The HP Pavilion g6-1331ea is a low-cost machine with extraordinary power that tears up the rulebook in what can be achieved on a tight budget.
While it punches above its weight in this respect, build quality and usability niggles prevent it from ultimately being a top machine.
You'll find HP g6 machines in a host of different flavours and set-ups, but the model on test here breaks the mould. It features an AMD Vision A8 processor with a meaty graphics card that delivers performance that belies its meagre price tag.
The AMD Vision A8 processor is only clocked at 1.6GHz, which may seem low compared with the Intel chips you'll see next to it on the shelf, but it intelligently deals with tasks by off-loading work to a dual-graphics set up, where the basic chip combines with a dedicated AMD Radeon card. It works well, and both elements scored highly in our benchmarks. We were able to smoothly run HD video, and even play games, and Ridge Racer Unleashed ran smoothly on high settings.
Let's be clear, this is not a machine that will nail the most demanding games, nor future-proof your purchase, but if you like playing titles like The Sims or Portal 2, the g6 is more than capable.
Battery life: 155
3DMark 2006: 5,807
The good performance is helped by the hefty 6GB of RAM on offer, which kept the system responsive. There's also a 750GB hard drive, which is great news for people who like filling their laptop with movies, pictures and games. This is extremely good value, and makes the HP g6 a real proposition.
The 15.6-inch screen has a glossy coating, which is a pain in direct sunlight, though we were impressed with the clarity and sharpness of the panel. Colours could have been more vibrant, but for a budget machine, we were impressed.
AMD put a lot of their focus onto video performance, and this really shone through on all parts of the HP Pavilion g6. Unlike Intel based laptops, the on-board graphics combine with the dedicated card to create a dual graphics setup, and this really helps in Windows, when photo editing, and on the web. The benchmark scores back this up, and there's a good balance of processor and graphics power which works well in real life, despite sometimes looking mediocre on paper.
Unfortunately, it's not all good news. For example, build quality is poor. The keyboard flexes heavily, and bounces when you pick up typing speed. This does make working for long periods much more difficult, and if you do play games, you will certainly want to invest in a game pad.
The comically small directional buttons caused chaos when attempting to destroy bridges in Ridge Racer, and we don't fancy the W, S, A and D keys standing up to rigorous sessions.
Connectivity won't be a problem on the HP g6 either, with three USB ports, HDMI and an SD card reader to boot. Unfortunately, there are no USB 3.0 ports, which enable new USB sticks and flash drives to transfer files three times faster.
When it comes to audio, Altec Lansing speakers are built-in, but their tinny sound isn't much better than standard issue non-branded stereo speakers.