Lately I've been all about the Chromebooks, but for many folks it's inconvenient -- if not downright impossible -- to break away from the Windows world. There may be software you need to run, peripherals you need to use and so on -- any or all of which might disqualify a Chromebook as your next laptop.
Fortunately, you can now get the equivalent (at least in terms of pricing) in Windows form: Amazon has the HP Stream 13 with 4G for $226.50 shipped. Pssst: Don't tell anyone at Amazon, but that's a few dollars less than the price of the Stream 13 without 4G. (There's something about the configuration of this product page that makes me feel like this is a price mistake, but let's just keep it our little secret.)
Update: I figured this was too good to last. Amazon appears to be sold out; the Stream 13 is now being sold by third-party vendors at a higher price.
The HP Stream 11 made headlines for offering full Windows 8.1 computing for $200. The Stream 13 is its bigger brother (itself a steal at $230). The 4G version normally runs $300, so this is kind of an amazing deal.
How can a Windows laptop be so inexpensive? The specs tell much of the story: The Stream runs on a Celeron processor and comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid-state storage. In other words, it's just like a Chromebook, only with Windows instead of Chrome OS.
Ah, but can Windows run smoothly on such limited hardware? If you're planning to keep 20 browser tabs open while using Photoshop, then obviously not. But for the basics, like watching Netflix, updating Facebook and checking e-mail, it's solid. (Read CNET's review of the similarly equipped Stream 11 for more details.)
Performance aside, I kind of buried the lede: The Stream 13 offers not only built-in 4G (for those times when Wi-Fi isn't available), but also 200MB of data per month -- free, for life, courtesy of T-Mobile. You also get a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal and a $25 Windows Store gift card. Oh, and the Stream's battery life is reported to be awesome, anywhere from 7 to 9 hours.
The only real downside I'm seeing is the crapware preinstalled by HP; there's little question it creates a performance hit. My advice: remove all of it. (One of the Amazon user reviews offers a thorough discussion of this. My advice: read it.)
Speaking of user reviews, they average out to 4.2 stars from over 1,600 (!) buyers. That's pretty solid, and I suspect they'd be a little higher without the aforementioned crapware. Even with it, this is an amazing deal for anyone seeking a capable low-cost laptop.
Bonus deal: Remember the cool RAVPower Savior mobile charger from the other day? That deal was for the Micro-USB model. If you were hoping to snag the Lightning version, now's your chance: Sunvalleytek (via Amazon) has the RAVPower Savior 9,000mAH mobile charger (Lightning edition) for $35.99 shipped when you apply coupon code NIICQGWM at checkout. That's $14 off the regular price and the best deal to date on this, my favorite portable power supply.
Bonus deal No. 2: Calling all comics fans! StoryBundle's Dynamite Ultimate Heroes Bundle is a massive DRM-free collection of digital comics. The name-your-own-price tier includes "Alice in Wonderland," "Bob's Burgers" and some Red Sonja, while the $15 bonus tier adds "Game of Thrones #1," a bunch more Red Sonja and many other titles. A portion of what you pay can go to charity, so it's a big win all around.