Here's something of a rarity. A modestly priced tablet from a big-brand manufacturer, that manages to transcend its price tag and deliver a good quality user experience.
The Hewlett Packard Stream 7 is a full Windows 8.1 tablet, packing a decent Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. For an off the shelf price of NZ $199 its an impressive machine.
The Stream 7 is named for its 7" screen unsurprisingly. What might surprise is how good that screen is in relation to its price tag. A 1280x800 resolution has been squeezed in, outdoing most other tablets in this space. It's a full IPS display too, which means colours are saturated and viewing angles are good. It's quite bright too, so you won't struggle in most lighting conditions, save for direct and bright sunlight. The display looks sharp when using Windows Modern UI, which does flatter displays, although the desktop isn't exactly usable at this resolution and small screen size.
The Atom Bay Trail CPU puts up a good effort, in the Modern UI there are no signs that it's struggling to keep up, even if the 1GB of memory limits the number of applications running at once. For normal day-to-day usage the Stream 7 has all the power it needs to keep you running smoothly. Being a small device, the Stream 7 has space for a small battery inside. The absence of high-end technology eases the burden on the battery though and a decent 5-6 hours of usage can be had on the battery alone. Charge time is quick too, with less than 2.5 hours necessary to take to sleeping Stream 7 from empty to full.
The Stream 7 does have a pair of cameras but other than for a quick scan of a barcode they aren't really up to much. Finally the Stream has a micro SD card slot, hidden under the removable rear cover. Unfortunately it appears that the battery isn't user-replaceable, so no chance of extending battery life but dropping in a new cell.
Looked at objectively the HP Stream 7 has a lot going for it. The screen looks great and its small size means that it comfortably fits into your back pocket. It is Windows at its most portable. And on small 7-8" tablets is where Windows 8 really works.
Given the choice, I'd ditch the rear camera completely, and have a better front-facing camera for video calling. I would also have liked to have seen a micro HDMI connection squeezed in to allow for presentations direct from the Stream 7.
Those very minor changes aside, I feel that the Stream 7 is an excellent device that offers the power of Windows in your pocket all the time. And as a result I'd have to mark the Stream 7 as a success.
Probably the best budget tablet you can buy.