 GB of memory
  • 32 GB of internal flash storage and a microSD card slot
  • 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out
  • 720p webcam
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Estimated battery life of 7.5 hours

Again, this is pretty typical fare for a Chromebook. And like Google’s offers of free storage, the Stream 13 comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage. A one-year subscription of Office365 is also included.

hp stream 13 front

From a general computing standpoint, I still think that Chrome OS is a bit “lighter” than Windows 8.1, meaning it does less but that keeps the whole experience simpler and faster.

Regardless, Microsoft and its hardware partners are trying to go head-to-head with Chromebooks with low-cost computers such as the Stream 13, so I’ll take it for a spin. It’s always good to see competing products and help keep things in perspective. I also use OS X and Linux computers, partly for this reason. I certainly won’t compare the $200 laptop to my $1,450 Pixel; this competes against similarly priced Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Dell and HP itself.

Once the device arrives and I’ve had a chance to use it as my full time computing device for several days, I’ll share my thoughts.

4 Responses to “Check out the HP Stream 13: Chromebook hardware running Windows”

  1. We’ve tested them (in a K-12 environment). The Stream is slow under real-world conditions compared to Chromebooks, especially when running Office. After installing Office, anti malware tools, and normal management tools, we had less than 6 GB of storage left. Battery life in real use was about 5-6 hours, compared to the comparable HP Chromebook.

    Take a clean STream (meaning remove all of the crapware if you bought it through retail channels), skip Office, just put Microsoft’s free anti malware and use Chrome / Google Apps and it performs pretty well. Battery life still not good enough though.

    • Rann Xeroxx

      I think you hit the nail on the head. You cannot treat these devices like PCs and then expect them to have the responsiveness of a ChromeBook. You treat them like a ChromeBook, no installing AV (it has it built-in), run it as standard users, using Intune to manage them just like you use Google’s MDM to manage the ChromeBook, etc.

      You can install Chrome browser and put the Chrome Apps link on the task bar to give you all the educational tools in Chrome. In fact installing (if its free) full Office is OK, what do you need disk space on these things for anyway other then a few apps and docs?

      Battery life is an issue (plus the horrid colors) but overall a more flexible device.

  2. Shawn Joseph

    The little time I spent with a Stream 11 at my local Walmart left me feeling pleasantly surprised with its performance and build quality. Very interested in hearing your experience. I think you may be in for a surprise. With 1 year of Office 365 included it’s an exceptional value. Had this been out last year, I would have picked one up for my wife to bang away on her school work on. Alas, she’s done now so I’d have to find another excuse to buy one :).