In addition to its expensive Envy range of Ultrabooks, HP also offers a number of more affordable slimline laptops in its Pavilion range. These are sometimes referred to as Ultrabooks and sometimes as 'Sleekbooks', depending on which web page you look at. But sleek or ultra, the Pavilion 14 is a good budget laptop that provides very respectable performance for just over £300.00.
The glossy black plastic case of the Pavilion 14 gives it a rather nondescript appearance, but it measures just 21mm thick and weighs 1.8Kg, so it's certainly portable enough to qualify as an Ultrabook. The build quality is also fairly good for such an affordable machine, with a rigid top panel to protect the screen and a firm keyboard that feels quite comfortable when typing at speed. Our only complaint here is that the trackpad is rather small, and not very well suited to multi-finger gestures such as two-finger scrolling.
The 1366x768 resolution of the 14-inch screen produces a sharp, clear image, although it's not as bright as it could be and full-screen video does lose clarity quite quickly if you move your head away from the front-on position. Still, the modest weight of the laptop means that it's no trouble just to nudge the screen into position every now and then, and we wouldn't suggest that the screen is a deal-breaker by any means. The speakers are also fairly respectable – designed by the late, lamented Altec Lansing, they produce quite decent volume and did a good job of playing some music videos on YouTube.
HP Pavilion 14 (914-b003SA) review: good performance
And, crucially, the Pavilion provides good performance for a laptop in this price range. Its i3-3217U processor is found in a number of similarly priced rivals, and its 4GB of memory and modest 320GB hard disk are also fairly standard. However, HP backs up the 5400rpm hard drive with a 32GB solid-state module that adds a little snap to overall performance and its score of 2547 when running PCMark 7 nudges it ahead of a number of laptops that use the same processor.
It can just about pass muster for some casual gaming too. Running Stalker at 1280x720 resolution and medium graphics settings only produces a speed of 23fps, but you should be able to get playable 3D performance if you don't mind lowering the graphics detail a bit.
Battery life is slightly disappointing, though. The Pavilion has one of the smallest batteries we've seen – both in physical size and capacity, at just 37Wh – and could only just manage four hours (240 mins) of streaming video. See also: best budget laptop.