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New 14-inch laptop does carry some compromises, but overall appears a promising value

Germany's Mobile Geeks has leaked the spec sheet of an intriguing new 14-inch laptop from Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ), dubbed the "HP Stream Notebook PC".  The new laptop is priced at $199 USD and is one of the new Windows 8.1 laptops in Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) push to counter the growing success of low-cost Chromebooks, laptops powered by Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Linux-based Chrome OS.

The new HP laptop carries some of the compromises you'd expect at this sort of price point.  Its 14-inch panel is non-touch and its resolution -- 1,366 x 768 pixels -- is nothing to write home about.  Another annoyance is the lack of upgradeable memory.  The onboard memory (DDR3L-1333 MHz) is soldered to the motherboard and non-upgradeable.  At maximum you can get 2 GB, but in the base ($199 USD) model you get some unknown lesser amount -- possibly 1 GB.  

Storage space is also rather paltry.  In terms of internal storage, the cheaper model also only carries 32 GB of NAND (via an eMMC drive).  An upgrade to 64 GB of internal flash storage is offered.  Storage may not be a major detraction, though as an SD-card reader provides ample room for external storage and Microsoft is offering 100 GB of free cloud storage via its OneDrive service.

HP Stream Notebook
[Image Source: MobileGeeks.de]

A key question in terms of the new laptop's value is how the onboard Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) Fusion accelerated processing unit (APU), the A4 Micro-6400T, will perform.  The chip onbard is a member of the Mullins family (28 nm) and has a 4.5 watts TDP.  It packs four cores clocked 1.0 (standard)/1.6 GHz (turbo).  Its performance will be gauged primarily against chips commonly found in Chromebooks at this price point -- namely, ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM) family designs or Intel Corp. (INTC) Atom chips.  

The AMD chip carries an on-die R3 GPU with 128 unified shader processors (SPs) clocked at up to 350 MHz (when in Turbo mode).  Most ARM-based Chromebooks use a PowerVR GPU from the Imagination Technologies Group plc (LON:IMG) or in the case of Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) chips, an Adreno GPU.  As for x86 Chromebooks, most now carry Intel HD graphics, which are found in the Bay Trail family of chips.  All of these rival architectures have seen substantial improvements on the GPU front, so an AMD win is not a foregone conclusion, but it would also not be surprising given AMD's past success on the low-end.

Otherwise the spec is respectable, with a multi-touch gesture-capable touch pad, 4-speaker Beats sound, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n (no 802.11ac, sorry), and ample ports (HDMI, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0).

Will this Windows device be a Chromebook killer?  That's hard to say, but it's certainly an intriguing design with a relatively good spec for such a bargain bin price.

As one of the more popular Chromebook OEMs, HP clearly knows a thing or two about budget designs.  Even fully loaded the price should be at or a bit below the similar HP Slatebook 14 Android laptop (not a Chromebook), which was announced in June.  The Slatebook is priced at $430 USD and includes a 64 GB NAND storage drive, 2 GB of DDR3L, and a Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA Corp.
 
HP Slatebook
HP Slatebook 14 

With that said, some readers may have trouble getting past the inclusion of Windows 8.1, even with Microsoft's improvements to mouse-and-keyboard controls.

Sources: Mobile Geeks [German], via Neowin





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