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HP Stream 13 Review
Seeing the increasing popularity of Google's Chromebook, HP and Microsoft teamed up to develop the Stream, a low priced laptop similar to the Chromebook, but boosted with Windows 8, to be more of a full computer and less of a browser with a few add-ons. Priced competitively at $229, and coming with Windows Office for free, the Stream is a bit cheaper than most of the Chromebook line. I was moving to the Stream 13 from an hp Pavilion 14 Chromebook, and this was the first Windows-run computer I would be using, traditionally sticking either with Macs or Chromebooks.
Appearance and Design
The HP Stream 13 grabs attention instantly, coming in either Blue or Purple, both of which give the computer a sleek and modern look. The screen is, as the name suggests, 13 inches, however it doesn't achieve the same brightness as a normal computer. While this is not an extremely annoying or irritable feature, it is notable. Arguably the best design aspect of the computer is the touchscreen, which works as well as a high end computer, and was one of the biggest surprises. The touchscreen is paired with a touchscreen keyboard, however the physical one seems to be far more practical for regular use, as the touchscreen keyboard has a bit of an awkward typing angle, along with taking up about 1/2 of the screen.
The Stream runs Windows 8, which while it is a leg up from Chrome in the sense that it's more than a browser, the tile layout is extremely frustrating, and makes the computer feel more like a tablet than a computer (this will be a common theme). It has 2GB worth of memory, and also has an Intel Celeron N2840 processor, which is far stronger than the Pavillion's Celeron 847 processor. A respectable portion of the 2GB of memory is used by Microsoft bloat wear, which can (and should) be uninstalled.
Whereas jumping from a Mac to a Chromebook was effortless, moving from a Mac to a Windows was a bit of a painful process, mainly due to the completely different interface of Microsoft's tiles. The tiles, which are Windows 8's key feature, are pre-loaded with Windows applications, the vast majority of which are bloat-wear. They make the computer act more like a tablet with a keyboard than a computer, and the desktop feature is far more intuitive, and in honestly, it looks the Microsoft took the Xbox 360 interface refined and slapped onto a computer. The faster Windows gets away from the tiles, the better. That being said, the tiles while annoying, are usable, and there's an option to work on the original, normal desktop. Once you've mastered the tiles, either choosing to adapt to them or completely ignore them (I chose the former), the computer is easy to use.
The HP Stream was surprisingly fast, and had no issue browsing the web, using Spotify or downloading files. A fantastic feature is that the Stream lacks a fan, meaning that when you've used the computer for several hours, the noise of the fan that is prolific with Macs is non-existent. The whole system doesn't run like a budget computer, but is on par with the laptops I've previously used, the Chromebook Pavilion and Macbook Air, which is incredible for a $200 laptop.
While the system runs great, and the touchscreen is superb, it's clear that the trackpad was a portion of the computer where HP cut corners. The trackpad is slow and poor for dragging files or moving quickly for things such as online gaming etc. In an attempt to be "interactive", the trackpad you can switch between applications you've used by swiping on the left side of the trackpad, however it's far too sensitive, and far too often the computer switched the application when I was trying to scroll down.
While it does have it's issues, it exceeds expectations across the board, and proved itself to be a much stronger option for all around use than a Chromebook.
Windows 8 brings down this computer, but in reality it's a better option than Chrome due to being a full-service operating system, and it's substantially cheaper than an apple OS computer.Only on rare occasion does the fact that it's a budget computer let you down regarding use and power, and it's a stylish computer. It's easier to talk about what's bad about something, than it's positives, but the HP Stream 13 truly blew away my expectations.. There's no doubt in my mind, that it's far better than a Chromebook, and is one of the best, if not the best, deal on the market for a budget computer.