The HP Pavilion 15 gaming laptop is available with AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs, but due to high demand that one was out of stock. Rather than skip it entirely, I thought it would still be interesting to take a look at the Intel model and see how well quad core processor stacks up in late 2020, as 6 cores are pretty common now even in lower end models thanks to AMD.
The laptop has a black and green colour scheme. The lid is matte black with shiny green HP logo, while the interior is black too with accented green keys. It seems to be primarily plastic, but the build quality feels decent for the most part with no sharp corners or edges. There was some flex to the keyboard, but not enough to be noticeable during regular use. The lid was a bit more flexible, owing to the center hinge design.
The Pavilion 15 weighs around 2.35kg or 5.2lb with a hard drive installed, or just under 3kg or 6.5lb with the 200w power brick and cables for charging. Given the specs and use of Max-Q graphics, I expected a thinner laptop. It’s not big or anything, but I’ve had full power graphics in a smaller space before.
My Pavilion 15 has a 15.6” 1080p 144Hz screen, no FreeSync or G-Sync and you cannot disable optimus. There’s no Max-Q dynamic boost either.
I’ve measured the screen's average grey-to-grey response time at 7.9ms. When comparing against other gaming laptops, it’s pretty similar to many other 144Hz panels that I’ve tested, but a little below the 6.9ms needed for transitions to occur within the refresh window. I can’t say I noticed ghosting though.
I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 99% of sRGB, 70% of NTSC, 75% of AdobeRGB and 75% of DCI-P3, so decent results for a gaming panel. Brightness was decent too, easily above 300 nits at 100% with an 880:1 contrast ratio. Backlight bleed was also good, no problems with my unit but this will vary between panels and laptops.
There’s a 720p camera above the screen in the middle, no Windows Hello support though.
The keyboard has green accenting even with the lighting off. The green lighting has two levels of key brightness, and all keys and secondary functions are illuminated. At times the top row of function keys felt a little small.
Typing was fine in terms of key presses, however it felt a bit uncomfortable for me as I think I’ve got larger hands. The wrist rest area isn’t very long, so it’s difficult for me to rest my palms while typing, instead they end up resting on the edge.
The speakers are below this grill at the back above the keyboard. I thought they sounded pretty average for a laptop, tinny without really any bass, and the latencymon results weren’t looking great. The power button is separate to the keyboard just above it on the left, and it lights up green. The precision touchpad clicks down anywhere and worked ok, though it felt a little narrow due to the aforementioned smaller space below the keyboard. Fingerprints and dirt aren’t too obvious on the matte black interior, and they’re easy enough to clean with a microfiber cloth.
On the left we’ve got HDMI 2.0 output, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, and full sized SD card slot. The right has a 3.5mm audio combo jack, two more USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and the power input. The Type-C port does not have Thunderbolt and it cannot be used to charge the laptop. It does however offer DisplayPort 1.4 output, and both this and the HDMI port connect directly to the Nvidia graphics. The back has a couple of air exhaust vents towards the corners and subtle Pavilion branding in the middle. There’s nothing on the front, not even an indent to help opening the lid, but this didn’t cause me any problems when opening. The bottom panel is clean with just air intake vents towards the back above the fans. Getting inside involves taking out 7 Phillips head screws, the three down the front were shorter than the rest, and I found the panel a bit challenging to remove. Once inside we’ve got the battery down the front along with the single M.2 storage slot to the right of that, while the 2.5” drive bay is on the left. The WiFi 5 card is just above that, and there are two memory slots towards the middle.
Unfortunately the Pavilion 15 comes with one stick of memory, so it’s single channel. I did all my testing with dual channel for best results. It’s at least advertised as one stick on the HP website, so it’s not misleading like some other companies, but they could offer a nice speed boost by instead using two 8gb sticks.Their website listing isn’t all perfect though, for some reason they just list GTX 1660 Ti graphics without noting that it’s Max-Q, and this has already led to at least one disappointed customer.
The Pavilion 15 is powered by a 3-cell 52.5Wh battery. I’ve tested it with keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled and screen at 50% brightness. It lasted for about 5 hours in the YouTube playback test, so not too bad for the size of the battery compared to others.
Let’s check out thermals next. Undervolting is disabled and the software doesn’t offer any performance modes, so there’s not too much to test. Idle temperatures were cool in my 21 degree Celsuis ambient room. Stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with stress CPU only checked and the Heaven GPU benchmark run at the same time, while gaming was tested playing Watch Dogs 2. There was thermal throttling on the CPU without using the cooling pad, no thermal issues for the GPU though.
These are the clock speeds for the same tests. We see an improvement with the cooling pad in use as it helps ease the thermal throttling. There’s a bigger difference with and without the cooling pad seen in the stress test, which implies this test is causing heavier throttling than my choice of game. 3.9GHz was the best I could get in these tests, not able to reach the full 4.2GHz all core turbo boost of the 10300H.
The power limits of the processor are dynamic based on cooling. For instance in the stress test, PL1 was set to around 31 watts, though it would change, then with the cooling pad PL1 was set to 41 watts, so it’s not static meaning performance should improve the more you can improve cooling, so better results with a thermal paste change could be possible.
Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench with the GPU now idle.This is the only time I’ve had the 10300H for testing, and the multicore score was actually a little below the 8th gen i5 just ahead of it in my Lenovo Y530, granted the single core with the 10th gen chip was 7% higher.
When idling the keyboard was a little below the 30 degree Celsius point that I typically see. With the stress tests running it’s in the high 40s in the center of the keyboard, warm but not hot.
The fans sounded silent to me at idle. Even with the stress tests running it was quieter than many other gaming laptops that I’ve tested, too bad there’s no way to manually boost the fans higher should we want to given thermals were a limitation to processor performance under heavy CPU plus GPU workloads. This is an option their higher tier Omen 15 offers, so it seems the Pavilion misses out.
Now let’s check out how well the Pavilion 15 performs in games and see how it compares with other laptops.
I’ve tested Battlefield 5 in campaign mode at ultra settings, and the Pavilion is highlighted in red. It’s doing well for 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics, ahead of the other Max-Q laptops I’ve tested like the Dell G3 or ASUS GA502. It’s even beating the higher wattage 2060 Max-Q in the ASUS G15 just below it, but as we saw in my recent video, the Zephyrus is subject to thermal throttling in games.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. The results are still good relative to other options, something I wasn’t expecting as this test typically depends more on CPU power, but the quad core i5 seems to be handling it well enough. That said, the Pavilion 15 is now behind the 2060 Max-Q in the G15 and G14 now, so those 8 core Ryzen chips are likely what’s changed that.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. The position of the Pavilion 15 doesn’t change here relative to the same other laptops, and again it’s the best result I’ve had from a 1660 Ti Max-Q based gaming laptop. The throttling G15 with higher tier GPU is now behind again, and interestingly the Pavilion is beating the full 80 watt 1660 Ti in the older ASUS FX505DU, which I think goes to show the limits of the older Ryzen 3000 series, as all the other 1660 Ti non max-q laptops are doing much better.
I’ve also tested the Pavilion 15 in 21 games at all setting levels, you can check it out if you want more gaming benchmarks.
Just as a recap, the last time I compared a quad core i5 to 6 core i7 in games there was little difference when looking at the average results over 15 games, and it still seems to be the case that 4 cores holds up well enough today for gaming laptops, though this could of course change in future depending on the requirements of future titles.
Now for the benchmarking tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K. Lower times are better here, and despite the lower overall specs the Pavilion 15 is still able to do well here due to the Intel processor as this test benefits from quicksync. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark, and this tests for more things like live playback rather than just export times. Higher scores are better now, and the Pavilion isn’t doing as well this time, more in line with what I’d expect from the hardware. Adobe Photoshop is a bit different, this one typically depends more on single core performance, and the i5-10300H does still have a 4.5GHz single core turbo boost speed, so this result isn’t too surprising. DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy, so the score is fairly in line with where the 1660 Ti Max-Q would sit out of this selection of laptops. So despite the quad core processor, it’s scoring close to higher core count options. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads.
I’ve used Crystal disk mark to test storage. The 256gb NVMe M.2 SSD was doing quite well. The 1TB hard drive was doing how we’d expect from spinning rust, and the SD card slot wasn’t too bad.The card clicks in and sits most of the way into the machine.
Finally let’s discuss price. The exact same configuration I’ve tested here is $1100 USD on the HP website, but there are a few different options available including AMD Ryzen. Honestly it doesn’t seem like great value when you can pick up an 8 core Ryzen 7 4800H in the Lenovo Legion 5. That has GTX 1660 Ti graphics too, but they’re not Max-Q, and it’s also $100 less. The Legion also has FreeSync, better battery life, and lower temperatures. Now to be fair, the Ryzen Pavilion does seem to be priced a little more competitively, but that’s been out of stock for some time due to the popularity of Ryzen.
The Pavilion 15 does at least perform a bit better than other 1660 Ti max-q laptops I’ve tested so far, and at least in gaming it does still seem that 4 cores gets the job done today, though with even gaming laptops under $700 these days having 6 core processors, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if future games start taking advantage of that. It’s also worth considering that my testing was after a dual channel upgrade, for the $1100 price single channel memory is a bit of a tough pill to swallow compared to alternatives.
I’d want a nice sale before considering this one, but let me know what you thought about it down in the commentse.