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HP Stream review: Still a good cheap laptop in 2019?

It's been around for years and is well known as a cheap line of laptops - find out if the HP Stream is a budget bargain

HP’s Stream is popular for a reason – it’s a cheap laptop line from a big brand that’s widely available. But is it actually any good?

We’ve taken the latest model – the 11-ak, for a spin in our test lab to find out. It joins a range of cheap laptop alternatives from HP itself, but also competitors like Lenovo, Acer and Asus, all of which promise quality for less.

Discover if any of these cheap models make it into our list of the best laptops we’ve tested.

HP Stream 11-ak – a cheap, portable, lightweight laptop

If you’re after a laptop that’s light above all else, the Stream 11-ak is a great place to start. The latest model is the lightest Stream we’ve tested, weighing just over a kilogram. And if using it for long periods on the go is also on your must-haves list, then HP’s claims of 13 hours of battery life should pique your interest. We tend to find very cheap laptops are more likely to achieve their claimed battery lives than expensive models thanks to their very low-power processors, so there’s every chance this HP Stream could be an all-day worker.

As you might expect, there are downsides to this laptop’s low price. Performance is a common compromise you’ll find on cheaper laptops, but it’s welcome to see that HP has updated the processor in its Stream range to an Intel Celeron N4000, where for the past few years it’s been a lower-specification N3060 model. The processor makes a bigger difference to how fast your laptop is than anything else and while very cheap laptops will never set the world alight when it comes to performance, there is still a big difference between the fastest and slowest budget laptops.

The screen, too, isn’t as sharp as you’ll find on more expensive laptops. It only has a 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution which is technically HD but certainly not Full HD. Full HD displays tend to look a lot sharper, with more pleasant looking text thanks to the extra pixels afforded by the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.

There’s a little bit of extra motivation to buy this laptop over others; it comes with a year of Microsoft Office 365 Personal, which gets you OneDrive storage and full Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher and Access. This would normally cost £60.

Stream laptops have always been available in a wide variety of colours, and this remains true here. In addition to the white model tested (11-ak0502sa), you can also pick up pink and blue options (11-ak0500sa and 11-ak0501sa) if you prefer.

Read our full HP Stream 11 review for the verdict.

Are HP Stream laptops any good?

HP first announced its Stream laptop line in 2014 with the promise of using cloud computing to ‘make it easy to work and play from more places’. The range consisted of ultra-light, very cheap laptops starting from around £200. Five years on, and this is still true, with the current range of 11-inch and 14-inch models still available from around the same price.

Since November 2014 Which? has tested nine different models of Stream laptops, achieving an average score of 61%. That may not sound impressive, but in the same time period we tested 109 other laptops in that price range, achieving an average score of 60%. In other words, in the past few years HP Stream laptops have performed better than the average budget laptop.

Want a bigger screen? Try the HP Stream 14

If you’re after a little more wiggle-room, a 14-inch HP Stream 14 could be a good bet. We’ve tested two at this size – the most basic model hits that magic £200 note, but with the same resolution display as the new 11-ak you might notice a lack of sharpness even more. It also features that slower N3060 processor, so there are compromises to be made for the larger size. Read our HP Stream 14 review to find out more.

Alternatively, plump for the higher spec Stream 14 (dg0521sa) and you’ll get a faster processor, better graphics and more storage – but it will cost you upwards of £300. Read our review of the HP Stream 14 (dg0521sa) to see if it’s worth it.

We also have plenty of information about how reliable HP is as a brand, and how satisfied Which? members are with their HP purchases. Our guide to the most reliable laptop brands reveals how the company fares.

Three more rivals to the HP Stream

Asus Vivobook E406MA, £200: A lot of laptop for your money thanks to its larger 14-inch screen, plus it has the same processor as the Stream 11.

Acer Aspire 1 A111-31, £160: The same size and practically the same weight as the HP Stream, but often £20 cheaper.

Lenovo Ideapad S130, £180: Another 11-incher with the same technical specifications as the HP Stream, although slightly heavier at 1.1kg.

Browse more bargains in our guide to the best laptops for under £200, £300 and £500.

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