HP 255 G3 budget laptop review

HP 255 G3

Illustrating that Intel doesn't quite have a 100 percent monopoly on processors to power Windows PCs, AMD still makes chips that we find in slower and less efficient budget laptops. The HP 255 G3 laptop here can boast of its quad-core chip and Radeon graphics processor, wrapped up in a 15-inch display laptop for just £200. That looks like a bargain. (For more, see: Best budget laptops 2014.)

To help achieve the low price, HP has installed Microsoft's new complimentary edition of Windows 8.1 with Bing. Without having to pay for Windows, HP was able to focus on just getting the budget components together to make a working laptop. We borrowed our test laptop from eBuyer.

The chassis is a chunky plastic build in black and gunmetal colours, and the lid back in particular was found to pick up indelible fingerprints after light use.

Inside we find an AMD A4-5000 main processor, a quad-core running at 1.5 GHz which AMD describes as an accelerated processing unit (APU). Like the Intel Core series, it integrates CPU and GPU together to save power and money. But the graphics engine inside bears the name of Radeon, a tradable commodity even if the primitive version fitted here cannot reliably play Windows games.

For storage the HP includes a useful 500 GB capacity hard disk, while the APU is backed up with 4 GB of memory, the faster 1600 MHz type. Wireless connectivity runs to the usual Bluetooth 4.0 and single-band and single-stream 11n Wi-Fi.

HP 255 G3 review: connectivity

Basic operational features don't suffer too much at the hands of economy – this laptop features a USB 3.0 port to the left and two v2 ports on the right, plus gigabit ethernet, HDMI and VGA video outputs, and an SD card slot. There's even a DVD/CD writer that pops out the right side.

Core usability is the HP's forté, since the key areas of keyboard, trackpad and display are up to standard for hassle-free use. The square-tiled keyboard has a great action that makes touch-typing a doddle, and the top deck barely yields under more heavy-handed pressure.

The trackpad below is a decent size, moulded and rebated into the wrist-rest area but with an added rough texture that we found to offer better tactility than some shiny plastic types. And most important, the cursor followed our finger, where so many budget and even midrange Windows laptops can be all-too skittish. Two hardware click buttons save an added aggravation from buttonless designs.

The display is the typical low-resolution and low-quality panel we now expect in the cheapest laptops, but at least it's matt finished to reduce glare. And side-to-side viewing angles are not as bad as some budget displays. But this screen more than most will benefit from some calibration, as out of the box it had as strong blue cast to colours.

HP 255 G3 review: Lab report

While the lab benchmark results don't look so impressive against even the slowest Intel Core series-powered laptops, there's enough performance for daily computing tasks, and the AMD chips is a step up from Intel's budget Celeron N2840 that powers Lenovo's Windows-with-Bing cheapest.

As a guide to raw processor and memory performance, the Geekbench 3 test measured just 915 points for single-core mode, and 2846 points for multi-core. Given the benchmark software's cross-platform universality, we can express this speed as almost the same as that of a Google Nexus 5 smartphone, for example, with its quad-core ARM processor.

These aren't the lowest numbers in this round-up though, as the Lenovo B50-30 is set by its maker to run with even slower performance.

AMD Radeon on the specs list suggest some graphics clout, but in practice this GPU has been pared back to reduce price and power consumption. Again, the HP was just pipped from last place by the Lenovo B50-30, and may be capable of some rudimentary gameplay with older games.

In Batman: Arkham City it managed 23 fps in our lowest resolution and detail test (1280 x 720, Low detail). However that average figure is accompanied by a minimum framerate of 9 fps that would be quite apparent as dropped frames. Similarly, Tomb Raider 2013 just about limped through with an average of 22 fps, and a higher minimum of 17 fps.

Display quality was measured the same as other budget laptop design, hitting just 55 percent sRGB gamut and an 80:1 contrast ratio.

Battery life from the removable 32 Wh battery was also around average for the category, just under four hours at 3 hours 58 mins in the looped-video rundown test. Also see: Best laptops 2014 and Best gaming laptops 2014.

HG 255 G3 review: Lab test results

Runtime: 3 hr 58 min
Contrast ratio: 80:1
Colour gamut sRGB: 55 %
Geekbench single: 915
Geekbench multi: 2846
PC Mark 7: 1550
PCMark 8 Home: 1646
PCMark 8 Work: 2266
Batman: Arkham City 1280 x 720, Low: 23
Batman: Arkham City 1366 x 768, Med: 20
Tomb Raider 2013 1280 x 720, Low: 22
Tomb Raider 2013 1366 x 768, Normal: 13

This review was amended on 28 January 2015 to correct an error that described AMD's APU acronym as Auxiliary Processing Unit, rather than Accelerated Processing Unit.

Also see: How to choose a budget laptop.

HP 255 G3: Specs

  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768, 100 ppi) matt TN LCD
  • 1.5 GHz AMD A4-5000 (4C)
  • AMD Radeon 8330
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • DVD±RW
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • single-band 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI, VGA
  • SD
  • removable 32 Wh lithium-ion
  • 377 x 257 x 26.5 mm
  • 2183 g
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768, 100 ppi) matt TN LCD
  • 1.5 GHz AMD A4-5000 (4C)
  • AMD Radeon 8330
  • 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • 500 GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
  • DVD±RW
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • single-band 802.11b/g/n 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • HDMI, VGA
  • SD
  • removable 32 Wh lithium-ion
  • 377 x 257 x 26.5 mm
  • 2183 g

OUR VERDICT

Design and build quality of the HP 255 G3 are workmanlike, but importantly the main comfort areas of keyboard, trackpad and display are quite usable, if with the usual issues of poor display quality we find at this low price. But for only £200 the HP is more than creditable as a get-you-by budget Windows laptop.

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