HP Stream 14-z010nr Highlights -
Pros: Sleek and modern design. Decent performance for the price.
Cons: Non-touchscreen. Minimum hard drive storage space. No RJ45 port.
For past couple of years, Chromebooks have been making a mark in personal computing by offering thin, light-weight and ultra-cheap laptops with the added feature of running the Chrome OS (Operating System). For those who are not familiar with the Chrome OS, it is basically a light weight operating system by Google capable of running compatible apps off the Cloud. By design, the Chrome OS is at its best when the user has a readily available internet connection, even though the latest version of the operating system has some limited offline capability. Also people who are used to the look and feel of traditional OS like Windows, will take some time getting used to what Google has to offer. They will always find some "hole" like the need for accessing certain desktop apps (e.g. Photoshop), that will make them crawl back to their "normal" PC. To us, currently this is the biggest disadvantage of having a Chromebook.
But what if you had the best of both worlds: the benefit of a thin, light-weight, affordable and cloud based computing system that Chromebooks has to offer, with the added benefit of the look and feel of a Windows operating system that most traditional laptops have? This is precisely what HP Stream 14-z010nr has set out to do with it's pre installed Windows 8.1 OS. This notebook offers a screen resolution of 1366×768 pixels in a 14 inch display which is similar to most Chromebooks, but it's processor is not Intel but rather a low-power quad-core AMD A4 processor with Radeon R3 graphics. To top this all, the HP 14-z010nr also includes 2GB of memory, 32GB of SSD (Solid State Drive) flash storage and free 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage for 2 years. Of course, the biggest differentiator is that the HP stream laptop runs full Windows 8.1 operating system.
Overall the laptop is pretty well built. It feels solid and looks very modern in a natural silver color with a brushed aluminium metal finish. It is very thin (0.7 inches) and weighs 3.9 pounds. It also features a fanless design which improves the battery life and makes the laptop practically silent. As you can see, the HP stream laptop is built with mobility in mind.
Performance - The notebook is powered by a 1GHz quad-core AMD A4 Micro-6400T processor with an in-built 350MHz Radeon R3 Graphics (2MB cache). The clock rate can increase up to 1.6 GHz. This processor is part of AMD's 'Mullins' family. The performance is very similar to that of a Haswell-based Intel processor like the Intel Core i3-4005U featured in Acer C720-3404 Chromebook. For typical everyday applications, the processor is very capable. It's processing performance is more than sufficient for the intended use of basic office productivity, internet browsing and multimedia playback. Overall, the system works smoothly and Windows boots up quickly. Also, the lower power consumption of just 4.5W makes this processor very power efficient thereby increasing battery life.
Storage & Memory - The HP stream laptop comes with 2GB of 1600MHz DDR3L memory and a non upgradeable 32GB SSD. The 32GB storage space with Windows installation doesn't leave a lot of extra space to store other files and documents. About 22GB in total is used by the Windows installation and recovery partition, thereby leaving just under 10GB of extra space for other applications. Extra storage space can be added with a MicroSD card or you could invest in an external storage like the WD 1TB External USB 3.0 hard drive. In addition, you will get 100GB of free OneDrive online cloud storage for two years. The 2GB memory will get you through most basic multitasking activities. Also, please keep in mind that the memory is soldered on to the motherboard and hence can't be upgraded as well.
Display & Sound - The Stream features a 14 inch HD (768x1366 pixels) resolution BrightView WLED-backlit display. The laptop supports playing 720p high definition contents. The picture quality appears clear and sharp even though the lack of touch capability is a bit disappointing. The performance of the on board Radeon R3 Graphics is impressive when compared to other budget notebooks. The graphics and video motion is very smooth and it doesn't feel very sluggish when playing games. Having said that, the graphics card is not designed for modern computer games. Apart from that, the existing storage capacity is hardly sufficient for most games. Older games will run smoothly with low resolution and low quality settings. However, you should not have any problems playing games downloaded via the Windows Store on Window 8. The laptop features four speakers by Beats Audio. The sound is rather thin, lacks bass and the quality is pretty average at best.
Battery - The 3-cell 32Wh Li-ion polymer battery is advertised to have a battery life of up to 6.5 hours but in real life applications, it should last for approx. 5 hours which is still pretty decent.
Operating System - Windows 8.1
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The connectivity features on the HP Stream 14 include 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, a HDMI port, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x USB 3.0 port, a headphone output/microphone input combo and a multi-format SD media card reader. It lacks a RJ45 port for wired internet network connectivity. The laptop also features a HP TrueVision front-facing HD webcam with integrated digital microphone. The laptop has a nice full sized keyboard however the trackpad is not the best and can be a bit annoying to use at times. Some of the pre-installed software that comes with the HP Stream 14 are McAfee LiveSafe, Adobe Shockwave Player, CyberLink Media Suite, Evernote, Netflix, Skype and TripAdvisor. The HP 14-z010nr measures 9.45 x 13.54 x 0.70 inches and weighs 3.9 pounds.
Before the HP Stream series of laptops came onto the scene, the choice was really simple. If you had basic computing needs and wanted a sleek looking low priced laptop then you just had to go out and buy a Chromebook. The Chromebook is the easiest thing for web surfing and carrying out basic computing tasks. Even though we consider the Chromebook to be a great little computer, it lacks the ability to perform usual Windows functions (such as running software apps), which can be a huge let down for users who want the familiar Windows experience. Also some users will not like the idea of cloud computing where everything is stored online in the Cloud as it always requires you to be connected online in order to access your files and documents. The Stream is meant to operate almost as a Chromebook and offers similar features and functionality but with the ability to perform common Windows functions. To look at it in another way, the HP Stream is basically a Windows-based Chromebook, which can run Windows applications. The specifications aren't all that particularly impressive, but neither are those for some of the Chromebooks currently available on the market. Nevertheless, the laptop is very capable of running everyday tasks. It is housed in a sleek-looking thin case. With the Stream you can store your documents in the Cloud but you can also store some of it on the SSD for offline access. Our two main disappointments with this laptop is the lack of touchscreen capability (especially when it is a Windows laptop) and the lack of sufficient hard disk space for use with other applications. All things considered, we like the HP Stream 14-z010nr. For people who are looking for a Chromebook alternative, this laptop will definitely give Google a run for their money. If you're seriously considering a low-cost Windows machine, the HP Stream 14 should be on the top of your list.
Note: there are two other screen sizes available with the smaller being 11.6 inches - HP Stream 11-d010nr and the mid-size being 13.3 inches - HP Stream 13-c010nr, to compliment with the 14 inch model.
On a totally unrelated note, we are going to leave you with this great advertisement from Microsoft having a go at Google's Chromebook. It is worth watching!