HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop – should I buy one?

(Image credit: HP)

HP is the second biggest PC manufacturer in the world, and is very close behind top dog Lenovo in terms of units shifted globally. So yes, this is a company which makes a lot of PCs and laptops, and has many famous brands, including Pavilion.

Here we are looking specifically at HP’s Pavilion Gaming Laptops, which are budget models (Pavilion is a budget brand, of course). So your first thought might be that ‘budget’ could mean an inferior product, but fortunately this isn’t the case. The Pavilion Gaming Laptops pack in a lot of power relative to their affordable asking price (certainly at the lower-end of the range).

These machines come in two flavors: a 15.6-inch model (which we were enthusiastic about in our hands-on review earlier this year) and a bigger 17.3-inch offering.

The difference is that you’re obviously getting a larger screen with the latter, but equally obviously the 17-inch model has a bigger footprint, and is somewhat heavier, so is less portable (it also has room to include a hard disk alongside the SSD for extra storage). There are variations in other hardware components, as well – not just between these different-sized models, but also through the separate ranges. You can pick up a more powerfully specced 15-inch or 17-inch model, although the cheapest models tend to be the smaller form factor, as you might expect.

Affordability is key here, though, and there are certainly some bargains to be had, one of which we’ve already highlighted as our best cheap gaming laptop deal of the week. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll see more tempting bargains later this week, potentially giving already nicely-priced machines even more pull, so be sure to keep an eye on our best Black Friday laptop deals page going forward.

The bottom line: HP’s Pavilion Gaming Laptops make a compelling case for themselves, avoiding the danger of compromising too much in either the design or hardware components used in the battle to get the asking price down. Look for the models with the latest Nvidia Turing GPUs if you can…

Pros: Good value for money. Options on powerful Nvidia mobile GPUs. Aesthetically pleasing. Impressive trimmings like the keyboard and connectivity.

Cons: Display isn’t the best (although you can’t expect the earth at this price level). Battery longevity is only okay.

Key specs

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3550H / Up to 9th-gen Intel Core i7
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1050 / 1650 / 1660 Ti Max-Q
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Screen: 15.6-inch / 17.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare
  • Storage: 256GB / 512GB PCIe SSD (+1TB HDD for 17.3-inch)
  • OS: Windows 10

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop: everything you need to know

As mentioned, HP’s Pavilion Gaming Laptops come in two different sizes, 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch. The Pavilion Gaming 15 was the first to hit the market, initially running with an AMD processor (Ryzen 5 3550H) paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. That core hardware combo is powerful enough to run the likes of popular esports titles nice and smoothly, although details will need to be adjusted in more demanding games.

However, since that sole initial offering, HP has expanded to offer models with more cutting-edge GPUs, namely Nvidia’s latest Turing graphics solutions, with the Pavilion now sporting the likes of the GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti. Grab yourself one of the models HP is currently selling with a GTX 1660 Ti (Max-Q) graphics card and Intel Core i7-9750H, and you’ll have some real grunt in your portable.

But of course, those are the more expensive Pavilion Gaming machines, although even the cheap models currently available are now mostly using GTX 1650 graphics, which is good to see. Another positive on the hardware front is that a fair number of these Pavilion Gaming Laptops run with a 512GB PCIe SSD, giving you some decent capacity as well as speed on the storage front.

So what else do you get for your money, and what pitfalls are worth being aware of?

Smart design: Despite being value-oriented products, these notebooks benefit from some nice design touches. The Pavilion Gaming Laptop has quite a smart angular design, and we like the neon green logo and backlit keyboard. That keyboard, incidentally, is solid enough, and the trackpad is responsive, so these are quality input peripherals.

Quiet and unassuming: These Pavilion notebooks also run relatively quietly, which makes a change, as gaming models are often fairly noisy beasts. Also worth bearing in mind is that the 15-inch model is reasonably light and portable, although the 17-inch version is predictably weighty and not quite so easy to cart about with you as a result.

Connectivity chops: There’s a good range of ports here, which again is good to see with wallet-friendly models, including a USB Type-C port, HDMI and a full-size SD card reader.

So-so battery: HP hasn’t included a particularly beefy battery, and even used the same somewhat-capacity-challenged battery in the 17-inch version of the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop. So you won’t get great battery longevity, although battery performance is okay, and most gaming laptops don’t do well in this department anyhow.

Average display: The display isn’t anything special, with most of these machines running with a simple Full HD display with a 60Hz refresh rate and 250 nits brightness. However, the screen does the job okay, and you can hardly expect a top-end panel in a budget-targeted portable. Note that some higher-end models do use a different display which is brighter, and theoretically there’s a 144Hz option, although we couldn’t spot this on sale anywhere at the time of writing.

Conclusion: Those hunting out a budget gaming laptop which delivers in the performance stakes will appreciate these HP products, which don’t just avoid cutting corners too much with components, but also don’t compromise the design and chassis. Some gamers might be immediately averse to the idea of giving HP’s Pavilion budget brand a chance, but they’d be mistaken in that assumption. There are actually some great buys to be had in this range, particularly with the 15-inch models which are generally priced a bit more cheaply.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).