Well, you don’t see that every day. HP revealed its gaming variant of the well-known Pavilion 15 notebook some time ago, but now we finally have the chance to see what all the fuss is about. Basically, the Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook looks and feels like the normal Pavilion 15, but adds some extra finishing touches in the design department and, of course, packs more powerful hardware that can handle some gaming.
However, this notebook comes at an oddly high price. The basic variant is currently selling at $900 and can go up to $1050 from HP’s official store. At that price you can snatch the refreshed ASUS ROG GL552VW or the N551VW, and both offer way more powerful GPU solutions and next generation DDR4 RAM support. It looks as though HP has emphasized on the build quality and design, but has forgotten to put a real gaming GPU inside. But what about the rest of the notebook? Is there something more to it than meets the eye? Well, that’s why we are doing this review. Let’s see how the system performs as a whole.
You can take a look at all the available configurations at Amazon.com.
Nothing interesting here – we have the usual user manuals, AC adapter (KTC HU10674-12005, 90W) and charging cable, and the notebook itself. Also, the battery is detached from the machine so it ships separately from the notebook.
Design and construction
The overall appearance and design signature can be related to the classic HP Pavilion 15, but it sure does give the impression of a divergent gaming notebook. Soft matte plastic is used all around with interesting patterns painted in green, as this is the color accent on the device. It’s also pretty lightweight – 2.32 kg. Some notebooks in this price range go over 2.5 kg. Luckily, the latter doesn’t result in reduced durability.
We start with the lid, which is made of soft-touch matte plastic, featuring only HP’s glossy logo in the center. It feels nice, looks sturdy, but it’s a fingerprint magnet. The finish also provides good grip if you are going to carry it around from time to time. The hinges appear to be a bit too tight because you can’t open the lid with one hand, but that’s a rather common thing among machines from this price range or even pricier ones. The bottom piece consists of the same rubberized matte finish as on the lid with a few vent openings for extra airflow. Those will prove useful if paired with an external cooling pad. There’s also the user-replaceable battery that can be released by pulling the two levers on the right and left. The green silicon legs are also hard to miss since they are in bright green.
Going around the sides, we see the usual suspects – DC charging, two USB 3.0 ports, LAN and optical drive placed on the left, while the HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.5 mm audio jack are on the right. The main cooling vent is placed on the right and during long gaming sessions users might feel some hot air coming out of the chassis while using an external mouse, and since this is a mainly gaming-oriented notebook – it’s not an uncommon scenario. Black matte plastic is again used for the surrounding profile, the latter being 28.95 mm thick. That’s considerably thinner than some of its competitors, especially when you take into account the relatively powerful hardware inside the chassis.
HP has given a really distinguished look to its gaming notebook with a dominant green color in the interior. A green honeycomb pattern surrounds the keyboard and touchpad. The material here is plastic as well, but again feels rather nice. It’s a mixture of hard plastic with a matte finish on top, with the former adding to the rigidity. The disassembly of the notebook showed that the main body uses thin metal plates at the bottom and keyboard tray. However, the keyboard is actually one of the best parts of this notebook.
Not only does it feel comfortable, but it also looks really cool with the green LED backlight and keys, using some kind of alien-like futuristic font. It’s definitely something fresh and you won’t find anything similar in most of the notebooks. The keys offer relatively short key travel, but strangely, that doesn’t get in the way at all. We encountered the same odd dynamic with one of Toshiba’s notebooks, Satellite S50-B in particular, and we really like it. Strange doesn’t necessarily mean bad, you know… It’s perfect for typing and should be suitable for gaming as well. We didn’t like, however, the arrow keys as the “up” and “down” keys are too small. If this is a gaming-oriented notebook, the arrow keys should be full-sized no matter what. Playing racing games will be much better if you assign the Numpad area for your controls.
To wrap it up, HP was able to keep what’s good about the Pavilion 15 and even elevate the experience and overall appearance to a level that could make almost every gamer drool. Whether the design is appealing or not is a subjective opinion, but from a build quality standpoint, we consider it to be very good. Our only complaint would be the impractical port placement and the positioning of the main exhaust vent that blows out hot air and can cause some discomfort when using an external mouse.
Display and sound
The HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook has an IPS panel with Full HD (1920×1080) resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio and 15.6-inch diagonal. This leads to 0.18 x 0.18 mm pixel pitch and pixel density of 141 ppi – a standard for all 15.6-inch IPS screens. It can be considered “Retina” if viewed from a distance equal to or greater than 61 cm.
You can see that the display has comfortable viewing angles even at a 45-degree incline.
We were able to detect 201 cd/m2 maximum brightness and 16% deviation. The maximum brightness might be too low for well-lit rooms or direct sunlight. However, the color temperature aligns perfectly to the optimal 6500K.
Just to make sure you are familiar with this test, we would like to give you a little introduction into the sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts. The CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram represents the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye, thus giving you a better perception of color gamut coverage and color accuracy. Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB), used by millions of people in HDTV and on the Web. As for Adobe RGB, it is used to work with professional cameras and monitors when preparing print. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone, and so reproducing them accurately is key in a quality display.
You can see that in the yellow triangle below, the panel covers merely 54% of the sRGB color gamut. Almost half of the colors will be missing, leading to less than vivid colors.
The graph below is the same but with recorded results before calibration. The colored circles represent the reference colors, the white circles being the result. You can see the main and additional colors with 100% and 50% saturation inside the sRGB gamut.
After calibration the tone response curve aligns with the optimal 2.2.
We calibrated the display at 140 cd/m2 and 6500K color temperature.
We used X-RIte i1Display Pro for calibrating.
We tested the display using 24 commonly used sample colors like skin tones, grass, blue sky, orange etc. After profiling the display had an average DeltaE 2000 deviation of only 1.14, while the contrast was 730:1 before calibration and 690:1 after. Again, unsatisfying results.
Here’s another batch of colors that we’ve tested.
Pulse-width modulation (PWM, Screen flickering)
Unfortunately, HP Pavilion 15 uses PWM across all brightness levels (except 100%, of course), but the frequency is 20.3 kHz, which lessens the negative impact on one’s eyesight. However, the relatively low maximum brightness means that you can easily dodge the negative impact by setting the brightness to 100%. 194 cd/m2 is an acceptable level for indoor use and but doesn’t fare that well under direct sunlight.
Given the price point and the nature of this notebook, the results leave something to be desired. The HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook is a gaming, or at least multimedia-centric notebook, that has some flaws as regards the image quality – relatively low maximum brightness which may result in poor performance under direct sunlight or when using it near a strong light source. Contrast ratio is low (for an IPS panel), and sRGB color gamut coverage is a bit above 50%. The only two things that are worth considering is the optimal color temperature and excellent viewing angles. Most of the competitors in this price range offer superior image quality (Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G), ASUS ROG GL552VW and ASUS N551). Also, the panel uses PWM across the 0-99% levels, but the negative effect is greatly reduced due to the high frequency of the display light – 20.3 kHz.
If we assume a distance of 58cm (~23in) between the human eye and the notebook monitor, then normal (20/20) vision would require a pixel density of at least 150ppi in order to interpret an image as perfectly detailed.
|HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G) 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB1, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
Higher panel brightness is of key importance for visual comfort when working outside or in a brightly lit room.
|HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels||201|
|Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G) 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB1, 1920 x 1080 pixels||321||+59.7%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||311||+54.73%|
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||311||+54.73%|
Delta E is a CIE measurement unit of color difference. Higher values indicate that the display produces less accurate colors. (lower results are desirable).
|HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels||1.14|
|Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G) 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB1, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.7||-38.6%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.70||-38.6%|
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.72||-36.84%|
The sRGB color gamut, introduced as a standard for the Web, shows the percentage of colors used on the Web that can be displayed on the screen of the device being tested (higher values are better).
|HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels||54|
|Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (VN7-592G) 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB1, 1920 x 1080 pixels||90||+66.67%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||91||+68.52%|
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||91||+68.52%|
It’s definitely not the best sound quality we’ve heard so far. Low and mid tones sound good, but at higher frequencies we observed some distortion. However, the maximum volume is pretty high.
The current specs sheet refers to this particular model – configurations may differ depending on your region.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6700HQ (4-core, 2.60 -3.50 GHz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||8GB (1x 8192MB) – DDR3, 1600MHz|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M (4GB DDR3)|
|HDD/SSD||128GB M.2 SSD (“B & M” edge key connector) + 2TB HDD (7200 rpm)|
|Display||15.6-inch (39.62 cm.) – 1920×1080 (Full HD), IPS matte|
|Optical drive||DVD writer|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||4-cell 48Wh (5200 mAh) Lithium-ion|
|Thickness||28.96 mm (1.14″)|
|Weight||2.32 kg (5.12 lbs)|
We used freshly installed Windows 10 (64-bit) for our review. You can find all the drivers needed at the following link: http://support.hp.com/us-en/product/HP-Pavilion-Gaming-15-ak000-Notebook/8610971/model/9062857/drivers#Z7_3054ICK0KGTE30AQO5O3KA30B3
The HP Pavilion 15 Gaming Notebook houses a relatively small battery with small capacity – 48 Wh. When we add the IPS panel, 45W CPU and powerful GPU we cannot expect good results from our battery tests. We ran the usual Wi-Fi browsing, video playback, and gaming with the following settings – Wi-Fi turned on, power saver turned on, and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script to automatically browse through over 70 websites.
Unsatisfying result – 206 minutes (3 hours and 26 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Unsatisfying result here as well – 214 minutes (3 hours and 34 minutes).
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on a loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
As expected, the gaming test took a toll on the battery with only 86 minutes (1 hour and 26 minutes) of play time.
Intel Core i7-6700HQ represents the Skylake H family and is considered a high-performance chip with high voltage – 45W TDP. This is a step down from its direct predecessor – Core i7-4700HQ, but matches its short-lived predecessor, Core i7-5700HQ. The Core i7-6700HQ has four cores ticking at 2.6GHz and can go up to 3.5 GHz for one active core and 3.1 GHz for four active cores. The silicon supports the so-called Hyper-Threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical, thus establishing a total of 8 threads.
Furthermore, the chip is manufactured using a 14nm FinFET process and integrates Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU with 24 EU (Executable Units) clocked at 350 – 1050 MHz. The memory controller supports up to 64GB of DDR3 or DDR4 RAM at 1600 or 2133 MHz, respectively. The CPU is suitable for heavy applications and gaming.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6700hq/
Results are from the Cinebench 15 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-6700HQ managed 12.371 million moves per second. By comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
The GeForce GTX 950M is a direct successor to last year’s GTX 850M and it’s placed in the upper-mid range class. It is commonly used as a multimedia GPU and light gaming as its properties can handle some more demanding applications. The GPU core is the GM107, similar to most Maxwell NVIDIA graphics card and it’s clocked at 914MHz and can go up to 1124MHz. It has 2GB DDR3 memory and the effective clock speed of the memory is 2000MHz, while there are other variants of the GPU with GDDR5 memory.
However, the memory width is 128 bit with 16 ROPs, 40 texture units and 640 CUDA cores (or shading units). It als features increased L2 cache size, which is now 2MB. Supports features like Battery Boost, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA, SLI and GeForce Experience.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this GPU: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-geforce-gtx-950m-2gb-ddr3/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
All gaming tests were performed using NVIDIA’s latest drivers at the time of this review – 359.00 WHQL.
|Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)|
|107 fps||38 fps||22 fps|
|F1 2015 (1080p, Low)||F1 2015 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max)|
|44 fps||33 fps||24 fps|
|Thief (1080p, Low)||Thief (1080p, Medium)||Thief (1080p, Max)|
|44 fps||35 fps||19 fps|
|GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)|
|67 fps||19 fps||9 fps|
|Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Low)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Medium)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max)|
|44 fps||26 fps||20 fps|
We perform this test on every notebook we review. It consists of at least a two-hour long CPU and GPU stress test and as you may have already guessed – it doesn’t represent real-life conditions. Yet, it’s still a good way pf assessing the cooling capabilities of the system and how the notebook handles higher temperatures during prolonged usage.
Before we start, we must say that the cooling system is designed very well, but we were surprised by how much noise the fan produces when idle or when doing less demanding tasks – web browsing, document editing etc. It seems like the fan runs at higher RPM than it should and temperatures in this state are around 34 °C, but after an hour of 100% CPU load, temperatures rose to around 80 °C. These results are pretty good but at the expense of the Turbo Boost frequency. The Core i7-6700HQ has a base frequency of 2.6 GHz and can reach up to 3.1 GHz with four active cores while the silicon in this notebook ran at 2.8 GHz. This cannot be considered as throttling, nor is it a major drawback. You can see on the graph below – the red line represents temperatures and the green one stands for CPU load.
After an hour, we ran the GPU stress test alongside the CPU torture test for another hour. It seems that the CPU and GPU don’t share too much heat as the CPU continued to run at around 80 °C, but the frequency dropped down to 2.5 GHz. This is a minor underclock, but we can let it slide. The GPU, on the other hand, was stable throughout the whole test without any signs of throttling. It looks like the cooling system with the separate heat pipes for the CPU and GPU works pretty well, and the two chips don’t share heat, despite the low frequencies of the CPU at times.
To help you get a better grasp of the cooling capabilities of the system, we’ve provided a heat map below. It turns out that the center of the keyboard gets a bit hot, but nothing too alarming. Also, the wrist rest area remained cool throughout the whole test. However, we should note that the main cooling vent, which is placed on the right side of the notebook, blows out hot air and some could feel slight discomfort while gaming with an external mouse for longer periods of time.
At the end of the day, HP was able to build a decent gaming machine using the standard Pavilion 15 chassis. We liked the build quality and despite all the plastic, the machine feels sturdy and we didn’t find any inconsistencies such as cracks, holes or creaking parts. We were even surprised by the low weight and relatively thin profile. The interior is quite appealing and the design of the keyboard is just awesome. It’s comfortable for typing and gaming, but we would have appreciated full-sized arrow keys. As for the touchpad – it’s rather accurate and responsive, but feels a bit stiff and it’s too narrow, even for a 15-inch notebook.
However, the looks of this notebook might deceive you because the GPU (GTX 950M) isn’t right for this price range. Other competitors like the new Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition, ASUS ROG GL552VW and ASUS N551VW have a similar or even lower price tag (give or take $50 to $100), yet they offer significantly more powerful GPU (GTX 960M) and DDR4 RAM instead of the DDR3 that we find in the HP Pavilion 15. Furthermore, the IPS panel doesn’t deliver the much-needed viewing experience – it has low maximum brightness, low sRGB color gamut coverage and low contrast ratio for an IPS panel. The aforementioned competitors all excel in picture quality that the Pavilion 15 fails to deliver. Also, we detected PWM from 0 to 99% brightness level, but the high frequency of the light reduces the negative impact on human vision.
And finally the cooling system. At first glance it looks pretty good and after our tests those initial impressions were proven right. Despite the small throttling of the CPU, all internals remain cool during heavy load and so does the interior. The palm rest area remains cool, but there is one major drawback – the impractical placement of the main cooling vent. During long gaming sessions, hot air blows right into the user’s right hand when using a mouse.
The bottom line is that the new HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook doesn’t offer great value. There are much better price/performance alternatives on the market, but at least it doesn’t compromise in terms of design, build quality and cooling capabilities.
You can take a look at all the available configurations at Amazon.com.
- Unique design and good build quality
- Relatively thin (28.96 mm) and light chassis (2.32 kg)
- Excellent keyboard experience
- Good cooling system that keeps the internals and outer chassis cool
- М.2 SSD slot
- Unsatisfying GPU performance for the asking price and the use of DDR3 RAM instead of DDR4
- Underwhelming battery life
- Low sRGB coverage, low contrast ratio, low maximum brightness
- Main cooling vent placement is impractical
- PWM from 0 to 99% screen brightness