A Haswell-equipped 17-inch at a very, very low price. While looking through Amazon’s lightening deals during Black Friday, I happened to come across this particular machine, a Quad-core A6 equipped 17-inch desktop replacement for $370. Since I’ve never had an actual desktop replacement before, the deal certainly made me curious. However, instead of purchasing it, I discovered that Best Buy was selling the only Haswell variant I could find for $400, albeit with some slight differences: 2GB less ram and a larger hard drive.
Despite costing the same amount as a PS4, the curious (and stupid) part of me took over, and I purchased it, knowing full well that I (well really, my family) will get far more use out of it than Killzone Shadowfall.
CPU: Intel Haswell Core i3 4000m (Dual-core)
GPU: HD 4600 (I suspect it’s underclocked)
RAM: 4GB Kingston PC12800 DDR3 1.35v (CAS 11-11-11-28)
HD: Western Digital 750GB 5400RPM
OS: Windows 8
Screen: 17 inch 1600×900
Battery Life: ~6 hours (my completely unscientific test)
Price: $400 USD
Booting up the device, I was surprised to discover that the machine came with Windows 8 installed and not Windows 8.1. Perhaps this was to make it so buyers did not have to sign up for a Microsoft account first to log into the machine, which I think is a nice gesture. That or they were just lazy since after installing 8.1 from the Windows App Store, the system required me to sign up regardless.
Looking around the machine, the features are pretty standard:
On the left hand side we have the SD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports, audio jack, HDMI port, and perhaps to cater to potential business users, a VGA port.
On the right hand side, you have the DVD burner, a USB 2.0 port, Ethernet port, power, and Kensington lock…. which I have never used in my life.
As you’d probably expect from a computer that only costs $400, the machine just oozes glossy plastic. The hinge, which looks like a very sturdy hinge made of aluminum is also… plastic. It just looks like metal. The trackpad has little plastic bumps as a texture when sliding your finger on it. I’m not sure what this is for; perhaps it’s to tell you your finger is moving?
The keyboard is adequate; nothing special but not a particularly bad keyboard either. Just don’t go in with any expectations if you’re used to typing on a mechanical.
Sound coming from the large speaker section placed above the keyboard sounds adequate for movie watching purposes and the like.
Lack of stickers:The Intel logo is all I want.
Price: It’s cheap. I mean really, for a Haswell Core i3, this is probably one of the cheapest 17-inch laptops you can find outside of AMD
Upgrade Design: I have to hand it to whoever came up with the internal design for this thing as they simplified access to the RAM and hard drive considerably:
After removing the battery, you just need to remove one screw in the upper left to unlock the internal enclosure. As you can see from my sweaty hand prints, simply grip the cover, pull down, and the thing slides right off the unveil the internals:
The memory modules are like any other laptop and pop out to allow replacements. As of this review, neither Kingston, Crucial, nor Hewlett Packard’s own website seemed to show the exact RAM specifications for this machine. Luckily, it was clearly labeled on the ram stick and confirmed with CPU-Z as a 4GB Kingston DDR3 PC12800 with CAS latency of 11-11-11-28 running at 1.35v.
The hard drive is a 5400rpm spinner from Western Digital, and to replace it requires removal of two bottom screws. Once they are gone, you can simply lift the transparent plastic tab to bring out the hard drive.
Detach the SATA cable and you’re good. What’s interesting is that HP fit a rubber-sided enclosure around the hard drive to reduce vibrations, which I think is a nice touch:
When replacing the hard drive, you’ll need to unscrew the enclosure (the clear plastic cover is part of it so don’t try tearing it off) and attach it to the new drive in order to fit it back into the laptop case:
In this case, since I’m using an SSD, the vibration reduction isn’t needed at all. Once you’re done assembling the SSD with the rubber/plastic enclosure, just go in reverse order, screw it in, and you’re good to go. For boot-up speed, I got 14-15 seconds with the spinner and 8-9 seconds with the SSD.
The DVD Burner: I’m not talking about the actual performance itself; it works fine. It’s getting the darn thing open that’s the problem. I have to severely push the button on the thing just to get it to activate and open the door; so much so that I’m pushing it into the chassis.
Crapware: While the laptop came without a barrage of useless stickers, it did come with the usual HP crapware including Wildtangent games and Cyberlink software I’ll never use.
The Screen: Yeah, at $400 even a 17-inch screen isn’t going to have a 1080p resolution. While 1600×900 is fine for me, the viewing angles on the otherhand are subpar.
Durability: Most laptops these days are made of plastic, but HP seemed fit to also make the audio-jack ring out of cheap plastic. After a not-so-careful insertion, the ring cracked, meaning no headphone will stay in properly.
The vast majority of laptops outside of refurbished editions under $500 have a tendency to sport Celeron processors and AMD’s A-series line. While AMD’s offerings typically have better graphics chips, it isn’t by a vastly superior amount. The CPU performance tends to trail Intel’s Haswell offerings in both speed and power consumption. Chances are, if you are purchasing a laptop this cheap, you aren’t concerned too much about gaming in the first place. Simple games like League of Legends, Terraria, and Minecraft will run just fine, but even Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead will run at decent frame rates on an HD 4600.
Despite some issues with with the DVD drive button and the broken audio-jack ring, the machine is… well, quite good for $400. While I wouldn’t recommend carrying 6.5 lbs across a college campus all day, if a person simply wants a usable computer at a desk, it’s a decent machine. If you are planning on doing some slightly heavier gaming, the Lenovo Y 14-inch series currently starts at $740 with an Nvidia GT 755M. Or, if you own a desktop and don’t care too much about mobile processing power, that extra $340 can just go to a new graphics card.
HP Pavilion 17-e019dx Review by Alfon