HP Offers $199 Windows Laptop: Be Careful What You Wish For

HP has at long last unveiled the worst-kept secret in the laptop industry … the HP Stream 11, a new 11.6-inch laptop running Windows 8.1 that costs just $199. We’ll forgive you for thinking this is simply an updated netbook. In fact, we’re also having trouble calling this a budget notebook and not a netbook.

That said, calling the Stream series of laptops “netbooks” might actually be a little insulting … to netbooks.

Much like the recently announced HP Stream 14 which is larger and more expensive, the Stream 11 is based on HP’s Chromebook designs and relies heavily on cloud storage rather than a reasonably large hard drive or SSD. The Stream 11 will soon be followed by an equally budget-friendly HP Stream 13, a 13.3-inch model priced at $230.

stream11Both the Stream 11 and Stream 13 feature an Intel Celeron N2840 dual-core processor with 2 GB of system RAM and 32 GB of flash storage (much of which will be taken up by the installation of Windows 8.1). Both notebooks come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365, 1 TB of free cloud storage, and a $25 gift card for Windows Store apps.

The bottom line is that we don’t have high expectations for the performance and features packed into the Stream notebooks. Unlike the low-priced netbooks of the past, these budget Windows laptops lack enough internal storage to keep you productive when you’re away from an Internet connection. Granted, most people don’t use their laptops when there isn’t an Internet connection available, but laptops that rely on cloud storage aren’t ideal for frequent travelers who regularly find themselves without Internet access.

stream7On the bright side … well, you’re getting a cheap Windows laptop.

If you aren’t opposed to the idea of a Windows device that’s tied to the cloud, HP is also introducing two pint-sized Windows 8.1 tablets: the HP Stream 7 and HP Stream 8, priced at $99 and $149 respectively. Both of the smaller Stream slate tablets will feature the Intel Atom Z3735G quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of built-in storage. The Stream 8 will also come with 200MB of free LTE data for life.

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