Offers, Promotions And Reviews

Apple

HP Stream 11.6 – CNET


The pitch for laptops running Google’s Chrome OS, known as Chromebooks, is pretty straightforward. Why pay extra for a laptop running Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, when all you really need is access to a Web browser? For some people, nearly everything they use a PC for is online, from webmail to social media to streaming music and video. That argument seems to have resonated, as Chromebooks are now a huge part of the budget laptop market, and several models, including the recent Toshiba Chromebook 21 and Samsung Chromebook 22 , are actually quite good. But, the success of Chromebooks is eating into Microsoft’s budget laptop market share, which is a big reversal from several years ago when low-cost netbooks were (briefly) popular.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft and HP are now actively promoting a new HP line, called Stream. These low-cost laptops and tablets are being sold as essentially Chromebook-style devices, meant for low-power online use, but with the added utility of Windows 8. These systems, including the £200 HP Stream 11 ( 179 in the UK, and AU£299 in Australia) are pitched as being cloud-friendly, which is a polite way of saying they’re too underpowered to satisfactorily run a lot of standard apps. The Stream includes codes for a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 (regularly £99, 79, AUS£79), and 1TB of online storage for one year through Microsoft’s OneDrive service. The Stream 11 has a low-resolution non-touch 11.6-inch display, runs an Intel Celeron processor, combined with 2GB of RAM and a minuscule 32GB of solid state storage, more than half of which is consumed by the operating system and related files. In that sense, it really is Chromebook-like, and not idea for local storage of big files or large applications. You can, however, use the included SD card slot to add another 16 or 32GB of space.

The reason you might choose this system over a Chromebook, which is really a more polished (if limited) low-end experience, is that you can install Windows apps such as Photoshop, Office, or iTunes. They won’t run great, but they’re there if you need them in a pinch.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other products in the new Stream family include the 7-inch and 8-inch Stream tablets, running Intel Atom CPUs, with the 7-inch model starting at £100 ( 99 in the UK; only the 8-incher is currently available in Australia for AU£229), and a 13-inch version of the Stream laptop, running the same specs as the 11-inch, starting at £229, 199, AU£379. Both the 8-inch tablet and 13-inch laptop versions will also be available in configurations with 4G antennas for extra, which includes 200MB of monthly data. Overall performance was roughly comparable to current-gen Chromebooks or basic Windows 8 clamshells and hybrids3 , faster in some tests, slower in others, and our hands-on time with the system clearly indicated that will not be your all-day, every day computer. The Stream 11 did, however, have one killer feature. It ran for about eight hours on our battery drain test, which was very impressive, given our modest expectations. There are not many cases where you’ll find a ton of utility in a £199 laptop, especially one with the learning curve of Windows 8. But this little blue box did more than we expected, making it a rare budget PC that’s also a good value.

HP Stream

Price as reviewed £199, 179, AU£299 Display size/resolution 11.6-inch, 1,366×768 screen PC CPU 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840 PC Memory 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz Graphics 64MB Intel HD Graphics Storage 32GB SSD Optical drive None Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

The HP Stream 11 looks nice, at least for a £200 laptop. Skipping the cheap glossy grey plastic of so many budget laptops, it’s instead covered with a matte blue (or pink) pattern, with a subtle dotted gradient on the keyboard tray. The outer surface is fingerprint-resistant, and the body is stiff enough to feel safe to travel with, although everyone who looked at our test system saw a little bit of warping on the base, bowing the keyboard tray up to the center-right. It wasn’t enough to make the laptop look truly deformed, but it certainly wasn’t ruler-straight. Thanks to its low-power platform, the system can run without fans, which helps with weight, heat, and battery life. The Stream 11 weighs a modest 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg), and has been, in our experience quiet and cool while running.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

Sarah Tew/CNET

The large keyboard feels like it was dropped in from a more-expensive laptop. The island-style keys have minimal wobbling under the fingers, and a deep enough click for longer-form typing. Function keys are reversed, as on most HP laptops, which means you can access commands such as volume and brightness controls without having to hold down the Fn key. The wide touchpad fared less well, offering two-finger vertical scrolling that worked well, but otherwise touchy performance, including edge-of-pad Windows 8 gesture commands that triggered far too easily. The 11.6-inch screen has a 1,366×768 native resolution, which is about what one would expect from a budget laptop, but still not great for viewing HD video. The Windows 8 tile interface scales well, however. The screen has a matte finish, which is a plus, but also poor off-axis viewing, again adding to the budget feel.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET

Sarah Tew/CNET

References

  1. ^ Toshiba Chromebook 2 (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ Samsung Chromebook 2 (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ basic Windows 8 clamshells and hybrids (www.cnet.com)

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MacBook Pro 15in v Dell XPS 15 head-to-head review


While Apple has long had a reputation of making laptops that loads of people drool over, PC makers have held onto making big lumps of tin for business travellers. Not anymore. Dell’s XPS 15 takes the fight to the Mac. That said, Apple has a reputation for leaving a long time between iterations of its flagship Macbooks and although that usually means hot new features are crammed into their super-sleek chassis time-after-time, Apple does tend to leave its loyal fans on tenterhooks, it would seem, forever.

Take a look at Apple s Broadwell-based 12-inch retina MacBook1. It has seen some pretty important hardware updates, including a thinner Retina display (paper thin, in fact), USB-C and a redesigned trackpad. All of these extras make it a very attractive option, so if you’re after the very latest Apple notebook, it’s likely to be a winner. MacBooks have proved amazingly popular due to their Retina displays, PCIe flash storage and phenomenal battery life. How then, can – if at all – Dell s latest Windows 10 machine, the XPS 15, challenge the class-leading OS X device?

The Windows machine is the cheaper of the two devices, starting at 1,099 while the 15in Mac Pro starts at 1,599. However, some enormous savings are now on offer for the 2015 iterations of the MacBook 15-inch and 12-inch thanks to rumours of the 2016 MacBooks launching early next year. Clearly a number of retailers are trying to clear their shelves to make space for the brand new laptops next year and the fact discounts have started so early has got tongues wagging that it ll launch in early 2016 rather than at the end of the first quarter as other Macbooks usually launch.

Design, Connectivity2, Screen quality3, Performance4, Keyboard/trackpad5, Software6, Battery life7, Upgrades and serviceability8. To find out the winner you can jump straight to our verdict9.

Design

The MacBook Pro has an iconic design with people able to spot a machine from 20 paces. It s made from a single block of machined aluminium so there are no visible joints. It s got sharp edges, rounded corners and the speaker grilles are milled into the metal on each side of the keyboard.

MacBook Pro 15in V Dell XPS 15 Head-to-head Review

This vintage look is matched with top-notch build quality. Because it s solid metal, the wrist rest and the base have no give, the thin screen is sturdy, and the hinge between the two sections is strong. Dell has borrowed a few design cues from Apple, but it the XPS has enough to distinguish itself from the MacBook.

MacBook Pro 15in V Dell XPS 15 Head-to-head Review

The XPS 15 uses the same aluminium chassis as Dell s Precision M3800 workstation, and it s visible across the lid and on the edges of the base. This is intertwined with carbon-fibre, which can be seen on the underside and along each edge. A soft-touch finish is applied to the wrist-rest and area around the keyboard. The Dell s base is as sturdy as the MacBook, but there s a hint of weakness in the 4mm screen the one area where this machine falls behind.

However, the XPS weighs in at 1.88kg in weight, undercutting the 2kg MacBook. The Dell XPS also has a 17mm-thick body, one millimetre less than the Apple (18mm) if you discount the rubber feet on the Windows machine.

WINNER: Draw – Apple and Dell have created beautiful machines with superb build quality. The MacBook is the more recognisable of the two machines, but the XPS is thinner and lighter.

Specifications

Apple MacBook Pro 15in (late-2013)

OS: OS X Mavericks (10.9) Processor: 2GHz quad-core Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz) RAM: 8GB DDR3 (configurable up ot 16GB)
Storage: 256/512GB or 1TB PCIe Flash storage Screen: 15.4in, (2880 x 1800) 220ppi
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi ‘Fi wireless networking IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4
Ports: 2 x USB 3, 2 x Thunderbolt 2.0, SD card reader, HDMI
Dimensions: 359 x 247 x 18mm (WxDxH) Weight: 2.02kg

Dell XPS 15

OS: Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz)
RAM: 16GB DDR3
Storage: 512GB SSD
Screen: 15.6in, (3,200 x 1880) 238ppi
Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260, Bluetooth 4
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, 1 x HDMI, 1 x miniDisplayPort, SD card reader
Dimensions: 372 x 254 x 17mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 1.88kg

References

  1. ^ 12-inch retina MacBook (www.itpro.co.uk)
  2. ^ Connectivity (www.itpro.co.uk)
  3. ^ Screen quality (www.itpro.co.uk)
  4. ^ Performance (www.itpro.co.uk)
  5. ^ Keyboard/trackpad (www.itpro.co.uk)
  6. ^ Software (www.itpro.co.uk)
  7. ^ Battery life (www.itpro.co.uk)
  8. ^ Upgrades and serviceability (www.itpro.co.uk)
  9. ^ verdict (www.itpro.co.uk)

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