HP Stream 11 Review

Posted in: (Unsorted) on 5th June 2015


Netbooks gained a fair amount of popularity when they first came onto the market in 2009/2010, offering improved portability and convenience to the laptop world. However, netbooks of the time generally failed to live up to expectations, being smaller, yet underpowered and comparitively expensive versions of their full-size counterparts. When the tablet market exploded shortly afterwards, netbooks were all but forgotten.

Fast-forward to 2015, and much has changed. If you used a Windows tablet back in ~2010, you'd probably have got about 2 hours use from a hot, heavy machine that resembled a small laptop with its screen flipped over. The constant development in mobile hardware has led to huge reductions in power consumption and has made all-day computing a reality, even on budget devices. x86 hardware has become available in extremely mobile, power-efficient packages, enabling a sub £200 tablet, for example, to run a full-blown desktop OS, coupled with compact dimensions and excellent battery life. As you might expect, these improvements have also entered the netbook world, making them a much more attractive prospect.

The HP Stream 11 enters the age of the "Ultraportable" with what looks like reality-defying value for money. With a retail price of around £180 (although mine was purchased from Dabs.com for just £162), the Stream 11 is a budget 11.6" laptop designed predominantly for students and professionals on the move. It's available in rather garish blue or pink, or a more neutral grey for the "pro" model.

 

Hardware

The specs are as follows:

  • Intel Celeron N2840 (dual-core, max 2.85GHz)
  • 32GB MMC
  • 2GB RAM
  • Wifi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
  • Full-size HDMI out / SD card slot, 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • 11.6" display (1366x768)
  • Windows 8.1 (the "Pro" model ships with Windows8.1 Professional)
  • Around 8 hours battery life

On paper, the specs aren't anything to write home about, but it's important to remember that this is a budget laptop. The Celeron has always been a stripped-down version of the full Intel processors, and the N2840 is no exception. Despite having 2 cores with a max. frequency of 2.8GHz, it's my belief that under real usage, the N2840 outperforms the Atom-based quad-core 1.8GHz CPUs found in certain competing devices, such as the ASUS Eeebook X205. Having fewer, faster cores will usually give better performance with "real" software, though the Atom CPU may score higher in synthetic benchmarks. On the flipside, you're likely to see lower power consumption from the Atom, which may well translate to further improved battery life, so it's a matter of deciding what's more important to you.

As far as display quality is concerned, it's about what you'd expect from a sub £200 machine. The screen offers fairly limited viewing angles and a backlight that tends to wash out the colours a little, but it's by no means terrible.

 

Build Quality

For a budget device, the build quality of the Stream 11 is surprisingly good. The case is entirely plastic, but has been given a clean matte finish, which gives it a quality appearance that belies the price of admission. It also avoids the "fingerprint magnet" issue that plagues many cheaper devices with shiny plastic surfaces.

I should note that the blue and pink variants are likely to polarise opinion. While they may look bold and brave to some, I personally find their appearance a bit too "toy-like" for my tastes. I purchased the grey "pro" version, but the hardware is identical regardless.

The keyboard has a quality feel to it, and I'm pleased to say it lacks the rubbery response found on many value laptops. The touchpad took me a while to get used to. I don't find its response particularly great (though by no means awful), and call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer touchpads with dedicated buttons below them.

 

Connectivity

It's good to see a full-sized HDMI port on such a small device, and the addition of a full-size SD card slot is also advantageous, making the laptop ideal for using to view photos directly from a camera. Sure, micro-SD card adapters are cheap and readily available, but it's nice to not have to mess around with them.

The two USB 3.0 ports are both conveniently located on the right-hand side of the laptop, and although perhaps I might prefer three or four, I can't imagine I'll often be in a position where I feel at a disadvantage with just two.

The laptop also offers, as you might expect, a WiFi connection (b/g/n) and Bluetooth. I was initially disappointed at the lack of an ethernet port, but as with the USB ports, it's unlikely to be much of an issue for most people. Finally, there are standard 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks if you need them.

 

Software

The Stream 11 ships with Windows 8.1, but as is unfortunately common on Windows 8 devices, there is a lot of bloatware preinstalled. You'll probably spend a fair amount of time removing all the apps you didn't want or need. This is especially important considering you only have about half of the 32GB storage available for your own use.

Another advantage of the low-power Celeron CPUs over the current Atom ones is that they don't have the same hobbled 32-bit EFI bios that makes installing Linux distros a hassle. Indeed, I managed to install Linux Mint 17 with no trouble at all, though you'll need to enable "Legacy" boot mode in the BIOS if you intend to (same if you wanted to install Windows 7 or older). The machine is a great fit for Linux, and functions very well with it as the sole OS.

 

Conclusion

All in all, the Stream 11 is a fantastic prospect for those looking for a lightweight, affordable ultraportable with a spec that's adequate for daily use. For the price, the build quality and features are excellent, with the touchpad and somewhat unspectacular display my only minor gripes.

Include "all-day" battery life, and you have a machine that's not only practical, but also small and light enough to take anywhere at a moment's notice.

 

Pros:

- Great battery life (8 hours during normal use is feasible)

- Nice build quality for the price, no shiny plastic

- Extremely affordable

- Lives up to the label "ultraportable"

 

Cons:

- Touchpad is a little fiddly and doesn't have seperate buttons

- Underwhelming display

- The coloured versions may not be to everyone's tastes

Specials


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