The days of the Chromebook cornering the market on super-cheap laptops seem to be over. The new HP Stream Laptops run Windows 8, are very light, look fantastic, and, best of all, can be had for under $300.
How are they that cheap? It’s not too different from how costs are kept down for Chromebooks—the Stream Laptops have less powerful Intel Celeron processors and a minimum of internal storage (32 GB of eMMC flash memory). Processor and internal storage are two very expensive components that tend to swing price dramatically, so it’s little wonder that the Stream Laptops are sub-$300. The display, on the other hand, is pretty solid at 1366 x 768. These laptops are also fanless, thanks to advances in the Celeron processor, which is something that helps keep them so thin and light.
With only 32 GB of storage and the name ‘Stream’, you might be able to guess that these laptops will need to rely heavily on cloud storage. They do, and there’s lots of free goodies that help to make that happen. With purchase, you get 1 TB of storage space on Microsoft OneDrive and access to Office 365 Personal, although both of those are only free for one year. You’ll also get a $25 gift card to the Microsoft Store. In practice, this means the Stream Laptops are limited in the same ways the Chromebooks are—despite running Windows 8, you still won’t have much room to use many third-party programs, because you won’t have the storage space to run them. Of course, there’s a chance that what these laptops provide is all you need, and if that’s the case, they represent a pretty incredible value.
The HP Stream Laptops are available in 11.6″, 13.3″, and 14″ models, with touchscreens optional for the first two. The 13.3″ model comes with 200 MB of free 4G data per month for the lifetime of the device, via T-Mobile. The 14″ model features Beats Audio and can be purchased with 64 GB of internal storage, but either way, you only get 100 GB of free OneDrive storage, although that’s for two years, instead of one.
And, lest we forget, they look great, thanks to their slim frames and color options. The 11.6″ and 13.3″ models come in magenta or blue, while the 14″ model comes in silver and purple, with a light green to come later. The prices seal the deal—they start at $200, $230, and $300, according to screen size. They’re all expected to arrive in early November.