The Pavilion Star Wars Edition HP Notebook is many things; unfortunately, insanely packed performance in a small package is not one of them. Do not get me wrong, the focus of this article is to introduce a budget gaming laptop for those who have just ventured into PC gaming, or for content creators that need to edit their projects on the fly. For what it is worth, the ratio of price to performance balances well. I picked this laptop from my local store for $560. The specifications of the model I picked are listed here by the manufacturer but in a nutshell,
- Intel Core i5-6200U, Dual Core, 2.3 GHz base, 2.8 GHz Turboboost
- Nvidia Geforce 940M, 2GB DDR3 VRAM
- 8GB RAM, Single channel, DDR3L, 1.35V
- 1TB HDD 5400RPM
- 15.6” Full HD Matte Screen
- Bang and Olufsen Dual Channel Speakers
It comes with Windows 10 Home Edition pre-installed and has a few striking pictures captured from the making of Star Wars’ movies and short exclusive movie clips for the true Jedi fanboys out there. It also accompanies a few apps concerning the same. Although some could consider this as bloatware, I feel that it is a nice touch for a change.
PERFORMANCE AND DESIGN
The i5-6200U serves this laptop well, and bundled with the Geforce 940M, it does not suddenly become a powerhouse, but it certainly outperforms Integrated Graphics by quite a margin. For those who want to dive straight into benchmarks for the CPU, they can find them here and here for the GPU.
I can say with confidence that this Maxwell GPU performs nearly 3-4x better than the Intel HD 520 rival that comes accompanied with the CPU. However, due to its old design and implementation, it now struggles to work with the newest games. This can majorly be blamed on its DDR3 VRAM and its 2GB cap. On the other hand, the 8GB RAM holds up well to multiple tab browsing and heavy programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro. It can be upgraded to a maximum of 16GB if you use very demanding apps on a daily basis.
The Star Wars notebook plays most games at 720P at medium settings, but latest titles might be played at 720P with lowest settings. Least demanding titles like Fifa 2017 and Overwatch can be played at 1080P with graphics settings notched to High. The screen is a Full HD LED display, and viewing angles are good. On the downside, it does not get very bright.
Thermal management was implemented well. The laptop does not get too hot even during extended periods of gameplay, and the fan is relatively quiet under moderate use. Under room temperature, the peak temperature recorded was 74 degrees Celsius during stress tests, for both the CPU and GPU and on idle, temperatures are about 47 degrees, which is very manageable. The laptop can comfortably be used on your laps during light work.
The laptop comes with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI 2.0 port, one headphone jack, an Ethernet port and finally, an SD card reader. A thunderbolt 3 port would have been a nice addition, as this is a gaming laptop, and connecting it to an eGPU would have given a huge performance boost in games, but it is not too much of an issue as it is found in high-end models that cost well over $1000.
Furthermore, this model does not come with any SSD factory installed, but you could add a SATA SSD later down the road, or even an M.2 NVMe SSD, as it has an M.2 slot.
STRENGTH AND DURABILITY
Most of the chassis (outer shell) is covered in plastic, but it is safe to say that the screen has very little flex to it and the screen can be lifted with just a finger, pointing to the fact that great attention was paid to fine details such as the screen hinge. The build overall is sturdy and is painted with dull colours to achieve a matte feel, to prevent fingerprints appearing on the surface of the device.
The laptop gives the impression of a rugged, rubber feel, even though it is plastic. From its exterior build, I am confident that it could handle a few drops, but sensitive, moving components such as the internal Hard Disk are more prone to damage if dropped.
BATTERY LIFE AND CHARGING
This specific model comes with a 41Whr 6-cell Li-ion battery that claims to last about 3-4 hours of regular use. While it holds up to its claim, during intense gaming, the battery lasts just a little short of an hour. Now I am aware that most gaming laptops last only that long during gaming, but I feel this is something that needs to be changed. The Gigabyte Aero 14 (2016) absolutely nails it with a 94.24 WHr battery and 2-3 hours of gameplay.
The backlit keyboard is an absolute favourite. The key travel is good, the response is tactile enough, and the red backlit seems as if lava outpours from the computer chassis. It looks a lot better in person, as compared to pictures. It is to be noted, that the keyboard is non-RGB, and only 1 colour is available, red. The brightness of the keyboarding lighting can be adjusted. The screen is matte, which means that it is easily read outdoors, and even in the brightest of environments without any trouble.
Bang and Olufsen speakers make for a great improvement over generic laptop speakers. The volume gets pretty loud and does not distort at high volumes.
My biggest complaint with this device has to be its trackpad. For some reason, its tracking capabilities are below an acceptable level. Even after updating Synaptics drivers, it was struggling to register a two-finger scroll, and even with its sensitivity to its maximum; at times it would not register a scroll. However, this is not a hardware issue; it can easily be corrected through a software update.
The battery life is a little too short, in my opinion. The CD Drive bay should have instead been used for battery space, as they are now pretty obsolete anyways, and if ever required, external CD drives can be connected via USB. Companies like Acer are using that space for an extra swappable fan to further help cool the gaming laptop which can be found here.
Despite the minor quirks such as the touchpad, and battery life, this is a great device. There are other minor details I am not a huge fan of, for example, the ugly bump at the front to accommodate the battery, which spoils its looks, and the air vent that is on the right side of the device. While gaming hot air is vented straight onto your right hand when using a mouse. These are small complaints, however, and its pros clearly outweigh its cons at this price. Definitely a recommended buy.
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10