How To Turn A (Was $99) now $79 Tablet Into A Workstation!

- Posted in: Tech Talk
How To Turn A (Was $99) now $79 Tablet Into A Workstation!
Okay, not really $99 in total, but the HP Stream 7 at $99 with Office 365 is an incredible deal. Indeed, this little PC, and it is a real PC, runs Windows 8.1, not Windows RT, or like an iPad, or like a Chromebook. No; this is a PC in a tablet's body.

HP Stream 7HP Stream7

Key Advantages of the HP Stream 7

  • You can take it out of the office for many applications that run on handheld tablets i.e. an insurance adjuster reviewing an automobile accident claim can use it to take pictures and fill out the spreadsheet/form the company uses to provide and then cut a check like they might do today on an iPad.
  • You can go home and use it for infotainment applications like using Miracast/WiDi to watch Netflix on their large format HDTV, you cannot on an iPad. All along it is very adequate for checking email, social networking, reading a book, and things the iPad is good at today.
  • In summary, the Stream 7 is the form factor that enables displacing the iPad for many usages and applications but also can be docked to be a work machine. This is a real working PC, for work or home, at less than a Chromebook price.

How I Did It

Step 1 - Get a Universal Port Replicating Dock from Targus. While I prefer the ACP71, the ACP076 is adequate and Targus even has a bundle deal for it with a keyboard and mouse, BUS0375 for $149.99.

universal workstation bundleTargus BUS0375 Universal Port Replicating Dock, Keyboard, and Mouse

Step 2 - I connected an external monitor to the dock using the DVI-D, but Targus also provides a DVI-I to VGA converter i.e. for conference rooms using projectors with VGA only. I suggest an HP W2371d 1920x1080 23-inch diagonal LED backlit monitor, but you can use any vendor's monitor, yes, even though the Stream 7 resolution is 1280x800 by itself. I leave the Stream's native monitor on. I mean, why not use it as a second monitor. And by the way, it supports WiDi so theoretically a third monitor could be used this way. Back on topic, the Universal Docking Station is sometimes called Port Replicating because while it connects to the PC USB port, the Stream 7 USB2.0 OTG port, in this case, it provides additional USB ports. The ACP076 dock has three USB 3.0 ports; one of them is a charging port. Now, that being said, the USB3.0 ports can only run at USB2.0 speed when connected, as with this Stream 7 to a USB2.0 port. I connect the HP Stream 7 to the Targus ACP076 using a cable that enables simultaneously charging over the micro USB while implementing a USB for connecting data. Therefore one can connect the micro-USB to a Targus Universal Docking Station (any model) charging port and use the data port to connect to the same dock USB UP port to use the docking station features.

dell data and charging cable mediumMicro USB B Male to USB A Female Cable Data and USB B Female Power Cable

Step 3 - Use the ACP076 USB ports to connect the external keyboard and mouse from the bundle BUS0375. I like the full size wired mouse and keyboard to be free of throwing batteries away, and because I have larger hands and small eyes. Anyway, you can connect a dongle to the ACP076 to use wireless devices. The built-in Stream 7 cameras are adequate for most applications (Skype, Lync, GoToMeeting, etc.) External storage and ODD can be connected through the dock to the PC here too. Anyway, I didn't run out of USB ports and the dock does support adding a USB hub if you do. Because the Stream 7's port is USB2.0, the dock's GbE port will not support GbE rate file transfers. USB 2.0 doesn't run fast enough to support GbE, but FE is more than adequate for the bulk of applications running on/over the LAN/Internet. Besides, there are many companies running faster than tens of megabits over the web. I also connected up external stereo speakers to the dock so that I could listen to video streams and music in the cloud. Also, I had no problem streaming Netflix through the dock to the external monitor at full resolution. This could because the DisplayLink application running on the Stream 7 doesn't use much of the Atom CPU to adaptively encode the video over the USB link. Ironically, DisplayLink does recommend having more memory and a higher clocking CPU than what the Stream 7 offers, but hey it worked for me albeit not as well as it does on my Ultrabook. This is my setup for being ultra-productive at work. I take the Stream7 home at night to check my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, not that I would at work where I use it for LinkedIn. At home, it is also great for catching up on my favorite internet TV. It also comes in handy for checking my Outlook email, task list, and calendar while not at the office. But truth in advertising, I am a geek and so I have a Targus Universal Port Replicating Dock at home too. I connect the Stream 7 to it and viola, I have access to any application my $1500+ ultra-book does too.

How You Can Do It

The combination of a PC and a Universal Port Replicating Dock greatly enhances productivity. It is great to have your email open on one screen while you are editing a spreadsheet on another. Don't expect a raise from your boss but you can build or suggest this class workstation for use at your company with the following components:
  1. $99 HP Stream 7 http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/HP-Stream-7-Signature-Edition-Tablet/productID.308781500?Icid=Homepage_Hero_1_HP7_111014
  2. $149 Targus USB3.0 Universal Docking Station, Mouse and Keyboard http://business.targus.com/universal-workstation-bundle-2
  3. $119 HP W2371d 23-Inch 1920x1080 Monitor, http://store.hp.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/us/en/pdp/accessories-88342--1/hp-w2371d-23-inch-diagonal-led-backlit-monitor
  4. $20 Micro USB Dongle for Data and Charging http://accessories.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&sku=470-ABES
  5. $12 HP Compact Speakers http://store.hp.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/us/en/pdp/accessories-88342--1/hp-compact-20-speakers-p-br387aa-aba--1
That is $399 bucks as shown at full retail for one workstation. While that is a great deal, I am absolutely sure that volume pricing and/or B2B pricing is much lower, closer to a smoking deal! Feel free to vary the recipe for your tastes. In example, I like the Targus Universal Port Replicating Dock model ACP71 . You can use higher end monitors too, all the way up to 2048x1152 each; a more functional keyboard and mouse, and you can add an external HDD and ODD. Any USB device can be connected to the universal dock, that is, the "U" in USB also stands for "universal" as in Universal Port Replicating Dock. BTW, you can use a higher end Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC, ultra-book, tablet, or even a MacBook running OSX. Contact Targus for more information at +714-675-5555.

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