HP Stream 11, Acer C720
Tech

A Review Of The Cheapest Windows Laptop [HP Stream 11]

October 13, 2015 | by Paul

When I travel, I don’t like to bring EVERYTHING. I like to bring the minimum effective dose of stuff. And I don’t like taking much risk. My ideal travel computer is something disposable, something I can lose without losing everything. For the past couple years, it’s been a Chromebook, the Acer C720.

But … you know … programs are nice. Apps. EXEs.

So I’ve been eyeing the low-end of Windows machines for a while. And I finally pulled the trigger on an HP Stream 11 when the price dropped below $180. This makes it one of the cheapest Windows laptops ever sold.

There are other options. The Lenovo S21e and the ASUS X205TA are worth a look. But the HP Stream 11 has a full-sized HDMI port. So if this thing turns into my TV-connected box, I don’t have to buy a new cable. Minor, but that was a factor for me.

Probably not a dealbreaker for everyone.

Probably not a dealbreaker for everyone.

Weaknesses:

There’s not enough space to upgrade to Windows 10. So you need to use the Windows Media Creation Tool to create a USB installer, then do the install. You can just click “upgrade” and let it go. Not a huge deal, but I had to download 3GBs of Windows 10 twice. Once to watch it fail, because I didn’t have the required 11+GB of free space left after the download, and another time to put it on the USB drive. The good news is that Windows 10 seems a bit smaller than 8.

The trackpad is horrible, until you kill the silly delay. The default is a 2 second delay to fight mistaken palm taps. Killing that delay makes a huge difference. But I was expecting the worst, so I picked up a Microsoft Sculpt mouse. [Three-word review of the Microsoft Sculpt mouse: nice but big. Extended review that touches on a weak point: the Bluetooth connection drops sometimes and that’s annoying.]

Lastly, OneDrive on Windows isn’t as good as OneDrive on Android. And that’s fucked up. Why can’t I view all my files without having to sync them? I have no idea. I can do that on my phone. I can’t do that on my Windows laptop. I don’t want to / can’t sync my ~20GBs of photos on OneDrive, and because of that, I can’t even see them in the file explorer. I have to use the website. Whatever, Microsoft.

Strengths:

It’s reasonably quick and does nearly everything. Paint.NET? Yep. Chrome? NP. Skype too. Thing even comes with a year of Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive. I’m annoyed with OneDrive (see above), so I won’t be claiming that deal. And I’m a LibreOffice man, man. But I can run that too.

Battery life is solid. The keyboard feels nicer than it should. It’s fanless and silent. And Windows 10 is pretty great if you haven’t tried it. I’m a fan.

And if I need space, it’s got a full-sized SD slot ready to go. But I don’t need more space. I’ve got nearly 16GB free. Remember: this is my travel laptop. It’s only running essentials.

HP Stream 11, Acer C720

HP Stream 11, Acer C720

Conclusion:

If you’re like me and like to travel light and lean, this computer is worth considering. If something happens to it, you’re out $180. Not a big deal. Your life isn’t ruined. It runs everything if you’re patient and has plenty of space if you’re diligent.

I’m happy with it. When I spill an in-flight beer on the keyboard and fry the thing, I’ll absolutely buy another.

 

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