The HP Stream laptop catapulted to instant fame when Microsoft COO Kevin Turner held it aloft during his Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 presentation in July and declared that it would start at just $200. There's just one problem. The HP Stream is now being promoted on HP's web site. And the price starts at $300, not $200.
So let's just get this one out of the way up front. $300 is still an amazing price for this type of laptop.
Still, if you had your hopes riding on an a thin and light laptop for just $200—and you should have, given that Mr. Turner explicitly said it was coming—this is a bit of a disappointment. (In addition to the $199 HP Stream, Mr. Turner also highlighted a number of PCs that cost $249.99, including the 15-inch Acer Aspire ES1—which I recently purchased on sale—and an 11.6-inch Toshiba.)
I've always been fascinated by the concept of "good enough" computing and feel like our current gadget obsession is both unhealthy and temporary. (I got as much "joy" out of that $200 Acer as I did out of a $1500 MacBook Air, for example.) But it's also worth noting that low-cost PCs are nothing new. A cursory search of this site shows a few blasts from the past like 2007's PCs break the $200 barrier and even 2009's HP 'Boxster' WHS Only $200 at Amazon.com (yes, that was a home server not a real PC). Low-cost options have been around for a while.
But what's different about the Stream is that it appears to be a modern thin and light laptop. The Acer I just bought works just fine, but it's also big and heavy. The Stream is colorful and fun. Small. Fanless even. Fanless! (I spelled out the Stream's specs earlier in So What Does a $200 PC Look Like?, based on a leak.)
Since you can't even preorder the Stream yet, it's not clear what a storage upgrade from 32 GB to 64 GB will cost, or whether the coming "grass green" color will cost extra. We'll see. But in the meantime, know this: While the $199 price tag we previously heard was insanely low, the "real" $300 price tag is the same as the pricing on HP's comparable Chromebook. And it's still a great price for this type of device.