Deal on the Stream 7!

Over the past few months I have written a few articles about the HP Stream 7 (Stream-lining-A review of my new companion device, A Tale of Two Tablets).  So when I got this e-mail today from eBay I thought I would share it with you… in case you are interested in a 7” tablet that comes with a one year subscription to Office 365, all for $98 Canadian (About USD$80).

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If you read my second article (A Tale of Two Tablets) you will know that this device does not hold a candle to the HP Pro Tablet 408… but since that device will run you USD$400, you may consider the Stream 7 good enough.  I know I would!

A Tale of Two Tablets…

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.

Conclusion

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!

Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device.

I have always had a deal with the companies that have supported me over the years: If you give me a product to test and I like it, I will write about it. If I don’t like it, I will not write about it. That is why there are so few negative reviews on my site. It has always been a workable arrangement that has allowed me to showcase positive technologies for them. There are plenty of sites out there who are all too happy to write the negatives.

I say this because three years ago my friends at HP gave me a device that I did not like. To date I think it is the only HP device that they have given me that I did not like, and I never wrote about it. It was a tablet device that I think was still running Windows 7. It was just not my cup of tea.

So when my friends at the Microsoft Store showed me a new 7” HP tablet a few weeks ago I was hesitant. I know, it runs Windows 8.1, and only weighs a little less than a pound… but would I really use it? I mean, I have a Surface Pro 3 as my corporate device, and another Surface Pro 3 for my personal stuff, and between the two of them I am more than covered. I was afraid the ship had likely sailed on my becoming enamoured with HP tablets.

Enter my son.

No, not Aaron. My 17 year old has a Surface RT as a companion device to his HP EliteBook laptop. He treats them both with the respect that his mother and I have taught him.

Gilad, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Our 5 year old is a rambunctious little guy, and it is not hard to see that he is his father’s son. For those of you who know me when I was much younger, that is a very scary thought. He has the temper and the attitude and the tantrums and the lack of control that he comes by honestly. Only when I was of that age, home computers did not get dropped… because they had not been invented yet, and when they did come around they were expensive and heavy and cumbersome. In this day and age where almost all computers are portable and tablet computers weigh a pound, it is easy to forget that they break. Add to that games which require the player to hold the tablet up to steer, and the dangers are real.

“Mitch, Gilad dropped the Surface one too many times last week, and the screen broke and it is now unusable.”

The fact that it took as long as it did for me to hear that was a bit surprising, but that is that call I got last week. My mind immediately went to the $99 HP Stream 7 that my friend showed me, and I promised Theresa that I would pick one up for her, and that is what I did on Wednesday. I spent the extra money on the screen protector and case/stand, and it cost me, all told, $150.

Stream 7

Over the next few days I gave it a lot of thought… I commute into Toronto 4 days a week, spending nearly an hour on the train each way. What I have been doing is downloading my TV shows onto my personal Surface Pro, and I would watch them on the train. It is a great solution, but it also means I am carrying a $1500 tablet around. Yes, it has the Complete Care warranty in case I drop it, but what if it gets stolen? I decided that for what I do on the train, I was going to take the plunge.

I picked up the HP Stream 7 on Monday. I got the same package as I had bought for Theresa, except in lieu of her light blue cover I opted for the black. I was ambivalent because it only had 32gb of storage, 1gb of RAM, and an ATOM processor… but even with that it runs the full Windows (not Windows RT), and for what I need it for, that should really be enough. In fact, it might be considered overkill J

Two Ports, Three Buttons.

Stream 7 CornerI believe in the KISS principle… but I cannot think of any device I have ever owned that had less to it: a micro-USB port (which, from what I can tell, is only meant to charge the device) and a headset port (which was not a deal breaker, since otherwise I would have bought Bluetooth headphones); it has a power button, an up-volume and a down-volume button… and that’s it. I did not think it possible to have a fully functional device with less buttons than my iPhone, but there is was. Okay, I suppose the Windows logo could be considered a button, so it is actually tied with the iPhone. No matter, it works.

The first problem I encountered was file transmission speed… traditionally I download my TV shows on my Surface Pro (the personal one, in case anyone at Rakuten is reading this). For the first few days I would then transfer them to the HP. Unfortunately transferring a low-res one-hour TV show over wifi seemed to take a long time… 8 minutes. Wow, there has to be a better way…

…and there it was! In a very under-promoted feat of innovation, if you pop the back cover off the device with your fingernail, there is a Micro-SD card slot! Woohoo! Increased storage, here I come!

Stream 7 BackThen it occurred to me… why take all of these extra (and probably unnecessary) steps? I will now just download my shows onto the tablet, and skip the middle-man (not to mention free up my SP3 for more important duties).

I went looking for other problems… but so far I haven’t found any. There’s no external display port. Who cares, it’s a companion device! It doesn’t have a USB port. Who cares, it’s a companion device! There’s no stylus, and if you want to attach a mouse or keyboard you have to do it over Bluetooth. Who the heck cares, it’s a companion device!

So let’s review… For $99 (plus the cost of the screen protector and case) I picked up a tablet with 32gb of storage that is expandable to 160gb, has a gigabyte of RAM, runs all of my applications that I need, has front and rear-facing cameras, and fits in my back pocket, lets me watch movies and listen to music on the go, and Oh, by the way, for the price also comes with a year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, AND came with a $25 voucher for the Windows Store. Add to that the Bitlocker encryption on the hard drive, and a 5-point touch screen, and this device that actually does fit into my back pocket is a better computer than my first laptop… and probably my second and third one now that I think of it…

I should mention that it is now the only device I have that runs the 32-bit version of Windows. Who cares, it’s a companion device! I keep saying that because really, it does everything I need. I wouldn’t replace my primary systems with it, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to run Photoshop on it. But for years I have talked about The Best Tool for the Job, and for what I will be using it for, the HP Stream 7 really does seem to be that.

Of course, it does run Windows, so I will be adding it to my Windows Intune account for anti-malware and management. Intune has never led me astray, so the fact that it is able to manage my tablet without mucking about with APNS Certificates made my life easier.

Earlier this week I was sitting in the lunch room on my break, watching a movie. Someone came up and asked me about the device, and of course I showed him my new toy. He then asked me ‘So why did you pick this and not an iPad?’ I had a few answers for him… yes, I used to be a Microsoftie, and yes, I am a big fan of Windows 8.1, and of course I know the OS much better than I know iOS… but the bottom line is that the least expensive iPad costs about $300; that is not unreasonable, but it is also not an impulse purchase. At $99 the HP Stream 7 was exactly that; I was at the Microsoft Store for another reason, I looked at it, and I decided to buy it. I had not walked in with the intention of walking out with one, but there it was. It costs one third what the iPad would cost me, and the only thing that I know of that it does not do is Facetime. Fortunately the entire world also has Skype, so I won’t really suffer.

Let me be clear: This is not simply a rewired and rebranded HP Slate 2. This is a spectacular and fully functional device that is not trying to be all things to all people, but instead does what it is meant to do really well.

Overall, it gets a huge thumbs up from this user… and unlike many of the devices I have discussed in the past I paid full boat for this. Nonetheless, thanks HP!