Review: HP Pavilion TouchSmart 14 Sleekbook
3.8Overall Score
Price (RRP): $999 Manufacturer: HP

There are quite a few Ultrabook computers out there that feature a thin and light design, but lack the touchscreen that Windows 8 works well with. HP is here to show those manufacturers a better way, however, with the $999 Pavilion TouchSmart 14 Sleekbook, a laptop with a long name that could go a long way for customers interested in an all-rounder that’s light on your load.

Features

The first Windows 8 machine we’ve seen from HP with a standard Intel Core processor, the HP Pavilion 14 might resemble an Ultrabook at first, but is something different, likely because “Ultrabook” is trademarked by Intel.

Rather, this new Pavilion is called a “Sleekbook,” offering a similar thin and light design to an Ultrabook, but doesn’t have to stick to Intel’s specifications as to what warrants the designation of “Ultrabook.”

That said, the insides of this computer aren’t drastically different from what normally sits inside the rough-$1,000 section of the Ultrabook market, and thus includes, a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI, Ethernet, SD card slot, webcam, 3.5mm headset jack, and no optical drive.

While those specs put it close to being an Ultrabook, it also has something in common with the touch-enabled Ultrabooks, as HP has included a 14 inch multitouch display supporting the HD friendly 1366×768 resolution, with the graphics taken care of by Nvidia’s GeForce 630M graphics chipset partnered with 1GB of graphics memory.

Unlike other thin and light machines, though, there’s a big hard disk to use, with HP relying on a 1 terabyte conventional drive.

Wireless is pretty standard for a laptop here, and you can take advantage of 802.11b/g/n WiFi, as well as Bluetooth.

Performance

While plastic has been chosen as the material across the board for this Pavilion, it’s not a bad design altogether. For the most part, this is a thin machine, though it doesn’t exactly challenge either the Apple MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9, or Toshiba Kirabook, three machines which set benchmarks for slim laptops.

As far as the mouse and keyboard goes, the inclusion of a touchscreen means it’s possible to type or use the mouse with either.

We’ll tackle the former first, and over in the keyboard, it’s not a bad effort from HP. The physical keyboard is a touch light, but there seems to be enough travel here to satisfy us, more so than many of the Ultrabooks we’ve seen.

The keys don’t exactly have a satisfying click, or not the type we’re used to, but the keyboard performed better than we expected, and a decent spacing led to an overall lack of mistakes.

You can also use the touchscreen to type if you so choose, but the hinge isn’t the most stable on this screen, and typing will shake it. With results like this endured during regular typing, you can imagine how much movement actually goes on when you type directly on the screen.

If you have no problems with that, the screen is actually very responsive, receptive to touch in a way that would make this panel perfect for a tablet, even if the screen won’t flatten in this incarnation.

HP’s choice of mouse here is a touchpad built into the plastic wrist-rest of the laptop with a physical grid pattern on it, no doubt to discern itself as being different from the plastic below the keyboard.

With an actual textured pattern here, it’s easy to work out where the mouse is for those people who still haven’t become accustomed to a fully touch interface. One interesting part of this touchpad is a small dimple in its design which when double tapped switches the touchpad off, normally a function reserved for one of the function buttons at the top of the keyboard.

Here on the touchpad, it makes a lot of sense, though for first time users could prove confusing. At least it means there’s no chance of accidentally switching it on through the top keys.

Over on the performance side, it’s all pretty standard fare. Intel’s 3rd generation Core i5 technology is used here, literally on the brink of being switched over for fourth-gen, also called “Haswell.”

Despite this impending chip change, the lappy isn’t a bad performer, and should suit most people with a need for a decent office worker, web surfer, and even the occasional game.

In fact, HP has thrown in a discrete graphics card here – the Nvidia GeForce 630M paired with 1GB of RAM – which is a tad better than Intel’s HD graphics, so you can get some gaming done if needed.

A responsive touchscreen alongside a 1TB drive? Nifty.

The inclusion of a 1TB drive is something few thin laptops offer, and that means there’s plenty of space available.

Truthfully, there isn’t 1024 gigabytes here, and once you give 24GB to HP’s recovery partition – in case you need to reinstall anything – and then take out the space reserved for Windows 8, you’ll find roughly 870GB. Still, that’s more than enough for most users, especially when Ultrabooks typically have a maximum of either 256GB solid-state or 500GB hard drives, with less still after everything is installed.

Switching the machine on shows the difference in speed between using a hard drive and a solid-state drive in a laptop, with a regular three second revival from being on standby, while being off to on took us 22 seconds, roughly twice what you often see on SSD-based Ultrabooks.

HP's Connected Remote means an Android phone or an iOS device can be a touchscreen controller for your touchscreen laptop.

There are also some neat features for making your laptop use a better experience.

CoolSense is one of these, and is a sensor that works out the position your laptop is in and changes the performance of your computer (and its fans) based on comfort level, in case you’re using the notebook on your lap, because nobody wants a burning crotch.

HP Connected Remote is another app which offers some decent functionality, making it possible to use some of the apps on your laptop with a smartphone or tablet, with video and DVD software chiefly among them. To its credit, HP does include some software from Cyberlink here, though we’re a little surprised why DVD reading software is considered useful on a laptop that doesn’t have a DVD drive.

A few ports to use, but no optical drive here.

For the most part, the $999 TouchSmart Pavilion is a decent piece of kit, and provides a comfortable computing experience in both usability and weight, but there are things that niggle at us, such as the look.

Sure, it’s sleek, and we can’t argue with the sparkle sitting under the glossy black colouring the laptop has, but it sure is a fingerprint nightmare. From the prints picked up by the lid to oily smudge marks left by your wrists, this is a machine that will look grubby very quickly.

HP’s choice of display technology isn’t the best, either, with the company sticking with a familiar dose of HD-capable 1366×768, which looks a tad pixelated in a 14 inch screen size.

Screens angles are a bit of a problem on the HP Pavilion 14 inch.

The pixel quality is the least of this screen’s problems, though, with an insane amount of gloss and reflectivity visible here, making it hard to use without paying attention to the reflections.

HP has also used a fairly low grade panel here, noticeable thanks to the terrible viewing angles put out by this 14 inch screen. At horizontal angles, it’s not terrible – a glimpse of screen wash out – but change your vertical angle even a little and everything starts inverting.

As such, you’ll often set up the right angle for the display, but even if you move just ever so slightly forward or backward, the screen will change, and not for the good.

It’s the sort of display we’d expect to see on a $500 machine, and not one that fetches a thousand dollar tag, that’s for sure.

Front on it's fine, but change angles ever so slightly and it all goes wishy washy.

HP also needs to work on its mouse, and it’s not just the weaker Synaptics drivers that bothered us on Toshiba’s Kirabook. No, there’s poor responsiveness whenever you use a multitouch gesture, with scrolling more or less wasted on the touchpad, and the pinch-to-zoom marginally faster.

Thankfully, you have a touchscreen , and that is responsive, with both zoom and scroll having no problems whatsoever, but it’s surprising that HP has released a laptop that lacks balance across both its types of input.

Finally there’s the battery, which comes in at just under four hours. That’s not a brilliant amount of juice, and that’s with WiFi on for web surfing, writing, and the regular amount of work. If you plan on hauling this machine to work or uni, bring the adaptor. It’s a must.

Four hours. Ish. Ehh...

Conclusion

With a long title and plenty of space for movies and music, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 14 Sleekbook *gasp* seems to centre itself on one type of person: the laptop buyer who wants something thin but with plenty of storage to spare.

We’re sure there are plenty of those people out there, and at $999, it’s not a bad ask, but next time, HP really needs to up its game when it comes to battery life and display technology, because a one grand price tag should net you better results than what’s provided here.

Review: HP Pavilion TouchSmart 14 Sleekbook
Price (RRP): $999 Manufacturer: HP
Reasonably thin and light; Discrete graphics chip included; Massive one terabyte drive is a top feature; Touchscreen is quite responsive;
Fingerprint magnet; Low grade display; Screen hinge needs to be stronger; Trackpad needs more responsiveness; Battery isn't fantastic, so you'll need to bring your power supply with you;
Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
3.8Overall Score
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