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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  • ados_cz - Monday, December 22, 2014 - link

    Me too in my Linx 7.
  • name99 - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    As an alternative point of view, I'd like to point out that I (and I assume some other AnandTech readers) do NOT see every review as a rabid badge of tribalism. Rather, I'm interested in the state of the ENTIRE industry as a whole, and exceptional devices (whether exceptionally low-priced, exceptionally high performance, exceptionally high levels of interest) from any ecosystem are interesting, simply to see where things are going.
  • cruzinforit - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Speak for yourself- I'm very interested in a cheap windows 7 tablet. I wouldn't pay more than this for one as I don't really need it. I have a full Windows 8.1 15" Ultrabook as my mobile device and my smartphone. I'm glad they cover the full gamut, from high end stuff to low end stuff like this.
  • Infinite_Reality - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    This isn't a boring device, did you happen to read the article? I bought one of these day one and it is very impressive for a $99 device.
  • purplestater - Sunday, December 21, 2014 - link

    because there are people interested in small tablets who couldn't care less about smartphones
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - link

    I think this is one of the more interesting things they could review. "No one in their right mind" cares about it? Eh? But they do care about Chinese imports?

    Err...actually this Stream stuff is a pretty major launch that lots of people care about, and this is potentially a really good deal (sounds like really only killed by the headphone jack).

    I find reviews of things like this much more interesting/useful than like a review of the newest iPad which we pretty much know what it is and gets massive coverage.
  • darkbreeze - Friday, December 26, 2014 - link

    This IS actually of interest to many of us. In fact, I just bought one last week after seeing it in OfficeMax for 99 bucks. My only interest in a tablet is portability for automotive diagnostics and since all my diagnostic applications run on the windows platform, Android or iOS is not an option.

    It works great and with a micro-USB to my wireless adapter for my OBDII reader I can now watch and diagnose in real time with no cords or bulky laptop to move around.
  • Acreo Aeneas - Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - link

    Just because you might not care for a budget-oriented Windows tablet does not mean others are (as the replies below your comment speak to). Personally, I know little of the smartphone and tablet side of Windows mobile and this tablet has definitely piqued my interest (to say the least). I have friends and colleagues who are in the Windows sphere and want a Windows tablet for work. This is a nice cheap alternative without them learning a new OS (Android, iOS) and dealing with mismatches between a Windows desktop and a Android/iOS mobile device (very average users).
  • noorish - Thursday, February 12, 2015 - link

    I actually searched for this item and was happy to find this informative article, it is a "tablet" not a cell phone and I for one am glad to get some more info. Thanks
  • darryl hall - Monday, June 15, 2015 - link

    "boring device..." Try asking anyone who has on a whim picked this up. I haven't bothered to charge my iPad 4 in months. Unfortunately reviewers typically don't have the attention span to get a handle of a device before they review it. The desktop mode works so much better. pair the HP stream with the free virtualmouse app and the whole screen becomes a trackpad leaving you with a very capable full windows desktop in your back pocket. Any semi capable desktop OS is inherently more powerful and flexible than a mobile OS. I wish some publication would do a review of the actual desktop performance--which utilizes the native processing power of the hardware instead of focusing on only the metro subsystem.

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