Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
HP Stream 8 tablet with Windows 8.1
It's small and can be held in the palm of your hand, yet it's a full Windows 8.1 device
- Sits neatly in the hand
- Has a microSD card slot
- Only 1GB of RAM
- Single-band Wi-Fi
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
You have to hand it to HP: it has come out with a consumer tablet device that’s styled more for a business crowd. For some of us, that’s a good thing, though it will most likely fall into the ‘looks boring’ category for many others. Regardless of what you think of its styling, it’s a small device that can be held in one hand, yet it’s a complete Windows 8.1 (With Bing) system.
Full Windows 8.1 in the palm of your hand
A computer in the hand that can run the same software as your main laptop and desktop is a cool thing to behold, but the reality is that it can’t really run exactly the same software. The specs just aren’t there for that sort of thing, but they are good enough for everyday Web browsing and communications tasks, as well as media consumption.
This is the type of Windows slate to go for if you need something on which to watch videos, read an e-book, or listen to music. With an 8in screen size, a 9mm thickness, and a weight of 407g, it’s no big deal to lounge around with it at home, though there is nothing stopping you from also taking it on the road. However, if you want Internet access away from home, you’ll either have to use your phone as a hotspot, or find Wi-Fi access at an establishment of your choice.
Interestingly, HP supplies one year worth of access to iPass, which is a Wi-Fi service that is purportedly available in many hotels and airports around the world. You get a password on a little card, along with instructions on how to use this service. Whether it’s of any value, we’re not sure. (Drop a comment below if you’ve used it before.)
Physically, the HP Stream 8 feels solidly built, and it has a portrait orientation as it’s meant to be held in the hand like a phone. There is not much to it in terms of buttons, ports, and slots. You get the usual micro-USB port at the top of the device for charging or plugging in on-the-go USB sticks, and there is also a headset port. Buttons are limited to power and volume, and they are on the side. A capacitive Windows Home key is present, and it didn’t get in the way while we used the product.
Speaker slits can be found along the bottom of the tablet, and they put out a sound that is expectedly harsh. You’ll want to plug in your own headphones, or tap into a Bluetooth speaker in order to get maximum audio enjoyment.
A microSD card slot is present in the Slate 8, but you’d never know it just by looking around the edges. You have to pop off the rear cover to get to it, and it can be a little difficult to do so, as it’s held on tightly. The slot will come in handy for adding more internal storage to the tablet, which by default has only a 32GB solid state drive (SSD) installed. It won’t be easy to hot-swap microSD cards, so you’ll need to plan your usage ahead of time.
The 32GB SSD has a formatted capacity of 23GB, and it can fill up in no time if you hoard apps. The microSD slot essentially allows you to double this capacity, and is a necessity if you want to leave videos and music files stored on the tablet, rather than streaming them over Wi-Fi. A Class 1 microSD card in our tests was able to copy data over the tablet’s SSD at a rate of 21 megabytes per second (MBps).
Low price, basic specs
An Intel Atom Z3735G CPU gives the tablet enough grunt to handle most Web sites and online communications tasks with ease (though some Flash-heavy sites don't make it that easy). Because of this CPU, it’s a tablet that runs silently, and it doesn’t get warm unless it’s processing streaming video. It only has 1GB of RAM installed, and it can sometimes feel a little sluggish if you have many programs or browser tabs open consuming that memory.
Read more: HP Envy X2 Notebook PC
This is where the price-point of the product comes into play: it’s only an entry-level device, and one that costs $229 at the time of this review's publication ($269 in New Zealand). Toshiba’s 8in Encore has 2GB of RAM (and a slightly higher-level Atom CPU, HDMI, and better Wi-Fi), but also costs about $70 more ($120 more in New Zealand).
The RAM is the first hint of cost savings, the other is the 802.11n Wi-Fi module that limits you to using the 2.4GHz band. That shouldn’t be a problem unless you regularly need to undertake large file transfers to this tablet over a wireless network. The wireless functionality is fine for Internet access and streaming content.
YouTube content can be streamed effortlessly at up to HD quality, and as long as our wireless connection was strong, there was also plenty of power for streaming premium services such as NBA LeaguePass (through a Web browser). If you own a Chromecast dongle, you can use the HP Stream 8 as a controller for playing YouTube content on your big-screen TV, in addition to Google’s other streaming services (Movies & TV, and Music).
We really like the HP Stream 8 as a touch controller for playing music on a Bluetooth-equipped stereo. It handled this task very well for us, and we were able to browse the Web and peruse Reddit threads, while the music streamed in the background. While we’re on the subject, of consuming content, we highly recommend looking for apps that you can use in the Modern UI (Metro), such as Redditing, Twitter, and Kindle.
Read more: HP Stream 11 laptop
Apps downloaded from the Windows Store make for a much better user experience, as the Desktop can be a bit of a chore to use on an 8in screen that’s limited to showing 1280x800 pixels. Furthermore, entering text in the URL bar, as well as into username and password fields, and any other Web text boxes can be a pain because of a couple things: the on-screen keyboard doesn’t show up when you tap into a text box, so you have to bring it up manually, and then you have to position the screen in such a way so that the on-screen keyboard doesn’t appear over the text boxes you need to type in.
This is especially true if you use Firefox or Internet Explorer in the Desktop environment. However, if you use Chrome, you will notice that the on-screen keyboard does indeed appear any time you tap on a text box.
Battery life will vary depending on how you use the tablet, but its 1-cell, 14.8 Watt-hour battery can give almost a handful of hours when it’s looping a locally-stored Full HD video, while the screen brightness is at maximum and Wi-Fi is enabled. A wall adapter is supplied for charging, and you’ll want to use it in order to charge the tablet in the quickest time possible. If you let the battery drain completely, you won’t be able to switch on the tablet again unless you plug in the charger and let the battery charge to more than three per cent.
A stylus isn’t supplied with this tablet, but you can use a third-party, rubber tipped pen if you want to try one out. We tried one, but got poor results. Marks in paint programs lagged, as did handwriting, which led to poor recognition.
Read more: Back to Business: school and work guide
What's the verdict?
While it’s not as well featured as something like Toshiba’s Encore, you can still consider the HP Stream 8 if you want a relatively inexpensive Windows 8.1 device that will fit in your hand.
It’s best suited to media consumption tasks, whether it’s browsing the Web, watching videos, or reading e-books via Kindle, but it can also be used sufficiently for communications via Skype.
HP supplies the tablet with a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which can be redeemed the first time you run the Office set-up, and which includes 60min per month of Skype calls.
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