At its Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Microsoft very quickly showed off a coming $200 HP laptop that it said would compete with low-cost Chromebook offerings. The HP Stream, as it's called, is only possible because of Microsoft's decision to offer "zero dollar" Windows licensing to hardware partners. So what does a $200 PC look like, you ask? Brace yourself: It looks almost exactly like a Chromebook.
This probably shouldn't have been surprising. But a leaked specification sheet for the HP Stream provides a nice rundown of the device, and lets us compare it to a very similar offering from the same company, the HP Chromebook 14. And you may be somewhat surprised by the results.
Note: The HP Stream spec leak comes courtesy of mobilegeeks.de.
OS. The HP Stream run Windows 8.1 with Bing while the HP Chromebook 14 runs the simpler but less capable Chrome OS.
Price. The HP Stream starts at $199, while the similar HP Chromebook 14 costs $299, a full $100 more.
Processor/chipset. The HP Stream utilizes a quad-core 1.6 GHz AMD A4 Micro-6400T x86-style SoC with integrated graphics; because of its ultra-low 4.5 watts of power usage, it requires no fan. The Chromebook 14, meanwhile, provides a dual-core 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron 2955U with integrated graphics.
Screen. Both devices feature a 14-inch HD BrightView LED-backlit screen running at 1366 x 768. In fact, they appear to be the same exact screen. Neither provides any multi-touch capabilities.
Memory. Both devices ship with 2 GB of non-accessible, non-expandable RAM.
Internal storage. The base Stream ships with 32 GB of eMMC storage, and a higher-end model will offer 64 GB. On the Chromebook, HP offers a 16 GB SSD. 16 GB is typical for ChromeOS, but 32 GB is an absolute minimum for Windows 8.1 with Bing.
Storage expansion. Both devices offer an SD card reader for storage expansion.
Online storage special offer. The Stream comes with 100 GB of additional OneDrive storage for two years. The Chromebook 14, likewise, offers 100 GB of additional Google Drive storage for two years. I'm pretty sure that's not a coincidence.
Ports. Both devices offer 3 USB ports, but the Chromebook's configuration (2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0) is better than the Stream's (1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0). Both devices offer HDMI-out and a headphone/microphone combo jack.
Wireless. Both devices offer 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth. The Stream is Miracast-compatible, and both work with Chromecast.
That's the big stuff. There are other specs like keyboard, trackpad, camera and the like but you get the idea.
So what's the takeaway?
Amazingly, inexplicably, the Windows-based HP Stream is a better deal. Or at least it will be whenever it ships.
It's $100 less expensive. It has a quieter, fan-free design. It can optionally be had with more storage, though that may kill the price differential. And Windows is of course more powerful and can do more while offline especially.