The new HP Pavilion 14 is a compelling package at a surprisingly low price
- A touchscreen for less
- Great audio performance
- Solid battery life
- No keyboard backlight
- Drab display
“Surprise and delight” is a phrase used by marketing types to describe the feeling a customer gets when they discover something unexpected in their purchase. It’s a phrase I loathe with a passion, so I was rather disturbed to experience a degree of S&D when I fired up the new HP Pavilion 14.
As a semi-budget notebook, I expected mundanity and mediocrity but I soon discovered much more. I was indeed surprised and, yes, even a little delighted.
HP Pavilion 14 review: What you need to know
The Pavilion range of laptops isn’t HPs most basic offering. That accolade goes to the Essential lineup of really basic machines, while the Pavilion lineup consists of the cheapest HP machines you’d own by choice rather than necessity.
With the HP Pavilion 14, you can choose between Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 models, all with 14in Full HD touchscreens, with rather attractive designs and modest dimensions and weight.
HP Pavilion 14 review: Price & competition
The cheapest model in the range with a Core i3 chip, 8GB of single-channel RAM and a 256GB SSD will set you back £549, while the most expensive, with an i7 processor, 16GB dual-channel of RAM and a 512GB SSD will lighten your wallet to the tune of £899. In the middle is the i5 version, which is the model I was sent to review. It costs £649 and comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Our current favourite affordable laptop is Huawei’s recently updated MateBook D15. For £750, you get a solid and slender 15.6in Core i5 machine whose only real failing is the badly located webcam. It doesn’t have a touchscreen like the Pavilion, though.
Dell, meanwhile, has an Inspiron model to suit most tastes and pockets and you can get an Inspiron 2-in-1 Core i5 with either a 14in or 15.6in display for £729. Being a hybrid you can fold the Inspiron into a ‘tablet’ mode and there are various processor, RAM and SSD options to choose from as well.
Finally, you shouldn’t overlook Lenovo’s Yoga Slim 7. The excellent Ryzen 7 model we tested is £100 more expensive than the Pavilion, but it’s a cracking little notebook with excellent audio and outstanding battery life. There’s no support for Windows Hello biometrics, however.
READ NEXT: Check out our favourite laptop bags
HP Pavilion 14 review: Design & build quality
For what’s essentially a cheap laptop, the Pavilion 14 is very easy on the eye. To start with, it uses the same sandblasted, anodised finish on the cover and keyboard frame as more expensive HP machines like the Envy 13. The “Serene Pink” lid is quite lovely, too, and since it’s a largely metal construct it feels impressively solid. There’s more flex to the lid than in the Envy 13, but it’s nothing to worry about.
When it comes to laptops, a general rule of thumb is that the more affordable a machine is, the larger and heavier it is as well. The Pavilion 14, however, measures only 325 x 216 x 17mm and tips the scales at 1.4kg, so it can easily hold its own in the company of thin-and-light notebooks costing much, much more. Those dimensions are in the same ballpark as those of the MacBook Air, which is quite an achievement.
The keyboard is spacious and sensibly organised, though the power button is bizarrely placed between the print-screen and delete key. The fingerprint scanner, which I didn’t expect to find on a £650 machine, is nicely out of the way below the cursor keys.
When it comes to typing, there is a bit of flex to the keyboard, though it’s nothing to get too bent out of shape about, and there’s no backlight. The 115 x 73mm plastic trackpad is practically faultless.
Connectivity is also good, with two USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports and one 10Gbits/sec Type-C port which also supports DisplayPort and USB Power Delivery. There’s an HDMI 2.0 port as well, alongside a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack. As is typical of HP laptops, you can charge via either DC-in or Type-C connection.
It’s my habit to try Linux on every basic laptop that lands on my desk, and I’m happy to report that the Pavilion 14 booted into Ubuntu 20.4 with no dramas. Even the touchscreen continued to work, which was a pleasant surprise.
Taking the Pavilion apart to check internal upgrade options would have involved ripping off the two long rubber footing strips that cover four of the six screws securing the base. Luckily, a quick search on YouTube shows that once you get inside, the 2280 SSD slot and two SODIMM memory slots are easily accessible.
Wireless communications are handled by an Intel AC-9461 module. This only supports WiFi 5 (802.11ac) rather than WiFi 6, but such are the compromises you have to endure in this price range.
HP Pavilion 14 review: Display & audio
The Pavilion’s Full HD IPS display is technically a bit so-so, though no worse than the panel in the Huawei MateBook D15. Maximum brightness is a reasonable 275cd/m², but Delta E colour accuracy is pretty poor at 5.9. The sRGB gamut coverage and volume figures are also rather drab, too, at 54.5% and 54.7% respectively. The contrast ratio is more impressive at 1,150:1, at least.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is that this is a touch-supported panel, which is quite a rarity at this price. It also has a matte, anti-reflection finish, which will appeal to anyone who plans on using their notebook outdoors or under bright lights.
The speaker system is a Bang & Olufsen-branded affair and sounds very similar to the setup in the Envy 13 I reviewed recently. I praised it then, so to hear the same in a substantially cheaper machine deserves even greater praise. There’s a stack of volume available and the sound is never less than composed and punchy. There’s even a decent amount of bass; for the price, you can’t realistically ask for much more.
HP Pavilion 14 review: Performance & battery life
The chipset inside the Pavilion is a bog-standard Intel jobby and comprises a Core i5 1135G7 processor, integrated Iris Xe graphics module and two sticks of 4GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM.
The Pavilion 14 performs pretty much as you’d expect for a run-of-the-mill Core i5 notebook. Expert Reviews’ in-house processing benchmark scored 107, which is just a few points below the Huawei MateBook D15 and the Dell Inspiron. For basic productivity, the Pavilion has more than enough potential.
Gaming and other graphics-intensive tasks are another matter. Our usual gaming benchmarks, Metro: Last Light Redux and DiRT: Showdown, averaged 29fps and 59fps at 1,920 x 1,080 respectively. Run Doom 2016 at 1,280 x 720 and you’ll find it’s just about playable at an average of 40fps, but you will experience some stuttering when things get hectic onscreen.
At a few seconds short of eight hours, the endurance of the 43Wh battery was for once almost in agreement with what the manufacturer claims. Granted, Acer’s Swift 5 can do better, but that costs considerably more. Samsung’s cheaper Galaxy Book Go is also longer-lasting, but that has one of the worst displays we’ve ever tested.
The Western Digital 256GB NVMe SSD won’t be winning any awards for speed, either. Sequential read and write speeds of 2,017MB/s and 675MB/s are close to the lowest I’d expect to see from a drive with a PCI-E Gen3 x4 interface.
HP Pavilion 14 review: Verdict
As a general-purpose laptop, the HP Pavilion 14 takes some beating at this price. It looks and feels like it should cost more and has some features that I genuinely didn’t expect to find given the price, such as a quality sound system, a touchscreen, the use of SuperSpeed USB ports across the board and support for Windows Hello biometrics.
Granted, the screen could be of higher quality and a keyboard backlight is always nice to have, but getting bitter and twisted about things like that seems churlish given that we’re talking about a £650 laptop here. In value for money terms, the Pavilion 14 is positively outstanding.