The HP Notebook 15 is a decent option for basic productivity tasks, but the slow AMD processor, low screen resolution, and limited RAM hold it back.
|What We Like||What We Don’t Like|
|Attractive design||Lots of bloatware|
|Good keyboard||The display isn’t full HD|
|Decent stereo sound||Only 4 GB of RAM|
|——————-||Mediocre battery life|
The HP Notebook 15 is an entry-level, budget-priced laptop that’s designed to work as a transferable desktop replacement. In the configuration we tested, the AMD A6-9225 2.6 GHz processor and 4 GB of DDR4 RAM proved sufficient for most basic productivity tasks, but a display that isn’t full HD makes it a tough sell as a desktop replacement. The mediocre battery life also means you might end up scrambling for a power outlet when using it away from home.
We put an HP Notebook 15 to the test around the office and at home to observe how it handles daily tasks beyond basic benchmark numbers. We looked at things like speaker quality, its capability to handle production tasks and gaming, in-use battery life, and more.
Design: Premium Looks at a Budget Price
When designing a sub-$300 desktop replacement like the HP Notebook 15, compromises are made in order to hit that budget-friendly price tag. Aesthetics are typically the primary concession, but the HP Notebook 15, in fact, looks very nice. The matte finish of the shell has a satisfying texture and gives a nice visual flair to what could have been an ordinary design.
The HP Notebook 15 is accessible in a few different colors, but the basic black model we tested features the same textured plastic on the bezel, interior case, and exterior case. Most of the ports, counting the power, Ethernet, HDMI, and both USB 3.1 ports, are located on the left side, so most of the time you’ll only have to deal with wires on one side of the device. The third USB port, DVD drive, and SD card person who reads are all located on the right side.
The laptop is less than an inch chunky at the rear, and it slopes down to an even thinner profile at the front. It does weigh in at over four and a half pounds, which cuts down on portability somewhat, but the short battery life means you won’t be carrying this one with you everywhere anyway.
Setup Process: Generally Straightforward, But Bloatware Can Make Longer The Initial Setup
The HP Notebook 15 is a Windows 10 laptop, and the setup process isn’t anything out of the normal for a laptop like this. We timed the first setup, and it took less than 15 minutes from plugging it in and turning it on to hitting the desktop for the first time. HP does ask for some information (counting your email address) during the signup process, but most OEMs have a similar process for setting up support and warranty information.
It does come with an Office 365 trial and about ten utilities and apps from HP that most users won’t want or need. Removing all of the bloatware extends the primary setup time considerably, particularly since this isn’t the fastest laptop, to begin with, but uninstalling what you don’t need does free up some space and help the laptop run a little faster.
Display: Unremarkable, and not HD
The display is one of the biggest shortcomings of the HP Notebook 15. It’s working, and it won’t get in the way if you’re just using the laptop for basic productivity tasks. But it’s absolutely one of the places that HP cut corners to hit the budget price point. The maximum resolution is only 1366 x 768, which is on the low side for a 15.6” display.
We’d like to observe at least 1600 x 900, if not 1920 x 1080 resolution, on a laptop of this size, but that isn’t of necessity a deal-breaker at this price point.
Performance: Outperformed by Intel HP Notebooks with similar specs
The HP Notebook 15 suffers in the performance section due to its AMD A6-9225 and 4GB of RAM. It’s absolutely competent of performing basic productivity tasks like word processing, web browsing, email, and even spreadsheets, but similar models with even slightly better processors and additional RAM beat it in each important benchmark.
We ran the PCMark 10 benchmark to obtain a baseline of how the HP Notebook 15 can handle basic tasks. It notched an in general score of 1,421, with a higher score of 3,027 in the fundamentals category and 2,352 in the production category. That indicates it is competent in performing basic tasks like word processing and web browsing, but apps will tend to take longer to launch and will likely slow down the whole machine.
By way of comparison, it outscored the similarly-outfitted Lenovo Ideapad 320, which only managed to score 1,021 in the general test. However, the HP Notebook 15’s Intel-equipped cousin, the HP 15-BS013DX, managed a much higher score of 2,169. Another budget-priced laptop in the same basic price range, the Acer Aspire E15, beat the majority of the rivalry with a score of 2,657.
We also ran some gaming benchmarks, but the bottom line is that this laptop isn’t designed for gaming. It doesn’t have the processor, video card, or RAM to play anything even approaching a modern game.
It scored a middling 2,600 and managed just 16 FPS in the Cloud Gate benchmark, which is designed for low-end notebook computers. The closely-related HP 15-BS013DX, which has an Intel chip, scored 5,232 with 31 FPS in that benchmark.
We as well ran the Fire Strike benchmark, which is one more gaming benchmark that’s designed for somewhat more influential machines. It only managed a score of 547 in that one, with a totally unplayable 3 FPS.
Productivity: Works fine for basic productivity tasks
In real-world make use of, we found that the HP Notebook 15 feels sluggish a lot of the time, particularly when running multiple apps at once or juggling 10 or more web browser tabs. It’s particularly bad at working with images and videos, but it’s working for basic tasks like word processing and email.
The biggest difficulty we encountered in our testing was the loading speed. Some apps, like LibreOffice Writer, took almost 20 seconds to launch. That’s a subject you’ll only deal with when you first open apps, but it does take a while to in fact start working on this laptop.
Once you get down to work, the HP Notebook 15’s keyboard is great. The keys feel nice and snappy, not mushy, and the positioning is decent. We didn’t have any problem typing or using the touchpad, and it’s pleasant to have a full, island-style keyboard with a dedicated numeric keypad.
Audio: Solid sound for a budget laptop
The dual speakers are located between the keyboard and the screen and fire upward, ensuring that they won’t ever be muffled by your hands or the surface the laptop is sitting on.
The sound quality is great for a laptop in this category, and we didn’t become aware of any distortion when listening to music or watching movie trailers on YouTube. It’s also adequately loud, although the speakers lack the bass response essential to actually fill a room.
Network: Decent speeds, but no 802.11ac
The wireless card is one more place where HP cut corners on the Notebook 15. Speeds are decent sufficient when connected to a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, but the lack of 802.11ac support means you don’t have the option to connect to a 5 GHz network.
When tested on Speedtest.net, we found that the HP Notebook 15 managed download speeds of 34 Mbps and upload speeds of 29 Mbps. By comparison, the 802.11ac-equipped HP 15-BS013DX managed download speeds of up to 217 Mbps when connected to our 5 GHz network.
The lack of 802.11ac won’t be anxious if your wireless router doesn’t support 5 GHz, but it’s nice to have that option if you want to stream video or download large files.
Camera: Just an unimposing 720p webcam
The HP Notebook 15 includes a 720p webcam that works well sufficient for video chat, but it’s a little blurry and washed out for use in expert teleconferencing. It’s there if you need it, but it isn’t anything special.
Battery: Mediocre battery life requires recurrent charging
The HP Notebook 15 has a three-cell 41Wh battery according to its specific sheet, and that matches what we found in our testing. Our readings showed a 41,040 mWh design capability and a 41,040 full charge ability. Unluckily, that just isn’t sufficient battery to support this laptop.
In our testing, we found that the HP Notebook 15 battery holds up for about four and a half hours of steady use. That’s sufficient for light use but it isn’t enough to hold you over for a full day of work or school without plugging the charger in at some point. With very light make use of and the Wi-Fi turned off, the battery lasts a couple of hours longer.
Software: Excessive bloatware clogs up the works
The HP Notebook 15 comes equipped with Windows 10 and free trials of McAfee antivirus and Office 365. It also has a handful of basic Windows apps installed by default, and a lot of bloatware from HP — there are about ten different apps, including HP JumpStart and HP Audio Switch, that we assume most users will want to uninstall.
Price: Smart price for what you get
The HP Notebook 15 won’t win any awards for performance or battery life, but it’s a classic instance of the old maxim that “you get what you pay for.” The MSRP is just $299, so if you’re in the marketplace for an ultra-budget laptop, then it’s worth a look.
Competition: For a little more money, you can get a whole lot more
The HP Notebook 15 stacks up positively against some of its ultra-budget competitors, but it falls unhappily short compared to laptops that are even slightly more costly. This indicates that if you have a little more to spend, it’s worth investing in a better-performing machine.
As for other laptops in the sub-$300 range, the Lenovo Ideapad 320 is accessible at a similar price point of $288, but it scored considerably lower in important benchmark tests. This device looks a lot nicer than the HP Notebook 15, but it doesn’t, in fact, perform as well — unless you need the total cheapest laptop you can find, the Ideapad 320 is not an excellent option.
The HP 15-BS013DX, on the other hand, has a much higher MSRP of $699 and characteristically sells in the sub-$500 range rather than the sub-$300 range. But the higher price tag gets you improved battery life, a touchscreen, and much higher scores on important benchmarks.
Sitting right in the middle — a bit more costly than the HP Notebook 15 but cheaper than the 15-BS013DX — is the Acer Aspire E15. This laptop is perhaps the biggest argument alongside the HP Notebook 15. The Aspire E15 beats it in each benchmark, has a battery that lasts approximately three times as long, and features a full HD display, all while remaining competitive in price. The Acer has an MSRP of $379, but it’s typically obtainable for less than that. If you have any wiggle room in your budget, the Aspire E15 is a more capable machine for only a little more money.
Not a true a desktop replacement, but a decent budget option for the most basic tasks. The lower-resolution display, not the noteworthy battery, and weak internals make something beyond basic tasks a struggle for the HP Notebook 15. But if you just need a laptop for web browsing, email, and word processing — and plan to keep it by an outlet — then the HP Notebook 15 fits the bill for an extremely low price.