Monday, 16 October 2017

HP Stream Laptop for Kids - Hands on review


We've been really impressed with the HP Stream laptops as the first laptop for children and a portable choice for all round use. There are some things you should be aware of and they won't be the right choice for all families, but for some scenarios, they're a great choice.

We feature the HP Stream in our First Laptops for 8 Year Old's Guide and they are also the laptops we have chosen for running workshops.

We should say up front that these are not high spec laptops. Clearly you can spend $1000 or more on a laptop and there's a reason that these laptops are much cheaper. What we're interested in here is value for money and suitability as a first laptop for a young child or an older child who just needs to do school work and light gaming. Or in our case, we just them as laptops for workshops where we just need to run a specific set of apps for coding.

Is it the Right Laptop for Your Child?

If you can afford a more expensive laptop and think your child's requirements justify it, then go for it. But if your budget is tight and you can't justify spending more then this review should help you work out if an HP Stream will meet your child or families needs.

In our experience, if you have multiple children close in age, it's best to get them each an inexpensive laptop that get one laptop that they have to share. It's not just the arguments about who gets to use it, it's that they can have digital time at the same time and then play together away from tech at other times.

Appearance

For a child or teen, the appearance of their tech is very important. We get this, and understand it's definitely a factor for our own children. This is an area where HP have really got it right. The HP Steam laptops come in Aqua Blue and Violet Purple. We have the violet purple ones and they're gorgeous. 

The laptops look fun and interesting but not at all childish. An adult would be quite happy with one of these if it met their needs.

The ribbed plastic top and detailing on the inside of the case looks great. No complaints about the quality of the device at this price.



Responsiveness

These laptops load up quickly and are responsive for word processing and web browsing. We also use them for web-based coding and they work really well. 

You won't be able to do lots of things at the same time and quickly switch between them, but they'll cope with a reasonable workload.

Storage

Most HP Stream models come with a small amount of fast solid state memory (32GB is typical.) This isn't a lot of storage, Windows will take up a lot of it. It's really important to understand this aspect of the computer so you know what to expect. 

It is worth spending some time uninstalling apps that aren't needed and cleaning the disk as you should be able to free up some space. 

If your child doesn't need to install large games or lots of video content it should be okay. 

If you need more space there is a SD card slot or you could plug in a USB thumb drive or external drive.



Playing Games

There are lots of games that can be played online without needing to install them locally so casual gaming is fine. It coped very well with slither.io which is a must for my kids.

You can play Windows 10 Edition Minecraft on this laptop. Desktop Minecraft will also run, it takes a few seconds to load up but it plays pretty well, just don't expect to be able to add lots of fancy mods.

This won't be the right laptop as a main computer for more serious gamers who want to download and install large games or games that require lots of memory and processing power. 

Battery Life

The claimed battery life is high, over 10 hours. This is one of the benefits of a low-powered laptop and means that kids can use the laptop loads and move around the house without having to plug the laptop in regularly. 

We're rarely away from power for long with our HP Streams but one day I did forget to plug them in at an event and only realised after they had been in use for over 8 hours. The battery level was still over 20%. 

You can play Windows 10 Minecraft on these laptops. You can also install PC Edition Minecraft, it doesn't have high requirements, but if you child is really into Minecraft modding (which requires a higher spec and more storage) then this laptop won't be the right choice. 

Screen

The screen is clear and bright and perfectly good enough. You can choose between 11.6" and 14" screen sizes depending on whether portability or a larger screen is more important. 

Trackpad

The trackpad works well. There are better ones out there in more expensive devices, but we've seen much worse! A lot of kids get on better with a mouse anyway so we'd recommend adding a wireless mouse. 

Other Details

  • There's a single button to mute the laptop and it has a red light on it to show when it's muted. This feature is awesome and not all laptops have it. It's so handy when you want kids to quickly mute their laptops so they can listen to you. The red light is really handy for ruling out the laptop when you're trying to work out which device is making that annoying noise when you're about to eat a meal!
  • The laptop has an led on the CAPSLOCK key which shows when it's on. Having used some laptops that don't have such an indicator this is surprisingly useful. 
  • Annoyingly though, there's no light to show that the laptop is on which means that sometimes we accidentally press the power button a second time and turn the laptop off!
  • There's a slot for a Kensington security lock which is useful if you're likely to need to leave the laptop unattended when out and about. Unfortunately, we found that the Kensington lock we have doesn't quite fit and seems to put some stress on the plastic case. 

    Verdict

    If you're just looking for a basic laptop that kids can use for school work and casual gaming then the HP Stream range is a great choice. 

    The violet purple colour option is a great choice for girls and the laptop looks really stylish.

    We've found that the laptop is really responsive for everyday tasks and the build quality is excellent for the price point. 

    Don't expect it to cope well with multi-tasking like a more expensive laptop and make sure you are aware of the storage constraints. 

    If you understand what you're buying and the limitations are acceptable then this range of laptops is fantastic. 



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