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HP STREAM 7

HP Stream 7The HP Stream 7 is a low cost tablet that was launched in September 2914. It came with Windows 8.1 configured for touch screens. This tablet outcompetes rival Google Android tablets in the under $120 market. The HP Stream 7 even beats the iPad Air 2. The model being reviewed in the Signature Edition which means a clean copy of Windows without the bloatware. Users can download additional software from HP if desired.

Windows 10 managed to trash our HP Stream 7 and drivers are not on Windows update. The camera has not worked since.

We purchased this tablet from the Microsoft Store which became a nightmare of its own.

The HP Stream 7 is a $129 model tablet that takes aim at rival Android tablets at the low end of the market. The Intel Atom Z3735G SoC at 22nm offers 4 real cores with no hyperthreading and 1024MB DDR3L-1333. The tablet has 32GB with about 18GB free so there is plenty of room for apps. Some of the 32GB storage is used for the recovery.  MicroSD is widely available with 128GB cards are widely under $20.

The screen is 1280×800 IPS so the color and viewing angles are good and this is enough to run store apps fine. The Atom has 4 GPU cores to enhance graphics. The tablet has Bluetooth and Miracast making this wireless in the extreme. HP has software to sync iTunes and photos.

OneDrive is the best choice and use the cloud as a mobile user. Microsoft also provides a free 1 year subscription to Office 365 which provides a rich cloud based capability.

The machine easily beats the year 2000 $100 computer initiative that sought to make machines available around the world. Compared the early machines, the HP Stream 7 is outright amazing value.

 

CPU Intel Atom Z3735G (22nm tri-gate)
RAM 1GB DDR3L-RS 1333 MHz
GPU Intel HD Graphics (1.8 GHz, 2 MB cache, 4 execution units, integrated)
SSD 32GB eMMC
LCD 7″ diagonal HD WVA IPS multitouch-enabled (1280 x 800)
SLOT microSD (SDXC 2TB maximum)
CAMERA 2MP back-facing camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera
LAN Wireless b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0
PORTS 1 Micro USB 2.0 & Headphone output/Microphone input combo
BATTERY 3.0Ah lithium-ion 11.1Wh
SENSORS Accelerometer

The HP Stream 7 Signature Edition is only available in black. The machine is designed for the low end of the market so its unfair to be too demanding. Overall having a Windows tablet at this price point is a real breakthrough that is sure to send ripples through the industry.

Purchased in Q1 2015, the HP Stream 7 came with Windows 8.1 with updates already installed. When Windows 10 is delivered this tablet can be upgraded easily through Windows update. Older Windows 7 machines are also eligible for Windows 10 however they will need to backup and install 10 clean.

VERSUS

Rival Android tablets at $79 are generally equipped with cheaper TN LCD panels with 1024×600 resolution while the HP Stream 7 has a much better IPS LCD with 1280×800 resolution. Android tablets widely use the ARM processor while the Stream has the new Atom CPU. The Stream 7 offers 32GB of SSD while most Android offer 8GB or 16GB. Clearly the HP Stream 7 is hardcore game changer for the industry.

Samsung and Apple 7″ pads are much more expensive and they use unorthodox operating systems. The HP pad has Windows and its not even locked, you can install Android or other OS if desired.

The HP Stream 7, while having less RAM is actually much faster than the Surface RT. The Intel Atom CPU is so much faster than the Tegra 3 at installing Windows updates etc. It also uses 1/4 the power.

THE CPU

The Intel Atom Z3735G started being shipped Q1 in 2014 for $17, tray version. The CPU is a true quad-core X4 with no hyperthreading. The CPU has 2MB of L2 cache which makes it a powerful contender against rival low-end ARM machines such as the ones used by Apple in their recent tablets.

Compared to the old netbook we have with the first generation of Atom, this tablet is dramatically more powerful. The CPU runs at 1.3 GHz but it has a turbo mode to jump to 1.8 GHz when needed. Remember that this machine is passively cooled so the TDP is rather low.

Silvermont is the first Atom processor to feature an out-of-order architecture. This CPU is made at 22nm using Intel’s tri-gate process which was first seen in the Ivy Bridge. The result is a quad-core processor that needs only 2.2W of power to operate which is about 20% of what the last generation needed for the same performance. The ultra low power is ideal for passively cooled tablets.

The Silvermont is so efficient that some consider it an ARM killer. Each core is about 18-30% more efficient with the Atom vs. the Cortex A15.

The Intel integrated graphics provide a minimal GPU with a 2 MB cache, 4 GPU cores and a clock speed of 1.8 GHz. Each GPU core supports 8 threads providing excellent support for DirectX 11. The GPU is based on the Ivy Bridge architecture seen in the i7 k-type desktop processors. The GPU is best for general purpose with basic gaming capability.

Intel Bay Trail SoC block diagram

RAM

Shipping the tablet with 1024MB of DDR3 is a tight squeeze for Windows and is generally double the 512MB seen in most Android tablets. We would have selected a model with 2048MB RAM if it was available. Generally however Store apps are not very demanding.  Tablets with more memory are mostly found at the high-end of the market.

The machine is surprisingly responsive. The home button immediately opens the home screen. Apps open quikcly.

THE GPU

The SoC has integrated graphics. The Bay Trail GPU is 3x more powerful then the older Clover Trail. Its also more than 2x more powerful then the Qualcomm Snapdragon and its over 3x more powerful then the NVIDIA Tegra 3. The Atom Z3735G has 4 execution units derived from the Ivy Bridge desktop GPU design.

Bay Trail and Ivy Bridge GPU Execution Unit

PANEL

The HP Stream 7 has a much nicer IPS panel which provides better color and wide viewing angles. It makes a difference when people are gathered around the tablet looking at a map or the weather. The 1280×800 resolution is much better than most rival Android tablets by far. The pixel density is about 216 dpi which is excellent.

When showing photos the IPS color quality makes the slide show look better too. Playing video looks better too. Its not going to win any awards but its not bad at all. Even the apps and their color come through very vividly.

Windows does note that the resolution of the panel is to low for some applications. We suggest developers learn to work with 640×80 up to 3820×2160 like we do.

SECURITY

The Stream 7 offers UEFI secure boot so that malicious software has no chance to circumvent loading of a security module. The storage is also encrypted by default so its secure from unauthorized access. Security features like this are desirable for corporate and government users however the Steam 7 is not FIPS rated.

With Windows 8 and above, using your Microsoft accounts for authentication, its possible to share assets with only specific users. By removing the everyone share and using designated accounts means its safe from others on the network. This does not need a server as this is now part of desktop Windows 8.1 and above.

CAMERAS

The HP Stream 7 has both a front and rear facing camera. Both are fixed focus which limits their ability compared to even a low cost digital camera. The rear camera is best for open areas while the front camera is designed for video messages etc. The tablet can record video which needs faster memory cards.

Testing the camera indoors, it has good ability to adjust to the lighting. The autofocus also works fairly well so that indoor photos do not look too bad. Outside in the sun the tablet lacks a telephoto lens so its quite limited to what the SSD can grab.

BUTTONS

On the side there is one larger power button and 2 smaller ones for the volume. This configuration is standard with most tablets. Then on the panel is the Windows home button which is again standard. On top is the audio jack and the USB mini type B connector for changing etc.

The range of gestures needed for Windows is typical for small form tablets. Windows is largely the same as most other tablets, it does take a day or 2 to discover how to do everything.

CONNECTIVITY

The Wi-Fi is standard for all tablets. The local cable company provides over 40,000 Wi-Fi hotspots for tablet and mobile phone users. Wi-Fi today is widely available. The HP Surface 7 has a basic wireless-n150 radio that works well even at distance. Walking with this tablet, its able to connect quickly to track a route from A to B. HP has software that can emulate a GPS using Wi-Fi but its limited to about 200 meter accuracy.

The Wi-Fi in the HP Stream 7 using 2.4 GHz which easily goes through walls. The Wi-Fi radio combo also supports the Bluetooth 4.0 standard so that keyboards, mice and other peripherals can be connected.

Using Miracast, the HP Stream 7 can be the video source and stream to a television. Microsoft has support for that with their Xbox One. PowerPoint presentations would be a natural for a tablet. Miracast dongles are under $20 which plug into the HDMI port of a display and they work with the wireless-n network.

OTG

If you purchase an OTG micro type B USB cable, you can connect a USB radio for a keyboard and mouse etc. This configuration depends on the tablet for power. It’s better to use Bluetooth which allows the tablet to be powered continuously. The home LAN can easily be used for moving files back and forth.

STORAGE

The HP Stream 7 provides 32GB of SSD soldered in, and there is a removable slot under the back cover to install a t-flash/microSD card. With the full install of Windows 8.1, there is about 18GB of free space on the primary SSD which affords lots of room for even Microsoft Office if desired. Adding a class 10 microSD card allows for a larger media library or additional programs.

We noticed that the built-in storage was a bit under the specified amount, so HP has continued to place the recovery as a partition. HP has a USB recovery tool but the onboard recovery is faster and more reliable. Windows 8.1 is very resilient against disk corruption and automatically fixes some problems.

The product web page mentions that the Stream 7 can use up to 32GB but scanning forums found users with 64GB SDXC that was recognized fine. Another with a 128GB SDXC reported it works too. The 256GB SDXC slowly coming down to mainstream pricing. 512GB SDXC are still too expensive to consider. As prices decline over time, its easy to replace the microSD card. The built-in memory is fine for the operating system.

SOUND

Many use their tablets for playback. The HP Surface 7 is not so bad, but some reports of noise were noted. We use high-end Klipsch R6 earbuds which are able to produce the best sound. We test this tablet with the Klipsch R6 earbuds and the sound quality is not bad at all considering how much this pad costs. We have experienced audio problems that were corrected with a refresh of Windows.

Generally this tablet can stream media services galore which leverages the internet and hardware. Options vary depending on local provider availability. Netflix is the most popular service in the US and less so in Canada.

POWER

This tablet does not support BCC 1.2 which provides for more power on USB ports. The OEM charge is 2A and it does change the tablet quickly. It takes 3-4 hours to charge the machine with the OEM charger.

When operating and connected to USB, the tablet does not show power present except with the OEM charger. Even BCC 1.2 USB 3.0 ports do not show charging.

When the tablet is powered down even a USB 2.0 port will charge this tablet fairly quickly

BATTERY AND SLEEP

There is a firmware/driver problem with the Stream 7. When the machine is in power down mode, the power is still being drawn and overnight it will be dead and require recharging.

Power down of Windows does reduce the battery life drainage. Generally the Stream 7 should be recharged each night in order for it to be useful for the day.

GAMES

One video showed somebody playing Crysis on a similar model to the HP Stream 7. Likely the battery would not last long at all. We have a large collection of games and many can run on a tablet. Over time more and more tablet suitable games are becoming available. Using the microSD card, its possible to install a lot of tablet suitable games.


STEAM

When we installed Steam the HP Stream 7 was recognized as a streaming target. This means that games can be streamed to the tablet on demand.

Numerous new games have been published on Steam with new Unity engine that work fine o the HP Stream 7.

WINDOWS STORE

The Windows Store also has numerous games that work well with the HP Stream 7.

Microsoft Sudoku Microsoft Solitaire Microsoft Jigsaw Microsoft Mahjong

REFRESH

We have had to installed the Windows recovery several times. Its not clear why Windows 8.1 is so problematic but Microsoft has provided many updates since we acquired the machine. Outside using Google Chrome, we do not use any desktop applications. We do use numerous tablet apps so its likely problems with them are reason for problems. We have also seen BSOD crashes but the machine recovers on reboot.

WINDOWS 10

When Microsoft put Windows 10 on windows update it make a mess of the HP Stream 7. Efforts to return to Windows 8.1 was frustrated as Windows wanted the machine plugged in but even with the power it does not work. So this means that recovery broken and now the tablet is unusable.

Drivers are NOT on Windows Update and the unwanted HP bloatware and web site are broken too. This means the tablet is now junk.

HP KEYBOARD AND CASE

The HP T800 case and Bluetooth keyboard are optional and available for those who want to use the HP Stream 7 as a pint-sized netbook.

REPAIR

The HP Stream 7 is extremely easy to repair. The machine’s back cover can be removed easily. The battery is easily replaceable if needed and the rest of the parts are also easily replaceable. Most other machines are outright hostile to repair with press fit designs etc.

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