Check out PCMag’s roundup of the best budget gaming laptops, and you’ll mostly see rigs priced at or under $1,000. The HP Pavilion Gaming 15 doesn’t quite make that cut, with my test unit listed at $1,249.99 (though Costco was selling it for $1,099.99 before the holidays), and it’s not a screaming deal like the Editors’ Choice MSI GL65 9SC is at $699. (In fairness, lesser models do start at $799.99.) Against that, it’s a better performer than the MSI, with a six-core Intel Core i7 instead of quad-core Core i5 processor, 16GB of memory instead of 8GB, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti instead of GTX 1650 GPU. The 1660 Ti is the throttled-down Max-Q version, however, and the Pavilion’s screen refresh rate is the lowest-common-denominator 60Hz rather than the 144Hz of some rivals. Except for its superior storage, the HP is elbowed aside by the $1,199.99 Acer Predator Helios 300.
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There are several ready-made and customizable versions of the Pavilion Gaming 15 on the HP site, starting at $799.99 for a Core i5-9300H contoh with GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. My review machine boasts a dua.6GHz (4.5GHz turbo) Core i7-9750H CPU, 16GB of memory, a 256GB NVMe SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and the 6GB Max-Q GeForce GTX 1660 Ti.
That’s as high as your processor and graphics options go, though you can opt for 32GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive plus the 1TB hard drive. Adding $100 to my configuration would have upped the 1,920-by-1,080-pixel non-touch display from a 60Hz to a 144Hz refresh rate; adding $150 would have replaced it with a 4K (3,840 by 2,160) panel.
The Pavilion is a handsome black plastic slab with an emerald HP logo centered in the lid, coordinating with the green keyboard backlight and glowing green power button (a fingernail-thin line above the Escape key). There’s a fair amount of flex if you grasp the screen corners or mash the keyboard deck. At 0.92 by 14.dua by 10.1 inches, the system is average-sized for a 15.6-inch gaming laptop, though it’s a bit lighter than many—it limbos under the five-pound line at 4.96 pounds, compared to 5.5 for the Acer Nitro 7 and 6 pounds for the Dell G5 15 SE, though it’s not a slimline like the 4.4-pound MSI GS65 Stealth.
Except for the lack of a Thunderbolt tiga port, the HP scores high for connectivity. On the left side, you’ll find an HDMI port, a USB 3.1 Type-A port with device charging, an Ethernet port, a USB tiga.1 Type-C port, and an Sekolah Dasar card slot. Two more USB tiga.1 Type-A ports are on the right, along with an audio jack and the connector for the coat-pocket AC adapter. Inside, there’s newfangled Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) wireless.
HP Keyboard Designers: Adopt the T!
The keyboard (backlit all in one color; no varying zones or per-key RGB backlighting here) has an HP trademark that always makes me gnash my teeth: cursor-arrow keys in a row instead of the proper inverted T, with hard-to-hit, half-height up and down arrows stacked between full-height left and right arrows.
On the positive side, you’ll find dedicated, albeit small, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys above the numeric keypad. The typing feel is adequately snappy, though I found the space bar making an audible click to mark the end of each word. The buttonless touchpad glides and taps smoothly, but clicking its left or right lower corners feels and sounds a bit hollow.
The 1080p screen doesn’t tilt back quite as far as I’d like, and colors look bland or muted—HP’s specs say the panel covers an unimpressive 45 percent of the NTSC gamut. Its matte finish does a good job of fighting glare, and viewing angles are broad, with decent contrast and sharpness. The peak brightness is barely adequate, though.
The 720p webcam is a grainy, generic component that captures fairly well-lit but noisy images. There’s neither a face-recognition camera nor a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello. The speakers forward of the keyboard have no trouble filling a room with sound that isn’t buzzy or distorted even at top volume; there’s not much bass (although drums drowned out vocals with a few of my MP3’s), but you can distinguish overlapping tracks well enough.
The Windows 10 Home system carries a one-year warranty. In addition to Dropbox and Booking.com promotions and the spammy WildTangent Games, HP preinstalls a handful of utilities. One of them, Bang & Olufsen Audio Control, lets you specify music, movie, or voice modes and tinker with bass and treble sliders and an equalizer, as well as optimize the noise-reduction microphone for single or multiple voices.
HP CoolSense, meanwhile, sounds as if it should offer the detailed fan controls of some other gaming laptops, but it merely makes adjustments if it detects the notebook is not stationary, lest you find its surface uncomfortably warm. Also onboard: HP JumpStarts and Privacy Settings, respectively, are a welcome tutorial and a hidangan about information collection and email subscriptions.Performance Testing: A Five-Way Melee
For our objective performance comparisons, I pitted the Pavilion Gaming 15 against four other 15.6-inch gaming rigs in the $1,100 or $1,200 ballpark. All feature six-core Core i7 CPUs except for the Core i5-based Dell G5 15 SE. The Lenovo Legion Y545 and Acer Predator Helios 300 flaunt the full-strength version of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti that the HP carries in Max-Q guise.
Overall, the Pavilion Gaming 15 was a solid performer in our productivity and creativity benchmarks, and it cleared the 60 frames per second (fps) hurdle in PC games at 1080p resolution with high image quality. Its Max-Q GPU definitely held it back a bit, however, with the “real” GeForce GTX 1660 Ti systems posting an extra 8 to 12 frames per second (fps), which, for one, the Predator Helios 300 showed off on a faster 144Hz screen.Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the boot drive. The result is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
We consider 4,000 points an excellent score in PCMark 10, so any of these laptops (with the Lenovo well out in front) can shred spreadsheets and pulverize presentations. The PCMark 8 storage subtest is cake for today’s speedy SSDs.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Anything over 1,000 points in this test indicates a mighty multi-core processor. The HP breezed to a close second-place finish while the Core i5 Dell chugged along at the back.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
As you can see, six cores can trump four in a big way. The Dell was hopelessly outclassed in this exercise.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The Pavilion placed last among the four Core i7 laptops, but only by half a second or so per Photoshop operation or filter. It won’t keep you waiting, though its display isn’t the most dazzling choice for photo editing.Graphics Tests