At CES this month, HP announced a desktop-based version of its Stream laptops. Dubbed the HP Stream Mini, this new PC seeks to replicate the value and aesthetics of its more portable cousins. And based on this first peek, it appears that HP has done so successfully.
Perhaps not surprisingly, where the Stream laptops compete head-to-head with low-cost Chromebooks, HP’s new Stream Mini competes with the desktop Chrome OS variant called Chromebox. These mini desktop PCs probably don’t sell nearly as well as do Chromebooks, but I think there’s more call for a PC in this form factor, save outside the education space.
And sure enough, the HP Stream Mini is competitive on price. Looking at Amazon.com, I see a standalone HP Chromebox selling for about $180 and an HP Chromebox bundle (with keyboard and mouse) for $200. The HP Stream Mini isn’t on Amazon.com yet, but HP lists the standalone Steam Mini at—wait for it—$180. And it includes an (admittedly cheap) keyboard and mouse in the box.
I’m not going to grab a Chromebox to compare, but it’s not hard to look at the specs for each device and see that HP’s Chromebox and Stream Mini are roughly equivalent, with the latter getting some improvements that are based on the passage of time (the processor) or the needs of a PC (port selection). Plus, the HP Stream Mini is a real PC, not a glorified web browser. So it’s all good.
From a form factor perspective, the Stream Mini retains the nice Horizon Blue look and feel of the HP Stream 11 and 13 laptops, though those more portable devices can also be had in a magenta color as well. And it lacks the dual-shot color effect seen on the Stream 11/13 keyboard lid, but that’s absolutely fine in a desktop device.
The Stream Mini is a bit bigger in person than you might expect, assuming you were expecting something about the size of a Roku or Apple TV. A fairer comparison may be with Apple’s Mac Mini, at least from a size perspective, and here we can see that the Stream Mini is smaller overall but squatter, and it’s worth pointing out that it does have an external (but small, and laptop-style) power brick.
(To its credit, the HP Stream Mini also offers more easily accessible USB, SD and power than Apple’s unfriendly Mac Mini.)
On the subject of ports, the HP Stream Mini is nicely appointed for such a small PC. On the front, you will find 2 USB 3.0 ports, and there is a 3-in-1 memory card reader on the side (which will probably be used only for SD cards, but whatever).
The back features a headphone jack, gigabit Ethernet, 2 more USB 3.0 ports, full-sized HDMI, and DisplayPort, plus of course power. These are very modern parts and arguably more than most would require or, at this price point, even expect. Bravo to HP for both the USB expandability and the video-out options. (It’s even dual-monitor capable. What the what?)
Internally, the Stream Mini one-ups the Stream 11 and 13 laptops, offering a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 2957U CPU (instead of Atom), 2 GB of RAM, and a 32 GB SATA-based SSD drive (compared to eMMC storage on the laptops). Best of all, perhaps, the RAM is expandable up to 16 GB.
Curious about this, I removed the rubber bottom of the Mini to reveal three screws which, when removed, let you separate the chassis from the innards. And lo and behold, you can access the entire interior of the device, so the SSD is ostensibly upgradeable as well (though it is a tiny part, and not a full-sized portable SSD). Interesting.
(Of course, the Mini’s Celeron processor should give any enthusiast pause. The good news is that HP also sells a very similar line of Pavilion Mini Desktop PCs for $450 and up, and these devices feature Intel Core processors. Oh my.)
It’s worth noting, too, that the HP Stream Mini is not fanless. I don’t think this will be a huge issue with a Celeron processor, but I suppose gaming and some other activities could tax it. I’m sensitive to fan noise, so I will of course pay attention to this.
Also, unlike the Stream laptops, the HP Stream Mini does not include a year of Office 365 Personal. Instead, you get 200 GB of additional OneDrive storage for two years. And of course the $25 gift card to Windows Store.
I’ll be looking at the HP Stream Mini in two capacities, as a normal-use PC and as a possible mini home theater PC. Base on just a cursory inspection, I suspect this device will see great success in both scenarios.