The HP Pavilion Gaming 15 is a 15in gaming laptop that packs in a powerful Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M graphics. Also boasting a CD/DVD burner drive, quality screen and snazzy black and green design, it’s ideal for those seeking a single laptop that can do it all.
I've reviewed the specification entitled ak008na but, as you'll see from my review, this is not the spec you should be buying. Read on to find out more.
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HP has gone straight for the tried and tested colour scheme upon which nearly all gaming products are based. In other words it’s black. Lots and lots of matt black. This is in the form of the plastic chassis that also has just a hint of very fine metallic speckle imbedded in it – it’s actually a very nice finish. Offsetting this are luminous green highlights from the rubber feet and hexagon pattern on the keyboard wrist rest.
It’s a look that largely works rather well, though I wouldn’t miss the hexagon pattern. Plus, the actual laptop shape is pretty large and generic, with dimensions of 38.45 x 26.51 x 2.88 cm and weight of 2.32kg – this is a classic beefy gaming laptop.
With that heft comes features, though. You get a full-size, backlit keyboard with numpad, a CD/DVD burner drive, a large 15.6in screen and a decent helping of connectivity. Three USB 3.0 ports are joined by an HDMI video output, headphone jack, SD card reader and Ethernet port. All the key bases are covered ensuring you should seldom have need of extra dongles or external drives.
Finishing off the green theme is the keyboard, which has both green lettering and backlighting. This can be turned on and off but there's no brightness control, which is slightly disappointing but by no means a dealbreaker.
The keyboard’s typing experience, meanwhile, is nothing above average. The keys are laid out well with no keys overly squashed up or rearrange. I’d prefer the cursor keys were given a little more room but other than that it’s perfectly serviceable.
However, the keys themselves are very flat and I found it a little difficult sometimes to naturally find my place as I went to type, as you can’t feel you’re way around the keyboard like you can on more pronounced keys. Once typing, though, it was easy to get a decent speed going.
The trackpad is pretty good, though. It has a nice smooth surface, a convenient click-anywhere button action and tracking is nice and responsive. It’s not quite up there with the best but certainly causes no frustration.
When you buy a laptop costing nearly £800, you should expect a good screen. Sure enough, the Gaming 15 delivers. The IPS LCD panel delivers good viewing angles while relatively vivbrant colours and strong contrast mean images look natural but with plenty of punch, plus the matt finish keeps reflections at bay.
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What’s more, the 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution is ideal for the 15.6in screen size. Some may find it makes things appear a little small for day to day use, which is why HP ships it set to scale things by 125%, but for much of the time running it at full resolution is fine.
Sadly there’s little worthy of praise when it comes to audio. The Bang and Olufsen-branded audio system consists of a couple of speakers firing from the grille behind the keyboard and a bit of software that does some audio trickery to supposedly make the speakers sound their best for music, movies or spoken word.
Don’t bother. They all sound awful. Just uninstall the software and run the speakers normally. Not that they’re particularly good on their own but at least they sound something approaching normal. They’re fine for whisper-quiet listening but you’ll be wanting an external speaker or headphones for anything more demanding.
This laptop is equipped with a serious powerhouse of CPU, in the shape of the Intel Core i7-6700HQ. With four physical cores and able to cope with eight threads at a time, it’s a chip that’ll power through any game with nary a blink and will be good for even more demanding number crunching such as editing video. In Geekbench it scored a whopping 3178 in the single-core test and 12107 in the multi-core test - that's desktop levels of oomph.
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Things aren’t quite so barnstorming when it comes to graphics, with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M being a mid-range chip albeit with a healthy 4GB of memory. However, it will still comfortably deliver decent performance at this laptop’s native resolution in most modern games. You’ll just have to turn down detail settings from High to Medium, and ditch anti-aliasing. It scored 2779 in the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark; a desktop PC of around the same price would double or triple this, as you'd expect.
As such, the first conclusion we can come to about this machine’s performance is that it’s a bit unbalanced in favour of serious heavy-duty work rather than gaming. The i7-6700HQ processor is overkill if you just want a laptop for day to day stuff with a little gaming thrown in. Machines using the cheaper Core i5-6300HQ would be just as effective and significantly better value.
Even worse is that this laptop is saddled with just a 1TB hard drive for storage. The capacity is par for the course, but I'm concerned by its rather sluggish 5,400rpm speed; this is classic cost-cutting and it will affect system performance, especially as you install more programs. As such this machine feels seriously sluggish when it comes to booting up, opening programs and loading games.
In fact, combined with the processor hog that is the pre-installed McAfee anti-virus software and the slow hard disk, this laptop is astonishingly slow for the specification. I timed it at over two minutes for this laptop to fully boot up to the point it would actually respond and open programs. In this day and age that’s unacceptable. You'll need to do some serious system maintenance as soon as you buy the machine, and perhaps even consider upgrading the hard disk to a faster SSD.
This was also reflected in the overall system benchmark, PCMark 8, where this laptop actually fell behind the likes of the thin and light Dell XPS13.
As such I’d strongly suggest you seek out a different configuration of this laptop. One with either a larger, higher rpm hard drive or some form of SSD. The ak113na spec is an ideal option that includes an SSD and retains the i7-6700HQ, or the ak056na is a cheaper option that keeps the SSD but drops to the still excellent i5-6300HQ processor.
As for battery life, the Gaming 15 offers the better side of the sort of level you’d expect of a fairly large laptop with a gaming graphics card. In our normal video and web browsing test using PowerMark, and with the screen set to 40% brightness, it managed 5hours and 17minutes. Few machines of this calibre offer more and plenty offer less. Push the brightness up and that’ll drop by an hour or two, and if you’re gaming you’ll need a plug socket – you won’t get much more than an hour otherwise.
Not this specific version. The overall chassis, keyboard, screen and physical design is fine but the spec offered here is unbalanced and totally hampered by a slow hard drive.
Opt for the ak113na or ak056na and you’ll have a great gaming laptop that’ll offer good all-round performance and a wealth of features. It’s certainly no gaming powerhouse but it’ll get you reliable performance in all the latest games.
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The fundamentals of this machine are great, just make sure you get one with an SSD.