HP Stream adds Chromebook-like laptops and tablets, with Windows 8

The Stream is a budget "cloud-based PC," available in five sizes, and one of the least-expensive ways to get Windows 8 in a laptop or tablet.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
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Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Editor's note, September 29, 2014: This review has been updated with information about new models and screen sizes.

HP has expanded its Stream lineup with four new models, in addition to the previously announced 14-inch version. Like the original 14-inch Stream, these are intended as cloud-reliant systems, using a Web browser to access online services much like a Chromebook does, but with the added flexibility of Windows 8.

The two clamshell laptop versions are the HP Stream 11.6 and the HP Stream 13.3. Both have 1,366x768 displays, with an optional touchscreen on the 13-inch model. The low-power Intel Celeron processor and 32GB of SSD storage allow for a fanless design, but after a full Windows 8 install, there probably won't be much room left on the SSD for applications and files. Colors include magenta and blue, helping these stand out from typical budget laptops.

Both clamshells include 1TB of online storage via Microsoft OneDrive and a subscription to Office 365, both good for one year, plus a $25 Microsoft Store gift card. The 13-inch model also includes a 4G antenna and 200MB of data per month, with paid upgrades available.

Also new are two slate-style tablets, the HP Stream 7 Tablet and HP Stream 8 Tablet. These Intel-powered tablets run full Windows 8, and include the same OneDrive and Office 365 deals, as well as Skype credits. The 8-inch model also includes the same 200MB of free 4G data per month as the 13-inch Stream.

All four new Stream models will be available in November in the US, starting at $200 and $230 for the 11-inch and 13-inch Stream laptops, and $100 and $130 for the 7-inch and 8-inch Stream tablets.

International pricing and availability are yet to be announced, but converted pricing for the laptops would be about £120 to £140 in the UK, or AU$230 to AU$260 in Australia. For the Stream tablets, converted prices would be about £60 to £80, or AU$110 to AU$150.

Our original preview of the 14-inch HP Stream continues below.

Chromebooks have captured the lower end of the laptop market, dominating at smaller 11-inch screen sizes and making strong inroads into larger 13 and 14-inch screens as well, all while keeping prices at around $300 or £200.

HP makes Chromebooks in both 11-inch and 14-inch sizes, but the company also feels there's room for a similar device -- one designed primarily as a cloud-based PC -- but that doesn't run Google's limited Chrome OS.

HP's answer is the HP Stream, a 3.7-pound (1.7kg) clamshell laptop with Windows 8, a 14-inch 1,366x768-pixel screen, and a $300 price tag in the US. UK and Australian prices and availability are yet to be announced, but $300 converts to roughly £185 or AU$320.

While probably the least expensive Windows 8 clamshell you're likely to find, the system includes specs that might make even a very casual computer user cringe, at least if you were planning to use it as you would a standard laptop. Instead of installing and running apps, and storing large amounts of data, the Stream is meant to operate almost as a Chromebook would, accessing remote cloud-based apps and services, but with the ability to perform normal Windows 8 functions (such as running software apps) in a pinch.

The CPU is a 1.6GHz AMD A4 chip, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of SSD storage, of which maybe about half would still be accessible after accounting for the Windows 8 system files. The low-end parts at least allow the Stream to have a fanless design, which helps with battery life and system noise.

Making it feel a little less budget-minded, the system will come with Beats-branded audio -- making it perhaps one of the final HP products able to take advantage of the expiring deal between HP and Beats (the latter now a part of Apple) -- and a 100GB online storage account from Microsoft OneDrive.

The HP Stream should be available early in the fall, starting at $299. HP has said an upgraded model with 64GB of onboard storage may available shortly as well.