Look out, HP: there’s a new budget Windows tablet and town. And this one—the WinBook TW700 Tablet—has a few interesting advantages over the HP Stream 7. But I’ll need some more experience with it before I can declare a winner.
If you’ve been following the budget Windows device space, the basics will sound familiar: Here’s another Atom-based Windows mini-tablet with a 7-inch screen, a sub-$100 price tag and a free year of Office 365 Personal. We’ve become almost immune to how good a deal such a device is, but it bears repeating. Assuming none of the hardware is a complete letdown—like the terrible screen on the Toshiba Encore Mini, another contender in this price class—it’s hard to go wrong.
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But a few things do set the WinBook apart.
First, the price isn’t just sub-$100, it’s well under $100: You can buy it for just $59.99 from a local Micro Center electronics store. If you don’t happen to have one nearby, as I do, yes, you can buy it online but you’ll have to pay for shipping, so you can factor in another $10 or so for that.
Second, and I cannot believe other Windows device makers don’t do this given how thick these devices are, the WinBook includes an honest-to-goodness full-sized USB port, so you can plug in any normal USB peripheral—a keyboard, a hard drive or memory stick, whatever—without needing to fish around for or carry an adapter. This is so obvious, and so wonderful.
(And in addition to that USB port, the WinBook also includes a second micro-USB port, micro-HDMI for video-out, microSD for storage expansion—which you’ll need; more on that in a bit—and stereo speakers on the back. Did I mention this thing was under $100?)
And while this is subjective, I find the WinBook’s curved, tapered form factor to be nicer and more pleasing than the curiously stubby and thick HP Stream 7. Not that the WinBook is any thinner or lighter—both are about a wash, technically—but the tapered form factor of the WinBook makes it seem thinner. Even though it is not.
If you do get the HP, you should get it at the Microsoft Store, since you can get a crapware-free Signature edition. But most people will buy this tablet at Amazon.com or a local retailer, and in those cases, the HP is disappointingly filled with junk. Not so with the WinBook: Yes, there is an ESET anti-virus offer waiting for you on the desktop, but you can actually choose not to install it. Beyond that, the WinBook just comes with web-based offer for Pogoplug cloud storage. Totally unnecessary, yes, but easily ignored, and not a pre-installed application. This is about as clean as a PC can come these days: Beyond this, only the Office installer was pre-installed. Kudos to Micro Center for that.
Most of the specs will be familiar, and are low-end. The WinBook comes with a quad-core 1.33 GHz Intel Atom TZ3735G (Baytrail) processor, and 1 GB of RAM, both the same as with the HP Stream 7. Where it falls short, however, is internal storage: Where the HP has 32 GB of eMMC storage, the WinBook comes with the 16 GB minimum. This means that even the most casual of users will need to invest in microSD expansion, an added cost that could wipe out the pricing advantage and make this a closer contest.
Speaking of storage: after installing all of the available Windows Updates (and wiping out the Office installer, which I find to be a waste of space on such a device), the WinBook was left with just 3.8 GB of available storage. Interestingly, Micro Center has a downloadable optimizer application that will free up an addition 2 GB of storage. Here’s a direct link.
The screen is 7-inches, of course, and it’s an IPS unit that looks pretty clear and sharp, with none of the artificating that doomed the Toshiba Encore Mini. As with the Stream, the resolution is 1280 x 800, which is perfectly acceptable for a device in this price class. There are two cameras, both 2 megapixels and nothing special, and of course Wi-Fi (802.11bgn) and Bluetooth 4.0. Micro Center says the battery life is “exceptional,” but doesn’t offer up an estimate.
Look, I still feel like Windows tablets, and mini-tablets in particular, are a fool’s errand because of the startling lack of apps. But Microsoft is correcting this problem by allowing PC makers to sell these devices for next to nothing today, and by eventually shipping Windows 10 mobile, a version of Windows that might otherwise be called Windows Phone 10, targeting these small devices. Today, Windows 8.1 (with Bing) is nothing special, but Windows 10 mobile will put this and other small tablets over the top. I’m not saying it’s an investment in the future, per se, given the low-end hardware. But it’s not as dumb a purchase as it might otherwise be.
The question, of course, is whether the WinBook TW700 Tablet can out-Stream the HP Stream 7. And that is something I intend to find out.