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
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. 

Display and Calibration
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  • sonicmerlin - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    I mean when you open ie metro and then to to settings and change the zoom. It goes up to 400%, but rather than increase text size it just zooms into the page, causing words to end up outside the viewable screen. Then you can't even zoom out. Try going to arstechnica and zoom to 300% (just to see what I'm talking about).

    The same goes for desktop IE and chrome. On an actual desktop when you go to, for example, chrome's settings and alter the zoom value the font size will increase. But if you do it on a Win 8 tablet it just zooms the whole screen. I've tested this on a win book 7 and an hp stream 7. Heck if you choose "full window" on chrome you can't get out of it without restarting the tablet.
  • Spectrophobic - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    I see what you're talking about. "Zoom" is literally what it suggest, zooming in. It doesn't say it's for font. I think your problem has to do with your vision or 7" is just too small for you. Either play around with DPI settings, get glasses, or opt for a bigger tablet.
  • zodiacfml - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Isn't this futile?
    Doesn't a 2 in 1 device make more sense than a standalone tablet? Does giving this a keyboard dock would kill netbooks? They should just give up netbooks ang give 7 to 10inch tablets keyboard docks.
  • ados_cz - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Here in UK I bought similar tablet when it was on sale for £59 (approx. $92) few days ago: Linx 7. I had a chance to hold HP stream in my hand and the bulid quality of Linx 7 is so much better. No creaks, thiner, lighter, micro HDMI out, micro SD slot integrated into the top side. I love the Linx 7, so much bang for buck... Office 365 for one tablet and PC as well. However I too have problem with static noise in headphone output but not as severe as it seems to be with the HP Stream from your description, once a music or anything else is playing, you cannot really hear the stacit noise on Linx 7, battery life ranges from 4-6 hours on Linx and the tablet weights 280g. Great device, almost exactly 20 years ago, I had my first PC - 486 DX2, now I have my first proper Windows 8.1 tablet (Had Acer Iconia before with Win 7) and it is 25x cheaper and so much better :-)) - Here is the Linx homepage
  • geok1ng - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    " the inclusion of only 1GB of memory; that's definitely pushing the limits of what Windows can run on" was said on the first page. but on the rest of the article there is not a single memory related issue reported. So either the reviewer is not aware that windows 8.1 is a memory sapper *highly unlikely* or the above passage should be addressed on the final comments.
  • Spectrophobic - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    The memory isn't really a big problems... unless you're using Chrome, Steam, or playing modern games.
  • ados_cz - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    I have 1GB of RAM on Linx 7 as well and hard-set the swap file to 2GB and I see no problems. BTW I tried to steam-stream DOTA 2 over my N wireless from mine main PC (i5 4670k + GTX 760) and it works flawlessly and looks great.
  • eriri-el - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    A small disappointment I have with this article; I have a Stream 7, and you can enable 20/40 MHz channel width in Device Manager under the Network Adapters, RTL8723BS properties, Advanced Tab, Bandwidth. I can connect at 150Mbps to my wireless network just fine, but I don't notice it being much faster. Not user friendly, but then again this is Anandtech. Also, the article didn't mention a small niggle I have with the display besides what is already mentioned, the screen refreshes at 53Hz only. Not really a deal breaker considering nothing much can go above that refresh rate which entry-level specs, but it's worth noting. Also may I ask Brandon, since you did mention that the average user who probably buys this tablet probably won't have access to this kind of color calibration, can you upload your ICC profile so that we average users can benefit. I know no two screens are exactly the same, but at least it'll be better that what we get out of the box, no?
  • Brandon Chester - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    I had considered doing so but I don't know if it might violate some agreement between us and X-Rite or SpectraCal who provided the equipment and software.
  • Brandon Chester - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Also mine is selected to run at 60Hz and UFOTest confirmed that it was refreshing properly.

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