The HP Stream 11 is clearly both inexpensive and a great value. At just $200, it's cheap, of course. But it also features a solid-feeling construction, a bright and fun form factor, a surprisingly high-quality typing experience and a wonderful screen. This isn't a bargain bin throwaway. The Stream 11 is something special.
I knew that HP had gotten something right the moment I opened the plain cardboard box and saw the Stream inside It didn't just not scream cheap, but immediately seemed well-made. But the point was really driven home when my wife and daughter—neither of whom really cares about technology per se, both saw the Stream and then started fighting over who could have. This was most unexpected.
Some will describe this device as a modern netbook. I get that. It seems small, with its 11.6-inch screen and a reported 97 percent full-sized keyboard. But the screen is surrounded by a healthy amount of bezel and the keyboard, surprising me, given my large hands, isn't just serviceable, it's great, with a solid feel.
But the HP Stream 11 couldn't be more different than the also-$200 Acer E15 behemoth I recently acquired. It's comparatively tiny, but it's not Ultrabook thin, and sports full-sized USB and HDMI ports with plenty of room to spare. It's also a bit heavy and solid-feeling, but that contributes to the quality of the device. It doesn't seem flimsy at all.
Performance isn't terrible at all. Word runs acceptably fast, as does IE and the bundled Modern apps I've tried—including Xbox Video with HD streaming—all worked well.
I happened to also spend part of yesterday getting that Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro up and running with all my usual apps, and in doing so on the Stream, I didn't see much difference. That might seem like I'm damning the Yoga a bit, but the point here is that while these machines are not comparable price-wise ($1300 vs. $200), or from any other perspective for that matter, the Stream is holding its own well outside its weight class.
Whether the Stream's Celeron process, 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of eMMC storage will stand the test of time will of course require some, well, time. But I can offer a few quick observations.
First, this configure seems perfectly capable of running Windows 8.1 (and thus Windows 10 as well) and doing well for the types of casual computing tasks one should expect of such a machine. You can run Word and Office 2013. IE. Facebook. That kind of thing. My bloated Chrome configuration, with multiple add-ons, quickly overwhelmed available memory, and while it does run fine, you won't want to run Chrome alongside any other heavy hitters.
I realize the storage might be a concern for some. Out of the box, the available storage was 17.3 GB of 21.5 GB, and Disk Management reports that the recovery partition is about 7.2 GB. I installed Office 2013 through the bundled Office 365 Personal subscription, again, a $69.99 value, and after a few other app installs it's at about 10.3 GB free. Absolutely fine for casual use.
Obviously, I won't be using the HP Stream 11 personally, and certainly not on work trips. But I'll use it around the house this week and install a few Modern games and see how that goes. If it works out as expected, I'll see about dispersing this to the family. I'll let them fight that one out, but so far, so good. The HP Stream 11 is a pleasant surprise.