The HP Pavilion 15 is a 15.6” laptop with a full HD IPS touch screen, 512GB fast SSD, Ryzen 5-3500U processor and 8GB of RAM. There are other models in the range, but this one offers a good balance between performance and price. It’s currently around £550 or $600, but prices vary.
It’s not the flashiest laptop. It’s predominantly plastic, there’s no 360 degree hinge and it’s not super lightweight. But it’s fast enough to run pretty much anything and can even handle some light gaming with its integrated Vega 8 graphics.
Could this be the perfect all-round laptop for most of us? Let’s find out.
Inside the box you get the laptop itself, a 45W charger and a quick-start guide. You can download a full user guide from HP that I’ll link to below.
The left side of the laptop has a full size HDMI port, a Gigabit Ethernet port with accompanying status LEDs, a USB Type-C port, the status LED for the SSD drive and a combo headphone microphone jack.
The right side has the memory card reader, a Kensington security slot, 2 standard USB type-A ports and the charging port with its accompanying LED.
The USB ports are all USB 3.1 Gen 1 so support a maximum of 5 Gbps, not the 10 Gbps of the more recent Gen 2, but that should still be plenty quick enough for most accessories you’ll plug in for the time being. The SD card slot is useful but limited to slow USB 2.0 speeds as seems to unfortunately be the norm.
Opening the lid reveals a chiclet style keyboard with a number pad. The keyboard isn’t backlit like on some models in the range.
The trackpad measures 115mm by 60mm, wider but narrower than most.
The build quality of the laptop is decent if nothing spectacular. It looks fairly premium, but it’s made almost entirely of plastic. The keyboard surround and palm rest feel fairly firm but creak ever so slightly. The lid has more flex than I’d like to see, which apart from making it feel a little flimsy, offers little protection to the LCD panel behind it.
The base of the laptop is more rigid with an air vent and four rubber feet.
The laptop measures 361mm by 246mm and is 20mm thick taking into account its feet. It’s slightly beveled around the sides and chiseled towards the front making it look thinner. It’s lighter than spec’d at 1.7kg
When you first power on the laptop you’ll need to finish off the Windows 10 install as usual. This goes fairly quickly thanks to the SSD.
There’s not too much junkware – I uninstalled McAfee, letting the built in free Windows Defender take its place. If you need additional protection I usually install MalwareBytes. There’s also some HP software that I’m keeping for the time being.
With its larger 15.6” display, I was pleased to see a thin 5mm bezel around the sides keeping it’s overall size down. The top bezel measures 11mm but includes the 720p HD webcam and dual microphones for noise suppression.
The bottom bezel with the HP logo measures 20mm.
There is a small amount of flex in the keyboard towards the centre and it does sound a little clattery, but there’s a decent 1.5mm of travel and I found typing on it perfectly acceptable.
I do prefer a full size Return or Enter key though.
The multi-touch trackpad is nice and wide but feels cramped in the vertical direction. The surface is a little rough compared to some high end trackpads I’ve used and I still much prefer using this laptop with a mouse, but it’s more than adequate with nice positive clicks; if you choose clicks over the default taps.
And you can customise it through the pre-installed Elan Clickpad software.
Display and performance
The 1920 x 1080 full HD screen has an IPS touch screen panel that is one of the highlights of the laptop. There’s no 360 degree hinge to really take advantage of the touch display, but that would bump up the price. The hinge tilts back to just 130 degrees and the base of the lid then becomes a large rear foot for the laptop, tilting the keyboard slightly.
Even without a 360 degree hinge, the touch display can be still useful for casual interaction with the laptop.
The IPS panel looks crisp and has good viewing angles but the glossy screen is very reflective, so you still might need to adjust the tilt of the screen to reduce any distracting reflections. Personally I could probably forego the touch screen for one of the models with an anti-glare panel.
Using an X-Rite i1Display Pro monitor calibrator, I measured a maximum brightness of 230 nits, a little less than the quoted 250 nits. It’s still bright enough indoors, but would struggle outside in brighter conditions.
This is not a laptop specifically aimed at photographers but I calibrated the screen, again using the i1Display Pro, to attempt to get the most accurate colours possible from the screen. There wasn’t a hugely noticeable difference to my eye.
I measured the colour accuracy or Delta E of the screen. Delta E is a metric for understanding how the human eye perceives colour difference with a value of less than 1 being not perceptible to the human eye. And a value between 1 and 2 being barely perceptible. I measured an average Delta E of 2.74 which is not too bad and an improvement over the 5.77 I got before calibration.
Only 59% of the sRGB colour space was covered, the spectrum of colours that most devices conform to, from phones to TVs to monitors. This is a low result, but again for general use the display is more than adequate and the variation in brightness across the screen was minimal, passing a final uniformity test.
The 41Wh integrated battery charges with a 45W, 19.5V 2.31A AC adapter with a 4.5mm pin. I would much prefer to see a standardised USB-C charger. Apart from being more convenient it’s also more robust.
A full charge from completely empty with the laptop turned off took exactly two hours with the amber power status light turning white.
The battery supports fast charging and a 30 minute charge, again from completely flat with the laptop turned off, brought the battery status to 43% – a little below the quoted 50%. A 90 minute charge brought it to 96%, higher than the quoted 90%.
Battery life is quoted as 9 hours 30 minute in mixed usage and 8 hours 45 minutes for video playback. HP don’t specify exactly how they get these figures and they seem optimistic.
Playing back a full HD YouTube video full screen, with brightness at maximum I got around 4 hours of usage with the battery slider at Best Performance. Dropping the performance slider to Best Battery Life and at 50% screen brightness, which is pretty dim on this laptop, this increased to just over 5 hours. These are still decent results for a powerful laptop with a 15.6” full HD screen, considering you’ll get longer just using the computer for web browsing or word processing.
By default you won’t see the estimated battery remaining time, only the battery percentage. You can turn this feature on in the system BIOS. Turn the laptop off and then power on holding down the Esc key. Press the F10 key to enter the BIOS Setup.
Use the arrow keys to navigate to the System Configuration menu and Enable Battery Remaining Time.
This model has an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U with Radeon™ Vega 8 Graphics. It’s a quad core processor with 8 virtual threads and has a 2.1GHz base speed boosting to 3.7Ghz. It’s roughly equivalent to something like an Intel i5-8250U but its integrated graphics are better, which I’ll come back to.
Together with its 8GB of DDR4 RAM running at 2400Mhz and fast M.2 NVMe 512GB SSD drive, this laptop feels very nippy in general use.
Using CrystalDiskMark to test the speed of the drive, I measured 1633MB/s read speed and 944Mb/s write speed, which is much faster than even a standard SSD.
The laptop booted in 8 seconds to the login screen and woke from sleep in around 3 seconds.
Running the Geekbench 5 Benchmark gave a single core score of 893 and a multi-core score of 3020 which are both decent results. You can see how these results compare to a 2012 MacBook Pro, the Lenovo Yoga 530 I reviewed recently and my high end desktop PC.
The UserBenchmark test gave the laptop a relatively high 74% Desktop score, but with the laptop’s integrated graphics a fairly low Gaming score of 20%.
In real use, I was able to edit a fairly complex sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro with multiple layers without too much trouble. These were 4K clips in a 1080p timeline and I had created proxies or lower resolution substitute files as I do even on my powerful video editing PC. Lowering the playback and pause resolution, I could play and scrub the timeline without too many dropped frames which is quite a challenging task.
Unfortunately I couldn’t use the AMD Vega 8 graphics processor for exporting using hardware encoding, for any sort of real life project at least, even though it looked like it was supported. The integrated graphics only has 2GB of dedicated VRAM which may not be enough. Perhaps if you were to increase the system RAM to 16GB that might help.
Switching to software encoding that just uses the CPU was slow, taking almost 30 minutes minutes to render a 2 minute section of my 12 minute sequence using the standard YouTube preferred H264 codec. This took just over 10 minutes using software encoding on my desktop PC with an i7-8700 processor and less than a minute using the hardware encoding of my Nvidia RTX 2070 video card.
But at least it is possible to use the laptop for some very heavy duty tasks if need be, although I wouldn’t buy it solely for that purpose.
Considering there isn’t a dedicated graphics card, the integrated GPU handled a few games I tested quite well.
You’ll have to experiment with resolution and graphics quality, but Doom was quite playable as was Fortnite and several other games I tried.
The synthetic Heaven benchmark in Basic mode gave a score of 780 with a very acceptable average frame rate of 31 fps.
Probably my biggest peeve with this laptop is fan noise. The fan comes on far more often than you’d expect it to, even when you’re not doing anything particularly processor intensive. I even experimented turning off Fan Always On in the BIOS, but this made little difference. And disabling HP’s CoolSense didn’t help either.
Still for lighter use it’s only an occasional distraction and at least the laptop doesn’t get too hot.
You can upgrade and replace components in this laptop fairly easily, although the plastic base does take a little coaxing to remove, so you might want some help if you’ve not done this sort of thing before. HP helpfully provide a full maintenance guide.
It’s easy to upgrade the memory or NVMe SSD, or replace the battery when it’s no longer holding its charge. There’s even space for an additional 2.5” hard drive, although you’d need some additional parts to hold it in place and connect it to the motherboard.
If you wanted to use the laptop for more intensive work, I’d start by replacing the two 4GB RAM modules for 8GB modules taking the total memory to its 16GB maximum.
The 720p Wide Vision HD webcam does a good job, as do the dual microphones either side of it. Even in low light, the webcam still manages to capture an image, albeit a very grainy one. In good light it’s better than a lot of other built in webcams I’ve used. There’s an white indicator light to let you know the camera is on.
You can see and hear to a webcam and microphone test in the video at the top of the page.
The built-in stereo speakers, tuned by Bang and Olufsen according to HP’s marketing info, still sound like laptop speakers, with very little bass. But they are pretty loud and mids sound bright. It’s perfectly acceptable for video chats but for anything else, personally, I’d connect headphones or an external speaker.
You can listen to a speaker test in the accompanying video.
You could use the integrated Bluetooth 4.2 for that if you wanted to. There isn’t the latest Bluetooth 5.0 but that’s not anything I’d be too concerned about.
There’s also 802.11ac WiFi and the connection was decent around the house to the very average Sky router. I didn’t quite get the download speeds of my iPhone 11 but I could still stream YouTube videos quite happily to the furthest points in the house.
The HP Pavilion 15 is a very capable laptop – I don’t really think you could ask for a much better spec for the price. The build quality is generally good and it looks quite stylish, but there’s more flex in the lid than I’d like and together with its all plastic build and lack of a 360 degree hinge, you’ll have to take a little extra care with it.
The Ryzen processor and generously sized fast NVMe SSD, really make the laptop feel quick in both general use and more intensive tasks. If you wanted to use it for heavy duty work regularly you have the option of upgrading the memory to 16GB.
It even handled light gaming thanks to the integrated AMD Vega 8 graphics, as long as you’re willing to adjust resolution and graphics quality.
I did find the fan a little noisy and the screen is very reflective. There doesn’t seem to be much you can do about the fan noise, but you could opt for a model with an anti-glare screen at the expense of touch if you think the reflections would bother you.
It may not be the flashiest laptop around, but it could well be the perfect laptop for a student going off to university, or anyone else who wants the best spec possible without breaking the bank.
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HP Pavilion 15: https://amzn.to/2UDO22f