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WARNING: Do NOT use "Express Setup" - use only "CUSTOM Setup"
on December 25, 2013
Go ahead and read the 1-star reviews first, let yourself get scared silly, then come back and read THIS review, and you will quickly see that the problems the 1-star complainers are experiencing are because THEY WON'T READ AND FOLLOW SIMPLE DIRECTIONS, so the problems they describe are their own fault. Those who followed simple directions gave the laptop 4 to 5 stars.
People will throw away 100+ hours every month watching mindless television programs, but they won't invest just a few hours of their TV-watching life to learn how to use a computer. Instead, they want manufacturers to make dummy-proof software so they don't have to actually READ (God forbid they might have to sacrifice an episode of some mindless television program), and if the manufacturer doesn't assist in enabling people to NOT take time to learn how to use a computer, then the manufacturer is vilified by those same people for not making dummy-proof products. Furthermore, the non-learners want the manufacturer to develop a laptop with the performance of a $1,500 unit, yet the non-learners want to pay less than $300 for that same laptop! ....go figure.
Ya just can't fix stupid.
But take the experience of the "I-don't-want-to-learn-how-to-use-a-computer" complainers and be warned....when you first open and launch Windows 8, you will be presented with the option to select EXPRESS Setup or CUSTOM Setup. If you do as all the nay-sayers did, and you mistakenly select Express Setup, you WILL have a slow-running laptop on your hands that constantly updates itself and throws popups at you. However, if you wisely select CUSTOM Setup, you can easily disable all the unnecessary background apps that are not required for Windows 8 to run, and you will have a quick and fast little laptop like all of us that gave it 4 and 5 stars. Don't be intimidated by the setup process. Microsoft has made it as dummy-proof as they can.
HOWEVER: Simply going through the Custom Setup process and disabling all the unnecessary apps isn't all. You also need to run (and then TURN OFF) Windows Automatic Updates as well as ANY other non-essential software that wants to force itself to run in the background. It's fairly simple. Keep reading....
I've owned several different laptops over the years (Dell, HP, Lenovo and Sony brands), and I can confidently say this is a GREAT little laptop. I wanted to get something small and compact for my 9 year old daughter for Christmas 2013, but since most of the websites she visits require Flash, that immediately disqualified anything with Chrome OS, Apple iOS, and Android OS. So I wanted to find a small laptop with Windows OS as well as MS Office and a touchscreen. When I found this laptop in December 2013, I was excited because it offers so much for so little. However, I was skeptical because it was brand new to market and as of 12-15-2013, there were almost NO reviews out there I could rely on. However, I invested 2 hours on this laptop before packaging it and handing it over to my daughter for Christmas, and I can confidently give this little beast 2 thumbs up.
It IS very small - perfect for a young kid, teen or college student with small hands. It is NOT for someone with large hands or bad vision (the small screen really shrinks everything down). However, it's perfect for fitting right into a purse or backpack, and it comes with MS Office which is perfect for students (more on the MS Office installation further down in this review). It's very thin, very lightweight, durable, and very compact. It has a quality build to it - not cheap and flimsy. My daughter already dropped it from 3 feet off the floor and it didn't crack or dent, and the hard drive wasn't affected in the least.
(Feb 2015 UPDATE): It's been over a year since I purchased this laptop, and this little thing is still going strong with no problems. Because my daughter likes to download games and play online games on it, there are many sneaky background apps that make their way into the laptop and slow it down, so I perform monthly cleanup maintenance on it using "CCleaner" at Piriform(dot)com. I use some others, but CCleaner is my general-purpose go-to clean-up app to remove unnecessary software, remove background apps that auto-start when the laptop boots, clean out the cache, and cleanup the messy registry junk left behind by the the bloatware constantly being downloaded.
On that note: Be advised that the Number 1 cause of computer slow-downs is antivirus software. Windows 8 comes with 'Defender', the replacement for the prior Windows Security Essentials. DO NOT make the mistake of installing an additional antivirus software on this machine UNLESS you deactivate Defender! If you do so, you will virtually kill this machine's ability to do much of anything. Myself, I don't use any AV software, because I know how to effectively remove infections (most of which are trojans), but I realize that for the average user, an antivirus application is required. That being the case, just remember that Windows 8 comes with Defender already installed and activated. Do not make the mistake of installing an additional AV program unless you deactivate Defender.
Now let's continue with the point of this review:
REMEMBER THE WARNING YOU MUST HEED: when you FIRST power this unit up, you will be taken through a series of Windows 8 setup processes before you can use it, as well as setting up a personal Microsoft account (don't worry, no money or credit card required). This is where the nay-sayers all went wrong. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to NOT select "Express Settings". If you do, you WILL regret it, because this unit only has a 1 gHz AMD processor in it. There are a great deal of background apps and services that are defaulted to launch on Startup and constantly seek updates (including Windows 8 itself, and its protector Windows Defender). Due to limited processing speed and memory on this laptop (in order for HP to sell it for $300 or under), all those apps running in the background will result in slow operation and response times. However, if you choose the Custom setup process, you can disable many unnecessary processes and updates that are not needed to run Windows 8. But don't forget Windows Updates! Keep reading...
I advise NOT to set Windows to Automatic Updates. You can manually update Windows yourself (I usually do this once a month). Those processes are still available whenever you want them - but they do NOT need to automatically load and run in the background each time you start this laptop, so disable all the unnecessary apps and set them to manual, or they WILL slow down your laptop. Here's how: Once you have completed the Windows 8 Custom Setup process, you will need to open Internet Explorer, select Tools, and select Windows Update. Even though Windows 8.1 comes installed on this laptop, there are dozens of new updates coming out all the time. The Windows Update process alone could take from 10 to 45 minutes to complete all necessary updates. NOTE: If needed, you MUST repeat the update process 2 or 3 times until you receive a message that you have all the latest updates and there are no others to install. Once done, my advice is to go back into Control Panel and turn Windows Automatic Updates to OFF or it will always be running in the background and slowing down your laptop. Ignore all the dire warnings it will throw at you. You can manually update Windows anytime you want to. There is no need to have all these processes always running in the background and taking up valuable processor and memory resources. I usually run Windows Update once monthly, but when finished, I go to Control Panel and I again set Windows Automatic Updates to OFF.
If you choose Custom Setup, you will be walked right through this process and it's easy to complete. But if you choose Express Setup, you will be defaulting them to run automatically on startup which is going to place a lot of unnecessary demand on the processor and memory, slowing the machine down and resulting in negative reviews, when in fact the problem is the user, not the laptop. Simply disable the services that aren't required to run on Startup and it'll be quick and responsive.
SIDEBAR: I note that several of those who 1-star'd the laptop are claiming they selected Custom setup and still experience slow response from the laptop. Okay, pay attention, please...... recall I said earlier "ya can't fix stupid"? That being said, even though you select Custom Setup, you still have to manually go through each and every option listed and you must DISABLE all those unnecessary apps! You cannot simply select Custom Setup and then simply click Next, Next, Next, Next, Next on the prompt screens! You MUST select each app, go through that specific app's settings, and DISABLE ALL (or MOST) of them. If you don't, then all that accomplishes is the same as selecting Express Setup, because all those unnecessary apps are still left running in the background. I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but apparently stupidity runs rampant and knows no bounds (hence, all the silly warning signs you now find on every product you buy, so as to protect people against their own stupidity).
And don't forget to download and install Flash! Although websites are slowly migrating to HTML5, many still utilize Flash, so if you will need to install Adobe Flash player to view many websites.
Plan on 2 hours to complete ALL setup steps and learning to add/remove/relocate apps on the new Windows 8 Start screen, as well as configuring the laptop to run only necessary Windows processes. It's a bit time consuming but well worth the time invested. If you choose to simply hit "Express" settings, then you'll be one of the unhappy reviewers like a few others here. However, if you take my advice and select the custom manual setup and disable all those unnecessary apps, then you'll find it runs quick and you'll be quite happy with it.
While others complained about Windows 8, I was impressed with the number of user-controlled settings that Windows is providing with this new OS, and the new tiled apps with a touchscreen are pretty cool. The new Start Screen and tiles are new and different, but like anything that needs to be learned, I found it to have a lot of features I really liked. You can add and remove tiles to your start screen, organize the tiles into groups, name the groups, etc.
HP has created a website that teaches you everything you need to know to use Windows 8. At the bottom of this review, go to the Comments and click on page 2 where you will find the URL address that you can cut and paste into your browser.
The touchscreen of this little laptop really impressed me. I expected it to be a bit inaccurate and unresponsive like so many smartphone touchscreens are, but in fact it is VERY responsive and accurate, down to the tiniest little box to be checked with your finger.
Picture quality of the screen is not high definition, but that's because it's only a 10-inch screen and high definition detail cannot be seen on a screen that small anyway. However, picture quality is perfectly fine and it does have a High Definition port to connect to a large HD monitor or television. Others have reported excellent video quality when connected to a TV screen or external monitor.
Someone else mentioned slowness in streaming videos, but since I have a high broadband internet connection, I found that videos loaded fast and were absolutely flawless with no buffering or delay. So that user's problem was NOT the laptop, it was her own limited broadband speed.
The sound system on this laptop also impressed me. It even comes with a built-in sound equalizer to customize sound to your personal tastes.
If you're a hardcore online gamer, you are NOT going to be very happy with the AMD 1 Ghz processor, but then again, this laptop was NOT designed for heavy duty online gaming, and you can't expect an Intel i7 hyper-threading processor in a laptop under $300. You wouldn't reasonably expect to buy a little car with a 1.5 liter engine and then complain that it doesn't go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, right? Understand that in order for HP to make this a low-priced $300 laptop, they had to put only 2 GB of memory in it and a simple AMD 1Ghz processor. If you want something faster, you'll need to step up your price to something over $500. So be advised that for heavy online gamers or for running resource-intensive programs, this laptop is NOT sufficient. However, for normal everyday interactive gaming websites and other operating functionality for 90% of most people, it's great. My daughter has had NO trouble at all, even with 3 different web browsers open (Firefox, Chrome and IE) and 4 other offline applications running simultaneously. When launching apps, there is a slight delay of a few seconds (because you shut them off so they won't bog down the system), but otherwise the 1 Ghz AMD Processor speed and 2 GB RAM is fine for all applications. If you want faster response and the ability to run programs or gaming software that puts heavy demand on the processor and memory, then you'll need to purchase a laptop in the range of $500 to $1,000. But for basic computing, great features, compact portability, and all for $300, you simply can't beat this laptop.
The speed and motion of the touchpad mouse is completely adjustable in the Control Panel, so the people that claim the touchpad is slow and unresponsive are simply proving my point that the nay-sayers are those that have not taken a few minutes of time to adjust and control all the various settings a computer or laptop makes available to users. When you get into a car rental or someone else's car, you have to adjust the seat and mirrors to fit YOU so it's comfortable for YOU, right? Well, in like manner, on any laptop you need to adjust the touchpad to respond to your own touch and speed preference. It's silly to simply accept the default settings and then complain about it! If you don't know how to do something on any laptop or PC, just remember: Google is your friend....Use it! Everything and anything you want to learn is available at your fingertips through a simple Google search. I often use Youtube to watch quick How-To videos to learn anything I need to know.
I took 2 hours to complete all updates and adjust various settings and configurations before gifting it to my daughter, and this laptop works GREAT. For anything I didn't know how to do on Windows 8.1, I simply Googled the question and found dozens of immediate How-To's. Once I was done, I found the laptop to be fast and responsive with a LOT of functionality and excellent build quality.
Oh, by the way: When you open the box, there is a small yellow card with your MS Office activation code. Do NOT throw it away! You will need that activation code when you launch Office 2013 that comes pre-installed on this laptop. It is Office Home and Student 2013, so it only includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint (it does NOT include Access, Publisher, Outlook or SharePoint), but the version this comes with is a FULL version for you to keep. It is NOT a trial version. To me, that makes this laptop a remarkable buy, because Office Home & Student 2013 is a $100 program, so considering the HP build quality, the touchscreen, a decent amount of processor speed and memory, as well as having Windows 8.1 fully installed (no upgrade required), that makes this $300 laptop the number one bargain laptop to be found anywhere in 2014. PERIOD. You can find cheaper ones, but they won't even begin to compare to this one.
All in all, I am very impressed at how much value this laptop offers for such a low price and with excellent build quality. I challenge anyone to find a laptop for under $300 that compares to this one. Go ahead and search away, you will not find another laptop in this price range that has all this unit offers with the build quality of Hewlett Packard (HP). I find it to be THE best bargain in it's class. And that's important to remember: You're looking at a $300 laptop, so don't expect it to have 8 GB of memory and an Intel i7 processor! But for under $300, I am amazed HP has packed so much quality and functionality into this thing.
Just remember: do NOT, do NOT, do NOT select "Express" setup when you first launch Windows 8 (on this laptop or ANY laptop for that matter!) Select the CUSTOM manual setup and disable all the unnecessary processes that are defaulted to run on startup. Yes, it's very easy to do. That way, you'll have a fast little laptop you'll be very happy with.
To prove my point, if you scroll through these reviews and search for another user named "Donna Mac", she wrote the following in her review: "First of all I made the mistake of doing express setup, made the computer really slow. ... Decided to do a complete factory reset and that seemed to fix all the problems. I did a custom setup and the difference was amazing, everything is now running a lot smoother and faster."
So there you have it! Do NOT select "Express Setup" when Windows 8 launches.
So my hat is off to HP for producing a low-priced laptop with so much quality and value, and I highly recommend this unit. I have worked with many different desktops, tablets and laptops throughout my workday for years, so I think my opinion can be relied upon. Ignore the nay-sayers that don't want to learn how to set up and configure Windows 8. Get yourself one of these. It packs tremendous value and build quality for less than $300. You won't be disappointed.