HP takes on Chromeboxes with $180, Windows-based Stream Mini PC

hp stream mini left facing

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Late last year, HP kicked off the Windows war against Google's Chromebooks with its $200 Streambook 11, and now the company is back again to tackle Chromeboxes with its Stream Mini PC.

The Stream Mini is essentially a NUC-sized micro PC with a Celeron 2957U, 2GB of DDR3L/1600 and a 32GB M.2 SSD. In addition to the unit, you also get 200GB of Microsoft OneDrive storage free for two years as well as a $25 gift card to the Windows Store that can be used to buy apps, music, and even Xbox one games. And to further sweeten the deal, HP is even throwing in a keyboard and mouse too for the Stream Mini PC's $180 asking price.

No corners cut, since it's actually rounded

There don't seem to be too many corners cut either. The unit has Gigabit ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, integrated 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, an SD card reader, combo audio jack for headphone and microphone and DisplayPort 1.2 and an HDMI 1.4 port. Windows 8.1 with Bing is thrown in too.

That's not bad when you consider HP's own Chrome OS-based Chromebox, announced last February, sells for $160 to $190 on the street—and that's usually without a mouse and keyboard. When you factor in that the Stream Mini also gives you a full-service OS instead of the light-weight Chrome OS, it's going to be tough choice for consumers looking for a basic mini computer (chime in "just run Linux comments" in 3, 2, 1...)

hp pavilion mini front facing HP

The Pavilion Mini gives you a Pentium-class Haswell CPU, more RAM and a 500GB hard drive. 

The Stream Mini won't be the only new mini PC either. HP is also launching the nearly identical Pavilion Mini which doubles the RAM to 4GB, packs a Pentium 3558U processor, and swaps out the Stream Mini's 32GB M.2 SSD for a 500GB hard drive. You also get a keyboard, mouse and just about everything else the Stream Mini provides, except for the One Drive storage. This all ups the price to $319—which isn't quite as palatable. 

In fact, between, the two the Stream Mini is the better deal and nearly as capable. With its M.2 SSD it'll actually boot and respond faster—but that 32GB in total storage will hurt. The good news is that since both are built on the same chassis, I'm almost certain you could crack the Stream Mini Open and drop a cheap laptop hard drive inside.

RAM on the Stream Mini and Pavilion Mini appear to use two standard SO-DIMM slots, so expanding the RAM on the Stream Mini should also be a snap. Both units, HP say, can max out at 16GB of RAM, which would be absolutely crazy to do since you'd have to spend approximately $180 drop in 16GB of memory.

Celeron a better deal than the Pentium

As far as the processors go, both are capable units for what they're intended for. I did a quick comparison of the CPUs at Intel ARK and the Stream Mini comes out on top in pure value. The main difference between the two CPUs is about 300MHz of clock speed for the 1.4GHz Celeron vs. the 1.7GHz Pentium. The good news for Stream Mini buyers is its Celeron chip is based on the faster Haswell microarchitecture instead of the tablet-focused Bay Trail designs which, while fine, are definitely slower. 

HP actually says the new PC will support up to Core i3 parts, but didn't specify details. Both are expected to be available once CES wraps up.

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