Today we're looking at the latest version of a long line of 15.6" HP Pavilion laptops. HP's intentions with this model were never to turn the market on its head, but rather to simply offer a respectable portable PC with a mid-range Intel Haswell processor, an AMD HD 8670M and a 750 GB mechanical hard drive, a configuration that appears tailored for productivity and multimedia use.
The design is the same as the previous models, but a bit thinner and a bit lighter. The lid is made of a light grey aluminium, the palm rest is made of black aluminium and the bottom of the chassis is a granular black plastic.
The chiclet keys are well sized, but the stroke is a bit too slack to call this an ideal typing experience. Plus, the characters are stuck on as stickers, not painted on, so they might come off with time. The touchpad is spacious and precise and recognises all of the Windows 8 touch gestures.
The connection ports located on either side of the laptop consist of a rather cursory two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, HDMI and an audio in/out. Also onboard is a DVD drive. For wireless connectivity the Pavilion 15 has Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi b/g/n, which we measured at -46 dBm from 5 to 10 metres away and -51 dBm from 20 metres away.
Overheating was never an issue while we tested the Pavilion 15; we measured a maximum of just 32°C at the base of the screen and 39.7°C near the air vent on the side. The downside to this is that in order to keep the heat so low, the fan has to run full throttle and makes a loud 39 dB(A) of noise.
This glossy 15.6" display with 1366 x 768 pixels, however, just adds fail upon fail, starting with its incredibly low contrast of 375:1 and rock-bottom brightness of 182 cd/m².
Grey colour temperature
Things only get worse when you start paying attention to the colours. We measured an average Delta E of 11.5, showing that they're wildly exaggerated and unnatural (for faithful colours the Delta E would have to be 3 or below). Same goes for the colour temperature of 12,334 K, which is practically twice the ideal of 6,500 K.
The sound quality is standard as laptops go. The speakers located just above the keyboard don't work miracles. They provide fairly loud sound that's lacking in bass. The mids, on the other hand, are well reproduced, providing a more or less intelligible vocal range.
The headphone/microphone combo jack provides virtually no stereo image, making it far less than satisfactory. The volume, distortion levels and dynamics are all acceptable, but not amazing.
Note: The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4 GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon HD 8670M graphics card and a 750 GB hard drive. The comments above refer to all versions of the HP Pavilion 15, whereas the sections below apply only to the model we tested (see inset below). Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.
Yet another laptop with an Intel Core i5-4200U... This is a common processor these days, but with a score of 75 in our internal rating system, the performance isn't as good in the Pavilion 15 as it is in the Asus Transformer Book Trio (78) or the 13.3" Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 (83).
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This is due in large part to the mechanical hard drive that slows down the file access speeds. It does, however, outperform the Intel Core i3-4010U found in the Asus Transformer Book T300TA (62). The Pavilion 15 is competent at fulfilling simple tasks like word processing, web browsing and small-scale photo editing, but for more demanding activities like video encoding, patience will be a virtue.
HP gave our model of the Pavilion 15 a mid-range AMD Radeon HD 8670M graphics card that did not exactly shine in our 3DMark tests.
With the exception of two tests (Fire Strike and Ice Storm Extreme), 3DMark showed it to underperform even the Intel HD Graphics 4400 chipset, placing it well below dedicated cards like the Nvidia GeForce GT 740M and 750M in the ranking. But given the screen's native resolution, you can still run some older games and even some newer ones if you lower the settings.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
We weren't expecting this at all, but the Pavilion 15 lasted for a full 6 hours of video playback (in airplane mode with the brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in)! That's excellent, providing enough battery life for long commutes and train rides.