HP Stream 13 4G on T-Mobile's 200MB FDFL Plan
The HP Stream 13 (13-c030nr) with 4G is a cheap and functional Windows 8 laptop which works on the T-Mobile Free Data for Life plan. HP markets this model as a “cloud-based” laptop on the same page as their HP Chromebook 14, but make no mistake, this is full-blown Windows.
200MB Free Data For Life
The device is advertised as including the T-Mobile 200MB/month Free Data For Life plan, but is oddly absent from T-Mobile’s own list. (They list the Stream 8 tablet, but not the Stream 13 at the tiem of this writing). That said, if you buy it new, it will likely come with the SIM pre-installed, and if you pick it up elsewhere, I do not imagine activating it will be difficult.
In practice, 200MB is enough for basic internet use, such as email, or chat. But, you will want to limit your usage as much as possible if you want to have continuous service. Once you hit the 200MB limit you are cut off and will have to wait until the next cycle for data to become available again. The device is carrier unlocked, so you also have the option of using a paid plan.
Can we talk for a minute about Horizon Blue? The standard HP Stream comes in two colors, Horizon Blue and Orchid Magenta. The 4G model is only available in Horizon Blue. This is a bold choice. It is a bold blue, frankly. And, it is a lot of blue. Blue on the front-lid, blue on the bottom, blue bezel, blue track-pad, blue inside-casing, and, well, white keys. It is a whole lot of blue, but it is done well. It pulls off a sort of ‘fun’ color like Apple tried in their infamous clam-shell designs from the late 90’s, but it does it without seeming like a toy. This is like an education/young-professional blue that would be comfortable in a boardroom, study group, or family room. It just works. But, it is blue, so just be aware before you buy in case blue is not your thing.
RAM and SSD
The biggest limitation of the HP Stream is the non-upgrade-able RAM and storage. With only 2GB RAM and 32GB SSD the Stream is firmly planting itself in net-book territory. That said, unless you use RAM heavy applications (like photo or video editing), 2GB will be sufficient for web browsing and office applications.
Unlike a Chromebook, you kind of do want more memory to take full advantage of a Windows machine. Which makes this a somewhat odd offering in the net-book space. That is, to compete with devices like the Chromebook, they have lowered hardware specs to drop costs. But, in-so-doing they have severely crippled the ability to install many large applications, which is what I see as the biggest competitive advantage of running Windows in the first place.
The display is also a bit lackluster. Much like the HP Chromebook 14, colors seem a bit washed, and resolution is on the low end, 1366x768. I will stop short of calling it a bad display (it is tolerable), but will say that is definitely not a selling point.
I should also note there is no touch screen on this model, which is beyond confusing for Windows 8, which is promoted as a touch-based OS.
Some models are offered with free Office 365 for a year, which is cool. For those who have not used Office 365 before you can actually use if offline so long as you connect to the internet every once in a while (the subscription will time out if not connected to the internet for 30 days).
There is some bloatware included, which is an annoyance to uninstall, but is mostly harmless.
Windows 8 is a love-it or hate-it sort of thing. If this is your first Windows 8 laptop you won’t really get the full experience due to lack of touch screen for the start screen. However, you will be able to use touch gestures from the touch pad, which works pretty well.
The 2GB RAM will hold you back from running graphics intensive applications, but I found that most things will run, and for occasional use might not be bad. Adding a USB stick as ReadyBoost can also help get you by in a pinch, but if you find yourself needing a lot of RAM heavy applications you should probably just find a different laptop.
Performance and Wrap-up
Despite its shortcomings, the HP Stream is fairly well put together. It boots fast, has plenty of power for most applications, and is pretty fun-looking. It is small and light enough that you can easily take it with you. The battery life is good enough that you can stay out all day with it. And, the 200MB T-Mobile Free Data for Life lets you stay connected when you are away from WiFi. Compared to its Chromebook brother, I would say you will loose a little speed and convenience, but gain a fuller range of software options. I would recommend it as a strong buy for the budget buyer who prefers Windows 8 to Chrome OS. It is available now through Amazon.
Reviewed by Cheapest Data Plan on
HP's latest low-end Windows 8 laptop with T-Mobile 200MB Free Data For Life. It is a very usable and affordable laptop, solidly built, but limited by low hardware specs. Is blue.