The glossy plastic shell looks great, there's no doubt about that (especially when it's brand new), but it picks up nicks, scrapes and fingerprints easily. And the material used on the surface both attracts dust and makes it stand out.
The Pavilion Sleekbook 15 has a chiclet keyboard with matte plastic keys. HP made use of the 15.6-inch form factor to put in a numeric keypad, which isn't a given on a laptop. And conveniently, you don't have to press the Function (Fn) key to use the shortcuts (volume, brightness, play/pause...). Instead, it's F1 through F12 that require the Fn key.
The touchpad is average size and has two buttons for the left- and right-click. The surface is textured, which seems to prevent your finger from gliding smoothly over it rather than facilitate it. The touchpad recognises all the Windows 8 touch gestures such as zooming, two-finger scrolling and navigating through apps.
For connectivity the Pavilion Sleekbook 15 has three USB ports (two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0), an HDMI out, an RJ45 (Ethernet) port, a headphone/microphone combo jack and an SD memory card reader. So, no VGA or DVD drive—although you'll only miss the VGA port if you use a monitor or video projector that doesn't have an HDMI in.
Images taken with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.
The Pavilion Sleekbook 15 manages its heat well. The hottest it ever gets is 37°C (99°F). The only problem is that the heat vents out the bottom of the chassis, so the computer gets hot when you have it on your lap—not necessarily well thought out for a "laptop".
The computer stays perfectly quiet when at rest but the fan starts making 40 dB(A) of noise when you ask more of its components. If you're looking for total silence, then you won't get it here; but in your typical environment with a little background noise, you won't notice it unless you stick your ear up to the chassis.
The display is not one of the Pavilion Sleekbook 15's strong points. The surface is glossy and the brightness is a measly 220 cd/m², which means glare galore in brightly lit settings. And with a 0.46 cd/m² black level, the contrast is hardly even 500:1.
The average Delta E is 12, which is quite far from the target of three and below, and means that the colours are anything but accurate. We have to come to the conclusion that an external monitor is a necessity if you want to get a quality image on the Pavilion Sleekbook 15.
With an excellent IDT chipset and Dolby sound, this computer had everything going for it. Unfortunately, while the input/output jack is relatively clean and high in volume, the speakers are a different story altogether:
Frequency response: speakers
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = heavily altered
Limited by the size of the chassis, the speakers deliver sound that's clean enough, but it's too tinny and utterly lacking in anything resembling bass to enjoy listening to music or watching movies on.
Our model: HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15-b055sf
The model we're reviewing (15-b055sf) has an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset, a 500 GB hard drive (5400 RPM) and a 32 GB mSATA Express Cache SSD. The first part of this review refers to all versions of the Pavilion Sleekbook 15, but the Processor Power, Gaming and Battery Life sections below apply only to this model (see inset below).
This model's processing power is more than adequate. With an Intel Core i5-3317U at the controls, the Pavilion Sleekbook 15 can undertake any task, and quickly. Productivity and web browsing are a walk in the park for it.
The storage capacity is both spacious (500 GB) and responsive, thanks to the SSD, which allows the computer to start up in 25 seconds and shut down in 10 seconds. Being an Express Cache SSD, the solid-state drive is only used as a memory buffer to help speed up the system, so you cannot store files or content on it.
As with most 11" and 13" ultrabooks, the graphics are handled by a measly Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset. This is good for decoding HD movies, but it can't run very many video games. Even using the native resolution (1366 x 768 pixels) the only games you'll get to run properly on this model are old or non-processor-intensive titles.
Based on our measurements, which we took during continuous video playback with airplane mode on, the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in, this model lasted four hours, which is the same battery life as the more expensive Dell XPS 15. At 38.6 x 25.9 x 2.1 cm, the Pavilion Sleekbook 15 will slip easily into a laptop sleeve, but not necessarily into all handbags or backpacks. And yet, at a full 2.1 kg, a backpack would be the easiest way to carry the weight.
- Processing power
- Numeric keypad
- Battery life (4 hours)
- Very low gaming capabilities
- Glossy TN screen with narrow viewing angles
- Inaccurate colours on the screen (Delta E = 12)
The HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15 is indeed thin, powerful and affordable, but that doesn't give the screen a quality image or allow you to play games on it. With a display this off-kilter, we couldn't possibly give it more than three stars.