Once upon a time netbooks led the way when it came to cheap notebooks. They gave people a low-cost mobile platform to do work on, and they came with the familiar Windows operating system.
But then netbooks sort of died away - partly because they were a bit rubbish, partly because the cost of the Windows operating system kept the price high, and partly due to pressure from smartphones and tablets. Then Google entered the arena with Chromebooks. These didn't run Windows, but as more and more people switched rich apps for web apps, they worked.
But Microsoft is not the sort of company to sit still and let market share be taken away from it. It has worked with OEMs to reduce the cost of Windows, and this has ushered in a new era of hardware. And this has led to the era of the $200 notebook.
The $200 HP Stream 11 is the perfect device for someone wanting a small, low-cost Windows-powered device, as long as they are aware of the limitations that come from spending only $200 on the hardware.
$200 gets you:
- 11.6-inch 1366 × 768 display
- Windows 8.1 with Bing 64-bit
- 2.16 GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 CPU
- Intel HD graphics
- 2 GB of RAM
- 32GB of storage
- 8 hour battery life (HP data, real-world testing suggests it is closer to 6 hours)
- Office 365 Personal
The 2GB of RAM and the older Bay Trail CPU sort of limit what you can do with this device, and given the limited system resources I'd go for the crapware-free Signature Edition from Microsoft.
Want a bigger screen? There's a 13-inch model for an extra $30.
Don't expect to be able to play Crysis on this, but if you're looking for a portable Windows platform for $200, this is worth taking a look at.