HP Pavilion Aero 13 review: A small laptop you'll want to take everywhere
More upscale than your average Pavilion, the 13-inch Aero is a less-expensive MacBook Air alternative.
Updated Oct. 29, 2021 4:00 a.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Reviews ethics statement
Joshua GoldmanManaging Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
ExpertiseLaptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and dronesCredentials
More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is not your average Pavilion laptop, a product line that is decidedly average. For HP, Pavilion is its everyday line with a focus on value, while its Envy and Spectre lines are the midrange and premium models, respectively. But wow, HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilograms). Amazingly, with all that it offers though, it has a starting price of $750.
USB-C (10Gbps), USB-A (x2, 5Gbps), HDMI 2.0 out; AC in, combo headphone jack
512GB PCIe SSD
Realtek 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.2
Windows 10 Home (21H1)
When it comes to 13-inch lightweight laptops, Apple's MacBook Air is the unofficial benchmark -- at least in terms of the design and features you'll typically find at or around $1,000. The Pavilion Aero 13 doesn't quite match the fit and finish of Apple's least expensive laptop, but it comes close and offers some things you just don't get on the Air. It also weighs nearly a pound less.
For instance, the MacBook Air has a 2560x1600-pixel, 13.3-inch display with 400-nit brightness and P3 color gamut coverage. The Aero 13 can be configured with either a 1920x1200 or 2560x1600-pixel display (neither is a touchscreen, though). I tested the former and it covers 100% sRGB color gamut and 81% of Adobe RGB and P3 color gamuts. While it's rated for 400 nits, the brightness actually measured 495 nits in my testing. It's a generally excellent display, certainly better than I'd expect to find on past Pavilion models, and if you want the higher-resolution panel, it's only $30 extra.
Speaking of upgrades, my configuration didn't come with a backlit keyboard; it's a $10 upgrade if you get an Aero 13 in silver, but is included with the other three color options HP offers. However, the colors are $10 or $15 extra so it's pretty much a wash. You can also pick between an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U or Ryzen 7 5800U processor with 8GB or 16GB of memory (it's onboard and can't be upgraded later, so get the 16GB if you can afford it) and a choice of a 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD for storage. You'll also be able to upgrade to Windows 11 for free.
The performance from the Ryzen 7 5800U is impressive, outperforming a pricier Intel Core i7-1185G7 in the Dell XPS 13 -- a premium rival to the Aero 13. You are getting a lot of processing power here for sure and combined with 16GB of memory, you won't experience any slowdowns on typical office and schoolwork, streaming entertainment or basic content creation. Battery life is great, too, lasting for 10 hours, 8 minutes on our streaming video test.
Most importantly, the HP Pavilion is just a pleasure to use. It feels good in your hand. It's insanely light and yet you can still open it with just your thumb. You get more than a couple of USB-C ports and even though the power adapter uses a barrel connector, you can charge it through the USB-C port, too.
The keyboard feels about as good as any skinny laptop at this price and the precision touchpad is smooth and responsive without any jumpiness. There's even a fingerprint reader in the palm rest for passwordless sign-ins. There are some things missing that you'll find on HP's Envy and Spectre models, such as a shutter to block the webcam and a shortcut key to instantly kill the mics and there's no microSD or SD card reader.
But to HP's credit, it doesn't feel like you're missing much when you're using Pavilion Aero 13. With the long battery life, featherweight body and zippy performance, this small laptop is one you'll probably want to take with you everywhere.
HP Pavilion Aero 13 (13-be0097nr)
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.9GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz;512MB AMD Radeon; 512GB SSD
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe; 512GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4980U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4.27GHz; 512MB AMD Radeon Vega 8; 512GB SSD
Razer Book 13
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1155G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4.27GHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310)
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4.27GHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe; 512GB SSD