HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook review: Gaming on a budget

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook
Accestra - Lenovo

When we think of gaming hardware, we tend to think of the high-end names–Alienware, Razer, MSI, ASUS ROG, HP’s own Omen and even up-and-coming brands like Acer’s Predator and Lenovo’s Gaming series. It’s no secret that gaming costs money. At most times… a lot of money.

But what if you’re a casual gamer who doesn’t need a pro-level gaming rig? What if all you want to do is occasionally play Overwatch or a sprinking of Dota 2? An Alienware desktop or a Razer Blade Pro notebook would be nice to have for the money, but would be absolute overkill.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Well, this is exactly the premise of the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook, a 15-inch gaming notebook that delivers where it counts and doesn’t break the bank in the process.

It’s not going to win against a Razer in terms of looks, nor will it match the performance of more hardcore set-ups. If you’re on a budget though, this baby is quite a bargain.

[nextpage title=”Design, Hardware, Software”]HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

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Design and build

Remember the HP Pavilion Star Wars Edition? Well, this is pretty much that same Pavilion, except it’s been beefed up and minus the Star Wars styling. With the lid closed, it looks like a regular notebook sans any clues of its gaming underpinnings. Overall, it gets a matte black treatment on the exterior, and some green honeycomb detailing on the palm rest. The rubber feet on the bottom are also green.

The sides of keys are also green, giving you an 80s sci-fi feel. It doesn’t look bad at all. If you don’t like green, well, tough luck. It’s chunky, though not in the same class as an Alienware 15. It weighs 2.3kg, so you may not be lugging it around too much. Aesthetically, a no-nonsense, practical approach, if less purposeful than true blue gaming notebooks out there.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Hardware

Under the hood is the 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ Skylake processor running at 2.6GHz (up to 3.5GHz) mated to 8GB of DDR3 RAM. The chip is coupled with a GeForce GTX 950M (4GB), an old workhorse which still powers some mid-range notebooks.

This isn’t a bad set-up, just don’t expect raw processing power nor meaty gaming muscle.

Disappointingly, it comes with a standard 1TB 5400rpm SATA drive. It would have been nice to at least have a hybrid drive if not a full-blown SSD. Yes I hear you, it’s a budget gaming notebook. But the penalty in app load times is noticeable and I’d advise for you to upgrade to a SSD if you decide to purchase this device.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display isn’t the brightest, but the great thing is that it has a matte finish so it’s less reflective. The IPS panel gives good viewing angles although colours look undersaturated. It’s not too bad, just don’t expect it to pop like a Retina or QHD.

It gets a plethora of ports including two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0, full-size HDMI, Ethernet and a SD card slot. Sadly, no USB Type-C like the current crop of notebooks out in the market.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Shockingly, there’s a tray-type SuperMulti DVD writer which may as well serve as my drink holder. I’m not sure what to do with this. I mean, it is 2016. But OK, if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to rip audio CDs or playback some DVDs from the 90s, this is perfect.

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Speaking of audio, there’s Bang & Olufsen speakers built-in that aren’t remarkable, but get the job done.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Software

Nothing unusual here, the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook runs Windows 10 Home and comes bundled with some HP bloatware. You’ll love that they’ve thrown in a couple of benchmarks though–Heaven Benchmark and Valley Benchmark; as well as Dropbox where you get 25GB free for a year.

[nextpage title=”Tech Specs, Performance”]

Tech specs at a glance

  • 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD matt anti-glare
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 4GB of DDR5 VRAM
  • 8GB DDR3L RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 11b/g/n/ac dual-band 2×2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2x USB 3.0
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • Stereo Bang & Olufsen speakers
  • HD webcam single mic
  • 5mm headset jack
  • 48Wh lithium-ion battery
  • Measurements: 384 x 265 x 29mm
  • Weight: 2.32kg

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Performance

Strip its ‘gaming’ shell and the underlying HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook would still be a good workhorse. While it gets the lower rung Intel Core i7-6700HQ Skylake chip, it will not let you down in productivity tasks or everyday computing. It’s reliable, it runs cool and quiet.

Yes, the non-SSD hard drive is somewhat of a penalty, so you may want to opt for the i5 version with SSD if overall responsiveness is what you’re looking for.

But let’s not forget why we’re here. Gaming. Since we’re on the topic, let’s skip the fact that the notebook has integrated Intel graphics by virtue of the chipset.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Let’s go straight into gaming performance with the dedicated NVIDIA GTX 950M with 4GB of VRAM. This is NVIDIA’s upper mid-level mobile GPU based on the Maxwell architecture, manufactured in 28nm. It may be a year old, but it copes well enough with most 2014/2015 games.

More intense, demanding games are still playable at Full HD resolution, but dependent on how much you’re willing to compromise visual quality for acceptable frame rates. For some 30fps is considered playable, while for others it’s 60fps or nothing.

Check out some of the benchmarks results below:

Benchmarks

  • PC Mark 8 Home: 2,981
  • PC Mark 8 Work Accelerated 2.0: 3,989
  • PC Mark Battery Life: 1h 29min
  • 3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra: 721
  • 3D Mark Fire Strike: 2,750
  • Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0: FPS: 24.7; Score: 622; Min FPS: 14.7; Max FPS: 54.5
  • Ultra, Extreme, 1280×720 8xaa Fullscreen, DX11
  • Ultra, Extreme, 1920×1080, FPS: 18.9; Score: 476; Min FPS: 6.3; Max FPS: 38.6; 2xAA, DX11
  • Project Cars: Ultra: 21-25FPS; High: 30-34FPS
  • Grid Autosport: High: 70fps, Ultra: 33FPS
  • PayDay 2: Medium: 30FPS

Benchmark snapshots (click to enlarge)

One thing you should know is that the notebook runs cool, even when playing more intense games. The main CPU fan on the right side is constantly on spin, and I’ve not seen temperatures hitting above 75C. The only bad thing about the vents being on the right side is that your mouse-totting right hand will be warmer than the left.

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I’m also very surprised at how quiet the notebook is when I’m not gaming.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

The Bang & Olufsen speakers aren’t the loudest nor the crispest, but do a decent job whether you’re listening to audio, watching videos or playing games.

My advice: plug in your favourite pair of on-ear headsets for ultimate multimedia pleasure.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Keyboard & trackpad

The keyboard is comfortable and well-spaced out. It feels familiar, with crisp travel that makes it nice to type on. It’s no ‘gaming’ keyboard, but does the job well enough.

The keyboard’s backlit so that’s a plus. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with alien green and there’s no control over colour or intensity of the backlight. Also, there are no programmable macro keys, unlike higher end gaming notebooks.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

The trackpad is one of better ones I’ve used on a notebook. The surface is smooth and tracking is responsive. It’s off-centre like some notebooks I’ve encountered in the market today, which is personally annoying but not a deal-breaker.

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Battery life

Battery life isn’t shabby. Expect 4-5 hours of general daily use (or around four hours of video play). Like me, you’re likely to plug it into a socket for gaming though, so battery life isn’t such a big worry.

I’m not sure if people still do this but if you wish: you can swap out the battery easily by unlatching the unit, under the device.

[nextpage title=”Verdict, The Challengers, Gallery”]

What I like

  • Affordable
  • Great value
  • Commendable graphics performance
  • Good keyboard & trackpad
  • Works great as a work notebook too
  • Decent audio performance

What could be better

  • Display lacks punch
  • Could use with an SSD boost
  • Uninspiring styling, like a conventional notebook
  • Off-centre trackpad
  • Chunky, hefty
  • A DVD drive, really?

HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook

Pricing and availability

The HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook retails at MYR3,499 (incl. GST) and is available at all HP authorised retailers and HP Store online.

Verdict

You can’t deny that the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook packs incredible value. For less than MYR3,500 you’ll be getting a well-specced mobile gaming rig that will play most of today’s games without complaint.

It’s not too much to look at, and certainly wouldn’t win a beauty contest against the likes of an Alienware or a Predator.

What it does well is delivering you gaming performance on a budget.

It is a shame that it doesn’t come with a SSD drive which I’d gladly trade with the bundled prehistoric DVD optical drive. I guess it’s a slight trade-off for the bucks you save.

The challengers

  • Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming Notebook (i5, 4GB DDR3, 1TB SATA, 4GB DDR5 GTX 960, 15.6″ FHD): MYR3,399
  • ASUS ROG Gl552VX (i7, 4GB, 1TB 5,400RPM, GeForce GTX 950M 2GB, DVD, 15.6″ FHD): MYR3,899
  • Acer Aspire V Nitro (i7, 8GB DDR3, 1TB + 8GB SSHD, GTX 960M, 15.6″ FHD): MYR4,399 RECOMMENDED
  • MSI Prestige PE60 (i7, 4GB, 1TB, GTX 960M 2GB GDDR5, 15.6″ FHD): MYR4,299
  • Lenovo Ideapad Y700 (i7, 4GB DDR4, 500GB 5,400RPM + 128GB SSD), GTX 950M 4GB DDR, 15.6″ FHD): MYR3,599

https://youtu.be/2STlZ_bWjZk

Gallery (click to enlarge)

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  • Designer. Writer. Webhead. Tech geek. Twitter-addict. Apple. Animal lover. Steve Jobs groupie. Petrolhead. BMW. Porsche. Alfisti. Chelsea FC. Caffeine Bacterium.

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