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Review: 2 low-cost Windows 10 laptops challenge the Chromebooks

Brian Nadel | Feb. 10, 2016
Two US$200 systems offer travelers a lightweight and low-cost way to work with Windows apps on the road.

The Stream's plastic case is available in two colors: violet purple and cobalt blue hues -- more vibrant than the IdeaPad's more conventional white, red, blue and silver tones.

hp stream 11 
HP Stream 11. Credit: HP

The Stream's 11.6-in. display has a top resolution of 1366 x 768. In brightness tests, it delivered 226 candelas per square meter (cd/m2) vs. the IdeaPad's 177 cd/m2 and, to my eyes, was much more vibrant and rich.

Above the display is an HD webcam and pair of microphones. The Stream's keyboard has 18.8mm white keys that stand out well from the colored background; it felt more solid than the IdeaPad's relatively flimsy keyboard. The Stream's 4-in. touchpad is bigger and more comfortable to use than the IdeaPad's. It works with basic gestures, like being able to rotate or zoom in or out of an image.

The speakers are located underneath the system and fire downward, but its sound is richer, fuller and sounds less hollow than the IdeaPad's. The output doesn't really get loud enough, but it has a headphone jack for personal listening.

There is an HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port. The Stream has both Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Test results

While it won't set any performance records, the Stream never let me down in two weeks of daily use, including a couple of train trips. Its Celeron N3050 dual-core processor runs at between 1.6GHz and 2.2GHz, depending on the system's load. Like the IdeaPad, it includes a scant 2GB of RAM and a 30GB solid-state storage system. Of that, only 13GB was available (a good proportion of the rest taken up by software add-ons).

Its performance profile was a mixed bag. The newer processor pushed it to a 448.9 on the general-purpose PerformanceTest 8 benchmark vs. the IdeaPad's lesser score of 397.1. On the other hand, the Stream was second best when it came to running the Octane 2.0 series of online tasks, scoring a 4,157.5, nearly 60% off the pace set by the IdeaPad.

The Stream also came up short against the IdeaPad in terms of battery life. Its 4,500mAh battery enabled it to play videos continuously from a USB key for 6 hours and 40 minutes, about an hour and a half short of the IdeaPad's time. Still, it should be more than enough battery life for a few movies or gaming sessions on an interminable flight.

When I measured the laptop's heat, the Stream had a hot spot at 110-degrees Fahrenheit.

The Stream comes with Microsoft's Windows 10 Home and a one-month subscription to McAfee's LiveSafe. It also includes Avast's Secure Line VPN, for those who want their communications to be anonymous, and a copy of the free version of Evernote.


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