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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  • ddriver - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    With a single gig of ram it is far from very exciting or usable... I've been looking for a small factor x86 tablet with 4 gigs of ram, but all devices are crippled to 2 gigs of ram max.
  • schizoide - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Have you tried one? It works OK with 1GB RAM. You can browse the web, including heavy sites, just fine. It runs Office quite adeptly. All the standard desktop stuff works great, as does (obviously) metro apps.

    Obviously it would be much better with 2GB. No doubt. But it _is_ usable with 1.
  • ddriver - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I can do that on my android phone, the benefits of having x86 device is running full desktop applications which are not available for android, which do not run at all well with a single gigabyte eof ram.

    That's why i'd prefer a device that has not been crippled to only serve for basic tasks by having little ram, which is not expensive at all.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Of course, running a desktop application on a tablet is almost as bad as trying to use Teamviewer to control a Windows device from an Android tablet. Windows desktop applications, especially legacy apps that were not built with any thought for a touch interface, are just not a great experience.
  • ddriver - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I don't care about the user experience, my primary intent is to run a full C++ compiler on the device. It is the kind of things you just run without interacting with it at all.
  • Tikcus9666 - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I've been using a Toshiba encore 8 for about 10 months now, after using previous android tablets. App selection does not bother me.

    Web browser works
    Email works
    youtube works
    twitter works
    Amazon instant video works (granted need to use desktop version of IE) this is one app i would like
    Netflix works
    I got a full version of office 2013 so, I can edit documents when out on the road (although would never want to spend hours working on a 8" screen)

    Bottom line it does everything I need at a fraction of the cost of other tablets and it comes with office.

    One thing the reviewer should note, on a desktop/laptop without a touch screen Windows 8.1 automatically boots to desktop so you barely see the start screen, you don't need any 3rd party apps to do that (also right clicking on the start button, gives you lots of options that used to be in the start menu)
  • ados_cz - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    Well, the included Office 365 is built with touch in mind, I have already created few tables for my work using touch screen and finished the last 20% of work on my desktop. Btw, I prefer the desktop IE on my Linx 7 as well. To me it is very usable even for desktop apps.
  • hughlle - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Then this device is clearly not for you. you're complaining that an super budget device doesn't have high end specs.

    Out of interest, what's the cheapest x86 tablet with 4gb of ram you've found?

    Why do people read reviews of products and take the time to moan about the fact that it's not what they need. Shop nfor something else.
  • Azurael - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I got a refurbished i3 Dell Venue 11 for £215. It has 4GB of RAM and a real 128GB SSD. It's bigger than this, I'll grant you, but it's a lot of power for the money and on a larger screen - desktop apps are usable. The latest version of Photoshop CC with a stylus is amazing!

    These devices got generally favourable reviews but suffered from terrible bugs (it froze every 10 minutes or so out of the box!) until a series of firmware updates for almost every component of the device (a touch screen firmware I get, but firmware for the LCD itself to fix a panel self refresh issue?! I didn't even know that was possible...) and now it's great with amazing battery life too.

    Sadly, Linux currently has a bug which prevents the internal LCD from working with graphics acceleration, although I have got OS X booted on it. I'm missing a few Android apps right now, so hopefully the kernel bug will get fixed because I haven't found Bluestacks a very good experience. It has 64-bit UEFI and a CSM so in theory it should run anything...

    It's a bit odd going from a Nexus 7 with a 1920x1200 7" panel to this with a 10.8" 1920x1080 one. I guess high DPI windows tablets will eventual arrive but at least this panel has good contrast and seems relatively well calibrated.

    I can even play a bit of Portal 2 on it!
  • schizoide - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    You're wrong. They run just fine.

    That was the point of my post.

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