Check out the HP Stream 13: Chromebook hardware running Windows

We didn’t mention Chromebooks in our 2014 wrap-up, but the devices certainly gained momentum this year. No, the browser-based devices aren’t for everyone. They’ve found a place in schools, though, and in homes where people spend most of their time on the web. Chromebooks also gained the attention of Microsoft: The company admitted in June that it won’t cede the low-end computing market.

I still use the Chromebook Pixel I bought in March of 2013. It’s powerful enough for everything I need to do on a daily basis, has a superb 2560 x 1700 display and came with 1 TB of [company]Google[/company] Drive storage. I’ve also tested a number of other Chromebooks since then. What I haven’t tried lately is the competition: The latest low-cost [company]Microsoft[/company] Windows with Bing laptops meant to sway consumers away from Chromebooks.

Last night, I noticed that the online Microsoft Store was offering the HP Stream 13 laptop for $30 off, so I pulled the trigger and paid $199 for the Signature Edition laptop. It should arrive before the new year.

hp stream 13 magenta

The [company]HP[/company] Stream 13 — there’s also a smaller Stream 11 model on sale for $179 — is essentially Windows 8.1 running on Chromebook hardware. Look at the hardware specifications and if you didn’t know what operating system the device ran, you’d think this is a $200 to $300 Chromebook, not a modern-day netbook:

  • A 2.16 GHz [company]Intel[/company] Celeron N2840 processor
  • 13.3-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • 2 GB of memory
  • 32 GB of internal flash storage and a microSD card slot
  • 1 USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out
  • 720p webcam
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Estimated battery life of 7.5 hours

Again, this is pretty typical fare for a Chromebook. And like Google’s offers of free storage, the Stream 13 comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage. A one-year subscription of Office365 is also included.

hp stream 13 front

From a general computing standpoint, I still think that Chrome OS is a bit “lighter” than Windows 8.1, meaning it does less but that keeps the whole experience simpler and faster.

Regardless, Microsoft and its hardware partners are trying to go head-to-head with Chromebooks with low-cost computers such as the Stream 13, so I’ll take it for a spin. It’s always good to see competing products and help keep things in perspective. I also use OS X and Linux computers, partly for this reason. I certainly won’t compare the $200 laptop to my $1,450 Pixel; this competes against similarly priced Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Dell and HP itself.

Once the device arrives and I’ve had a chance to use it as my full time computing device for several days, I’ll share my thoughts.