Late last month, we published our annual holiday guide for people interested in buying tablets. We took a look at what we considered to be the best tablets running iOS, Android, and Windows as these have become the three dominant operating systems among tablets. That being said, users are likely more familiar with iOS and Android tablets than they are with ones that run Windows, myself included.

There's significantly less coverage of Windows devices, and they generally don't attract the same sort of attention as high profile launches like Apple's iPad and Google's Nexus tablets. This makes it somewhat challenging to determine what Windows tablets are good recommendations, and I had to take a look at what owners of Windows tablets were saying about their experiences. During my search, I came across a tablet that was genuinely interesting. I had seen it previously in posts about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and the reason I found it to be so interesting was because of its low price. The tablet that I speak of is the HP Stream 7.

The Stream 7 is priced at $119, which makes it an extremely inexpensive tablet that sits alongside cheap tablets that have traditionally run Android. Around the Black Friday shopping period, it was at an even lower price of $99. In fact, even today you can still find the Stream 7 on Amazon for $99. When I first saw it, I assumed there had to be a catch. I thought it might be running Microsoft's failed Windows RT platform, but in fact it runs a complete copy of Windows 8.1 and is compatible with all the legacy applications you're familiar with on your laptop and desktop computers.

This is the result of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 with Bing initiative, which allows manufacturers to ship low-cost Windows devices without having to pay Microsoft a licencing fee for including Windows. I find this remarkable, as a separate copy of Windows 8 can cost as much as the Stream 7 that includes it as part of the package. It turns out that there isn't really a catch; there are simply hardware compromises that need to be made to achieve such a low price point. I've put the specifications of the Stream 7 in a chart below so you can get an idea of exactly what $119 gets you.

  HP Stream 7
SoC Intel Atom Z3735G 1.33GHz quad core Bay Trail with 1.83GHz burst speed
RAM/NAND 1GB DDR3L-RS-1333, 32GB NAND + microSDHC
Display 7" 1280x800 eIPS LCD
Dimensions 192.78 x 110.74 x 9.90 mm, 353.8g
Camera 2MP Rear Facing , 0.3MP Front Facing
Battery 3000mAh, 3.7V (11.1Wh)
OS Windows 8.1 with Bing
Connectivity 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.0 , USB2.0, Miracast

As you can see, it's actually a bit better than you might expect from a $119 device. Many Android tablets at this price point either use TN displays, or sport resolutions of 1024x600 or even 800x480. The quad core Atom CPU should also be capable of running Windows smoothly given the tasks that users will typically perform on a tablet. The points of concern are the battery capacity, which is quite low for a 7" tablet, and the inclusion of only 1GB of memory; that's definitely pushing the limits of what Windows can run on. 

The design and build quality of the Stream 7 is what you'd expect from a $119 tablet. It's somewhat heavy, and it definitely won't be winning any awards for thinness. The construction is entirely plastic, aside from the glass on the front that appears to be more reflective than any other device I own. Viewing the device in portrait orientation, the left and right sides of the display have identical thin bezels, while the top and bottom have thicker asymmetric bezels with the bottom one being larger. The top bezel is home to a 0.3MP front-facing camera on the right, and the name HEWLETT-PACKARD on the left just in case you forget which company made your tablet. The bottom bezel has a single capacitive button with the Windows logo, which acts as the start menu key. 

The right side houses the volume rocker and power button, the top has the 3.5mm combo jack and the microUSB port, and the bottom has a small slit for the mono speaker. Something that is interesting to note is that the sides of the tablet are slanted, so the width is greater near the back cover than near the display. It's an interesting design choice that makes it stand out from other tablets. It doesn't seem to make it feel any easier or harder to hold; it just feels different. 

The back cover of the Stream 7 is adorned with logos. From bottom to top we have the Intel logo, the name of the tablet, and a very large HP logo. Above the HP logo is a center-aligned 2.0MP camera. Beneath all the logos is a sticker with regulatory info that thankfully comes off quite easily. Something that doesn't show up in marketing images of the Stream 7 is the sparkly pattern on the back cover. It's not a completely black back cover, as it has speckles that show up when you shine light on it. 

The back of the device is unfortunately also where the issues of build quality begin to crop up. The Stream 7 has a removable back cover, but it only serves the purpose of accessing the MicroSD slot in the back of the device as well as the officially non-removable battery. The problem is that there's a large gap between the back cover and the back of the tablet body, which means that there's significant flex to the back of the tablet. HP could have made their device thinner and more rigid by having a non-removable back without the gap between it and the components beneath it. The MicroSD could have been made accessible through some slot on the side. That being said, at a price point of $119 or less this is honestly excusable; you get what you pay for with regards to build quality. 

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  • lioncat55 - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I own the stream 7, the 1GB of ram can be pushed very far. Its shocking to me what I can do. Heroes of the Storms plays easy at the lowest settings. Reply
  • mrdude - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Petition to rename the bottom of all GPU related benchmarks as 'The Intel Zone' Reply
  • smilingcrow - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Using 4 decimal places for Maximum Brightness which is a value in the 100s is plain silly. Rounding to the nearest integer seems sensible to me. Reply
  • Hairs_ - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    "The other 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 more premium devices that cost many hundreds or thousands of dollars. If nobody takes a look at the low end, there's also no push for manufacturers to improve those devices."

    THANK YOU!

    Finally someone gets it. Even if this product isn't fantastically amazing, or doesn't have some esoteric use case which requires research, or a sexy pr angle, there are lots of prospective buyers at this level who are being left absolutely in the lurch by tech sites.

    More of these, please!
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    The ironic thing about the Windows Appstore is that, despite having terrible selection and quality in general, it has the best RSS (Freely) client I have ever used on a touch device in NextGen Reader. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I agree with Hairs. These are interesting devices and some crucial facts like actual battery life are nowhere available. Others comment that 2GB etc are better; well, maybe test some of those devices too. I personally have no interest in flagship smartphones. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the review. I've been really curious about the Stream 7 for a while now and I'm glad it got the usual, thoughtful treatment from Anandtech. Windows tablets, inexpensive ones in particular, don't get a lot of attention which makes being an informed buyer pretty difficult. Reply
  • bill.rookard - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    The point of this article is that there are no bad devices, there are bad price points. I have one of these, and I picked it up at the local retail store. I didn't pay 119.00 for it, I didn't pay 99.00 for it. I got this for $79.00 out the door. They had a $20.00 off special for it, no coupons required.

    While certainly it is not a perfect device by any means, in truth, at $80.00 it's one of those price points where you just can't go wrong. It runs full Win8. Decent display. Sufficiently powerful for a tablet. Battery life is long enough for what I use it for, and it's removable and replaceable. I haven't tried the audio jack yet (I may do that when I get home now that I'm aware of it), but still, again for what I paid for it, how could I complain?
    Reply
  • Michael Bay - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    Brandon, you really should have reviewed a Stream 8. Nobody expects anything from 7, but at 150$ there should be less compromise in specs and build of the device, making it much more desirable.

    And why all this Mami fixation, really.
    Reply
  • Spectrophobic - Friday, December 19, 2014 - link

    I don't think a mere inch is worth almost double the price of a Stream 7 on sale. A bigger battery is always good but in terms of running the thing at 100% scaling, a fine point stylus is still required. It's nice for $150 if it has 2GB RAM.

    Also, it's Mami-san. Who couldn't resist her?
    Reply

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