HP Pavilion Gaming 15 review: A cheaper route to a thrilling PC gaming experience
A well-balanced laptop for gaming, plus office or school work, without the high price or flashy looks.
It's the bright screamin'-green keyboard that really gives away that HP's 15.6-inch Pavilion Gaming laptop isn't just a normal midsize PC. Sure, there are some pretty large rear fan vents, but otherwise the chassis is fairly tame and all black except for a slight green tint to the HP logo on the lid. And if you want, HP will swap green keys for white and then the laptop won't stand out much at all. At least not until you start gaming on it.
Like the 2018 HP Pavilion Gaming model, the current Pavilion Gaming laptop is an affordable, somewhat no-frills PC for gaming and content creation as well as office or school work. The performance on the one I tested was great for games new and old, but this is a laptop available in several configurations, so the performance is going to depend on exactly what's in it.
HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl
|Price as reviewed
|15.6-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel IPS display
|2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H
|16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,666MHz
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q
|256GB PCIe NVMe SSD + 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD
|802.11ax Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
|Windows 10 Home
Prices start at $770 on HP's site for the latest version of the laptop with Nvidia's 4GB GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, but I tested a $1,250 version with a stronger 6GB GTX 1660 Ti. Both run on an Intel Core i7-9750H processor and, generally speaking, it's a good deal for what you're getting in design, specs and performance, and HP offers some nice upgrade options if you buy direct.
To save yourself some money, at least initially, you could drop down to 8GB of RAM and make do with only a 256GB SSD and get rest of the Pavilion Gaming 15 configuration I tested for $900. That gets you the two important components -- the Core i7 CPU and GTX 1660 Ti GPU -- for less than $1,000. Then you can just unscrew and pry off the bottom panel and add more memory and storage on your own in the future. Modern PC games can run 50GB or more, so a 256GB SSD isn't going to go very far, though.
However, if you have money to spend, you can go the other direction and load it up with 32GB of memory and keep the dual-drive array I had. You can also bump up the display to a 144Hz panel for better gaming performance or a 4K-resolution display (instead of 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution) aimed at content creators. The base display is OK for general use, but its color seemed muted and it didn't get especially bright -- a frequent issue for budget laptops. You can also just take advantage of its HDMI or USB-C ports for an external monitor if you're doing color-critical content creation.
My laptop's component combo turned out excellent performance for daily tasks and gaming. I fired up Battlefield V, set quality to high and ran through a couple of campaigns full-screen at 1080p and never dropped below 60 frames per second during the action. The case was the same with Far Cry 5, which hit 71fps on the game's built-in benchmark. Less demanding titles like Fortnite and older games such as Titanfall 2 didn't skip a beat, either, even on their highest detail settings.
But, all that performance does hurt battery life. It reached a respectable 6 hours, 22 minutes in our video streaming test, but for general use you'll likely only get about half that. That's common for gaming laptops, though.
Some thrills, no frills
Unlike competing systems from Acer and Dell, there are no other gaming-related extras such as macro keys and software to control things like cooling and power plans, or at-a-glance performance info. To be fair, details on your performance are viewable with the Xbox Game Bar, opened with a press of the Windows and G keys, and the laptop did a fine job of managing cooling on its own while gaming (it's other times, like when you're in a meeting or watching a movie, that you might want more control).
In the end, HP has put together a well-balanced, relatively thin laptop for gaming and office or schoolwork without the high price or flashy looks. If you're looking for more gaming-related features, though, there are plenty of gaming laptop options for less than $1,000 out there.
|HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
|Dell G3 15 3590
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 1TB HDD
|Lenovo Legion Y545
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
|Dell G5 15 5590
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
|Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 512GB SSD
|Lenovo Legion Y730
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti; 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD