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HP Stream 11 review: Inexpensive HP Stream 11 wants to be as cloud-friendly as a Chromebook, with Windows 8

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Keep in mind that this is not a touchscreen, so all your finger-tapping shortcuts in Windows 8 for flipping through apps or entering networking preferences won't work -- you'll have to use a mouse or the sub-standard touchpad instead.

HP Stream ports & connections

Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery

For $199, it's hard to expect more than a pair of USB ports, an HDMI output, SD card slot, and a combo audio jack. That SD card slot is especially useful if you need more than the 10GB or so of storage space you'll have left after all the OS and system files are accounted for.

Performance in a system like this is hard to quantify. On one hand, this is a very slow laptop, even compared to other budget laptops. On the other hand, the inexpensive Chromebooks it's most likely to be compared to are similarly limited, and in fact can't even attempt to run the Windows programs the Stream 11 may struggle with.

In extensive hands-on use, the Stream 11 worked well for basic tasks, as long as expectations were kept in check. Keep in mind programs optimized for Windows 8 generally run smoother, so in our tests, IE was faster than the Chrome browser, and most off the built-in Windows 8 apps, such as Weather and News, also worked well.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Running both IE and Chrome Web browser windows, Excel, and streaming a Netflix video, the system creaked under the strain. Navigating my spreadsheet was slow, and the Netflix video stuttered a bit, although switching from the Web version to the downloadable Netflix app from the Windows 8 app store gave us much better video playback.

In the performance tests below, you'll find the Stream 11 compared to other low-cost Windows laptops when running Windows apps, but also compared to two recent Chromebooks, running the browser-based benchmarks we use for Chrome OS. Numbers aside, the Stream 11 worked reasonably well for tasks such as writing documents (including this review) and email.

Battery life was the biggest surprise we got from the Stream 11. In our video playback battery drain test, the system ran for just under 8 hours, at 7:58, longer than we expected and longer than most Chromebooks and low-cost Windows laptops. Note that we use a slightly different version of the test for Chrome OS, streaming online video, versus the local video playback used for Windows systems, but the Stream 11 still appears to offer the best battery life in this price range.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

With very low expectations going in, the HP Stream 11 ended up being a very pleasant surprise. It's a rare system that under-promises and over-delivers, although over-delivering for a $199 laptop still isn't setting the bar too high.

Having tried dozens of budget 10-inch and 11-inch PCs over the years, from older netbooks to newer hybrids, the combination of long battery life and a decent keyboard makes the Stream 11 not only one of the least expensive, but also among the most usable.

Handbrake multimedia multitasking test

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance; results in seconds

Photoshop CS5 test

Lenovo Yoga 11
310
HP Stream 11
690

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance; results in seconds

iTunes encoding test

Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)
124
HP Stream 11
342
Acer Aspire Switch 10
372

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance; results in seconds

Video playback battery drain test

HP Stream 11
478
Samsung Chromebook 2
426
Acer Aspire Switch 10
372
Toshiba Chromebook 2
357
Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)
335

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance; results in minutes. Also note that Windows systems use local video playback, Chrome OS systems use streaming video.

Futuremark Peacekeeper

Toshiba Chromebook 2
1694
Samsung Chromebook 2
1614
HP Stream 11
901

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Sunspider 1.0.2

Toshiba Chromebook 2
214.2
HP Stream 11
304.2
Samsung Chromebook 2
589

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance; results in milliseconds

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