HP Stream 11 Windows Notebook - full review
The HP Stream 11 is a laptop aimed predominantly at students that’s currently sold at under $180. For that you get a portable 11-inch laptop that even includes an Office 365 subscription – it’s one of the key things that makes it perfect for students.
While undoubtedly a basic machine, the HP Stream 11 isn’t as plain as you might expect. The speakers and battery life are excellent for the price, and it’s not bad-looking either. However, the 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display is a weak point.
· 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display
· 2GB RAM
· 32GB built-in storage
· SD card slot
· USB 2.0
· USB 3.0
The HP Stream 11 is a cute little thing. It’s available in 2 colors – blue and magenta and it definitely stands out. The plastic is soft to the touch and the HP logo cut in silver metal sits in the center of the lid, just as usual.
To be honest, this notebook lacks the elegance of, let’s say, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2015 or MacBook Air, but the Stream is fun and visually pleasing. Too many budget laptops come wrapped up in dull silver or grey – a bit of variety is a very welcome change.
As you can expect, the build quality isn’t sublime. The plastic frame that surrounds the keyboard is sharp and feels rough on palms and wrists when typing. The screen feels a little flimsy, and is easy to bend with your fingers. The hinge also allows you to force the screen several degrees further back than it should go, which isn’t reassuring. That said, the design and build quality is still above average for a laptop this price.
The Stream is 1.28 kg but it ‘feels’ heavy because this is essentially an 11-inch laptop in the body of a 13-inch one. A lot of its 11-inch rivals are around 200 g lighter (at a higher price, of course) so the weight is nothing to be impressed of. Still, it’s easy to transport as it’s 19.7 mm thick and 300 mm wide so it fits comfortably in a backpack or a smaller messenger bag.
A good selection of ports is available on the base. USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and HDMI slots sit on the right side, while the charging port, SD card slot and Kensington security lock are on the left.
Screen and Sound
The screen of the Stream 11 is nothing special. It’s 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768, and it’s not impressive in terms of brightness, vibrancy, or picture quality. It’s a little grainy when looked at closely – certainly compared to most mobile phones – but it’s typical of laptops this price.
Brightness is also an issue, though. It’s a bit difficult to use the Stream outdoors during the day despite the non-glossy screen with anti-glare coating. The colors are washed out and not entirely true to life. Viewing angles however are very good and you can share the screen while watching movies with a person or two without a problem (besides the small size of the screen, of course).
The audio is DTS, which is delivered through a pair of stereo speakers that sit on the bottom of the base, towards the front edge of the Stream. They’re impressively loud too, making the Stream 11 good for listening to music.
Performance and Connectivity
The HP stream is not designed to deal with heavy workload, that’s why it’s primarily built for students with light activities – word processing, browsing, video content (it can cope with HD content too).
Powering the Stream 11 is a 2.16GHz (2.58GHz with burst) Intel Celeron N2840 processor, which is combined with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, around 13GB of which is actually available.
The Stream also has Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, both of which work fine.
Windows 8.1 is the operating system of choice for the Stream, and while it’s better on non-touchscreen devices than plain old Windows 8, it’s still not great. Gesture controls just don’t work as well as they should without a touchscreen, with trackpad swipes frequently failing to register. That’s more a criticism of the operating system than the Stream 11 itself, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Since only 13GB of free storage space is available out of the box, HP includes a generous 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage, where you can store all your files and photos.
A one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal also comes with the laptop, which is part of what makes the Stream 11 an ideal choice for students. The service would usually ne expensive, so you’d be making a very tidy saving.
HP claims that the three-cell Lithium-ion battery inside the Stream 11 will deliver up to 8hrs 15 mins of life before it requires charging again. It just about delivered, too, as it managed just over eight hours of web browsing and YouTube viewing. It’s also a fast charger, going from flat to 24% in just 30 minutes.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard of the Stream is very cool, keys are spaced apart nicely and look crisp and clean, with the white of the individual buttons standing out nicely from the blue dock. The four corner keys (Escape, Delete, Control and the right-pointing arrow) are pleasantly curved and easy on the eye. Our unit’s Escape key didn’t sit completely straight in its groove, looking a little wonky, but it worked fine.
It’s a good keyboard to type on, too. All the buttons offer a nice amount of travel, which allows for speedy, accurate typing. The only niggles are that it’s not backlit and the Shift key on the left-hand side is quite small, so it’s easy to accidentally hit back slash (\) instead. On the whole, it’s a quality offering.
HP’s ImagePad trackpad is not quite as likeable. While it’s well-sized and offers a good level of resistance when you click, it feels cheap and flimsy. When you push down on it with any force, the plastic around it flexed too.
Camera quality may not be as crucial to a laptop as it is to a smartphone, but it’s still an important feature, especially if you’re a keen user of Skype. The Stream 11 makes use of a front-facing HP Truevision HD webcam, which delivers pleasantly surprising results.
While colours look fairly washed out and pictures lack fine detail (possibly a blessing in disguise, since pockmarks pass under the radar), the camera is more than good enough for video calls. It struggles in low light settings, but so do the webcams on far more expensive laptops.
The HP stream is a great choice if you have to stick to a tight budget. It’s ridiculously good value for money for a Windows laptop, particularly considering you get an Office 365 subscription with it.
Key features like battery life, speaker quality and design all leave really good impressions and ensure the Stream 11 will serve almost any student well. The only area of genuine concern is the screen – it’s a little dull and hard to use outdoors.