Review: HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Introduction and design

Gaming is not as cheap a hobby assay, the Japanese art of paper folding, commonly known as Origami. Keeping up with the latest technological upgrades is going to hurt your wallet substantially more than buying a pad of paper. But that’s not to say that gaming isn’t within the reach of a more thrifty amongst us – step up the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook.

The configuration sent to us weighs in with a £800 price tag (around $1,140, AU$1,660) and is a far cry from last year’s Origin EON15-X, a beast of a machine but double the price. HP’s offering sports the newest Nvidia GTX 950M, which also features in the following machines:

  • Asus N551JX-DM193H
  • Asus GL552JX-CN182H
  • MSI Prestige PX60 2QD-049UK
  • MSI Prestige PX60 2QD-048UK Laptop
  • MSI Gaming GP72 2QE(Leopard Pro)-061UK
  • PC Specialist Cosmos II
  • PC Specialist Cosmos ST17-950
  • Gigabyte P15F v3
  • PC Specialist Cosmos ST15-950

HP Pavilion Gaming top

The HP Pavilion Gaming also features the new Skylake i7-6700HQ processor, the same as the fantastic Acer Predator 15 we reviewed not long ago, but it undercuts this Acer offering by £550 (around US$778). Admittedly the Pavilion sports only 8GB of RAM compared to the Acer’s 32GB, which has quite a knock-on effect in terms of performance, but for a gamer on a budget, a £550 saving is quite something.

Another contender is the Gigabyte P55K V4 which features the older Broadwell i7-5700HQ and is also more expensive at £1,049 (around $1,500, AU$2,180).

HP Pavilion Gaming keys

Design

Like all good gaming laptops, the Pavilion is black. The keyboard glows Alien green with a font that echoes a classic 1980s sci-fi. Its keys are sturdy and responsive, and although the touchpad leaves a little to be desired, I’m assuming that most owners will plug in an external mouse for gaming purposes. There are a few design details I appreciate, such as the gradient of green honeycomb rising up from the base and the green feet on the bottom. The Pavilion Gaming’s matte black lid looks very neat when folded up.

Weight-wise, the Pavilion loads in at around a kilo lighter than the Predator. Size-wise the HP is nearly 4cm shorter in depth and 1cm thinner. It’s also nearly 200g lighter than the Gigabyte machine we mentioned and it’s pretty much the same size as it too. Overall, it’s lighter and in some cases smaller than its rivals.

HP Pavilion Gaming DVD writer

The hinge is a little ugly owed to the fact that the screen is held on by two arms near the edge of the display. It’s very durable but not aesthetically pleasing. On each side, there’s a USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 on the left side. Also on this side is a DVD writer, although these are becoming less and less useful over time. This will only really be of any use to gamers who buy their wares from gaming shops.

Specifications and performance

Intel’s sixth-generation i7-6700HQ Skylake processor features in the Pavilion Gaming notebook. It lies at the lower end of the chipmaker’s new set, the current top offering being the i7-6920HQ which runs at 2.9GHz compared to the i7-6700’s 2.6GHz. The processor is coupled with a GTX 950M, which was introduced to give Nvidia an upper mid-range offering in gaming notebooks.

That’s relatively affordable, but if you’re after pure gaming muscle, be aware that it’s possible to pick up a gaming laptop with a meatier GTX 960M for between £700 and £800 (around US$991 – US$1091) if you have a nose for a deal.

HP Pavilion Gaming ports

Spec sheet

Here is the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz, up to 3.5GHz, 6MB cache, 4 cores)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530 + Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M (4GB DDR3L dedicated)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM (1 x 8GB)
  • Screen: 15.6-inch diagonal FHD IPS anti-glare WLED-backlit (1920 x 1080)
  • Storage: 1TB 5400 rpm SATA
  • Optical drive: SuperMulti DVD burner
  • Ports: 1 x HDMI, 1 x headphone/microphone combo, 1 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x RJ-45, 1 x multi-format SD media card reader
  • Connectivity: Ethernet LAN, 802.11ac (1 x 1) and Bluetooth 4.0 combo (Miracast compatible)
  • Camera: HP TrueVision HD Webcam (front-facing) with integrated dual array digital microphone
  • Weight: 2.32kg
  • Size: 385 x 265 x 28.8mm (W x D x H)

One way HP has saved on costs is to include a standard 5400rpm SATA drive. This increases loading times but on the flip side, it gives you a whole terabyte of data to use up. That said, most gaming laptops couple a terabyte SATA with some sort of SSD where the OS is stored to form a hybrid drive. Windows 10 was a little slower to load on the HP Pavilion than an SSD-equipped laptop, but it wasn’t that noticeable. Also unlike some SATA hard drives, this one is completely silent.

The Gaming Pavilion’s full HD screen is very clear and consistent, viewable from nearly all angles and with a very good color definition. A 15.6-inch screen might seem small to some, but I didn’t find it particularly restrictive. And there’s always an HDMI port if you want to throw the output onto a projector.

The standard HP parts are present, such as the Bang & Olufsen speakers – while they’ll never reach an ear-splitting volume they’re functional enough. There’s also the standard unpredictable touchpad. These components won’t blow your mind but they do the job.

HP Pavilion Gaming front

Benchmarks

Here’s how the HP Pavilion Gaming performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 13,978; Sky Diver 10,131; Fire Strike: 2757
  • Cinebench: CPU: 635 points; Graphics: 41.74 fps
  • PCMark 8 (Home test): 2,869 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours 3 minutes
  • Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor: (1080p, Ultra): 22 fps; (1080p, Low): 36 fps
  • Metro: Last Light: (1080p, Ultra): 30 fps; (1080p, Low): 55 fps

This isn’t a machine for playing Witcher 3 on Ultra settings, but I blasted through Fallout 4 and Just Cause 3 with ease. Both kept their heads above 35 fps in both cases, and although that isn’t a terrific figure, the games were playable. It’s worth remembering that HP is undercutting several gaming machines with the Pavilion Gaming’s asking price by taking a few hits on graphics, RAM, and storage.

In our official benchmarks, the Pavilion gaming managed a respectable 30 fps in Ultra mode for Metro: Last Ligh; the aforementioned Acer Predator couldn’t manage much better, clocking in at 33 fps in Ultra. It also beat the Gigabyte P55K v4 which could only clock up around 26 fps.

HP Pavilion Gaming angle

The HP notebook had more trouble with the open world of Shadow of Mordor with 22 fps on Ultra but delivered an absolutely playable 36 fps on Lowest. Lowering the resolution from the tested 1080p pushed the framerate up further to around 40 fps.

While this is a relatively portable gaming laptop due to its weight, the HP Pavilion Gaming’s battery life isn’t going to give Apple’s MacBook Air any sleepless nights. The Pavilion racked up just over three hours in our test, which is still nearly half an hour more than the Gigabyte P55K v4. It’s enough to keep you going through a few levels and some light internet browsing.

HP Pavilion Gaming keyboard

Bundled software

  • Heaven Benchmark: A dragon in a small village from many angles. Designed to show off your framerate to your friends
  • Valley Benchmark: Much the same as Heaven but set in, you’ve guessed it, a valley!
  • Dropbox: 25GB of space included for free for a year

Verdict

We liked

The sheer value for money – we’ll keep saying this, but it’s clearly a well-designed gaming machine with enough power under the hood to play all recent titles. There are slightly more powerful gaming laptops available at a similar price but can match the Pavilion Gaming’s style and features. It’s more portable than competitors and more than holds its own in our battery tests. It also looks like a gaming laptop with emerald green keys and little graphical touches.

We disliked

We’d like to see a little more RAM – 8GB is fine for spreadsheets but carjacking in GTA demands a little more. Also, this model lacks an SSD, but this is all reflected in the price. The color scheme is really a matter of taste – some may love it, others may prefer something a little less garish.

Final verdict

The HP Pavilion Gaming is a fantastic value laptop that’s gaming-ready. The black-and-green color scheme won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s very smartly done with a few likable design flourishes.

With its tempting price, this HP laptop means that gamers on a budget can finally get into playing the latest PC titles without having to sell everything they own. Why not buy two and get your own LAN party started? Just make sure you invite a friend around, or it’d be a bit weird.

 

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