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. 

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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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