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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Relatively long battery life
Strong sound quality
Windows 10 Home S Mode limitations
Sharp edges on the lid
The HP Stream 11, true to its name, is ready to support media streaming in addition to other basic tasks including web browsing, word processing, and casual gaming.
If you’re in the market for a lightweight and affordable laptop that takes care of basic streaming and web browsing needs, the HP Stream 11 appeals in all the areas that matter. It’s small and slim build won’t take up much real estate in your bag and the battery can handle a day of work or catch up on episodes of whatever you’re watching—all while offering surprisingly good audio quality for a notebook. I used this small laptop for a week and found it to be a steady performer in all of the ways it advertises.
In terms of looks, the HP Stream 11 is playful and modern. I tested an all-white model, but the fun factor goes up depending on the color you select—which includes more vibrant colors like blue and purple. All models feature a smooth and shiny lid that’s pleasant to the touch, but also a bit plasticky.
The main body of the device looks streamlined and sophisticated with a smooth build and an ergonomic keyboard with raised and responsive keys. The bottom of the laptop has the opposite effect with a matte and slightly rough finish that feels slightly like sandpaper. This is echoed in the touchpad, which carries over the same rough texture making it not that pleasant to touch.
The lid is quite sticky at the hinge and requires a firm hand to raise and lower. You don’t want the lid of your laptop to feel flimsy, but it’s a little overkill. The bottom of the lid is also where the design comes up short. The left and right corners, while rounded, are slightly sharp and emphasize the plastic look and feel.
On the plus side, since it’s just 0.66 inches thick and weighs only a little over 2 pounds, the HP Stream 11 is ideal for traveling and felt nearly weightless in a bag. And for a laptop its size, it offers decent options for connecting with other devices via HDMI, USB, and microSD ports.
Since it’s just 0.66 inches thick and weighs only a little over 2 pounds, the HP Stream 11 is ideal for traveling and felt nearly weightless in a bag.
The 11.6-inch diagonal display on the HP Stream 11 is decent enough, but given the size of this machine, it would be an error to expect anything spectacular. The settings out of the box to skew quite dark and I used the laptop with the brightness set to 100 percent at all times.
Even so, especially when streaming content, I had to fuss with the screen angle to achieve a decent viewing experience. Tilted forward so that it wasn’t at a perfect 90-degree angle seemed to work best. In good lighting and if the content was well-lit, the picture was more than decent and almost good. However, the display was disappointing from any other angle, resulting in a dark and shadowy image.
The HP Stream 11 doesn’t advertise itself as a gaming laptop or robust workhorse, and benchmarking tests via Cinebench and GFXBench confirm that. The Cinebench test, which compares the HP Stream 11’s CPU’s ability against other CPUs, came to 224 points. To put that into perspective, products like the Dell Latitude E5450 14-inch laptop and older Lenovo Thinkpad laptops earn 541 points.
As for graphics performance, GFXBench scores for Manhattan and T-Rex benchmarks came to 14.92fps and 21.37fps, respectively. The Manhattan test measures performance in a nighttime scene city environment with a lot of lights while T-Rex focuses on a system’s ability to capture textures and details. High-performing processors net scores above 200fps.
Like other Windows devices, this laptop is set up with Xbox gaming companion features including a game bar for recording and broadcasting and setting keyboard shortcuts. Even without an Xbox console, this the HP Stream can provide casual gaming enjoyment. I downloaded Asphalt 9, a 2.31GB file that took a relatively speedy 6 minutes to download. The load time was slow—up to a minute at times—and plagued by consistent lagginess. But that didn’t make playing the game impossible, just suboptimal.
Moving from various apps such as Spotify, Netflix, and Microsoft Word produced no discernible issues. But the swipe motion that enables the movement from various desktops caused the display to produce a slight flickering effect.
The Microsoft Edge browser, however, proved to be one of the most underwhelming apps to use. It took about 5 seconds to load and launching sites from the default Bing search engine took about 15 seconds on average. YouTube required 28 seconds to reach the main page and up to 10 seconds from video to video. Unsurprisingly, cloud-based computing with Google tools like Gmail and Docs was also very sluggish and almost unusable from a productivity standpoint.
Cloud-based computing with Google tools like Gmail and Docs was also very sluggish and almost unusable from a productivity standpoint.
On the other hand, streaming from Netflix and Hulu via the browser was fine. Hulu streaming more so than Netflix showed a pronounced lag when choosing content, playing, pausing, and minimizing and maximizing to full screen. The Netflix app, which comes preinstalled on the HP Stream 11, performed better than the browser. I particularly enjoyed that it allowed me to minimize the screen and still tune in to what I was watching while also web browsing and using other applications at the same time.
All in all, this laptop is capable of balancing multiple plates—though with a bit of delay and some extra spinning.
This laptop is capable of balancing multiple plates—though with a bit of delay and some extra spinning.
One of the best attributes of the HP Stream 11 is the audio quality. Even though the stereo speakers are placed on the bottom of the unit, there’s almost no muffling or harshness with or without headphones. Audio from games, Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu was crisp and surprisingly dynamic all-around—from music to dialogue.
Audio from games, Spotify, and Netflix and Hulu was crisp and surprisingly dynamic all around.
Ookla Speedtest readings showed this HP laptop to be slower than a MacBook 2017 that logs download speeds of 90-120Mbps on my Xfinity ISP of 200Mbps (in the Chicago area). The HP Stream 11, which is also a Wi-Fi 5 device, clocked an average of 55-75Mbps during various times of day. The fastest result I logged was 100Mbps on the 5GHz band. Despite the speedier reading, browsing and gaming weren’t any faster or smoother.
A laptop camera may not be your biggest priority, but if you want a notebook that you can use for quality video conferencing for school or work, this might not fit the bill. While the camera functions without much delay, it was very fuzzy and hazy. I couldn’t solve this by brightening the lighting conditions either. The default HDR setting doesn’t help the softness of the camera. I didn’t notice a lag with video chatting, but the poor quality would have me avoiding them whenever I could.
Over the course of a workday and moving from various apps including the browser, Spotify, Microsoft Word, and gaming, I found that the battery held up for just under 8 hours. That’s pretty close but just a bit short of the 9.25-hour maximum capacity from the manufacturer.
With streaming-only activity, the battery could handle a solid 5 hours. Gaming seemed to be the heaviest energy depleter. Even just 1 hour of play drained the battery from 72 percent to 48 percent. But the HP Stream 11 proved consistent with a 2.5-hour charging time. If you’ll be stowing this in a carry-on for a shorter plane ride or want to catch a movie or stream a few episodes for an afternoon, this machine can oblige.
By default, the HP Stream 11 comes configured with Windows 10 Home in S Mode. While this OS is very similar to Windows 10, there are some significant differences. The most stringent is the fact that you can’t download any apps that aren’t sold in the Microsoft Store. If you’re a fan of a browser other than Edge and the Bing search engine, you’ll be forced to miss out.
Browser preferences aside, this could be a non-issue if you’re a dedicated Windows user. You’ll likely find all of the apps you need in the Microsoft Store. And if you’ll be sharing this machine with children or don’t feel like you want the hazards that could come with downloading third-party apps (malware, viruses, etc.), S Mode offers that level of security. And you can voluntarily leave S Mode, but you can’t return to it if you change your mind.
The HP Stream 11 costs about $200, which puts it in good company with similar notebooks that are designed to be portable, decent for streaming and basic computing, and offer solid battery life. What puts this device slightly ahead of similar models, especially of the Chromebook variety, is the inclusion of a 12-month free Office 365 Personal subscription, which costs $70 annually, and Netflix software out of the box.
In many respects, the HP Stream 11 has the same kind of capability and limitations as the Samsung Chromebook 3 (see on Samsung). If you’re a fan of the Google email and document sharing tools and enjoy streaming YouTube content, the Chromebook 3 offers the clear advantage. You get instant access to all of those tools and the full range of Google services. You can also use these services on the HP Stream 11, but ease of access may vary and will probably fall behind the performance from the Samsung Chromebook 3.
The HP Stream 11 is slightly lighter and offers better speakers, but the Samsung Chromebook 3 packs the longer-lasting battery and a slightly better display. If there are one or two Windows apps you can’t live without, it’s possible to run them on the Chrome OS if you’re up for the challenge of installing Windows on a Chromebook.
Both operating systems come with restrictions. If you’re a dedicated user in either OS direction your decision may seem clear-cut, but if you’re system-agnostic or open-minded, it could come down to deciding how much flexibility you want and how that fits into the overall value picture.
A stylish, basic notebook that won’t break the bank or weigh you down.
The HP Stream 11 performs the basics well in a portable form factor and with a capable battery and impressive speakers. While Windows 10 Home in S Mode poses limitations, they’re minimal to dedicated Windows users and could be advantageous for buyers who want a secure, family-friendly notebook.