IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
38.5K views | +5 today
IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...!

Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops

Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

HP's Stream Mini and Pavilion Mini desktops are for everyone who was excited about Intel's NUC until they saw the price.

While we definitely like the NUC and think it's a good value for what you get, the fact of the matter is a lot of people don't need all the stuff it's offering: fast-but-expensive PCI Express storage, a brand new Ultrabook-class CPU with a premium integrated GPU, and a build-it-yourself philosophy that your average computer buyer won't want to deal with.

By contrast, the Stream and Pavilion Mini are inexpensive fully-equipped systems that are ready to work out of the box. They use lower-end processors and have lower specs all around, but they include a Windows license and even a keyboard and a mouse. If you or someone you know has a years-old mini-tower on or under their desk, these systems are attractive, inexpensive drop-in replacements.

If that was all they were, they'd be worth a passing look but not a whole lot more. They are rather low-specced, as you'd expect from $300-and-under desktops, and they use last-generation Haswell processors. The NUC is a showcase for this year's high-end Ultrabook chips, and these HP desktops are showcases for last generation's budget models. However, the fun thing about these mini desktops for enthusiasts is that they're dead simple to open and upgrade, and if you're willing to spend just a bit more money it's easy to tweak them to better suit your needs.

No comment yet.!

​HP Stream 11 Review: $200 and Worth Every Penny

​HP Stream 11 Review: $200 and Worth Every Penny | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

I just got finished rounding up the best Chromebooks out there, but there's more to the world of dirt-cheap computing than Google's browser-machines. The HP Stream is a $200 full-Windows laptop, and it's surprisingly good.

What Is It?

A $200 laptop from HP that runs full Windows 8. A pokey little guy with a colorful finish, a 720p screen, a dual-core Intel Bay Trail processor, and 2GB of RAM. A chance for Microsoft to take on the Chromebook. Damn good for a $200 machine.

Why Does It Matter?

There have always been cheap Windows laptops, but this Windows laptop is super cheap. At $200, the HP Stream 11 doesn't cost a penny more than the cheapest Chromebooks currently available. But unlike Chromebooks, this dirt-cheap laptop isn't handicapped by a web-browser based OS or the need for a constant internet connection. Windows 8 gives you access to way more programs than a Chromebook ever could. That is, as long as the processor can keep up.

When I first looked at the HP Stream 11, I thought it looked dumb. With its cartoony blue exterior (also available in pink!) it's a little silly-looking from the get-go, and the color gradient on the frame next to the keyboard only made it worse. But after a while, it really grew on me. Sure, it's still a little Fisher Price-y, but in a charming sort of way. Also, at $200, I'm hard pressed to complain about aesthetics.

More important than looks is build quality, and the HP Stream 11 is a solid little tyke. It's got a slightly squishy but completely typable keyboard that's even a little better than the Toshiba Chromebook 2, one of my favorite Chromebooks yet. (The $300 Acer Chromebook 14's keys are nicer, with a little more throw, but not $100 nicer if you get my drift.) There's virtually no flex to the Stream 11's keyboard tray, even if you're pushing on the frame deliberately hard. Most importantly, I don't mind typing on this thing at all. In fact, I typed about half this review on it.

The solid feel holds up elsewhere. The hinge isn't flimsy, as it can be on a lot of laptops down in this price range. The Stream doesn't have a touchscreen, so it's not like that hinge has to stand up to you poking the display, but it could if it had to. The whole thing seems like it could take a moderate beating, the kind you might subject a $200 laptop to because you don't particularly care if it survives.

It's not all sunshine and roses though: the screen is an obvious place where corners were cut. The matte 1366 x 768 display is pretty rough. It has that "bad matte screen" rainbow effect that makes whites look distorted. The screen is totally serviceable, sure, but it's more like what you might expect to find attached to a aging public terminal somewhere as opposed to attached to your laptop. Web browsing, sure. Movie watching? Not if you can avoid it.

That's just the screen's fault though; the Stream's bottom-facing speakers are surprisingly competent. With the volume turned all the way up they can be almost uncomfortably loud, and while the quality is nothing to write home about, they aren't tinny or distorted. I could actually hear the basslines in the music I tried listening to. Not bad for $200!

The touchpad, unfortunately, isn't such a pleasant surprise. It's serviceable but far from great, and not quite good. I've had more than my fair share of misclicks, like bringing up the right-click menu and having the cursor select an option seemingly of its own volition, or having the mouse drift just slightly to the right while I'm trying to click something small.

Fortunately you can avoid one or both of those things with a Bluetooth mouse and/or by using the Stream's HDMI port to hook up to a prettier monitor, though resolutions higher than the native 1366 x 768 start putting a lot more stress on the lappy's lacking guts. In addition, the Stream's also got a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, and an SD card reader. All the bare essentials, unless you're that guy who's still keeping the optical disc companies in business.

Using the Stream is just like using any other Windows 8.1 machine, but with the caveat that you have to be prepared for plenty of stuff not to work. Chromebooks get around having low-power guts by using an OS that won't touch most of the things they can't handle (with the exception of some more sophisticated Chrome and OpenGL games).

Instead, the Stream's full Windows 8.1 basically begs you to download everything you could ever want to download, and discover on your own what won't work. The limitations are pretty obvious. PC games are pretty much out. Ditto Photoshop or anything else that's even remotely graphics intensive. But what else would you expect from a $200 machine?

That doesn't mean that full Windows is not without its huge perks. The HP Stream 11 is the cheapest laptop I've ever actually been able to get any work done on because it can run AIM clients (which are how many of us chat at Gizmodo). Spotify's dedicated streaming music app also works swimmingly. Same with the dedicated TweetDeck app and other little creature-comfort type applications. Being able to use Pidgin for chat instead of loading up some Chrome tab goes a long way towards making you feel like you're using a real computer.

The big work-draw for most people is going to be Office. Not only can the HP Stream 11 run classics like Word and Excel (and run them damn well—surprisingly silky smooth performance here) it also comes with Office 365 Personal for a year. That includes must-haves Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook among others, and includes 1TB of OneDrive storage. Those full, robust applications beat the hell out of being stuck with Google Docs like you are on a Chromebook. I found that the Stream can run every member of the suite admirably (though not at the same time), which makes it the best out-of-the-box productivity machine you can get for the price.

On the web-browsing side, the HP Stream 11 is a little more competent than your average Chromebook, which is to say it can handle its fair share of tabs. While I was testing it, I found I could noodle around in a window with some 9 or 10 tabs—even a few really heavy ones like Tweetdeck and Chartbeat—before the lag started really kicking in. Even then, I could still eke out choppy but usable performance with as many as a dozen tabs going at once. That's far from unlimited, but it's damn good for 200-dollar fare, and better performance that I've seen on any Chromebook packing anything less than a Core i3 processor.

The catch is that you pay for that performance in battery life. The Stream couldn't hit the 6-hour mark in my tests, and charted closer to five hours in my more anecdotal "I'm just gonna work on this thing for a while" sessions. You can probably stretch it some by tuning the power-settings something fierce, but at the end of the day the Stream is a half-day device, a three-quarter day device on the outside. It's good for doing a little work, sure, but if you plan to spend a whole day on the thing, you're going to need an outlet.

Manuel Reyes's curator insight, December 11, 2014 10:01 PM

I think I am going to try this one!!

What It's Like To Use HP's Crazy New Computer That Can Scan 3-D Objects In Seconds

What It's Like To Use HP's Crazy New Computer That Can Scan 3-D Objects In Seconds | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

We've been hearing about the death of PCs for years now.

The tech world hasn't stopped talking about how devices like smartphones and tablets are cutting into the PC industry's profits, and how mobile is the future.

While some of that may be true, that doesn't mean there isn't room to improve the desktop computer as we know it.

HP's Sprout is a new type of desktop computer. It was announced in October, but I finally had the chance to see how it works at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

I was a bit skeptical at first. I didn't understand why anyone would need a projector and a giant touchpad with their computer more than a keyboard and mouse. After seeing a demo at Intel's booth, I'm still reluctant to believe we'll start seeing Sprout computers pop up in households around the world.

But there's no denying that the technology is impressive, and I could easily see how it could eventually become a game changer for graphic designers, teachers, and students. 

The Sprout has two components that make it much different than your traditional PC: a 3D scanner/projector, and a touch-enabled mat. You can use a mouse and keyboard with the Sprout at any time; the scanner and touch mat are simply meant to add more to what you can already do with a desktop computer.

Based on the short demo I saw at CES, it seems like the technology works incredibly fast. When an Intel representative put a plastic banana on the touch mat, a 3-D rendering of the fruit appeared almost immediately on the screen. Once you scan an object, you can edit it and manipulate it using the touch mat.

For example, you can trace over images, layer one image over another, and rotate 3-D images to view scanned objects from different angles. The projector displays content from the computer screen on the touch mat so that you can interact with objects without having to reach out and touch the display. One of the most practical applications seems to be 3-D modeling, but I could also see how it could be used for quickly uploading and editing sketches, documents, and photos. 

It may not sound very exciting, but seeing the technology firsthand was truly intriguing. 3D scanning isn't new; what impresses me the most about HP's Sprout is the idea that it may be more easily accessible to the everyday computer user.

Imagine being able to place any object in front of your computer and have it appear on screen — it seems futuristic when you experience it. 

If you can't see yourself immediately making use of the Sprout's uncommon features, it's an expensive commitment ($1,900). And it's not perfect yet — Yahoo Tech's David Pogue said some apps that make the best use of the Sprout's scanner and touch mat are slow to open and crash often.

At this year's CES, which is supposed to set the stage for the year ahead in tech, Intel emphasized the idea that the traditional keyboard and mouse are getting tired and old. The HP Sprout may be one of the best examples of this mouse-less future Intel envisions, even if it's not quite ready for the mainstream yet. 

No comment yet.!

HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Review: Faster, better, still rugged

HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Review: Faster, better, still rugged | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Make it better and they will come. That’s a common vendor mantra, but rarely are the improvements as compelling as those on HP’s $800, 10.1-inch ElitePad 1000 business tablet. The successor to the ElitePad 900 replaces the single-core Intel Atom Z2760 with a significantly faster quad-core Intel Atom Z3795 CPU, features a higher-resolution display (1920x1200 versus 1280x800), and has twice the memory at 4GB. Those adds alleviate just about every complaint we had about the ElitePad 900—without killing what we liked about it. Even the battery life has improved.

Part of what we already appreciated are the rugged Gorilla Glass 3 covering the display and the milled aluminum edge and backplate. The ElitePad 1000 is designed to meet the MIL-STD810G (military) standard, though I doubt it would last long in my god-daughter’s backpack. Kidding—even she would have a hard time dinging this thing.

While the ElitePad 1000’s display looks great during everyday use and rendering movies, I noted uneven backlighting around the edges when the ElitePad 1000 was powering up. It’s noticeable only with a solid-dark background, and I quickly forgot about it. But 2.3 million pixels in only 10.1 inches of diagonal display space makes for some rather tiny icons, text, and window elements. I goosed them up all the way using the “change the size of all items” slider, but I finally had to resort to increasing the text size for individual elements.

If you want semi-rugged, accept that your tablet is going to be a bit heavier than the norm—a small price to pay for survival on the road. At 1.5 pounds, the ElitePad 1000 is an ounce or two heavier than the 900, but still relatively easy to carry around. It’s a little too heavy to hold single-handed for any length of time. With both hands, arm fatigue is minimal, but it’s best propped up on your stomach or docked.

Subjectively, Windows 8.1 feels lively enough on the ElitePad 1000—at no time did I feel impatient waiting for windows to open or files to save. The PCMark results bore out that impression: 1595 on the creative test, 2399 on the work test. Battery life clocked in at a cool 8 hours and 16 minutes. It also handles 1080p video with aplomb, playing my 30GB rip of Master and Commander with nary a hitch. 

When you start to accessorize any tablet to this degree, you have to ask yourself why you’re buying a tablet rather than a laptop.

Wireless connectivity on the ElitePad 1000 includes 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, and broadband modules. While 802.11ac would be nice, 802.11n is acceptable.

Alas, when it comes to physical ports, the unit is hurting. A headset jack, MicroSD and SIM card slots hide behind a panel that pops open when you press the recessed release button with a paper clip. That’s it. There are, however, a variety of accessories to compensate. Slide the unit into the optional $149 ElitePad Docking Station and you have four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA out, as well as an audio line out. It’s a bit bulky, but it’s nice to have around.

You may also opt for the smaller $49 HDMI/VGA dongle, $39 ethernet adapter, and $29 USB adapter, which are easier to pack, if not as convenient. There’s also a $249 productivity jacket with a full-size keyboard, USB ports etc. and a $149 battery jacket that will ratchet up runtime to about 20 hours. However, both add considerably to the ElitePad 1000’s 0.36-inch thickness and weight. When you start to accessorize any tablet to this degree, you have to ask yourself why exactly you’re buying a tablet rather than a laptop.

Storage also continues to be a problem. Our unit came with a 64GB in eMMC which is probably the bare minimum for even a business-class tablet in terms of space. Fortunately, HP sells a model with 128GB too.

Oddly, after touting the ElitePad 1000’s ruggedness, HP’s warranty for it lasts only a single year. A variety of paid support plans to add up to five years of protection. The ElitePad 1000 is also fully decked out with HP’s business-targeted software bundle, which includes Trust Circles, Client Security Manager, and Device Access Manager.

It doesn’t get much better than the ElitePad 1000 in a Windows 8.1 business tablet, and kudos to HP for improving what needed to be improved without drastically increasing the weight. It’s fast enough, lasts long enough, and has a capable set of accessories.

No comment yet.