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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Decent stereo sound
Lots of bloatware
Display isn’t full HD
Only 4 GB of RAM
Mediocre battery life
The HP Notebook 15 is a decent option for basic productivity tasks, but the slow AMD processor, low screen resolution, and limited RAM hold it back.
The HP Notebook 15 is an entry-level, budget-priced laptop that’s designed to work as a portable desktop replacement. In the configuration we tested, the AMD A6-9225 2.6 GHz processor and 4 GB of DDR4 RAM proved adequate for most basic productivity tasks, but a display that isn’t full HD makes it a tough sell as a desktop replacement. The mediocre battery life also means you might end up scrambling for a power outlet when using it away from home.
We put an HP Notebook 15 to the test around the office and at home to see how it handles daily tasks beyond basic benchmark numbers. We looked at things like speaker quality, its ability to handle productivity tasks and gaming, in-use battery life, and more.
When designing a sub-$300 desktop replacement like the HP Notebook 15, compromises are made in order to hit that budget-friendly price tag. Aesthetics are usually the first concession, but the HP Notebook 15 actually looks very nice. The matte finish of the shell has a pleasant texture and gives a nice visual flare to what could have been an unremarkable design.
The HP Notebook 15 is available in a few different colors, but the basic black model we tested features the same textured plastic on the bezel, interior case, and exterior case. Most of the ports, including the power, Ethernet, HDMI, and both USB 3.1 ports, are located on the left side, so most of the time you’ll only have to deal with wires on one side of the device. The third USB port, DVD drive, and SD card reader are all located on the right side.
The matte finish of the shell has a pleasant texture and gives a nice visual flare to what could have been an unremarkable design.
The laptop is less than an inch thick at the rear, and it slopes down to an even thinner profile at the front. It does weigh in at over four and a half pounds, which cuts down on portability somewhat, but the short battery life means you won’t be carrying this one with you everywhere anyway.
The HP Notebook 15 is a Windows 10 laptop, and the setup process isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a laptop like this. We timed the initial setup, and it took less than 15 minutes from plugging it in and turning it on to hitting the desktop for the first time. HP does ask for some information (including your email address) during the signup process, but most OEMs have a similar process for setting up support and warranty information.
It does come with an Office 365 trial and about ten utilities and apps from HP that most users won’t want or need. Removing all of the bloatware extends the initial setup time significantly, especially since this isn’t the fastest laptop to begin with, but uninstalling what you don’t need does free up some space and help the laptop run a little faster.
The display is one of the biggest shortcomings of the HP Notebook 15. It’s usable, and it won’t get in the way if you’re just using the laptop for basic productivity tasks. But it’s definitely one of the places that HP cut corners to hit the budget price point. The maximum resolution is only 1366 x 768, which is on the low side for a 15.6” display.
We’d like to see at least 1600 x 900, if not 1920 x 1080 resolution, on a laptop of this size, but that isn’t necessarily a deal breaker at this price point.
The HP Notebook 15 suffers in the performance department due to its AMD A6-9225 and 4GB of RAM. It’s perfectly capable of performing basic productivity tasks like word processing, web browsing, email, and even spreadsheets, but comparable models with even slightly better processors and additional RAM beat it in every important benchmark.
We ran the PCMark 10 benchmark to get a baseline of how the HP Notebook 15 can handle basic tasks. It notched an overall score of 1,421, with a higher score of 3,027 in the essentials category and 2,352 in the productivity category. That indicates it is capable of performing basic tasks like word processing and web browsing, but apps will tend to take longer to launch and will likely slow down the whole machine.
The display is one of the biggest shortcomings of the HP Notebook 15.
By way of comparison, it outscored the similarly-outfitted Lenovo Ideapad 320, which only managed to score 1,021 in the overall test. However, the HP Notebook 15’s Intel-equipped cousin, the HP 15-BS013DX, managed a much higher score of 2,169. Another budget-priced laptop in the same basic price range, the Acer Aspire E15, beat most of the competition with a score of 2,657.
We also ran some gaming benchmarks, but the bottom line is that this laptop isn’t designed for gaming. It doesn’t have the processor, video card, or RAM to play anything even approaching a modern game.
It scored a middling 2,600 and managed just 16 FPS in the Cloud Gate benchmark, which is designed for low-end notebook computers. The closely-related HP 15-BS013DX, which has an Intel chip, scored 5,232 with 31 FPS in that benchmark.
We also ran the Fire Strike benchmark, which is another gaming benchmark that’s designed for slightly more powerful machines. It only managed a score of 547 in that one, with a totally unplayable 3 FPS.
In real-world use, we found that the HP Notebook 15 feels sluggish a lot of the time, especially when running multiple apps at once or juggling 10 or more web browser tabs. It’s especially bad at working with images and video, but it’s usable for basic tasks like word processing and email.
The biggest problem we encountered in our testing was the loading speed. Some apps, like LibreOffice Writer, took nearly 20 seconds to launch. That’s an issue you’ll only deal with when you first open apps, but it does take a while to actually start working on this laptop.
Once you get down to work, the HP Notebook 15’s keyboard is great. The keys feel nice and snappy, not mushy, and the positioning is decent. We didn’t have any trouble typing or using the touchpad, and it’s nice to have a full, island-style keyboard with a dedicated numeric keypad.
The dual speakers are located between the keyboard and the screen and fire upward, ensuring that they won’t ever be muffled by your hands or the surface the laptop is sitting on.
The sound quality is great for a laptop in this category, and we didn’t notice any distortion when listening to music or watching movie trailers on YouTube. It’s also sufficiently loud, although the speakers lack the bass response necessary to really fill a room.
The wireless card is another place where HP cut corners on the Notebook 15. Speeds are decent enough when connected to a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, but the lack of 802.11ac support means you don’t have the option to connect to a 5 GHz network.
When tested on Speedtest.net, we found that the HP Notebook 15 managed download speeds of 34 Mbps and upload speeds of 29 Mbps. By comparison, the 802.11ac-equipped HP 15-BS013DX managed download speeds of up to 217 Mbps when connected to our 5 GHz network.
The lack of 802.11ac won’t be a concern if your wireless router doesn’t support 5 GHz, but it’s nice to have that option if you want to stream video or download large files.
The HP Notebook 15 includes a 720p webcam that works well enough for video chat, but it’s a little blurry and washed out for use in professional teleconferencing. It’s there if you need it, but it isn’t anything special.
The HP Notebook 15 has a three-cell 41Wh battery according to its specific sheet, and that matches what we found in our testing. Our readings showed a 41,040 mWh design capacity and a 41,040 full charge capacity. Unfortunately, that just isn’t enough battery to support this laptop.
Comparable models with even slightly better processors and additional RAM beat it in every important benchmark.
In our testing, we found that the HP Notebook 15 battery holds up for about four and a half hours of constant use. That’s enough for light use, but isn’t enough to hold you over for a full day of work or school without plugging the charger in at some point. With very light use and the Wi-Fi turned off, the battery lasts a couple hours longer.
The HP Notebook 15 comes equipped with Windows 10 and free trials of McAfee antivirus and Office 365. It also has a handful of basic Windows apps installed by default, and a lot of bloatware from HP — there are about ten different apps, including HP JumpStart and HP Audio Switch, that we think most users will want to uninstall.
The HP Notebook 15 won’t win any awards for performance or battery life, but it’s a classic example of the old maxim that “you get what you pay for.” The MSRP is just $299, so if you’re in the market for an ultra-budget laptop, then it’s worth a look.
The HP Notebook 15 stacks up favorably against some of its ultra-budget competitors, but it falls woefully short compared to laptops that are even marginally more expensive. This indicates that if you have a little more to spend, it’s worth investing in a better-performing machine.
As for other laptops in the sub-$300 range, the Lenovo Ideapad 320 is available at a similar price point of $288, but it scored significantly lower in important benchmark tests. This device looks a lot nicer than the HP Notebook 15, but it doesn’t actually perform as well — unless you need the absolute cheapest laptop you can find, the Ideapad 320 is not a good option.
The HP 15-BS013DX, on the other hand, has a much higher MSRP of $699 and typically sells in the sub-$500 range rather than the sub-$300 range. But the higher price tag gets you better battery life, a touchscreen, and much higher scores on important benchmarks.
Sitting right in the middle — a bit more expensive than the HP Notebook 15 but cheaper than the 15-BS013DX — is the Acer Aspire E15. This laptop is perhaps the biggest argument against the HP Notebook 15. The Aspire E15 beats it in every benchmark, has a battery that lasts almost three times as long, and features a full HD display, all while remaining competitive in price. The Acer has an MSRP of $379, but it’s usually available for less than that. If you have any wiggle room in your budget, the Aspire E15 is a more competent machine for only a little more money.
Not a true a desktop replacement, but a decent budget option for the most basic tasks.
The lower-resolution display, unimpressive battery, and weak internals make anything beyond basic tasks a struggle for the HP Notebook 15. But if you just need a laptop for web browsing, email, and word processing — and plan to keep it near an outlet — then the HP Notebook 15 fits the bill for an incredibly low price.
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