Solid, portable build quality
Great performance for the price
Very good keyboard and trackpad
Display is sub-par
Mediocre battery life
Too much bloatware
About the HP Pavilion 15z-eh100
The specs of our review unit were as follows:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5500U (2.10GHz 6-core with up to 4.0GHz Boost, and 8MB L3 Cache)
- Storage: 256GB NVMe TLC M.2 SSD
- Memory: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz
- Display: 15.6-inch 1920x1080 IPS Display
- Battery: 41Wh Battery with fast charging
- Ports: 1x USB Type-C 10Gbps with Power Delivery and DisplayPort, 2x USB Type-A 5Gbps, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x A/C, 1x 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo
- Connectivity: Realtek Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax (2x2) & Bluetooth 5.2
- Weight: 3.86 pounds
- Dimensions: 14.18 x 9.21 x 0.7 inches
- Warranty: one-year limited warranty
The HP Pavilion 15 starts around $589, which is a great price for its Ryzen 3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage built in. Our midrange config stepped up a few components for a total of $750, and you can boost things even further if you need more power or want a longer-lasting machine.
HP defaults to an old Wi-Fi 5 card with Bluetooth 4.2 in its configurator, but you can upgrade to a Realtek Wi-Fi 6 card with Bluetooth 5.2 for no extra cost—however upgrading to the Intel Wi-Fi 6 card for $10 will likely give you more stable Wi-Fi. (My Pavilion with the Realtek card worked well at home, but was finicky on hotel Wi-Fi where my other machines had no issues.)
What we like
It feels more premium than its price tag
While the HP Pavilion 15 isn't going to outdo $2,500 laptops, it doesn't feel like a laptop that starts at $589. It has a durable metal chassis with a hinge that glides smoothly as you open it. Despite its 15-inch size, it's still thin and portable, and easily slides into a backpack without bursting it at the seams. Despite its size you can open it up and swap out the storage, RAM, and network card yourself (which, incidentally, is a great way to save a few bucks on upgrades). HP has become a prime example of creating thin devices that don't sacrifice repairability, and they deserve continuing kudos for that.
Combine that with other perks, like the built-in fingerprint scanner and B&O speakers (which can get quite loud), and you have a laptop that easily competes with others in and above its price range. It even comes in three colors. (The USB-A port was a bit tight, requiring a bit of wiggling to get a flash drive in, and I wish the hinge went back further. But these are the smallest of complaints.)
You get a lot of performance bang for the buck
The HP Pavilion 15 is the least expensive laptop I've reviewed this year, yet it was one of the better performing. Its multi-core Geekbench score was 5278—better than the Dell XPS 13, ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, and plenty of other more expensive laptops. Thermal throttling wasn’t an issue either, unlike most of its brethren. Too many laptops these days reach unsafe temperatures and have to slow themselves down to stay cool, but the HP showed no signs of scaling back in our benchmarks, peaking at 88 degrees Celsius (190.4 degrees Fahrenheit) with nary a slowdown.
All that said, it isn't going to win any contests when it comes to gaming performance, and you might want to upgrade to the Ryzen 7 processor if you do a lot of video editing. But it'll handle most average workloads without a hiccup, and for years to come.
The keyboard and trackpad are quite good
When you buy a low-midrange laptop like this, you take a bit of a gamble with certain bits of the hardware. The keyboard and trackpad, for example, are often downgraded with keys that don't always actuate reliably, or an inaccurate trackpad that jumps the cursor around the screen. You make sacrifices when buying a thin and light laptop, too, since there isn't as much room for deep travel on those keyboard keys.
Thankfully, the HP Pavilion comes close to nailing both. The smooth trackpad lets your fingers glide the cursor accurately across the screen, and it even has a solid palm detection that prevents jumps and misclicks. Clicking and dragging was a tad finicky if my thumb rested too close to the middle of the pad, but this was rarely an issue. The trackpad also jiggles a bit in its housing before actually clicking, which makes it feel slightly cheap, but I'd take that over bad tracking any day.
The keyboard is particularly impressive. The springy keys aren’t difficult to press down, which makes for a fantastic typing experience that’s hard to find any fault in. The key spacing is great and no keys have been cut in half to fit the space, as is common on some laptops. (Instead shrinking a few keys, like Tab and Caps Lock, by very small amounts to pack everything in place.) There's even a full number pad, which is impressive, though not everyone will find it necessary.
The keyboard is backlit, but the lighting is on the dim side and actually harms the keyboard's legibility in well-lit spaces. This is common with silver keyboards that use dim white backlighting, and it's easy enough to just turn the backlight off during the day to see the crisp legends.
What we don’t like
The display is sub-par
The 1080p IPS display on the Pavilion is sharp for its 15-inch size, and its 1593:1 contrast ratio is a bit better than average—but otherwise, this panel is mediocre at best. We clocked brightness at only 259 nits, which is a little dim, particularly if you're trying to work outside where there's lots of sunlight. (350 nits or more is ideal.)
In addition, the display only covers about 67.6% of the sRGB color space used by most applications and web sites. Coupled with a gamma of only 1.78 (2.2 is usually ideal), everything's going to look a bit washed out compared with more high-end displays, and colors were far from accurate in our measurements. That means when the computer sends a specific shade to the screen, the screen might display a shade that's a bit "off" from the intended color (with this particular display casting a slight blue hue compared to the ideal). If you aren't doing photo and video editing, that probably won't matter a ton to you, but it's worth keeping in mind.
Battery life is mediocre
Generally, we hope a notebook can last at least eight hours on battery alone, to get you through a full workday with no need for an outlet. To test battery life, we try to mimic a typical workload: we set Chrome to rotate through websites at 200 nits of brightness, from 100% until the battery dies. This should give us a rough estimate of how long the laptop will actually last day-to-day.
Unfortunately, the Pavilion 15 only lasted six hours and five minutes in our tests. While not awful, that’s below average among laptops we’ve tested in the past few years, and less than we'd like to see for all-day usage. It'll get you through enough of the day, and it's hard to complain too much at this price, but don't expect miracles.
There is so much bloatware
It's been a while since I've seen a laptop with this much pre-installed junk. To start, there were so many extra terms and conditions, walkthroughs, and free trial nags to dismiss during setup that it took twice as long to get up and running as traditional Windows laptops.
Even after setup, HP's own setup assistant would bug me to change my default search provider to Bing, and third-party applications like ExpressVPN would notify me every time I was on open Wi-Fi, urging me to subscribe to a paid membership. McAffee even tried to install a browser extension without my permission, which is a big security and privacy no-no.
Coupled with HP's own utilities (I've counted 10 on the system in addition to the third-party bloatware), there's a lot of stuff you'll want to ignore or uninstall when you first get your PC. Again, this isn't uncommon on more affordable machines, and it's how manufacturers like HP keep costs down, but it's an annoyance nonetheless, and it's worse on this system than most.
Should you buy it?
Yes, it's a well-built laptop for a great price
I'm often skeptical when testing lower-cost laptops. Too many have clunky keyboards, jumpy trackpads, or flimsy hinges, but the HP Pavilion is a solid, well-built laptop for the price. You get snappy performance, a springy keyboard that's lovely to type on, an accurate trackpad with only minor quirks, and build quality that belies its price tag. And it's remarkably portable, even for its 15-inch size.
That said, HP still had to keep costs down to reach this more midrange price point. Its display is dimmer and lacking color accuracy, battery life could be better given its size, and there's an ungodly amount of bloatware. But overall, it feels like HP has cut corners in all the right places, and most folks probably won't notice the downsides unless you're used to more high-end machines.
There are other laptops that give it a run for its money. The Acer Aspire 5, for example, is still one of the best laptops you can get for $500, with better performance per dollar and an even better port selection. (Its keyboard is a bit worse, enough so that I'd personally spend the extra money on HP's offering if you do a lot of typing.) You could also go for a Chromebook like the HP Chromebook X360, which has longer battery life and a touch screen for less money, or the ThinkPad Chromebook C13, which is an extremely high-end laptop for the same price as the Pavilion, without the performance bloat that often comes with Windows. Of course, if you can stand to spend a bit more, the MacBook Air is still the best laptop you can buy right now, and it's still rather affordable at under $1,000.
But if you're in the market for a budget-to-midrange machine and can't give up Windows, the HP Pavilion 15 should definitely be on your short-list.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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