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Microsoft first Chromebook the HP Stream

The Stream 14 sounds like an interesting device, and with such an aggressive price it will probably sell quite well. But the big question with the Stream 14 will be how well it runs Windows. Low-end PCs are notorious for being deathly slow, although the onboard storage should help the Stream 14 run faster than hard drive-encumbered netbooks from five years ago. 

But if the Stream can't run Windows without stuttering, it will leave users unhappy. Chrome OS, by comparison, was designed to boot quickly. And thanks to the fact that it's little more than the Linux Kernel, a browser, and some drivers, Chrome OS runs very well on low-buck hardware. 

In mid-July, Microsoft announced its uber-cheap line of Windows 8.1 notebooks, with the cheapest model from HP, called “the Stream,” costing just $199. With such a cheap price point, Microsoft is taking aim at Google’s line of super-cheap Chromebooks, which also start at $199.

Microsoft and HP didn’t show off the Stream notebook when it was announced in July, but thanks to some sleuthing from German site Mobile Geeks and Liliputing,

The HP Stream 14 is a 14-inch, Windows 8.1 computer that is expected to sell for a paltry $199.
The Stream 14 and Chromebook 14 share many of the same specs, including the same number of ports, same 2GB of RAM, and same 14-inch display with a 1,366x768 resolution. But the Stream 14 comes with a more powerful quad-core 1.6 GHz system-on-a-chip from AMD, compared to the 1.4GHz Intel Celeron processor that powers HP’s Chromebook 14.

The Stream also reportedly will also boast more onboard storage: Compared to the Chromebook 14’s 16GB of storage, the Stream will offer 32GB and 64GB options.

Microsoft will be throwing in 100GB of OneDrive storage for two years with the purchase of the Stream 14, which is very similar to the 100GB of Google Drive storage that comes with every Chromebook purchase.

Chromebook Boots in seconds also have an advantage over Windows in terms of security thanks to process sandboxing, verified boot checks, and the Web security features built into Chrome itself. You never have to worry about security on a Chromebook—no AV programs needed, no monthly hard drive scans. Windows, although it also does a hardware check at boot, still requires some kind of antivirus and malware protection. Whether you choose the built-in Windows Defender or a third-party solution, you'll still be dealing with at least a small performance hit on an already limited machine, as the AV solution will eat into the Stream's limited RAM and storage, not to mention the potential tax on the low-end AMD processor.

And when it comes to updates, you can't beat automatic updating on Chromebooks that upgrades your system in the background and never interrupts the user, even at boot. Every time you power on a Chromebook, you're ready to use it in mere seconds. Compare that to Microsoft's Patch Tuesday system that nearly always requires a restart and a few minutes of automated "configuration" after the reboot.

A Windows desktop does have its advantages over a Chromebook since you can run legacy desktop software, which Chromebooks can't do. But with 32GB of onboard storage in the $200 HP Stream, there's not a ton of room for Windows, third-party software, and any files you want to keep locally instead of in the cloud, such as media files.   

There's no clear release date for the Stream 14 yet, though it will likely be available soon. And it also won't be alone, we expect to see numerous ultra-cheap laptops from Microsoft before the year's out. Buckle up, the race to the bottom is hitting full steam.

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