When I discovered the Stream 7, I purchased it because I was genuinely intrigued about what exactly you can get for $119, or even $99. Android devices at that price point have always been thoroughly unimpressive and just terrible devices in general. Windows 8.1 with Bing has allowed Windows manufacturers to compete with these devices on every level, as they are no longer held back by the cost of including Windows. I don't know how well this strategy is going to work out for Microsoft in the end, but it certainly works out well for the consumer. 

One thing that motivated me was the general lack of coverage for devices at the low end of the market. News coverage and reviews always seem to focus on the newest iPad, the newest Galaxy Tab, or the newest Ultrabook. There's not as much attention paid to these inexpensive devices, and it's problematic because many people simply cannot afford premium devices that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If nobody takes a look at the low end, there's also no push for manufacturers to improve those devices. While I don't think that the entire market should race to the bottom, I think that the people who cannot afford the newest and most expensive device still deserve to have a good experience offered to them within their budget. 

The HP Stream 7 is not a flawless device by any measure, but no device really is. What can be said is that the Stream 7 does its best to provide a good experience at a great price. There are always going to be compromises to achieve a lower price point, but I think HP has given users a lot of value for their dollar. Including an IPS panel was a choice I applaud, as on a tablet the poor viewing angles of a TN can be a massive problem. It's not the world's best IPS panel, but it's better than many competing devices and it's better than you might expect for a $119 device. Two years ago, the Nexus 7 had a similar panel and cost nearly twice as much.

The CPU performance on the Stream 7 is also very good, and the device was usually very smooth in use. The 1GB of RAM can definitely be problematic, with apps having to reload and taxing applications causing the device to chug, but it's something that can be excused for $119. Graphically intensive applications are going to be more problematic, and this certainly isn't going to compete with the likes of NVIDIA's SHIELD for gaming, but it's still possible to play quite a few less demanding games.

There are some issues that I think could have been fixed, and I hope that in a future tablet HP is able to improve on these things without compromising the quality of everything else. One of these things is the build quality, which is quite good right up until you start examining the back cover. Truth be told, I have four layers of paper cutouts that I've stuffed under the back, and it makes the device feel much more solid in the hand. This may have an impact on thermal performance though, and so I did our testing without them.

If there's anything I recommend for HP going forward, it's to do away with the removable back so the flex can be eliminated, which means adding the microSD slot to one of the sides. I think the inclusion of a 2MP rear camera was also misguided. It seems more like an attempt to just check off a box on a feature checklist. If there's anywhere for a 2MP camera on this tablet, it should be on the front, with the money for the other camera module going toward something like improving the build quality or the battery capacity.

That brings me to my last issue, which is the battery life. 11.1Wh is quite small for a tablet, and unfortunately when paired with the rest of the hardware you get short battery life. Five hours from a Windows laptop might still seem acceptable, but it's far easier to plug in a laptop and interact with in on your desk than to plug in a tablet that you're holding in your hands.

All that being said, I think most of these items can be excused at $119. Some people may feel this is just trying to ignore all the flaws, but the truth is that at $119 a buyer needs to manage their expectations. The Stream 7 provides a lot more for $119 than you would expect. $100 Android tablets can be equally bad in a variety of areas, so the fact that the Stream 7 works as well as it does is a decent starting point.

There is one issue I didn't list above, and it's because it's quite severe and it prevents what I felt could have been a great use case for this tablet. The amount static and noise when using the 3.5mm jack on the Stream 7 is completely unacceptable for any device at any price point. It's actually hard to overstate this, because we're not talking about some minor background noise. The 3.5mm jack is essentially unusable. The fact that this issue made it to production is extremely concerning, and it ruins the tablet's usefulness as a media player unless you use Bluetooth headphones/speakers or are able to use the built-in speaker without bothering anyone. 

Overall, I still think that the Stream 7 is a good tablet when evaluated against the many different tablets on the market. It's not the best tablet overall, but I think it's the best tablet at its price point by a large margin. I cannot recommend it to anyone looking for a media player due to the issue with the headphone jack, which is a huge shame because it's able to run Media Player Classic Home Cinema perfectly. I also think that anyone looking for something to act as their main computer should try to save up a bit more money for something with two or more gigabytes of RAM to ensure a good experience when running more intensive software.

But for anyone looking for a supplementary device, or just something to play around with, I think the Stream 7 is a great purchase. Anyone looking for an Office 365 license should also see if they can find the Stream 7 on sale for $99, as it comes with Office 365 for not much more than the cost of an individual license. I hope that HP can improve on the Stream 7 in future tablets, and I hope other manufacturers create their own devices to compete in this price range so consumers will have more – and more importantly, better – options at the low-end.

It's always good to see technology brought to the masses, and HP has made some great progress in doing that with the Stream 7. It's flawed in areas, but if nothing else the price point can get Windows tablets into the hands of many users. That could be equally beneficial to Microsoft, which is no doubt a major part of the reason for the existence of Windows 8 with Bing. More users means there's more of a market for developers to target, which will hopefully lead to better and more abundant Modern apps in the future.

Software: Windows on a Tablet
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  • pugster - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I brought one of these tablets for $70 this week actually after a couple of promos from Microsoft. I wish that they had included an dongle where you can plug in an usb drive in it and an hdmi port. I have windows 8 pc's and using this windows 8 tablet is definitely a learning curve compared to Android tablets and ipads. I was surprised that windows 8 with 1gb of ram is responsive in this tablet assuming that you won't multitask that much.

    Since Microsoft gives out these windows 8.1 with bing licenses for free, I would imaging that we would see many Chinese tablets to get into this bandwagons for cheap tablets next year.
  • swkerr - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I actually bought 2 of these of the kids for Christmas. One at $99 and one for $74 from the Microsoft store. I have been using a Nexus 7 second Gen for more than a year and have found it to be the perfect size. It is really just a glorified reader and Alarm clock. I use it to read the news and check email and occasional light gaming but never video or music.

    I figured for this purpose the Stream 7 would be fine and anything else was just a bonus. The Office subscription is a big plus as well. I have already set them up and tested them and am actually very impressed. I actually purchased a case ($10) Mini Bluetooth Keyboard with touch-pad ($30) and a 64GB MicroSD card ($25)

    As setup I was able to install Sims4 and Origin and the game actually plays pretty good. I installed Steam and The Swapper on the other and again works fine. Some of the Windows games are not bad either.

    Flipboard, Facebook and Twitter all work well as well as Nexflix, Hulu and Plex. Alarm Clock HD + was the best Alarm clock app I could find and it works great. Not sure I would ever use office on one of these without the Bluetooth keyboard but with the keyboard it would work fine in a pinch.

    I have a Microsoft Wireless Miracast dongle on my TV and the Stream 7 works perfectly with it. Even at the low resolution it looks pretty good streaming from Netflix. I was able to get it to run at 1080p as well but then you need the bluetooth keyboard.

    If you think of this thing as a PC it sucks but as a 7 inch table it really does what you expect of it and at $99 it is a bargain. The Metro app store is limited but the basic crap people really use is there. And if it is not you still have a browser and all the old PC apps that will probably run fine. The lack of touch support on the old games and apps may be an issue and some things don't size will to the low resolution but for what you are likely to use it for it is great.

    Was considering buying another Nexus 7 in case I broke my current one but would probably get one of these instead. I have several 10" Transformer tables and They are just too big for how I use a tablet. Even the 8" android and iPad Mini are just that much too big as a reader.

  • CharonPDX - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    "This wouldn't be an issue if these Windows tablets allowed you to directly move files to them from another computer over USB, but they don't."

    But they do. The micro USB port supports the "USB OTG" (USB On-The-Go) specification. With a simple adapter, the port can be converted to a full-size USB Type-A port, to which you can plug in whatever USB devices you want. (That's the extra bonus of it running full Windows 8.1.) I have used my HP Stream 8 with a variety of USB devices.

    Note: The Stream 8 is different than the Stream 7 in only three ways that I can find:
    1. It has a 1" larger screen (8" instead of 7", but with the same quality of screen.)
    2. It includes 4G wireless (HSPA+, aka "3.5G" to most of us,) with 200 MB per month free form T-Mobile. I have T-Mobile for my family, so I just pay the $10/month to duplicate the amount of data on my highest-data line.)
    3. It costs $179. (Which is a steal - since it costs $139 just to *ADD* 4G to an iPad.)
  • Brandon Chester - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Out of the box you can't do it, which is what matters.
  • PC Perv - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Why not? All you need is a right cable. I am sure one will find such a cable for a lower price than Apple's Lightning cable's.

    You are such an ignorant and arrogant creature. Though I know why you want to disregard the utility of USB OTG. Which makes you a crooked creature on top of the aforementioned.
  • CharonPDX - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    Really? Then no desktop computer should ever have its utility on the internet considered since it doesn't come with internet built-in (you need SOME form of internet connection!)

    No printer should ever be considered worth using, because it doesn't come with paper in the box.

    A USB on-the-go cable costs all of $1.47 at Monoprice.

    I'm sorry, but that being your answer to my statement makes me seriously downgrade my judgment of you. Had you replied "I had forgotten about USB On-The-Go," I would have given you plenty of slack. But to completely dismiss an actually available core function completely, simply because "you can't do it out of the box," is rather haughty and dismissive.

    My Xbox is a crappy game system when it doesn't come with any games in the box.

    Using a USB On-The-Go adapter, you're limited to USB Hi-Speed speeds, but my USB 3.0 128 GB flash drive works just fine, and is plenty fast. In fact, it's almost certainly faster than the internal eMMC SSD. (Copying large files from eMMC to USB gets me about 27 MB/s. Copying large files from the USB to the eMMC is about 30 MB/s.) PLENTY fast to transfer large files.
  • Brandon Chester - Friday, December 26, 2014 - link

    It would be fine if the ability to send files from a PC via a direct USB connection was not an expected ability for a tablet, but it is. Alternatively, HP could have used faster and more stable WiFi and it would be a non-issue. Ferrying files between the two devices with a USB drive is a time consuming and cumbersome process, and having to go get additional hardware for it is an additional hurdle. I actually don't live near any electronics stores, so I would either need to drive a significant distance to get a USB-OTG adapter, or I would have to pay for one and have it shipped which takes time and reduces the tablet's price appeal, especially when paying shipping fees here in Canada.
  • CharonPDX - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Mini related review:

    I bought the Stream 8, which is 1" larger, and includes HSPA+ "4G" service, for $179. My findings are near-identical to this review. The battery life is longer, and the back of the device fits better than Brandon describes the 7, but otherwise it seems the same to me, right down to the headphone jack noise issue. (I use Bluetooth headphones, so I mitigate that.)

    In the past year, I have switched between an iPad Air, a low-end Android tablet (the Air became my daughter's tablet,) to the HP Stream 8. I like the Stream 8 the best - even better than the iPad Air (and I was a 100% Apple user for personal devices prior.) I REALLY like having full-blown Windows available to me when I need it. I carry a small Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with me (Microsoft Wedge Mobile keyboard,) when I need to use it as a "real computer" rather than a tablet.

    The cellular connection is a nice bonus over the 7" model - and while the T-Mobile "free 200 MB per month for the life of the device" isn't much data, but it is a nice "lifeline" for emergencies. (I have a T-Mobile family plan, so I just added it to my family plan for $10/month.)
  • bill.rookard - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Just as a quick note, maybe I got lucky. I'm watching Guardians of the Galaxy right now through headphones with absolutely no static issues whatsoever.
  • CharonPDX - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    I haven't listened to headphones often after the first couple times being static-driven. I was using Apple EarPods (because they're my standard "desk" 'phones at work.)

    I have now tried a few more, and the EarPods are the noisiest. Headphones that don't also have a microphone are the best, with some old-school Sony Studio Monitors (which are generally my best-sounding headphones every time,) having the lowest noise, but still having some.

    The Sonys, and a couple of the other "no microphone" ones are quiet enough that I can only hear the static during silent/very quiet periods.

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