HP Stream 7 Review: A $119 Windows Tabletby Brandon Chester on December 19, 2014 8:00 AM EST
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.
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rootheday3 - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - linkBrandon-
You say on the Display page of the review:
"It should be noted that these measurements were achieved by disabling Intel's Display Power Saving Technology (DPST) feature, which causes dynamic brightness and contrast depending on the image displayed on the screen. While some other devices do this to some degree, DPST ended up reducing max brightness measurements by nearly 100nits, and the constantly changing brightness played havoc with measurements during analysis and calibration."
and also on the battery life page:
"It's likely that enabling Intel's DPST will improve these results, but all that really means is that dimming the display below our 200nits standard will improve battery life."
DPST shouldn't reduce overall brightness - the algorithm it uses is designed to detect dark scenes and change the panel gamma curve to let more light through while reducing the backlight intensity to match. If working properly this can save a lot of backlight power on scenes that have low luminance values and moderate contrast to start with (e.g. movie watching). Normally there should be no noticeable difference in overall brightness of the image (though there may be a second or two of visible modulation if the image suddenly changes from bright to dark or vice versa). If you are seeing drops of 100 or 200 nits brightness when DPST is active, something isn't right.
For what its worth, other devices use techniques (called CABC - content adaptive backlight control) that do the same things as DPST - they generally just don't give you control over it the way that Intel's control panel does.
Are you 100% confident that the visual issues and brightness issues you are describing are isolated to this device or to Intel DPST in general and that other mobile devices don't have similar dimming going on?
Any possibility thaty you are conflating DPST vs Automatic Display Brightness (ADB) based on ambient light sensor detected brightness variations in the room?
Backlight is a huge contributor to platform power in tablets and other very low power mobile devices -If you only disable DPST on Intel platforms but don't disable CABC on other platforms, your low battery life results are perhaps not fair...
Note also that the Intel control panel offers an aggressiveness slider for DPST - can you reduce the aggressiveness value and see if that makes it better visually?
Brandon Chester - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - linkSome other devices do it in the video test, but not in the web browsing test. You can see the brightness of the Stream 7 decrease when you load a very white web page, and it goes back up when you return to somewhere like the Start Screen. This doesn't happen on an iPad. You can see in our Asus UX21 review that DPST does reduce the brightness when showing an all white screen, so I don't think there's anything wrong with my statement that DPST was reducing max brightness in our test.
Oh and no, it wasn't ADB, I disabled that right when I set up the tablet.
Laststop311 - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - linkSmaller battery than note 4 phone thats only 5.7" is worriesome. This tablet could of been really good if they just upped the ram to 3GB and upped the battery to 4000+mah. I think it would of sold more if they raised the price an extr 25 for the extra 2GB of ram and an extra 15 for the extra 1000mah of battery. Doesn;t a tablet like that for 159 sound a lot better than the current one for 119
Laststop311 - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - linkWouldn't mind seeing a 64GB option for 30-50 more as well
ados_cz - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkThey can't up the ram without changing the CPU which in turn would increase the price further more, the atom Z3735G is limited to maximum of 1GB of ram. But the ram is not problem on this device, I hard-set swap file to 2GB on my Linx 7 (same atom) and it runs just great.
Roy2001 - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - linkI have stream 8, Intel Soc performs very well, but OS is not so good.
andrewaggb - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkI have a 64gb miix 2 8" windows tablet. Picked it up used/cheap. It's pretty decent, but the quantity of windows updates are a bit ridiculous. The app selection is much different, but there's plenty of games and apps my kids like on it. My daughter probably prefers it to the ipad, my son definitely prefers the ipad.
Desktop apps suck on it, they run fine, but the screen is too small in my opinion.
Performance wise I think it runs fine.
Battery life is ok, but not as good as an ipad.
I imagine the stream 7 is very similar. For $100 it's probably a great deal. You also get full flash support, which I use for some streaming applications.
spdfreak - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkI wonder if these are basically the same as the Winbook Tablets that MicroCenter sells. The MC 7in tablet is 60.00 in today's ad. The 8in with 2GB Ram is 140.00.
HD IPS LCD 7" 1280x800 Display
Intel BayTrail-T Z3735G 1.33GHz Quad-Core CPU
1GB RAM & 16 Flash Storage
Windows 8.1 OS
Expandable up to 64GB via microSD Card
The WinBook 7" TW700 Tablet has 16GB of integrated storage, which can be expanded via microSD Card. Includes 1 year subscription for Office 365 Personal.
darkich - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkGood review, and I agree that spec wise this is probably the best tablet for the price.
But I would rather recommend buying an used Android tablet for this price.
For 110$ I got an aluminum 8“ IPS (excellent Samsung panel) 800p quad core 3G tablet with 2+5Mpix cameras, even radio, GSM and GPS. Slim, stylish and just 340g of weight. Still 20 months of warranty and in pristine condition.
Finally, for a tablet use case Android is definitely a much better choice than Windows.
jkauff - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkFor less than a hundred bucks I can play movies on a handheld device using MPC-HC and madVR on default settings. Pretty cool. BTW, I fixed my headphone jack with a shot of compressed air and a bit of contact cleaner. It wasn't defective, just dirty.