I like my Surface Pro 3. Despite a couple of hiccoughs before the drivers were stable I have always liked it. It is a wonderful computer for what I use it for… and frankly, for a lot of things I don’t use it for. So when I started commuting to a new office in Toronto earlier this year – a commute that involved nearly an hour on a GO Train each way – I figured I would simply load my movies, TV shows, and books onto the Surface and keep myself entertained on the train.
This system worked perfectly for a couple of months, until I discovered the HP Stream 7… if you read my article (Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device) you will see why I switched. I have had the Stream 7 for several months, and really the only complaint I have had about it is the battery life. Of course, it is a little slow… that is to be expected from a Windows 8 device with only 1gb of RAM, but for my purposes (and for the absolutely incredible price) I was not complaining.
A few weeks ago I won a contest, and HP sent me a new device… the HP Pro Table 408. It is slightly bigger than the Stream 7 (8” as opposed to 7”), has more RAM (2gb), more storage (64gb over the 32gb Stream), and in addition to the micro-USB port that both devices use for charging, it also has a micro-HDMI port to plug in external video. Okay, It was a present, so I was looking forward to trying it out.
If I was a consumer looking at the two devices side by side I would probably use my Cuban cigar analogy… they are probably 15% better than other cigars, but for 100-200% more money, so not worth it. The Pro Tablet 408 (the higher end version with the 64GB) retails on the HP Store for US$399, which is 400% of the cost of the Stream 7 at the same HP Store. Can the slightly larger device really be worth it? I dunno… The Stream is a pretty good companion device, especially if all you want to use it for is reading and watching movies.
But wait… what if that is not all you want a tablet to do? What if you want to use it for productivity apps and web surfing and so much more? What if you are going to use it as a communications device with Skype and Lync (Skype for Business) and Viber? What if you want to not only do all of these things individually, but multi-task as well? Well my friend, if that is your game then the $99 Stream 7 isn’t going to cut it.
By the way, I should state one thing for the record right now: The battery life on the Stream 7… well, how do I put it nicely? It sucks. It is simply awful. Don’t get me wrong, if I charge it overnight I have no problem using it for the train ride into Toronto, and even to watch a movie or read a book at lunch. But that’s it… I would expect a device like this to last much longer, and that is just not the case.
The battery is not the only weak component on the Stream 7… the wireless networking is not the greatest. It takes several minutes to copy files over the network, to the point that I decided it was simply quicker to pull the Micro-SD card out of it and copy the files direct from my Surface Pro than it was to move them over the Wi-Fi. I am not talking about terabytes of files… I mean it might take 25 minutes to transmit 5gb of movie files. Yuck. Also I like to use it to connect to via wireless HDMI to watch TV, and it works fine when I am sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV… but when I sit at my kitchen table eighteen feet away from the TV the signal gets disrupted (as in, whatever you are watching is no longer playing) whenever my cellphone rings.
The Pro Tablet 408, on the other hand… this is a device that you can work with. I am able to stream Netflix over my wireless HDMI from any room in my condo (which is not something I should be overly worried about, seeing as my TV is no more than 40’ from any far wall in the place) clearly and reliably while checking my e-mail and writing this blog article. I’m not saying it is going to run Hyper-V or Adobe Photoshop, but Microsoft Office and most of my day-to-day apps work just fine. As well the 408 has an 802.11a/b/g/n (2×2) WiFi device, as well as (and this is why a lot of professionals will pick the 408 over anything else) HSPA+ Mobile Broadband (in other words… cellular data!
The Stream’s battery is a 3000mAh Li-ion polymer, which is less than 60% of the 4800mAh Li-ion polymer one sported by the 408. Unfortunately neither of these are user-replaceable, which is a bit of a tease, because when you pull off the back cover of either to put your GSM and SD cards in they are right there… but like a dancer at a gentleman’s club, you can look but don’t touch.
With regard to the battery, I am seriously disappointed by the Stream 7 battery not only because of how long it lasts when using it, but because it seems to drain at a similar pace when the device is off (not Sleep Mode… OFF). If I charge it overnight and then unplug it, I seem to have about a day to use it before it dies of natural causes. In comparison: I lost the Pro Tab 408 this weekend. That’s bit true… on Friday I placed it in the glove compartment of my car, and then spent the week-end trying to find it (eventually checking where it was Monday morning). I had used it Friday for an hour before leaving it. As I sit on the train typing away on it shortly after rediscovering it, the battery is at about 80%. Advantage: Pro Tablet 408!
The weight differential shouldn’t be a factor… .8lbs for the Stream and .83lbs for the Pro 408. However when I bought the Stream at the Microsoft Store they had a special on a case for about $20, and while the HP Store does have a case in theory, in actuality it has been out of stock, and I eventually opted to buy a third-party case on Amazon (Cooper Case Backlight Executive) which I am quite happy with.
On the surface the CPU in the Stream 7 is faster (1.8GHz to 1.33GHz), but since the Pro Tab 408’s CPU has Intel Burst Technology (kicking it up to 2.16GHz) the Pro Tab wins there too.
The Stream 7 does what it needs to do very well, as long as you remember to plug it in every 12 hours. For my ex-wife to share with our 5 year old son for his games it is perfect. For a professional on the go who may not have time or remember to plug it in, make sure you are also carrying a charging device with you (I love the Aukey 20,000mAh Portable Charger).
The HP Pro Tablet 408 really kicks it… It is more money than I would spend on a tablet for a 5 year old to play games on, but it is about the same as an iPad Mini, and it is the device that fanbois wish was made by Apple. Add to the superior screen and battery the 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM standard, the SD Card reader, micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and you have a winner on your hands.
By the way, my Aukey charger that I find necessary with the Stream 7 will give both tablets a full charge… three times in fact. If you are looking for a portable charger, this is a device to consider.
I should mention that I have not done a lot of research on competitive options, so if you have a device you like, tell me about it!