Thursday, March 26, 2015

HP Stream 7

On Black Friday, or perhaps the week of Black Friday, I bought a Windows tablet and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
For its size and its ability, the $99 tablet is impressive. It runs a full version of windows 8.1, has a pretty responsive touch screen and sounds nice. The battery life is good without being outstanding. It can last maybe three or so days with light usage. I normally forget about it, and pick it back up around the time its about to die. I just turn it off now, and the battery seems to hold really well.

It's not a monster of performance, maybe on the same level as the iPad, if not a little worse. It is running a full desktop OS, so some performance issues are to be expected. They are rare though. I don't think most people would have a problem with the performance. Tablet friendly games will do just fine. I've played Hearthstone on it without any issue, other than the network being a little slow to respond. I have a cheap all-in-one system that preforms around about the same with hearthstone. I haven't had any issues with the touch screen.

The Stream 7 just isn't a good tablet. This is more of a Windows problem than it is the fault of the tablet. It isn't that Windows 8 doesn't have any good apps, Windows 8 has close to no tablet apps. Internet Explorer is a really great tablet browser, but it's the only one (even though chrome has a Windows 8 mode, it's more or less the same as the desktop mode.) There's no official Twitter App, and every other twitter app seems to cost money. Which is another issue: too many apps cost money.

Of course stuff like Netflix and Hulu have apps, but their sites work just fine on the tablet's browser.

My other issue is the keyboard. There just isn't another one available. I personally really like gesture typing, it's how I use every touch screen keyboard. Windows 8 does not have one. This might change in the coming year with Windows 10, since Windows Phone 8 has a gesture keyboard now, but going from one keyboard on my phone to another on this tablet can be a bit jarring.

Otherwise, the screen is too small for any productivity. The tablet comes with two free year-long subscriptions to Office 360, worth something like $60, but I wouldn't ever want to use any office suite on this screen. It's too small and Windows 8 doesn't really make any concession for a smaller screen. Every Windows Surface tablet is massive in comparison. Once the taskbar is hidden (for something like auto-hide) there is no way to get it back. It's gone forever. There is a start button on the bezel, but there isn't a way to switch between Windows in desktop mode without the task bar.

The shame is that the Surface tablets are really great tablets. They also lack apps, but the large screen and snappy browser make up for it. At this size, Windows 8 just doesn't work. I really hope that Windows 10 changes all of this, and I think it will. If Microsoft merges their phone apps with their desktop apps, then the divide will be a bit easier to cross.

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