Removing the crapware and adware took 2 hours plus another hour to install Windows update.I removed all the browser extensions and add-ons in IE and then installed Chrome. Then I installed CCleaner and removed McAfee anti-virus so that I can just use the free Microsoft AV. Also removed a bunch of bloatware like Cisco wireless networking utilities like LEAP and Apple Bonjour. Removed the Realtek card reader software since it slows the card reader down. Then downloaded fresh Realtek card reader driver and manually installed the driver without using their setup program.
UPDATE – I had to remove all the HP tools (support and registration) as well.They were intermittently hammering the CPU to 100% and other people in HP forums were complaining about this problem.Once uninstalled, the CPU usage problems went away.Something else that caused some mildly high CPU usage during media playback was the Realtek DTS audio processing service and I’ve disabled that and the system performs better.It was not needed for playback quality and it was actually detrimental to audio recording quality.
The thing that slowed me down was that I had to gather my nephew’s personal info to create a Microsoft account for him. It was mandatory since this is the free version of MS Windows 8.1 (with Bing). But the MS Account allows him to use MS Office online for free so it’s worth setting up.I also had to carefully remove 3 stickers on the keyboard rest. Intel sticker was tilted. Now it’s a beautiful clean system and it boots very fast and loads everything fast. It handles most computing tasks just fine and now I’m loathed to give this away.
Some people will complain about the 2GB of RAM which is not expandable, but I never have any problems with 2GB RAM because I don’t leave a 20 browser tabs open.You’re not going to use this laptop for 3D intensive gaming or 3D rendering so the RAM shouldn’t be an issue.I have a desktop computer with 8 GB of RAM for running games and virtual machines and content production and no one should expect the HP Stream 13 to perform this role.It runs fewer than 10 web browser tabs just fine and it’s extremely snappy running Microsoft Office Online or Google apps.
I ran a Youtube 1080P on Chrome browser. Google is screwing all of us now by forcing their VP9 codec on us which forces this computer to use software video decoding. This dual-core CPU is pegged at 100% utilization and forced to overclock to 2.58 GHz and it will still hiccup if a youtube ad shows up.Of course this is just chewing up the battery.By comparison, I tested a 1080P H.264 .MP4 video downloaded from Google and the CPU hovered around 8% during smooth playback. Google needs to shove their VP8 & VP9 codec where the sun don’t shine.But thank goodness for “Magic Actions for YouTube” (a Chrome plugin) letting me disable Google’s VP9 HTML5 crap.Now Chrome runs Youtube in flash mode with H.264 hardware decoding and the CPU hovers around 20%.Here’s a screenshot of the CPU pegged at 100% with VP9 software decode […].Here’s the CPU hovering at 20% using Flash mode with H.264 hardware decode […].
I’ve been hammering on this system with tests for over two hours. The Intel N2840 2.16 GHz processor is being forced to burst to 2.58 GHz from all the work I’m throwing at it. Windows Update is hammering the IO and CPU. The brightness level is even set to 60% and the battery level still reads 79% with 4 hours 24 minutes remaining.
After all the tweaks and cleanup I’ve done, the slim HP Stream 13 3.42 lb laptop is running smooth as butter. The 13.3″ 1366×768 non-glare matte screen is the perfect compromise between viewabiliy and compactness.Would be even nicer if HP could sell us a 1920×1080 13.3″ screen but probably not at the $230 price point.Another small gripe is that the bezel is a little bigger than I’d like.
The Stream 13 has a 720P webcam, but I wouldn’t even call it 360P quality. It’s incredibly grainy using indoor lighting, but what were you expecting for a $230 laptop?It’s certainly not going to look like the camera on the MacBook Pro. Get yourself a $66 Logitech C920 which has awesome image quality and 1080P hardware encoding if you want a nice webcam.Even a $29 720P webcam will look leaps and bounds better.
On the audio output side, the HP Stream 13 has good sound output from the TRRS jack.It can drive my large 808 headphones with authority.By comparison, my Lenovo ThinkPad T430 business laptop couldn’t push my 808s at all!The audio recording on the other hand stinks in the default setting.The integrated microphone sucks like most integrated microphones on laptops. It is very laggy because of all the noise cancellation algorithms they apply to it. The recorded sound (using Audacity) is noise free but it is extremely unnatural due to excessive noise reduction.I don’t like the recorded sound at all.
UPDATE – After disabling the DTS Realtek audio processing, the playback quality was still just as good.Recording with the internal microphone actually improved a lot.The internal microphone in the HP Stream 13 actually isn’t too shabby.It is surprisingly usable quality for VoIP or Video Calling.
The Stream 13 also has a 3.5mm TRRS phone connector port for headphones and earbuds with microphones. That means you can use the same earbuds with mic that you use with your smartphone. The problem is that while it sounds a lot more natural than the integrated microphone, it’s a faint yet noisy signal. The input volume was set to 100% with a 10 dB (fake software preamp) boost and it’s still only reaching 20% peak sound levels in Audacity.My Nexus 4 and Samsung S4 on the other hand produce extremely good quality recordings with the same earbuds or headphones with microphones.To put this in context, my Lenovo ThinkPad T430 from work has the same audio recording quality problems with the integrated mic and TRRS port.
If you want to work around these sound recording issues, buy yourself a $34 Samson GoMic.It’s the best money you’ll ever spend on a USB microphone.The other option is that you can get a bluetooth headphone with microphone since the HP Stream 13 has bluetooth capability.
The trackpad on the HP Stream 13 is large and usable.It supports gestures like two-finger scrolling.But if you really want a good experience, buy a bluetooth mouse and use the integrated bluetooth in the Stream 13.
Lastly, here are the disk performance results for the internal 32 GB SSD storage. It’s one of the slowest SSDs on the market, but it’s still around 15 times faster than a normal hard drive when it comes to small file transfers.
This is a superb mobility laptop for the money, but only if you remove all the crapware and apply all the optimizations I performed above.
Summary of crapware removed and optimizations performed.
* Apple Bonjour.
* Cisco LEAP and EAPFAST
* McAfee AV
* Realtek cardreader software (note that you need to download just the new drivers and then just install drivers manually without software.Don’t remove if you don’t know how to install new drivers because you’ll lose the card reader)
* HP Tools registration
* HP Tools support
* Disable Realtek DTS audio effects.Just type DTS at start screen and the program will pop up.
* Install Chrome
* If you use Chrome, install “Magic Actions for YouTube” plugin for Chrome to disable ads, pick the default resolution, and force Flash mode instead of HTML5 mode.Flash mode uses H.264 MPEG AVC video which supports hardware acceleration for very low CPU usage.