HP Stream 14-Inch Laptop Review
Billed as Windows’ answer to Chromebooks, the HP Stream 14 laptop sports an insanely attractive price tag and appearance when viewed on the shelves. Unless you’re a student on a strict budget or a casual user looking to perform basic tasks, however, we recommend leaving it right there.
To bring the price that low, a lot of manufacturing corners have been cut and what we’re left with is a machine that performs lower than the sum of its parts, what’s left of them. It ambles through tasks, creaking and groaning all the way, and its screen and speakers leave a lot to be desired.
Having said all of that, this laptop is not without its positives. It excels in the area of battery performance, and despite its all-plastic build, it feels reasonably sturdy. When you consider the fact that this laptop offers the full Windows 10 experience on a budget, it begins to look less like a hard sell, especially if you’re willing to temper your expectations accordingly.
Design and Appearance
The first thought you’re likely to have about the HP Stream 14 is that it looks seriously good, whichever color you end up settling for (it’s offered in black, white, blue, and pink colors). Your second thought, after you give in to your urge to fill your hands with it is that it feels good to the touch too.
Laptops in the Stream line have been significantly pared down to accommodate their budget prices, but HP makes a point of ensuring that the fact doesn’t become apparent just by looking at them. It’s on closer examination that they begin to reveal their kinks. The Stream 14 looks for all the world like a premium laptop, all sleek matte plastic, and brushed aluminum texture. The plastic chassis feels solid enough, but there’s more than a hint of flex when you lift the lid or work on the white keyboard. The palm rests give off strong plasticky vibes as well.
The Stream 14 goes against the grain a bit in the sense that it sports a 14-inch screen as opposed to the regular 13-inches that others in the line serve up. In spite of this extra bulk, this laptop is reasonably lightweight, tipping the scales at a little over 3 pounds, which is par for the course for laptops of a similar form factor.
The screen is bordered by moderate bezels, with a webcam fitted to the top bezel and the bottom one sporting the HP logo.
Ports and Connections
The HP Stream 14 is not an ultraportable, and this should ordinarily mean that there’s enough real estate along its flanks to accommodate any number of ports. What we get, in contrast, and perhaps keeping with the latest trends, are relatively slim pickings.
You’ll find the vast majority of ports along this laptop’s left flank, including a full-size HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a full-size SD card slot, an audio headset jack, and a Kensington lock. The right side is less crowded, with only the power connector occupying the top end. This is a fairly basic port offering, as you can tell, and the absence of an Ethernet port means you’ll be relying solely on wireless connections (which are handled by WiFi and Bluetooth, by the way) for internet connection. The full-size SD card reader is a positive, but that is perhaps offset by the fact that it was included to make up for the laptop’s decidedly paltry memory space offering.
Keyboard and Touchpad
This laptop’s chiclet keyboard with white tile keys may be good, or it may not be. That would depend largely on an individual’s viewpoint. The keys are reasonably well-spaced, but they require a fair amount of pressure to register a keystroke, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. The keyboard isn’t backlit, so you’ll be obliged to do all your tasks on it while there’s daylight.
One other thing, the keyboard flexes a lot, giving it a plasticky feel that doesn’t make typing particularly enjoyable, even though you’ll generally get by without too much trouble. The touchpad is what you might expect a budget laptop’s touchpad to be: moderately competent without being outstanding. For a better experience, you should consider doing away with most of the multitouch settings.
Expecting an awesome panel on a $600 budget laptop is a bit like wanting to go on a ship cruise with taxi fare. But even with these much-diminished standards, the HP Stream 14 laptop’s screen manages to underwhelm massively.
Its resolution of 1366 x 768 is only good enough for streaming videos and surfing the web. For video or photo editing, you’ll find this panel wholly inadequate. At 220 nits, the screen is bright enough, but the screen is also overwhelmingly reflective, which can put a spanner in most works. The screen can purportedly produce 81.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut, but a Delta-E rating of 3.86 means that colors appear washed out and text looks a little blurry.
Our impression of this laptop’s screen is that it is merely passable, definitely not something to get excited about.
The speakers in this laptop are surprisingly good, but their unfortunate placement takes away a lot of their pep. HP decided to locate the speakers underneath the chassis, with the result that the downward-firing speakers fire straight into your laps, producing somewhat muffled sounds.
It’s a frustrating design choice since the speakers appear to be decent otherwise. Of course, there’s no bass, but the high and mid sounds are well proportioned, and the speakers are loud enough to fill a room with sound.
Graphics and Gaming
With its Intel UHD integrated graphics, the Stream 14 can not be expected to execute any graphics-intensive program without collapsing into a whirling mess. As it is, it struggles with even basic tasks.
For regular computing tasks such as web surfing, word processing, and video streaming, it will be able to pull through without too much ado. If you get ambitious and try to run photo or video-editing programs, or anything that puts a strain on its graphics processor, you should be prepared to meet with stiff, loud resistance.
By the same token, gaming on this laptop is a bit of a non-starter, unless you’re willing to content yourself with basic games. And when we say basic, we mean really basic.
The Stream 14 laptop’s battery performance is like an oasis sticking out of a very hot, arid desert. You can call it the laptop’s brightest spot, alongside its appealing appearance. The batteries in this laptop can last a full workday, and if all you do is word processing and simple computing tasks, you can get the batteries to last up to 9 hours. This is one area where the low-powered CPU counts as a positive.
Cooling and Noise Emission
Since the Stream 14 only offers enough power to get through the lightest and most basic of computing tasks, it manages to maintain its cool the vast majority of the time. By contrast, it emits a high-pitched whiny sound in the thick of action that’s really unpleasant to the ears. The fans also tend to be excitable, starting themselves up at the first hint of adversity and maintaining a racket throughout. While the laptop is a cool customer, a silent one it is not.
Performance-wise, this laptop will not set hearts racing, However, criticism of this laptop’s performance should be tempered by an examination of its components, which cannot be described as high-powered by any means. An Intel Celeron CPU (offering base speeds of 1.6GHz), Intel HD Graphics 400, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMc flash storage make up the full cast of this laptop’s hardware. In the best of times, these are not spectacularly impressive specs.
In the meantime, while this laptop handles all the basic computing tasks you’d expect laptops in its category to, it doesn’t handle them with any pizzazz or flair. In fact, we found the performance lacking in many aspects. The laptop lagged severely, even with basic tasks such as loading the web browser and typing out documents on One Drive, where you would normally not expect it to.
In our spreadsheet and multitasking tests, the HP Stream 14 struggled massively, creaking and groaning the whole time. We didn’t try to run it through CPU and GPU intensive tasks such as 3D image rendering, video transcoding, and Photoshop, for fear that it may spontaneously combust.
The HP Stream 14 is a budget laptop in everything but appearance. And while there’s nothing wrong with shopping in the bargain basement for your laptop, you should be aware; what you see is what you get. What you get is a no-frills, bare-bones laptop that rarely ventures beyond the ordinary, in terms of performance.
Its list of positives includes impressive battery performance, a pretty solid build, and a price tag that looks generous. Throw in a full year of Microsoft 365 subscription into the deal and it begins to look like an enticing prospect for bargain hunters. On the flip side, sub-par performance, paltry onboard storage capacity, a so-so screen, and an unimpressive keyboard are major gripes.
If you’re looking for a laptop that offers all the basics as well as the Windows 10 experience on a strict budget, the HP Stream 14 might just be what you need.
|CPU||Intel Celeron N3060 (1.6GHz)|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 400|
|Hard Drive Size||32GB|
|Highest Available Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0, Audio-in, Kensington Lock, SD card slot, USB 2.0|
|Size||13.3 x 8.9 x 0.70 inches|
|Touchpad Size||3.7 x 2.5 inches|
|Warranty/Support||1-year standard warranty|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC 7265, Bluetooth|