How do you make an affordable compact laptop stand out from the crowd? By adding a discrete GPU and a top-quality OLED screen with a pixel density of more than 200dpi. That’s exactly what HP has cooked up with the latest Pavilion Plus 14.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: What you need to know
With the new Pavilion Plus 14, HP is offering a laptop with some of the style and performance of the more expensive full-sized Envy machines, but at a more affordable price. There is another distinction: Envy machines have touchscreens, whereas this Pavilion Plus 14 does not.
To make the Pavilion Plus stand out from the crowd you get an RTX-series Nvidia discrete GPU with genuine, if limited, gaming capability; a high-quality 16:10 OLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate which is perfect for work and play; a superb webcam to satisfy hybrid workers; and a good selection of ports, a must-have for those of us who have yet to swallow the Apple/Dell notion of reducing ports to the bare minimum in the name of aesthetics.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Price and competition
Consumers in Blighty get the Pavilion Plus in two flavours. One has a Core-i5 1240P processor, 8GB of RAM and a 2.2K IPS screen. It will set you back £730. The other, which is the model being reviewed here, runs on a Core-i7 1255U chip but is accompanied by an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050 GPU. It has 16GB of dual-channel RAM and a 2.8K OLED display. That model costs £1,100, which includes a £100 discount at the time of writing.
Acer’s latest Swift X puts up strong competition. Available with 2.2K 14in or 2.5K 16in displays, its graphics come courtesy of Intel’s new Arc A370 dGPU. I found it to be a thoroughly worthy machine but the GPU was lacking, something that came as no real surprise given the troubled rollout of Intel’s discrete GPUs. It is just as well then that you can buy it with an RTX 3050 GPU for £1,250.
If size and weight are your main concerns then Apple’s MacBook Air could be just the ticket. The new M2 model will only set you back £150 more than the Pavilion Plus, though the display is slightly smaller and slightly lower resolution, and you have to make do with only two Type-C ports, albeit using the Thunderbolt 4 spec. Great battery life and a trifling 1.24kg weight are the cream on the Apple pie.
Asus, meanwhile, would like you to consider the OLED-screen ZenBook. We praised the 13.3in 2.8K display and powerful AMD Ryzen 7 6800U CPU/Radeon 680M GPU underpinnings, and it weighs a mere 1kg. Only the 720p webcam let the side down; for £1,300 you should expect better.
Huawei’s MateBook 14s is getting a little long in the tooth but that means there are some cracking deals to be had. When I reviewed it back in late 2021 it cost £1,200. Now you can pick it up for £680. Age hasn’t withered the quality of the 90Hz 2.2K 14.2in display nor the excellent speaker system. The Tiger Lake Core i7-11370H processor has more than enough grunt for most users and the battery life isn’t too shabby.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Design and build quality
Physically, the Pavilion Plus is typical HP, made from aluminium and (in the UK) available in one colour, silver. The only plastic on display is surrounding the display, which doesn’t look too bad, even if the top bezel is on the thick side at 10mm. The side bezels are half that. Give the screen a good twist and you won’t notice too much flex, while the base is entirely solid.
The design owes much to the existing Pavilion range, but the sides are now squared off rather than slightly concave. That’s a minor stylistic change, but the result is a more premium look. At 1.4kg, the Pavilion Plus isn’t the lightest in its class, nor is it the smallest at 314 x 224 x 18mm, but you can still throw it in a backpack and almost forget that it’s in there.
The Pavilion Plus is well endowed with ports, providing two 10Gbits/sec Type-C and two 5Gbits/sec Type-A ports, along with an HDMI 2.1 video-out, 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card reader. Neither of the Type-Cs support Thunderbolt, but they do offer DisplayPort 1.4 video. In the absence of a DC-in jack, you will be using one of the Type-Cs for charging.
Removing the plastic base tray is a simple job, although the only components that can be swapped out are the WLAN card and the SSD. The RAM is well and truly soldered in place.
Incidentally, the Pavilion Plus is preloaded with Windows 11 Home S mode, which means no loading apps from outside the Microsoft Store. Disabling S mode is a moment’s work, but once done there’s no going back.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
The keyboard is much the same as you’ll find on any Pavilion laptop, but that’s no bad thing. The key action is crisp and precise, and the keyboard deck has very little give to it. I’ve no beef with the layout either. Extra points go to HP for locating the fingerprint scanner below the cursor keys, which is a very convenient location.
I do have a problem with the backlight colour scheme. White light through silver keys always causes contrast difficulties, especially when the backlight is at the dimmer of the two settings. It renders the backlight almost useless in all but very dark environments.
The centrally-located touchpad doesn’t lack for surface area; at 125 x 80mm it’s one of the biggest you’ll find on a 14in notebook. The click action at the bottom corners is deeper than you’ll find on many laptops, but it’s also noisy. Use the Pavilion in a library and you can expect disapproving glances from those working nearby.
The webcam was altogether better than I expected on a machine of this price. Not only can it capture video at 1440p 30fps but it’s impressively bright and colourful, even in less-than-ideal environments. There’s no support for Windows Hello facial recognition, though.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Display and audio
The Pavilion Plus’s party piece is undoubtedly the 14in 2,880 x 1,800 90Hz OLED panel. It may not support touch, but it’s super crisp with a pixel density of 241dpi, and very colourful with 100% sRGB and 99% DCI-P3 gamut coverage. HP claims a maximum brightness of 400cd/m2, which is almost exactly what I measured with my i1 Display Studio colourimeter. The contrast ratio was excellent thanks to the absolute black that is a feature of OLED panels.
The Delta E colour accuracy was a little wayward at 3.7 against sRGB and, in the absence of any colour profile swapping applications, there is no easy way to improve that. Only serious photographers will be concerned about this, mind. To the untrained eye, the Pavilion Plus’s display is beautifully saturated and colourful.
In an age when mobile phone displays regularly refresh at up to 120Hz, it’s surprising that so few non-gaming laptops have refresh rates above 60Hz. Whatever the reason, spend a few days looking at a 90Hz display and you will notice the absence of that buttery smoothness when you revert to 60Hz.
Unlike the display, the B&O-branded speaker system is rather vin ordinaire. There’s no lack of volume, with an average of 81dB recorded against a continuous pink noise source and peaks of 85dB from a music source, but the sound is raucous, especially at maximum volume. There’s little discernible bass, either. The B&O control panel does little to ameliorate the situation.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Performance and battery life
Coupling a a discrete GPU with a chip that majors in efficiency rather than performance, such as the 10-core Intel Core i7-1255U, makes sense on paper. However, as we’ll come to later, that does have a knock-on effect for battery life.
The Expert Reviews multimedia benchmark returned a score of 174, which is perfectly reasonable for a compact notebook, but well short of the score you’d see from a P-series Core i7 chip, let alone an H-series. The GeekBench 5 scores tell a similar tale, with a solid single-core score of 1,603 but a relatively low multi-core score of 6,444.
Launched in December 2021, the RTX 2050 is very much the runt of the Nvidia GeForce RTX-series litter. On the positive side, it does come with 4GB of dedicated vRAM and, thanks to its Ampere architecture and tensor cores, there is support for both DLSS and ray tracing. However, the maximum TGP is a lowly 35W and the memory bus is 64-bit.
The rather low-end spec is reflected in the Pavilion’s gaming performance. While you can play AAA games, you must hammer down the details settings. Case in point: the Hitman 2 bench test ran at 63fps at 1,920 x 1,200, but with SuperSampling set to 1 rather than 2, as we usually have it. At the latter, it couldn’t even hit 15fps.
At 1,920 x 1,200 with ray tracing on and DLSS set to ‘balanced’, Wolfenstein: Youngblood ran at 67fps. But that was with video detail set to low. Turn off ray tracing and that figure jumps to 89fps. Try to increase the video detail and you run into stability issues.
To get anything remotely playable from Metro:Exodus I had to dial the resolution down to 1,280 x 960, and even then the best I managed was 54fps. Halo Infinite did better, partly thanks to its lack of support for ray tracing; at 1,920 x 1,200 I achieved a steady 50fps after knocking the detail settings down to low.
Less demanding games make a better showing and take advantage of the 2.8K 90Hz display. Prodeus (if you haven’t checked this retro FPS out, you really should) ran at 78fps at 2.8K, while Doom ran at 51fps at the same resolution. Of course, the Pavilion isn’t really being pitched as a gaming machine, but some people will see the GeForce RTX sticker and think it is.
The discrete GPU justifies its selection when it comes to more professional graphical pursuits. The SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D rendering test ran at 39fps, which is three times as fast as I’ve seen an Intel Core i7 12700H with Xe integrated graphics do the job. It also chewed through AV jobs I needed to run on Gimp and Handbrake in very short order.
The Intel-made 512GB SSD proved to be a very average performer with sequential, read and write speeds of 2,513MB/sec and 1,228MB/sec respectively. The drive in Acer’s Swift X was capable of more than double those speeds.
The cheaper model of the Pavilion Plus comes with a disappointing Realtek wireless card, but my model had an Intel AX211 modem, which delivered reliable and fast access to even the latest Wi-Fi 6E signals. The Bluetooth radio is up to date at v5.2.
Sadly the Pavilion Plus suffers from SBS or Small Battery Syndrome. 51Wh isn’t that much when you have a 2.8K display to power. In our standard battery run-down test the Pavilion managed 7 hrs 26 mins, which is 26 minutes more than HP claims, but still isn’t a stellar result. Getting through a full day at the office was possible, but as the Duke of Wellington said, it was the nearest-run thing you ever saw. The claimed battery fast charge of “approximately 50% in 30 minutes” is accurate enough, but that’s still not particularly fast.
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HP Pavilion Plus 14 review: Verdict
As an affordable, compact, do-it-all, the Pavilion Plus 14 isn’t a bad offering. The display is beautifully crisp and colourful, the keyboard a pleasure to work on, and the RTX 2050 GPU lets it perform graphics tasks, even if AAA gaming is a stretch.
The fly in the ointment is battery life. I’m sure HP could have found space for another few Wh of capacity and that would have made all the difference. The white backlight on silver keyboard problem is even more avoidable. It’s a shame that none of the other four colours listed on HP’s US website seem to be available in the UK – the Space Blue and Warm Gold models look particularly easy on the eye and would lessen the backlight contrast issues.
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