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 $99, as it comes with Office 365 for not much more than the cost of an individual license. I hope that HP can improve on the Stream 7 in future tablets, and I hope other manufacturers create their own devices to compete in this price range so consumers will have more – and more importantly, better – options at the low-end.
It's always good to see technology brought to the masses, and HP has made some great progress in doing that with the Stream 7. It's flawed in areas, but if nothing else the price point can get Windows tablets into the hands of many users. That could be equally beneficial to Microsoft, which is no doubt a major part of the reason for the existence of Windows 8 with Bing. More users means there's more of a market for developers to target, which will hopefully lead to better and more abundant Modern apps in the future.
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lazymangaka - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - linkI wonder if the headphone static is a problem with the Bay Trail chips or something weird with this zero cost version of Windows, because my Acer Iconia W4-820 also suffers from an annoyingly large amount of static over its 3.5mm headphone jack.
Regular Reader - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkInteresting. I have an Iconia W4 and haven't noticed the static. Does it happen to you at any volume level?
AllanMoore - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkIf you live close to a MicroCenter, a much better pick would be the Winbook TW800 ($ 100). It's got a full USB 3.0, hdmi, micro sd, ips. In my opinion, it's by far the best $ 100 out there. Otherwise i would add extra $49 and buy <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009X3UW2G?ie=UTF... Asus Nexus 7</a>. It's faster and better value!
ados_cz - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkWhether it is a better value depends on user, I prefer the full windows 8.1 on my Linx 7, bookmark bar in IE synchronizes with my desktop pc as well as bunch of other things. It is just nice to have a proper PC in pocketable form factor. I have even found a very nice touch screen touchpad in windows store for mouse cursor navigation, handy when you connect external screen and extend the desktop. I just really love this cheap windows tablet. Linx 7 is sooo nice, 280g of full PC experience goodness :-) I have even sold my very good touchscreen Dell e5440 because it became obsolete to me, still keeping hi end mini itx desktop.
harrynsally - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkWith HDMI and full size USB, I thought of getting one of these to use with external monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse.
At $100, the TW800 WinBook only has 1GB RAM and 16GB eMCC storage. Even after tuning, Win 8.1 will use 95% of the storage and adding microSD only good for saving photos, documents.
For $200, you can get the TW100 WinBook that comes with 2GB RAM and 32GB eMCC storage, which will allow room to run additional software.
Did my homework and just purchased a Dell Inspiration NoteBook for $300. that included a Haswell i3 processor, 15.6" touch screen, 4GB RAM, 500GB storage, HDMI, 3 USB ports including one 3.0), optical DVD drive, 4 cell battery etc.
marvdmartian - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkBought one of these on BF, on sale from Office Depot for $79. Tried it for a few weeks, and I'm shipping it back to them today.
Frankly, I was underwhelmed with it. As pointed out in the review, battery life is dismal.....even when it's on standby! While I wasn't using it every day, I did try to pick it up whenever possible, to attempt to immerse myself in the Windows 8 experience, as this was my first W8 device. But it seemed as though every time I picked it up to use it, I had to plug it in and charge it first! Sorry, but sitting there, doing NOTHING for 3 days, and the battery dies (from WHAT??) is NOT acceptable to me.
As I already said, this was my first W8 device.....and will likely be my last one, too. I know, I know, some people are enamored with it, and think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I'm just not impressed with it (and this is the improved Windows 8?? yikes!). I have used pretty much every version of Windows since 95, and found this one to be the least intuitive one of all. Hopefully Windows 10 will bring back some of the simplicity of the older versions!
As I said, this is being shipped back today. I did a refresh of the operating system (to wipe my info off of it), boxed it up, and Office Depot is paying the return shipping. In its place, I'm looking at the year old Asus 7" tablets, running Android. I've owned one of the newer 10" tablets made by them for almost a year now, and have been much more impressed with their products, as well as their value, than any other manufacturer out there.
kg4icg - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkI actually have this tablet, been using it for a couple of weeks now. Not bad at all,, Have a 64gb Samsung SXDC UHS-1 card in it. Actually use it to program radios in the field by way of USB-OTG adapter. Use my phone as a hotspot whenever I need to do something online. Not bad for something I picked up from Microsoft for $100. Oh by the way, I'm posting this comment thru it.
kg4icg - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkBy the way, only the Back cover is plastic, the frame is metal, possibly aluminum. A Plastic tablet this size is half the weight, Namely the Samsung Tab 4.
BuddyRich - Monday, December 22, 2014 - linkI recently bought a DVP8 on-sale (wanted more RAM) but considered the Stream 7.
I justified it as a Raspberry Pi with a built-in screen. I mean outfitted with a case you are spending $35 to 45 for that Pi Whats another $50-60 for a multi-touch screen if you have a use for it? If you don't, obviously don't spend on it. I bought it to be a replacement for a squeezebox touch, which this does superbly.
It comes with a Windows License which is handy, you can still get Linux on it if you want the lighter-weight OS... I think the UX is rough using desktop Windows with touch. They really should have put the keyboard on the charms bar rather than taskbar as you'll be using it alot if you don't use a bluetooth keyboard.
My only complaint is the OS is not a "pro" license so I had to use Team Viewer rather RDP to connect to my device.
Wolfpup - Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - linkSo glad you guys reviewed this! Very disappointing that the headphone jack is bad. Everything else seems...well, not bad or even good for a $100 tablet, but not being able to use this for media, when otherwise it would be AWESOME for media since it's real Windows kind of kills it for me.
Meanwhile I think it was Toshiba has a cheap 7" one too but it's killed by using a 1024x800 (?) screen with a higher resolution scaled down to it. Seems like it both cases spending the extra $60 or whatever for the 8" tablets would be the way to go (assuming the 8" models don't have these problems).
Worth noting that actually the Windows desktop is VERY useable on a 10.6" screen...it even works pretty well through my iPad's 9.7" screen with remote desktop. (The issues there are more just that there's a bit of lag/weirdness since it's sending touch commands across a wifi network!)