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HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop (2018) review: Plays harder than its price

Whether it's for work, play or both, this mainstream 15.6-inch laptop offers snappy graphics performance for $1,000 or less.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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The Pavilion Gaming Laptop isn't as aggressive or cutting-edge as HP's Omen gaming line, though that's sort of the point. The PC maker promotes it as a solid, reliable laptop for gaming and everyday tasks and it definitely lives up to that. 

hp-pavilion-gaming-laptop
7.8

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop (2018)

The Good

The HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop has a respectable mix of components for solid performance for both everyday tasks and gaming. The design is nicer than most other mainstream gaming laptops.

The Bad

HP's configuration options are limited compared to its competitors and other features are behind the curve, too. No gaming-oriented extra features, beyond its green glowing keyboard.

The Bottom Line

The HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop is as straightforward as its name. You'll find solid gaming performance and just enough of an edge to keep things interesting.

You won't find the latest Nvidia RTX graphics chips inside, and it doesn't have gaming extras such as RGB LED keyboard lighting or GPU overclocking. What you do get is snappy multitasking and gaming performance and a design that stands out from the run-of-the-mill. It's a 15.6-inch, budget-minded laptop that's not too flashy.

Prices start at $780 on HP's site with Nvidia's 2GB GeForce GTX 1050 (£649 in the UK, AU$1,749 in Australia), but I tested a $999 Amazon-exclusive configuration with a stronger 4GB GTX 1050 Ti, which isn't currently an option direct from HP. Generally speaking, it's a good deal for what you're getting in design, specs and performance. But, depending on what you personally want in a $999 gaming laptop, it might not be the best deal at this moment.   

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop (15-c0042nr)

Price as reviewed $999
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel display
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
Storage 1TB HDD, 128GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit)
08-hp-pavilion-gaming-laptop-2018
Sarah Tew/CNET

That green gaming glow

Like Dell's G series gaming laptops, this Pavilion is relatively thin and light for a budget-minded gaming laptop and is more angular than the rest of the Pavilion line, especially at the rear where the fan vents jut out beyond the lid's bottom. Beyond that, there's a subtle green tint to the HP logo on top and the acid green backlit keyboard to help give it a "gaming laptop" look.

If you don't like green, it comes in white and violet versions, too. The former would be a nice option if you need your gaming laptop to be less conspicuous in an office environment. The green does look nice, though, and it's a nice change from all the red typically used on entry-level gaming laptops. The keys remain easy to read with the backlight off. Even the font choice is interesting. 

The keyboard is comfortable to use as well, with enough travel to keep a hard touch typist like me from feeling tired after all-day use. Aside from the WASD keys being outlined, there are no other gaming features to the keyboard and no software to set up macros or anything like that. The touchpad is acceptable for everyday use, if unremarkable. It doesn't have discrete buttons, which I personally like to have for games where a mouse isn't entirely necessary. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Something's gotta give

On sub-$1,000 gaming laptops, it's not uncommon for the display quality to suffer for the lower price. The full-HD 60Hz panel on this configuration is no different. It's by no means bad, with good off-angle viewing and contrast, but it's not terribly bright and the color gamut and accuracy isn't ideal for content creation. HP does, however, offer a 144Hz panel for better gaming performance or a 4K-resolution display aimed at content creators.   

If you're planning to keep this on a desk most of the time, the Pavilion has a satisfactory port selection for your peripherals. On the right is power, USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1 -- both for data only -- HDMI 1.4 out, Ethernet and a combo headphone/mic jack. Two more USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 1 ports are on the left with an SD card slot. Those are all just a notch below what you'd find on something like the Dell G5, which has a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, HDMI 2.0 out and Gigabit Ethernet. 

Lastly, while HP talks up the B&O-tuned speakers on this system, they're nothing to get too excited about. You'll want external speakers or a good headset for movies, music and gaming. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Gaming high and low

The Pavilion was able to hold its own against similarly priced and configured gaming laptops. Older games such as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided were playable on high settings with the 1050 Ti, but needed a drop to medium to make them enjoyable. For the newer Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry 5 I set them to medium/normal to keep gameplay smooth throughout. Sessions of Fortnite were definitely playable, though, as was Overwatch, all at its native 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution with high detail settings. 

The dual fans try their best to keep the Pavilion cool. You can definitely hear them working, that's for sure. Just keep it off your lap and on a hard surface when you're stressing the system. 

Battery life is also on par with the competition, coming in at just over 5 hours. And that's on our streaming video test, so don't expect that for gaming. Basically, if you're going out for the day, you'll probably want to bring the power supply and you'll certainly want it if you're gaming.   

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 2018

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Well-rounded at a reasonable price

As its name somewhat implies, the HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop is a straightforward, no-nonsense laptop for PC gaming and whatever else you need to get done. Other gaming laptops in this range can feel cheap and plasticky, but that's not the case here and its subtle gamer design is more appealing for everyday use. Gaming performance is strong, too, for what you're paying. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 20941Dell G5 15 (5587) 17246Razer Blade 15 17175Acer Nitro 5 14220Lenovo Legion Y530 14171Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 11548
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 1077Dell G5 15 (5587) 1043Razer Blade 15 865Acer Nitro 5 851Lenovo Legion Y530 815Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 599
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (streaming)

Lenovo Legion Y530 437Dell G5 15 (5587) 359Razer Blade 15 345Acer Nitro 5 333HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 308Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 300
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Razer Blade 15 3362Acer Nitro 5 1873Dell G5 15 (5587) 1851Lenovo Legion Y530 1825HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 1710Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 758
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gaming test

Razer Blade 15 74.7Acer Nitro 5 37.7Dell G5 15 (5587) 37.5HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 31.9Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD 31.2Lenovo Legion Y530 28.4
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (frames per second)

System configurations

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
Dell G5 15 (5587) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
Lenovo Legion Y530 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
Acer Nitro 5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics; 256GB SSD
Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Graphics; 1TB HDD
Razer Blade 15 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2060 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
hp-pavilion-gaming-laptop
7.8

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop (2018)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Battery 7