HP ( Hewlett Packard ) logoOver the Christmas / New Year period Microsoft had a sale and one of the items they were promoting was the HP Stream 7 Signature tablet, sporting the latest Windows 8.1 operating system. At just £79, this seemed to be too good a bargain to turn down; especially as we’re talking HP here and not cheap Chinese no-name manufacturer. So, how good is it?

About three months ago I purchased a genuine Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. It was used and a couple of years old, but it’s got a large 10″ screen which I thought would make it a credible laptop alternative. Whilst it was the RT variant using an AMD processor that has less software available for it than an Intel powered variant, this wasn’t what put me off it. It was simply too big and heavy to use as an every-day replacement for my iPad tablet; just updating the calendar was an arm-wrenching chore. Sure, I could run real Office on it and access all my files stored on OneDrive, but this isn’t what I use my tablet for most of the time I am out of the office.

So the Surface Pro is still in the computing arsenal, just, but I didn’t believe that it was a credible alternative to the iPad and Microsoft wasn’t going to tempt me away with a more modern, but similar, product. The cost of a new device is also exorbitant considering that a 16Gb iPad can now be had for as little as £169 from the refurbished Apple store, but that’s another story.

HP Stream 7 Signature Windows 8.1 tablet
HP Stream 7 Signature Windows 8.1 tablet

So the HP looked a tempting buy, the £20 discount sweetening what is already a good price (£99) for a Windows tablet from a credible manufacturer.

Specification-wise, it’s sporting 32Gb of storage and a quad core Atom processor. So whilst it’s not going to set the world on fire when stacked up against my i5 laptop, it’s going to hold its own as an iPad alternative. The battery life seems pretty good, it certainly lasts all day being used for a few minutes here and there, unlike my Android-based Hudl 1 that seems to consume huge amounts of battery power when doing nothing.

The 7″ display is bright enough and sharp, but it’s too small to run genuine Windows applications in desktop mode; the text is just too small and my fingers to fat to be a substitute for mouse. Having said that, I have obtained Corel Office for the device (itself a good buy at around £39 for installation on three devices) and it runs quick enough and may well a suitable office application for ocassional work when out and about.

The Signature’s big claim to fame is that, unlike most tablets, this comes without most of the bloatware that manufacturers insist on installing on portable devices; you know the sort of rubbish that makes the device look good value for money, but which you rarely ever use. The Hudl’s a good example, it’s got loads of Tesco branded software installed, but I rarely use it. As a result, the tablet does seem to zip along.

It is a full-blown Windows PC, albeit in the palm of your hand. So it susceptible to all the normal attacks that a standard PC would be. And given that this device is likely to spend quite a lot of it’s working life attached to the web, it’s going to be a hard job to keep this device clean of cyber-threats without resorting to a power-zapping Internet security application that really will make it perform like a soggy beef-burger. It’s other claim to fame is that it comes with anti-virus software that never expires. I’m not gullible enough to think that Microsoft Security Essentials is a heavy-weight in this arena, but I am going to give it a try and see how secure it keeps my tablet.

I did mention the purchase of Corel Office earlier, a big plus for this tablet must be the fact that it comes with a Microsoft Office 365 Personal Subscription for one year. This includes a full-blown copy of Office for the tablet and a desktop / laptop computer, together with 1Tb of cloud storage using Microsoft’s very good OneDrive system and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month. This is worth £60 for the first year of ownership in its own right, leaving you with a tablet costing just under £40 if you pay full price for it.

However, I have been unable to take advantage of this ‘freebie’ as I already have an Office 365 Home account that provides me with the same benefits for five members of my household (for not a lot more to be honest; £80). But I can’t add this new license to my Microsoft account as it says it will downgrade my home license to a personal license if I do. I could always create a new Microsoft account and register the software to that, but then I’d not have the automatic synchronisation of favourites, OneDrive data, calendar, etc. with my laptop/desktop, or my contacts/calendar with my Windows phone. So it seems the Microsoft Office software is redundant; hence the purchase of Corel Office. It is strange, because the Microsoft Surface’s Office software registered to my Microsoft account fine.

So, what’s the thoughts so far? Well providing you want to use it to run Metro applications in the main and traditional desktop applications rarely, I think this is a good buy and certainly a very good and credible alternative to an Android tablet. There are more than enough apps to satisfy my requirements and I do have some strange and eclectic needs. As a laptop replacement, it doesn’t stack up.

For now, I’m going to use it out on the road and see if I can live with it. It’s looking good, and at £79 it was a steal; £99 it’s just a good bargain – but what more do you want?