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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 one-year warranty matches the IdeaPad; extending it to two years costs $80 -- roughly double what it costs for the IdeaPad -- but it includes shipping costs if you have to mail the unit in for repairs.

Bottom line

It may not be perfect, but the Stream is a very impressive system for the money. Its bright screen, comfortable keyboard and decent performance make it a great swing PC at home or on the road.

At a Glance

HP Stream 11

Price: $200

Pros: Good general performance; includes USB 3.0 port; bright display with good colors; firm, easy-to-read keyboard

Cons: A little heavier than the competition; inconvenient three-prong adapter

Lenovo IdeaPad 100S

With its IdeaPad 100S, Lenovo has created a value notebook that exceeds expectations. It's a bargain for those who spend their time on the Web.

The system is 0.7 in. deep in the front and 0.8 in. in the rear, making it slightly thinner than the Stream. Its 11.4 x 7.9-in. case is shorter and narrower than the Stream's.

At 2.3 lb., the IdeaPad is nearly 3 oz. lighter than the Stream. And thanks to its tiny two-prong AC adapter, the IdeaPad can hit the road with a travel weight of just 2.6 lb. That's roughly what the Stream weighs on its own.

The plastic case comes in silver, red, white or blue; the silver and red models have a contrasting black edging and inside keyboard/bezel area; on the white and blue models, those areas are white. The laptop easily fits on an airline tray table with room to spare.

ideapad 100s 11 2 
Lenovo Ideapad 100S. Credit: Lenovo

As with the Stream, the IdeaPad's 11.6-in. display offers 1366 x 768 resolution. It had a brightness rating of 177 cd/m2, measurably lower than the 226 cd/m2 rated by the Stream's screen. More to the point, I thought the IdeaPad's display looked dull and couldn't match the vibrancy of the Stream's screen.

The keyboard has responsive 18.5mm keys but felt much flimsier than the Stream's keyboard. The 3.6-in. touchpad is not only smaller than the Stream's, but it also doesn't work with basic gestures.

Like the Stream, the IdeaPad's speakers are located under the keyboard. You can get more volume than out of the Stream, but to my ear it had a hollow sound; this laptop is better at spoken word material than music. The system also comes with a VGA webcam and a pair of microphones.

It's equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It sports an HDMI port, a headphone jack and a pair of USB 2.0 connectors.

 

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