The HP Stream 11 2015 Edition – Full Review including MS Office, Minecraft and Hearthstone

Last year’s HP Stream 11 was one of the more successful budget Windows 8.1 laptops of the year. It featured a unique design, with decent performance paired with a great keyboard, and a year subscription to MS Office 365.

There was certainly some room for improvement, however, as it also had a mediocre screen and fairly unresponsive trackpad, and somewhat cramped local storage.

With HP’s 2015 refresh of the Stream 11 now available, is this budget laptop still worth your money?

As with Acer’s Cloudbook, the answer is… it depends.

In this review, I’ll explain why, and also compare some of the Stream’s pros and cons as compared to the Cloudbook 11.

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Dell Chromebook 13 Review – A True Mid-Tier Chromebook

If Toshiba’s 2015 update to their Chromebook 2 represents the upper boundary of the budget Chromebook category, then the Dell Chromebook 13 ably represents the first true mid-level Chromebook.

Available with a wide range of processor, RAM, and screen combinations, the Dell Chromebook 13 is a well-made, professional class machine that does an unexpectedly good job justifying its own existence, carving out a unique place in the increasing catalog of available Chromebooks.

In this article, I’ll give you a breakdown on the Dell Chromebook 13’s specs, explain which version I recommend, and review its build quality and performance.

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Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 14 Review – MS Office, Steam, Minecraft, and Hearthstone

The Acer Cloudbook 11 is, in its way, fairly representative of budget Windows laptops as a category.

It asks potential buyers to make a number of compromises in performance and design, the two most difficult of which are a fairly slow web browsing experience and a smaller-than-normal size keyboard. It also has a low-resolution webcam, only 2 GB of RAM, and for some reason it isn’t able to run traditional Java-based Minecraft.

Balancing out these drawbacks are some really nice features, including high-speed 802.11ac wi-fi, a full year of MS Office 365, a surprisingly good trackpad, 8-hour battery life, and a decent screen.

With the release of the larger Acer Cloudbook 14, I want to revisit this budget Windows laptop and see if the bigger size addresses any of these concerns. I won’t be going into full detail on all aspects of the device here, as it is by and large the same as the Cloudbook 11 that I reviewed here. However, I will go through the changes and differences that, in my opinion, make the Cloudbook 14 much easier to recommend.

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Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 Edition – Full Review

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 was released in late September 2014, and immediately received positive reviews that centered on its defining attribute: a bright, beautiful, glossy 1080p IPS display with fantastic viewing angles. With an MSRP of $329.99, Toshiba offered a quality of display that was previously unheard of at that price point. It also packed in surprisingly good Skullcandy speakers. Combined with 4 GB of RAM, and the quick boot speeds of an SSD, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 became very popular in the consumer Chromebook market.

Despite some very positive attributes, there were some significant trade-offs with this Chromebook. While it packed 4 GB of RAM and an SSD, it was powered by a low-end Intel N2840 Celeron processor that gave it mediocre performance. There were also some complaints of build quality related to the display, which anecdotally seems to have had an unusually high failure rate; when compared to some other devices in the same price class, it was also clear that it had budget build quality in terms of the screen hinge, trackpad, and keyboard, which were not as well-constructed as similar devices produced by Asus and Acer.

But still, that display, that beautiful display……

For 2015, Toshiba has upgraded its Chromebook line with more powerful Intel Broadwell-generation processors, along with some other new features not typically found in the budget consumer laptop class, like a backlit keyboard.

Has Toshiba found the recipe for the ultimate affordable Chromebook?

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Vintage Dredge: The Once and Forever Boogeyman

“Hey! How are you? Oh, and I’m not saying ‘hi’ to you – not until round one is done and I know if you’re playing Dredge.”

Or how about this one:

“I’m glad you came out, been a while! Now I wish I’d have brought another Containment Priest with me!”

For the first full year that I played Vintage – 2009 – I played almost exclusively Oath of Druids decks, with a few dips into the Dredge pool. The following year, I resolved to play as many different strategies as I could, and so over a nine-week stretch to start the year of 2010, I played five Vintage tournaments with five different strategies: Elephant Oath, Noble Fish, Dredge, Workshop Aggro, and a deck Steve Nowakowski and I invented called Two Card Monte.

I made at least the top 8 with all of these decks. And yet, every time I play Vintage, I have to endure the questions that seem like small talk, but are really a thinly veiled ruse designed to determine if I’m playing Dredge. You know, conversations like, “Hey buddy, how are you! Been a while, how’s your family and ARE YOU PLAYING DREDGE TODAY YOU RAT BASTARD!?!”

Just little subtle things like that, mostly.

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Vintage Magic: Analyzing the Restricted List Updates

The bulk of this article contains my thoughts on the impact of the Vintage portion of the Banned and Restricted List Updates that posted on 9/28, which can be found here. Following that, I provide the full top 8 deck lists from the 9/19 Top Deck Games Vintage event with 41 players and some quick hits and innovations to look for within those lists.

As a reminder, here’s the impact to Vintage from the 9/28 announcement:

Restricted:
Chalice of the Void
Dig Through Time

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Un-Restricted:
Thirst for Knowledge

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The combination of these moves simultaneously will really shake up the Vintage format. Working in reverse order, let’s take a detailed look at the changes each of these are likely to cause.

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