Colorful and sturdy design; Comfortable keyboard; Good performance for price
Below-average battery life; Display dimmer than competition's
At less than $250, the HP Stream 13 is a very affordable and fairly capable Windows 10 notebook, but its battery life could be better.
A unique and capable Chromebook alternative, HP's Stream 13 ($230 as tested) is a compact laptop that runs the full Windows 10 OS to give you more than just the cloud. Equipped with an Intel Celeron CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, the Stream is great for surfing the Web and taking notes in class. While the 13-inch screen could be brighter and the battery life is shorter than average, the Stream 13's colorful design, capable specs and an excellent keyboard/touchpad combo make for a great low-cost laptop or student notebook.
With a vibrant blue (or magenta) matte, plastic shell, the Stream 13 has a bold look that separates this laptop from the pack. A brushed-plastic keyboard deck and white contrasting chiclet layout help tie the entire look together. Measuring 13.12 x 9 x 0.77 inches and weighing 3.42 pounds, HP's laptop is lightweight enough to comfortably fit in almost any backpack or laptop bag, with plenty of room to spare.
With a charging port and two USB 2.0 slots on the right side, and an HDMI, USB 3.0, aux audio and micro SD card reader on the left side, the Stream 13 has everything you need to get connected. The two USB 2.0 slots and the single USB 3.0 port allow you to take advantage of faster external hard-drive speeds without sacrificing other ports for mice, keyboards or any other peripherals. You can expand beyond the internal 32GB of storage with the microSD slot.
The Stream 13's 13-inch screen (1366 x 768) offers a fairly colorful and crisp image for the price, but it's on the dim side. When I watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, the red glow of Kylo Ren's lightsaber and the green landscapes looked clear and vibrant. However, it was tough to make out details in darker and shadowy scenes, such as the one with Rey rappelling through the remains of an Imperial ship. This effect only worsened when I viewed the screen from wider angles.
The Stream 13 registered a display brightness of 182 nits, trailing the Lenovo Ideapad 100S and the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 (both 244 nits). I noticed myself trying to increase the screen's brightness even though it was already set to max.
In an acceptable showing for a laptop this inexpensive, the Stream 13 reproduced 59.8 percent of the sRGB color gamut, higher than the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook (53.4 percent) but lower than the Ideapad 100S (62 percent).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Stream 13's white, chiclet keys are easy to read, and a blue, metal inner casing provides a solid platform behind the keys, which minimizes flex. The keys' short travel of 1.25mm is quite shallow, which means touch typists will risk "bottoming out," or pushing down too hard against the base. Typical laptops have 1.5mm to 2mm of travel, which is much more comfortable. On the 10FastFingers typing test, I scored about 90 words per minute, which is less than my average of 110 wpm on larger keyboards.
The 3.7 x 2.5 inch touchpad proved reliable, allowing for smooth double-finger scrolling and tap to click, and easy pinch-to-zoom functions. However, clicking on the pad required more force than we prefer, and it was noisy.
Featuring a 1.6-GHz Intel Celeron N3050 CPU, 2GB of RAM and only 32GB of flash storage, the Stream 13 provides everything you need for basic computing tasks. The laptop allowed me to run basic Windows Store games like Candy Crush, stream a 1080p video on YouTube and navigate among six browser tabs without much lag.
HP's budget laptop fell behind its competitors in benchmark testing, however, scoring 1,640 on the synthetic GeekBench 3 test, which measures overall system performance. Its score was similar to that of the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook (1,646, with Intel Celeron N3050 CPU) but lower than the Lenovo Ideapad 100S's showing (2,195, with 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735F CPU).
While you'll be able to play basic and casual games from the Windows Store, don't expect demanding titles to work. When we ran 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, a synthetic test which measures graphics prowess, the Stream 13 returned a score of 17,039, beating out the Lenovo 100S (15,081) but falling short of the Acer Aspire Cloudbook (18,605).
The Stream 13 is the notebook you want for crunching serious numbers, though. It took the system 15 minutes to match 20,000 names and addresses in OpenOffice. That's much longer than the average notebook but comparable to the Acer Aspire Cloudbook's time of 15:08. The HP managed to pull away from the Lenovo 100S, which took a massive 22 minutes and 5 seconds to complete the process.
The biggest drawback of the Stream 13 is its fairly short battery life. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of screen brightness, the HP lasted a modest 6 hours and 54 minutes, trailing the ultraportable category average of 8:11, the Acer Cloudbook's mark of 14:43 and the Lenovo Ideapad 100S' time of 9:48.
The HP Stream 13 comes with Windows 10 preloaded, with a minimal amount of bloatware. As on most PCs, you'll find Candy Crush Soda Saga, Trip Advisor and The Weather Channel. To counter the device's small storage space of only 32GB, the Stream 13 includes 1TB of OneDrive storage, as well as access to Office 365 for a full year to take advantage of Cloud computing.
Configuration and Warranty
Our HP Stream 13 features a 13-inch display, a 1.6-GHz Intel Celeron N3050 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. If you're looking for something even smaller, HP also offers an 11-inch model with the same components; this version goes for $200, or $30 less than the Stream 13.
HP includes a one-year limited hardware warranty with 90 days of phone support and complimentary chat support for one year.
For only $230, the Stream 13 offers the flexibility of a full Windows 10 experience and the performance to handle basic computing needs. Giving this laptop an attractive design and solid build quality, HP put together a strong package for the money, but we wish the system lasted longer on a charge and offered a brighter display.
Those looking for more endurance should opt for the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14, which is the same price as this HP. Overall, if you want a simple laptop for Web browsing, email, Facebook and word processing, the Stream 13 is a good choice.
|CPU||1.6 GHz Intel Celeron N3050|
|Operating System||Windows 10|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||32GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||eMMC|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics|
|Wi-Fi Model||802.11b/g/n (1x1) and Bluetooth 4.0 combo|
|Touchpad Size||3.75 x 2.5-inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone/Mic|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 2.0|
|Warranty/Support||1-year limited hardware warranty|
|Size||13.12 x 9.02 x 0.77 in|