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Issue 13.2 ('Control Animation')
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Stream 7

Issue: 13.2 (March/April 2015)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 5,057
Starting Page Number: 14
Article Number: 13203
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Recently, Paul Lefebvre mentioned the HP Stream 7 on the Xojo blog and I quickly snagged one. Now, as a Mac-only user, I can't review it as a Windows tablet because I don't know its competition. But I can review it as to how it works for someone like me: a Mac Xojo user who wants to learn more about the Windows ecosystem, get a simple PC for app testing, and someone who likes gadgets.

On those grounds, the Stream 7 succeeds admirably.

It's a small 7" tablet (think Kindle-sized) that runs full Windows 8.1 and sells for under $100. Not only that, but by buying it direct from Microsoft, you get it sans bloatware, with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft Office (which gives you one PC and one tablet license), and other extras. And shipping was free, too!

Granted, the specs on this are pretty low-end: a mobile processor (Intel Atom Z3735G), only 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage (though there is a micro-SD slot to add more storage). Some apps probably won't work too well on that configuration (the Xojo IDE runs, but struggles a little, and I'm sure it would choke compiling a large project). In general I was surprised at how fast and responsive the tablet is—you'll generally only notice speed issues when doing something processor-intensive.

I certainly would not recommend the Stream 7 as your main tablet or for real work. However, as a secondary device, for hobby or leisure use, or for app testing, it's quite nice and useful.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy to was to set up and use (Microsoft has borrowed a lot from Apple). The cloud is nicely integrated, so anything I create on the Stream 7 is automatically accessible on my Mac or iPad via Microsoft's OneDrive (you get 1TB of cloud storage as part of Office).

There are clear drawbacks to the one-OS-for-all approach Microsoft is taking (some apps are tablet-friendly, while others are made with mouse and keyboard in mind), but it's rather nice being able to run any Windows software you'd like. (It'll run; the interface just may not be very usable with your finger.) Note that since it's a full PC, you can connect a keyboard and mouse (via Bluetooth or USB with an adapter).

The best feature of the Stream 7 is undoubtedly the 1280x800 screen. It is sharp and clear, and great for watching movies or reading books. On the negative side, the built-in speaker is so faint as to be inaudible (you'll need headphones), the cameras are okay for Skype but not much else, and battery life and charging speed are both poor (think several hours for each). The plastic case feels cheap and it feels like you're breaking the thing to get inside to the micro-SD slot, but much worse is its thickness and weight: it's almost as heavy as an iPad Air 2, but since it's smaller, it's more dense and feels heavier. For ebook reading, you'll want to prop it up on a body part or something.

Ultimately, though, you get quite a lot for very little money. For instance, if you were planning on purchasing a subscription to Microsoft Office anyway—you might as well get this as they cost about the same!

I'm planning on using mine to learn more about Windows and for testing my Xojo apps. Sure, I could have gone with a virtual machine (debugging on a VM would be easier, but a VM plus Windows license costs way more than the Stream 7 and uses up a lot of precious SSD space) or bought a used full-size PC for more money, but those options felt like a hassle and too much commitment. I like the idea of a paperback-size device and I love that the price is cheap enough I won't feel guilty if I don't get much use out it. Thanks for the tip, Paul!

End of article.