The Amazing HP 7 Model 1800 “Mesquite” Tablet: Intel powered, Wal-Mart (!) exclusive
Not great, but pretty darn good. Email, social networking, Skyping, Google HangOuts, and watching videos are a breeze. Music player is awesome! Did I mention $99??
This is a guest post from our friend and longtime Practical Hacks reader and contributor, Michael W. After reading it, I purchased an HP 7; for the price, it’s very, very good. One point: it has 8GB of internal storage, but has a slot for a micro SD card. I added 32 GB of storage for $24.99
Sub-$100 tablets haven’t been that rare this year – I fell for the Hisense Sero LT based on online reviews claiming it was the first decent budget tablet, but the screen proved to be pretty dismal and the performance was noticeably slow.
This Black Friday / Wal-Mart exclusive HP 7 (NOT the Slate) is refreshingly different. The back lighting is somewhat weak (and therefore problematic in bright office lighting) but the colors are vivid and high quality in home lighting, and the performance is zippy, the build-quality rock solid. It leaves some things out to hit its price-point, but it doesn’t skimp on the features it does include.
Its single quirk is using an Intel Atom processor instead of the more customary ARM-licensed chip. Intel wants to be in the “mobile space” and teamed up with Google in 2011 to roll Android out onto Intel chips, and the chip powering this tablet is their first effort, the “Medfield” Atom-powered “system on a chip” or SOC where all the key video, Bluetooth, and WiFi components are on a single chip, to reduce manufacturing costs and to save power. The Medfield made its first public appearance in a Lenovo smartphone in April 2012 and was remarkable not for being great, but for being passable. Given ARM’s total dominance in smartphones and almost complete dominance (with the exception of Windows tablets) in the tablet arena, being “passable” was actually a win for Intel. In fact, the performance of Medfield (and the quickly released Clover Trail and Bay Trail) have been praised, the only question mark has been battery life – Intel is used to achieving performance at the cost of power, having grown up in the server and desktop world (remember those only 100 watt and up desktops?). So having to survive in sleep and during low activity on micro-watts is naturally a challenge.
The net result is a zippy, affordable tablet (you’d never believe it is powered by a single core chip with two virtual cores) that delivers on performance but has noticeably less battery life than it’s ARM-powered competitors – 5 hours vs. a bottom threshold of 7 hours on ARM tablets and an upper threshold of 12 hours, at least for the non-budget Android tablets. 5 hours here isn’t as bad as it may sound, however – many bargain-basement Android tablets don’t even run that long, since lithium batteries are expensive and tablets built to a low price point usually have smaller batteries. Also, compared to other bargain-basement tablets, this comes with 8gb of built-in storage (with a uSD slot to expand), 1gb of RAM, and 600p instead of 480p resolution.
About that 600p (1024 x 600) resolution: yes, that isn’t 720p like on the original Nexus or 1080p like on the current Nexus. But it’s not far off iPad 2 and original Mini levels (1024 x 768). The non-IPS screen is more of a problem – for the best video-viewing experience, you need to keep the screen carefully centered, unlike mid-range tablet with their wide viewing angle IPS screens. This is sharp enough for e-reading, but if you are a pixel hound you should also look at tablets with 1280 x 800 resolution levels (original Nexus, current Asus MemoPad HD 7 ($149) and EVGA Tegra Note 7 ($199)) or a “retina level” display like the 2013 Nexus 7.
Where this tablet excels is cheap, risk free tablet use – absorbing a $99 tablet damage or loss is a lot easier to accept than losing a $499 iPad Air (heck, the extended warranty alone on an Air is about 50% of the cost of this tablet). When I was overseas last time, I even got lazy about leaving out my MemoPad HD 7 when I went down for breakfast – under a pillow or stack of clothes, but not in the room safe. Same thing applies over here – if you know you are going to do a lot of web browsing at a cafe, a higher resolution tablet is what you should take, but if you want something handy all the time to slog around, this is fine. Beats the small screen on a smartphone and a smartphone Android interface any day of the week.
The Antutu benchmark is 11,200 which is “good” for a tablet. My own experience is that the downloading is fast, apps load and switch fast, touch is responsive, and videos play smoothly (I use Dice Player). Skype works well with clear sound so the built-in microphone and speaker work well; I didn’t try video calls however, and the front camera is just VGA quality (.3mp).
Since this has an Intel chip instead of the standard ARM chip, there might be some minor app compatibility issues, since Android apps are being rewritten to optimize for both ARM and Intel. Definitely all the factory-installed apps run fast and glitch free, as do Facebook, Skype, and my other key applications. But until a few days ago, Firefox was off the list; an Intel-supported version was just released, however. If you have any key apps, be sure to install and test them out during the 14 day return period. If you want me to check a particular (free) app, leave a request in the comments and I will try to help you out.
There is no rear camera. Presumably your smartphone is your first choice for pictures, though, and the lack of a rear-camera means fewer headaches about how to set the tablet down without scratching or smearing a rear camera lens. There is no GPS/GLONAS, so you won’t be using this in lieu of a GPS unit, but then again most smartphones now have turn-by-turn GPS built-in. Bluetooth is an older version, 2.1., but that’s good enough for an accessory keyboard (I like the Amazon Basics keyboard which has worked well with my iPad and also works with Windows and Android tablets).
Who is this suitable for?
Anybody who could previously get by with a netbook: travelers, grandma and grandpa, casual users. This tablet is perfect if your primary uses are checking email, checking and updating social media, viewing snapshots. At $99 it is a bargain, and a lot easier to carry to a Starbucks than a netbook. 5 hours is pretty good battery life for those forays. A Chromebook is a simple solution if you need a built-in keyboard, and/or larger screen, but the cost is greater. The Chromebook is probably more secure for online banking etc. simply because Google is always rolling out updates to the operating system, while Android seldom updates the actual operating system (but is constantly updating the actual apps).
Who is this NOT suitable for?
- I’ll go out on a limb here and say that even though the price is right for small children – and watching NetFlix is fine – most games and educational apps are still on Apple. So this may not be as good for kids as you hoped. It certainly makes a fine alternative to a portable DVD player, but it is NOT a good alternative to an iPad, due to both app availability, and the moderate performance specs of this budget tablet.
- Teenagers are also problematic. The just released Tegra Note 7 has the new Tegra 4 processor with amazing graphics – if your favorite game is released on Android and optimized for the Tegra 3 (original Nexus) or newer Tegra 4. But those are a couple of big “ifs” compared to the certainty of fast and visually engaging game play on an iPad Air or Retina Mini which both got upgraded to the “hottest” current chip on the market, the A7 home-grown by Apple.
The HP 7 Model 1800 Mesquite was an $89 Black Friday special at Wal-Mart that continues to be available, only at WalMart, for the remainder of the holiday shopping season at $99 (with at least one, one-day return to $89 on their website since Black Friday). After that it isn’t clear if HP will discontinue the model, keep selling it as a Wal-Mart exclusive, or roll it out to other retailers.
HP continues to sell the ARM-based, somewhat slower and low-rated Slate 7 through big-box stores like Staples, Office Depot, Office Max etc., and since it is offered on sale at $99 too, there is some confusion between HP’s two $99 tablets – but I give the nod to this Intel-powered one.
HP 7 with WiFi 7″ Touchscreen Tablet PC Featuring Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) Operating System, white:
1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2460 processor
1GB DDR2 of system memory
7″ touchscreen, 1024 x 600 resolution, virtual keyboard
Built-in 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
Additional Features of the HP Tablet:
Front VGA webcam with omni-directional microphone
8GB on-board storage memory, additional memory via microSD card slot
Up to five hours of run time on a full charge
Weighs 0.83-pounds; 7.6″ x 4.92″ x 0.4″ dimensions
Software and Applications:
Android 4.1 OS (Jelly Bean)
Google Search, Google Voice Search, Gmail, Google Sync, Google Talk, Chrome browser, Google+, Google Maps, Google Street View, YouTube, Widevine digital content manager and Google Play (for applications)
Media Formats: popular media formats
What’s in the Box:
7-inch tablet and AC adapter [note: a USB power charger with micro USB cable]
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U.S. Airways has brought back, albeit for a very limited time, its 50% mile share bonus program. Share miles with another U.S. Airways Dividend Miles, and you’ll receive a up to a 100% miles bonus in the process.
|10,000 – 19,000||50%|
|20,000 – 29,000||75%|
|30,000 – 50,000||100%|
If you share 50,000 miles, your recipient will receive 100,000 Dividend Miles. Your cost is $ .01 per mile plus a $30 processing fee. In the 50,000 mile example, your cost would be $530, a very solid deal. If you and your spouse both have Dividend Miles accounts, you can share miles with your spouse, and he or she can share them back to you, significantly growing your “miles bank” for a relatively modest cost.
A few notes:
The U.S. Airways account you use to share miles (as well as the one you share with) has to have been open for at least 12 days. If you don’t, be sure to get a free account now so you’ll have the chance next time
For now, U.S. Airways miles are best used for Star Alliance worldwide flights. Unfortunately, U.S. Airways doesn’t allow one-way redemptions, so you’ll need to make sure to plan a round-trip for any awards using these miles
On March 1, 2014, U.S. Airways will leave Star Alliance. U.S. Airways miles will likely be converted to AA miles (in the OneWorld alliance) at some point in the future
You can share to one account and then share back to the original account, although it may take a couple of days for the second share to post
See this deal here: Dividend Miles Share Miles Bonus
Finally, here’s the fine print:
Offer available for share transactions made between December 2nd 00:00:01 PT and December 6th 2013, 23:59:59 PT. All transactions are non-refundable. Bonus miles will be awarded upon completion of the transaction. The maximum number Share Bonus miles that can be received by one member for this offer is 50,000 bonus miles. All miles shared beyond this limit will not be eligible for a bonus. The recipient of the share transaction will also receive the bonus miles. All transaction inquiries must be submitted to US Airways Dividend Miles within 90 days from end of promotion. Offer is subject to change. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Buy and Gift transactions are not eligible for bonus. Only share transactions made online are eligible for the bonus. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift miles. For Gift and Share transactions, the recipient account must also be 12 days old. All US Airways Dividend Miles terms and conditions apply.
Miles are shared for $0.01 per mile plus a processing fee of $30 and a tax recovery charge of 7.5%. GST/HST will be charged to Canadian residents. Miles purchased through Buy, Share or Gift Miles do not count towards Dividend Miles Preferred status. All other Dividend Miles Terms and Conditions apply. Miles may be used based on award availability at the time of booking. Please note that Dividend Miles accounts less than 12 days old are not permitted to Buy, Share or Gift miles. All purchases are non-refundable.
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Thanks for Chris Guillebeau’s Cards for Travel site for the tip:
- Limited-Time Offer: Get 50,000 points for 2 Roundtrip Flights after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account. Government fees as low as $10 not included.
- Get 6,000 points every year after your Cardmember Anniversary.
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® and AirTran Airways® purchases made directly with the airlines and on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
- Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Redeem points for gift cards, car rentals, cruises, hotel stays, and international flights to over 800 Destinations on 50+ global carriers.
- No foreign transaction fees
Apply Here: Southwest CC Offer
Note: I have no connection to Southwest or this credit card offer
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From Tim Ferriss’s blog, a nifty post from Ryan Holiday that’s sure to appeal to road warriors and occasional travelers alike. An excerpt:
6. Eat healthy. Enjoy the cuisine for sure, but you’ll enjoy the place less if you feel like a slob the whole time. (To put it another way, why are you eating pretzels on the airplane?)
[TIM: If you want to follow The Slow-Carb Diet, my default cuisine choices in airports are Thai and Mexican food. Also, keep a *small* bag of almonds in your bag to avoid digressions in emergencies.]
7. Try to avoid guidebooks, which are superficial at best and completely wrong at worst. I’ve had a lot more luck pulling up Wikipedia, and looking at the list of National (or World) Historical Register list for that city and swinging by a few of them. Better yet, I’ve found a lot cooler stuff in non-fiction books and literature that mentioned the cool stuff in passing. Then you Google it and find out where it is.
Read the full post here: How to Travel – 21 Contrarian Rules
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Whether you’re using a PC, Mac, or smartphone, if you’re irritated by the government’s PRISM Program, check out DuckDuckGo, and its new smartphone app, DuckDuckGo Search and Stories for iPhone and Android.
As we’ve mentioned before, DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect any of your information when you search the interwebs; if the government were to demand their records, DDG doesn’t have any to turn over.
I installed the app on my iPhone 5 a week or so ago, and have tested it alongside the Google app.
The app combines a standard search field at its top with a news feed of stories from sources ranging from The Wall Street Journal, to Time, to The Onion. You can adjust which feeds appear in Settings; more on this in a bit.
As with Google, suggested search results appear as you type:
If images associated with search results are available, they’ll appear next to the link:
Clicking on the orange icon at the top LH corner of DuckDuckGo’s app brings you to a recap of your recent searches and to Settings…
As mentioned, this enables you to see your recent searches, and to adjust the settings:
In Settings, you can set whether the home screen shows the news feed, or your recent or saved searches. You can also specify your region or country in order to “boost” your search results. Finally, you can turn Autocomplete on or off.
DuckDuckGo – whether on your home computer or smartphone – is definitely worth a look! Thanks for reader and site contributor Michael W. for the suggestion!
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Who hasn’t experienced crappy customer service? Disinterested or downright surly retail workers, waitstaff and hotel employees are everywhere, and sadly, tolerating poor service has become the norm rather than the exception. This is why my experience at the Embassy Suites in Lubbock was such a stunner. I don’t know if what I experienced was the product of a corporate cultural change or unique to this property as I hadn’t stayed at an ES for a while, but someone has turned the employees at the Lubbock Embassy Suites into customer service zealots.
A colleague dropped me off last Thursday evening. While I was getting out of the car, a young woman came out of the hotel and asked if I was checking in. She took my name and said she’d get things started at Registration. I retrieved my bag from the trunk, and as I approached the front doors, another employee who was obviously going off shift welcomed me to the hotel and added, “Thanks for staying with us!” As I entered, a young bellman also offered an effusive welcome. Walking up to the front desk, I was expecting the regular routine – credit card, license, etc. – instead, the front desk clerk said, “Thanks for staying with us, Mr. Connolly, here’s your room key – you’re on the third floor, and are all set.” Why aren’t all hotels like this? An hour after checking in I received a call from the front desk, asking if everything was ok and if they could do anything else for me. The entire stay was like this: employees falling over themselves to make sure I knew my business was appreciated.
I am a Hilton HHonors Gold member, but that doesn’t usually generate special treatment, and I certainly didn’t walk around the property with GOLD tattooed on my forehead. Every employee I encountered was upbeat and welcoming; this even extended to when I was leaving the property. Sitting in the lobby near the front window so I could see my ride arrive, an employee approached and asked if I’d like a bottle of water or a coffee while I waited. Amazing.
The hotel itself is what you’d expect from an Embassy Suites: suite-style rooms arranged in a courtyard fashion, free breakfast and “Manager’s Reception.” My room was clean and well stocked with towels and extra coffee packets for the coffeemaker. Free internet access.
If you’re going to be in Lubbock and need a hotel recommendation, now you’ve got it.
Embassy Suites Lubbock
5215 South Loop 289, Lubbock, Texas, 79424
USA TEL: 1-806-771-7000
Other than being a Hilton HHonors member, I have no connection to Embassy Suites or Hilton.
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If you ever find yourself on the road and forgot to pack shaving cream, lather up with some hand soap and use the conditioner provided by the hotel:
This week I’m on the road and somehow lost or didn’t pack my (small) bottle of Shave Secret, so I had to go this route; it works great!! Also, if you somehow manage to forget your razor, ask your hotel for one of those emergency baggies they have for stranded travelers – they usually include a cheap plastic razor.
Have you discovered any improvised ways of dealing with stuff you’ve forgotten to pack? If yes, please comment.