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LAPTOP

HP Stream 13

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HP's Stream 13 is probably one of the cheapest Windows laptops you can buy now.

It has to be inexpensive. It is built to compete with Google's Chromebooks, which are low-cost laptops running on Chrome OS. Likewise, the Stream offers very basic computer hardware.

The processor is an entry-level Intel Celeron chip. It has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash-based internal storage. This hardware is packed into a plastic chassis weighing around 1.5kg and available in blue or pink. It feels and looks a bit like a toy, but at least it is not bland and grey.

Out of the box, it has only 15GB of free space for your apps. But as with some mobile devices, the laptop's limited storage can be extended via its microSD card slot.

The Stream runs Windows 8.1 with Bing, a special version that sets Microsoft's Bing as the default search provider for the Internet Explorer browser. But you are not forced to use it. You can switch to your preferred search engine or install other browsers.

The keyboard is shallow but spacious. The touchpad supports multi-touch gestures and feels responsive enough. The screen has no touch functionality.

Viewing angles from the sides are decent enough that I could read text clearly, but colours are extremely washed out. With its mediocre 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution, the screen is probably the worst feature.

The budget character of this laptop is evident from its ports and connectors. It has just one USB 3.0 port, along with two older USB 2.0 ports. There is no Ethernet port.

What gives this laptop an edge over Chromebooks is that it comes with a year's subscription, for a single user, to Microsoft Office 365. You get access to Microsoft's office productivity suite, which includes a generous 1TB of cloud storage.

In addition, the Stream bundles a Windows Store gift card (worth $35) and offers a year's access to global Wi-Fi hot spots operated by American company iPass. These are located conveniently at hotels and airports.

It all sounds great, especially when the final bill is just $349. Just keep in mind the downsides: a mediocre screen and underpowered hardware. To be fair, battery life was good at 6hr 53min.

A budget laptop that offers good value if you can stomach its mediocre performance.

TECH SPECS

Price: $349

Processor: Intel Celeron N2840 (2.16GHz)

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics

RAM: 2GB

Screen size: 13 inches, 1,366 x 768 pixels

Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HDMI, microSD card slot, headphone and microphone combo jack

Battery: 36 watt-hour


RATING

Features 3/5

Design 3/5

Performance 2/5

Value for money 4/5

Battery life 5/5

Overall 3/5

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