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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Metal construction feels very solid
No full HD display
Display is a little washed out
Entire case flexes when using the keyboard
The HP Pavilion 15z offers decent performance in an attractively-designed package, but you won’t find a full HD display or an optical drive in this one.
The Pavilion line is Hewlett-Packard’s primary entry in the field of low- to mid-range laptops. The HP Pavilion 15z is a solidly mid-range device that comes equipped with a 15.6-inch display (with optional touch screen and full HD resolution) and a handful of different configurations for memory, storage, CPU, and GPU. The unit we tested was built for the budget-conscious consumer, with a 768p touchscreen display, AMD Ryzen 3 2200U CPU, and AMD Radeon Vega 3 graphics.
Specifications only tell part of the story, so we put a HP Pavilion 15z to the test to see how it performs under real-world conditions. In addition to basic benchmarks, we tested things like battery life, its ability to perform productivity tasks, and even how well it runs games.
Pavilion is a budget line, but HP’s design aesthetics have improved a lot over the years. This laptop still doesn’t have the unibody construction of its more expensive cousins like the HP Envy series, but it looks and feels very nice for a laptop in this price range.
The two-tone metallic case is available in a variety of colors, and it looks great. Our test unit came with as silver-colored body and a dark blue lid that looks like anodized aluminum. The matte surface of the lid is nicely offset by an HP logo that shines with a mirror finish.
With the laptop opened up, the deck, keyboard, and speaker grill all have the same silver color as the rest of the device. The bezel is black plastic, which ruins the effect a little, but it’s still a very nice-looking laptop compared to a lot of other devices in this price range.
The two-tone metallic case is available in a variety of colors, and it looks great.
Unlike a lot of its competitors, the HP Pavilion 15z doesn’t have an optical drive. One side of the laptop features the power port, two USB ports, and an SD card reader. On the opposite side, you’ll find a full-sized HDMI port, an ethernet port, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. The front and back of the laptop are smooth, clean, and free of any ports or lights.
When you open the screen all the way, you’ll notice that it cantilevers out and lifts the back of the laptop up off the desk or table surface. This is meant to improve airflow and provide a better angle for typing. That being said, placing additional stress on the hinges seems like a strange choice since HP doesn’t have the best reputation for robust hinges.
The HP Pavilion 15z is a Windows 10 laptop, and the setup process is no different from any other Windows 10 laptop. The CPU is snappy enough that the process moves along quickly, and we found that the laptop was set up and ready to go about 10 minutes after we removed it from the box.
While the initial setup is pretty quick, most users will want to spend some additional time removing bloatware. In addition to a handful of games and apps that not everyone will need, HP also includes over a dozen utilities that most users will probably want to uninstall.
In the configuration we tested, the HP Pavilion 15z came equipped with a responsive touchscreen, but that’s where the positives end. While some configurations in this line include a full HD display, the one we looked at only had a 1366 x 768 display.
The viewing angles are decent, although the screen does get very dim when you move too far to one side or the other. The color temperature also seems a bit cool, and the display as a whole looks a little washed out.
The screen is bright enough for indoor use, but it’s difficult to see in direct sunlight—the visibility only gets worse when you take it outside.
The AMD Ryzen 3 2200U CPU and AMD Radeon Vega 3 graphics chip combine to provide very decent performance for a laptop in this price range. We found that this laptop matched or surpassed most of the similarly-priced competition. Its main weakness is the slightly slow hard drive, but the overall performance is still very good.
Before we dig into the numbers, it’s important to note that the HP Pavilion 15z is available in a number of different configurations. Ryzen 3 2300U and Ryzen 5 2500U processors are both available, and there are also a few Intel variants. It’s also available with up to 16 GB of RAM and two different SSD options. Any one of those upgrades would result in dramatically better benchmark results, but the HP Pavilion 15z still performed adequately in the configuration we tested.
To get a good baseline, we started off with the PCMark 10 benchmark. The HP Pavilion 15z managed to put up an overall score of 2,691, which was the highest of the similar laptops we tested in this category. It also notched respectable scores of 5,262 in essentials, 4,454 in productivity, and 2,259 in digital content creation.
Very decent performance for a laptop in this price range.
Most of the laptops we tested in this category fell well below those numbers. The only exception was the Acer Aspire E15, which managed very similar scores to the Pavilion 15z.
We also ran some gaming benchmarks. The Pavilion series isn’t designed for gaming, and this configuration is particularly weak in terms of gaming power, but it put up acceptable numbers for a laptop in this category.
The first gaming benchmark we ran was Fire Strike, which is designed for gaming laptops. The Pavilion 15z scored 992 in that test. That translates to an abysmally low 16 FPS, but it was still slightly higher than the score of 855 that we saw out of the Acer Aspire E 15.
We also ran the Cloud Gate benchmark, which is designed for low-end laptops. It managed a better score here: 5,968 overall, 7,586 in the graphics test, and 3,444 in the physics test. That indicates that while this laptop isn’t destined to run the latest games, it’s capable of playing older games at lower graphics settings.
To confirm this suspicion, we fired up Capcom’s best-seller Monster Hunter and turned all the settings down as far as possible. We found that the game could run under those conditions, but it didn’t run well. It lingered around 20 FPS and dipped even lower once there was action on the screen.
The HP Pavilion 15z has enough muscle to perform all of your basic productivity tasks without a snag, including word processing, email, and web browsing. It’s even capable of more difficult tasks like image and video editing, although professionals who work with images or video every day will most likely find it to be too sluggish.
The touchscreen, touchpad, and keyboard all seem tough enough to withstand daily use and won’t get in the way while you’re working. The keyboard in particular feels nice and snappy, but when we pressed on the keys with anything more than the bare minimum of force, the entire laptop flexed in an alarming way.
The one snag, in terms of productivity, is the display resolution. The resolution just isn’t high enough for any serious work, unless you only need to have a single word processor or email window open. For anything more complicated, you’ll probably want to plug an external monitor into the HDMI port.
Sound quality is one of the strong points of the HP Pavilion 15z. This laptop includes high-quality Bang & Olufsen speakers and features HP’s audio boost technology. What that means, in the real world, is that you can turn the volume up as high as you want without distortion.
The overall sound quality is very good for a laptop in this price range, although it does suffer from the same distinct lack of bass that we’re used to hearing from laptops in this category.
The HP Pavilion 15z can be configured with an 802.11ac wireless card, but the unit we tested didn’t have one. Without 802.11ac support, it isn’t capable of connecting to a high-speed 5 GHz network. If fast internet speeds are important to you—and you have an 802.11ac router—make sure to look for an HP Pavilion 15z that can take advantage of it.
When connected to our 2.4 GHz network, we found that the Wi-Fi on this laptop worked well enough. It managed a maximum download speed of 44 Mbps and an upload speed of 39 Mbps. Other similarly-priced laptops that we tested on this same network hit speeds of between 31 and 78 Mbps down, so the Pavilion 15z falls solidly in the middle of that range.
The HP Pavilion 15z that we tested came equipped with a 720p webcam, which worked well enough for basic video chat. The picture was a little washed out, and still images came out grainy, but we think it’s good enough for basic video chatting on Skype or Discord. You could also use it for video conferencing in a pinch.
It definitely isn’t suited for vlogging or any other situation where image quality is really important. Fortunately, the HP Pavilion 15z is available with a full HD 1080p camera in some configurations.
You can turn the volume up as high as you want without distortion.
The HP Pavilion 15z has decent battery life, but the battery capacity is a little on the low side for all day use. We found that it lasts for about five hours of very heavy use (constantly streaming YouTube videos over Wi-Fi).
With more lenient use like basic web browsing and word processing—and with the display brightness turned down—we found that the battery is capable of lasting up to eight hours. The absolute maximum that the battery can last between charges is about 13 hours, but that’s with the Wi-Fi turned off and the laptop left more or less untouched for the duration.
The takeaway is that this laptop is capable of lasting through an entire day of work or school between charges, but you’ll want to pack the power adapter just in case. If you spend a little too much time on tasks that drain the battery or leave the brightness up too high, the battery is likely to die before the day is over.
The HP Pavilion 15z comes equipped with Windows 10 and a copy of McAfee antivirus. It also has a handful of basic games installed, as well as pre-installed LinkedIn and Netflix apps for some reason. It also features over a dozen HP utilities like the HP Support Assistant that more or less qualify as bloatware.
In its most affordable configuration, which is the configuration we tested, the HP Pavilion 15z has an MSRP of $699.99. That price is almost entirely disconnected from reality in terms of what you get when you buy this laptop. It seems even more overpriced when you compare it to a competitor like the Acer Aspire E 15.
In Hewlett-Packard’s defense, they typically offer discounts of a few hundred dollars on their own site, and the Pavilion 15z is usually available for significantly less through other retailers.
Great performance and a responsive touchscreen mean that the HP Pavilion 15z is worth a look when priced in the sub-$500 range. Even then, the cheaper you can find it for the better.
The HP Pavilion 15z surpasses the competition in its general price range in most important benchmarks. It compares particularly favorably to the HP Notebook 15 series, which put up a PCMark 10 score of just 1,421 compared to 2,691 from the Pavilion 15z. The similarly-priced Lenovo Ideapad 320 performed even worse in that benchmark with a score of 1,062.
In terms of battery life, the Pavilion 15z also compares favorably to a lot of the competition. The HP Notebook 15 that we tested, for example, lasted only about four and a half hours. The Lenovo Ideapad 320 lasted a similar amount of time.
Compared to the Acer Aspire E 15, the Pavilion 15z doesn’t fare as well. The two laptops put up similar numbers in both productivity and gaming benchmarks, but the Aspire E 15 can last for over eight hours of heavy use and up to 14 hours of light use.
The Aspire E 15 also beats the Pavilion 15z in the display category. While it doesn’t have a touchscreen, it does feature a full HD display. It also has an MSRP of just $380.
The HP Pavilion 15z looks and feels better than most of the competition, but in terms of price, battery life, and screen resolution, it loses out to the Aspire E 15.
Either splurge on the upgraded version, or wait for a serious sale
The HP Pavilion 15z is an extremely difficult sell at its MSRP, but it is a very capable laptop that looks far better than most of its competitors. It represents a massive leap forward from HP’s previous budget offerings, like the Notebook 15 series. It’s also available in multiple configurations, so if you can find one with a full HD display, and the price is right, it’s definitely worth a look.
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