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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  • beggerking@yahoo.com - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    you can't run flash or FULL APPLICATIONS on your Android nor icrap.

    this is a FULL LAPTOP on tablet form for $100.
  • beggerking@yahoo.com - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    and i have Toshiba Encore II 8 which is a similar device with only 1gb ram.

    it runs faster than my ipad mini retina on everything and i was able to open 8-10 browsers without leg.
  • ados_cz - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    Cannot agree more, very usable in deed. I have faster eMMC on Linx 7, 170 / 65 MB/s and hard-set swap file to 2GB, have not run into any problem so far.
  • tipoo - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Try a tablet with 1GB RAM on Windows before talking about it, for tablet uses like mail, the browser, etc, 1GB is decent so long as you stay in Metro. This isn't for loading desktop apps on.
  • mss2 - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Though even there, it depends on the desktop app. I bought one to replace the 10-year-old iPod we use to play music in the kitchen, so we run desktop iTunes (there being no Metro version, Apple presumably not being in a hurry to support a competing tablet). Fortunately, either we don't have the headphone jack issue reported here, or it's not noticeable at relatively low volumes on a dock that's not exactly audiophile-quality itself.

    It's easily the cheapest device that would a) hold all our music, with a microSD card, and b) support the star ratings and playlists we've already got in iTunes. (Any iDevice would be at least twice as much. I use various Android sync tools on my phone, but they don't Just Work without any issues. Mirroring the music directory from my desktop does.)

    I'm not a huge fan of the onscreen keyboard (true on my Surface Pro as well; I wish Microsoft would let Swiftkey or someone take a crack at it). But for setup, I had an old folding Bluetooth keyboard first used with a Windows Mobile PDA a decade ago that still worked. Since then, it's worked fine as a music player with a sideline in light web browsing. Overall, I'm genuinely impressed at what a $99 device proves to be capable of.
  • tipoo - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - link

    Fair point, some simpler desktop apps will also work. And also good point for a use case, streaming audio would work well on this, if the headphone jack issue was indeed just a manufacturing error and not within spec and not common.

    Did you try the headphone jack on actual headphones by the way? Is it noticable there?
  • tipoo - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I beg to differ, the niche, sometimes low end devices that you call "boring" are a refreshing change for me, most people aren't buying high end all the time. I was also interested in the Streams specifically as gifts for people who don't need many apps, just a Metro browser basically.
  • eanazag - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I also am interested in this review. Not totally sold on the device, but the price is great. A sub $100 device does make me nervous. There are goofy things that you may want a Windows device for in the single task category. This is clearly not a do everything device.

    What size SD card does it support up to?
  • Brandon Chester - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I have seen it listed as "Up To 32 GB of Expandable Storage" on the pages of several retailers.
  • mss2 - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I have a 64GB microSD card in mine with no issues thus far.

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