According to our Technology Editor, Kevin Kelly, Microsoft’s grand venture into tablets could be described as “tame” at best. Will the HP Stream 8 be the first exception?
Windows 8.1 has been an exceptional change in direction for the venerable operation system. It is no longer confined to just the desktop or laptop and is now duly bound to tablets as well.
The experience has never been as fully functioning or best-suited to tablets as Android or iOS. It has been stuck as a mutated relation of Windows 7 and Windows Phone. The truly useable tablets never appeared originally.
Now the good stuff is starting to appear, and an obvious new contender is the HP Stream 8. It is not the first tablet of its size to appear running Windows, but it might be one of the first, along with the Dell Venue, that is a well-built, usable device.
The tablet is a fine piece of hardware. It’s not a thin, light device like an iPad mini or Samsung Galaxy Tab, but it wasn't trying to be. As an actual computer running full-on, proper Windows 8.1, it needs to be powerful enough to run desktop-class programs such as Office and even Photoshop.
The Intel Atom processor inside is enough to make the experience fluid. The Modern UI interface of the 8.1 start screen is suited to a touchscreen, with it’s large LiveTile icons and colourful design.
Unfortunately, when you dive into the Desktop and legacy capabilities of Windows 8.1, the touchscreen isn't the best way to interact with this device.
I’m mostly a user of the Desktop end of Windows, so this immediately changes how I’m going to use this tablet. I rarely find myself using the Modern apps by choice, unless I have to change some settings. I have installed a few apps on it from the Windows App Store for testing purposes, but never find myself in them.
This is the main reason I find Windows is just not entirely suited to a tablet. To get any proper work done, you have to head into the Desktop, the Modern apps just don’t have the same range or power as the apps on the Desktop, which is still only usable with a mouse and keyboard.
This isn’t wholly taking away from the Stream 8. Its eight inch screen is not hugely high quality at 1200x800 resolution, but it’s fine for reading and browsing around online. The build quality is very nice and solid, though it is fairly heavy, so it could get tiring holding it for a while. It also comes with a year free of Office, an enticing offer to begin with.
It also features 3G capabilities, meaning you can use cellular networks to connect to the Internet. I found this very spotty and nowhere near as reliable as wi-fi. If you urgently need to connect, use it, if not, wait and find a wi-fi hotspot.
The device is a good piece of hardware, with great build quality. If it had have been running another operating system, it might be a better tablet. Windows 8.1 just isn’t an obvious choice when buying a tablet. If you want it, this is a great choice. If not, it’s a shame you won’t have the Stream 8 as a choice.