HP Pavilion 15t (Skylake) Laptop Review

After the untimely death of my Lenovo, and because my other Toshiba laptop was getting up there in years, I decided to pick up a new laptop. My main requirements? A Skylake CPU, a dedicated Nvidia GPU, and something in the 15″ range. I found the HP Pavilion 15t (the ab100 model), which was on sale for basically a song! I grabbed one and have been using it for about the past week. In this HP Pavilion 15t review, I’ll go over what I like and what I don’t like, and let you guys out there decide if this device is right for you.

HP loves making laptops with the name “Pavilion,” so trying to find information about a specific release/type of these laptops is a real pain in the butt. To be clear, I’ll try to give as much info as possible so that you know you’re looking at the same Pavilion I’m reviewing. This particular HP Pavilion review covers models that feature 6th gen Intel Core processors (codename: “Skylake”), as well as optional Nvidia 940M GPUs. The model number of mine is “15t-ab100” and it was introduced in late 2015. I believe the “Star Wars Force Awakens Special Edition” (that’s a mouthful…) is a variant of this line, as that model is referenced in the manual.

My use case for this laptop is primarily streaming games from my desktop and soon, my Xbox One. I also plan to use it to do basic web-type stuff: email, blogging, browsing, shopping, etc. Occasionally, I’d like to use it to play games directly, but that’s mostly for travel and I don’t mind being limited to simpler, less GPU intensive games.

I picked one of these HP Pavilion 15t’s up during a particularly awesome HP store sale. The Pavilion 15t is a pretty inexpensive notebook to begin with, but this sale knocked it down an additional $200. I ended up spending that cash on upgrades, so my “configure to order” (CTO) specs were:

  • Intel Core i7 Dual Core Processor (6500U)
  • Nvidia GeForce 940M Discrete Graphics
  • 15.6-inch diagonal Full HD WLED-backlit IPS Display (1920×1080)
  • 802.11ac + Bluetooth Wireless Mini-PCIe card
  • 1TB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
  • 6GB LPDDR3 RAM (1600MHz, PC3L-12800)

The grand total for this was a bit under $650. For a latest-gen Core i7 and dedicated GPU, that’s a steal! I wasn’t planning on getting a dedicated GPU, since my plan was to use it infrequently. However, I just couldn’t pass it up at this price!

HP Pavilion 15t Review: Front View

I sure thought this model came with a touch panel, but apparently it doesn’t. I don’t really care, personally, but it was a bit of a surprise. I probably looked like a moron jabbing at the screen for a few minutes the first time I turned it on…

I didn’t bother upgrading the HDD or RAM, as those are easy to replace, compared to the CPU which tends to be soldered down or the panel which is pretty much impossible to replace.

HP Pavilion 15t Review: Love at First Byte

First off: the things that I love. I really, really love the battery life. Even while streaming from my desktop gaming rig, I can get around 4-6 hours of play on a charge. My older laptop was far less efficient in this regard – I could maybe get 2 hours if I was lucky.

The Pavilion 15t’s screen is also pleasant. I’m glad that high DPI, matte displays are in vogue. The extra $20 for a 1080p panel really paid off. It’s also the same native resolution as my desktop, so there’s no scaling and my games look awesome.

The keyboard is pretty nice, the keys have a bit of texture to them and I find them comfortable to use for extended periods. There’s also a full-size numpad, which is great.

The HP Pavilion 15t is also pretty light. It doesn’t tire me out to have it sitting on my lap, like my heavier previous laptops have. Another plus for the HP Pavilion 15t is that it runs really cool. Even with the Core i7 upgrade and when playing games, it doesn’t get terribly hot or loud.

HP Pavilion 15t Review: It’s Cheap, Y’all

HP Pavilion 15t Review: Bottom Cover

Now onto the bad news. It’s kind of painful to get inside the HP Pavilion 15t to do any upgrades. I had to take out a dozen screws, pop off two hinge covers, and then pry open the plastic clips all the way around the keyboard tray, and even then it didn’t quite want to come apart. Thankfully, there are removable DIMMs in a pair of slots, and the HDD is mounted in some rubber (shock absorbing?) bumpers – there aren’t any screws directly holding it in. These parts are relatively close to the front edge of the laptop, which was the easiest to get apart.

Related Video By request, here’s a video of me taking the laptop apart, showing where all the screws are and getting the case separated.

This all-plastic construction also means the HP Pavilion 15t feels really cheap. The plastic feels thin, and I managed to mar it when trying to pop it apart to upgrade it. There’s also a bit of residual glue around the bottom edge of the screen that I can’t seem to get rid of, and I’m worried about damaging the panel if I take any more invasive steps to remove it.

I really don’t like the touchpad on the Pavilion 15t either. It’s trying to ape the much higher end touchpads on nicer laptops, which click anywhere you touch them. There’s a definite difference in the force required to push the Pavilion’s touchpad down at the front versus the rear of the pad. The Synaptics software is also light years behind Apple touchpads as well. I also dislike the fact that there’s no way to turn it off with a key by default, and there’s not an obvious way to bind a F-key or other keystroke to shutting it down for extended gaming or typing sessions.

This is also my first Windows 10 PC, for better or worse. I can’t really blame the HP Pavilion 15t for Windows 10-related issues, but I still haven’t quite warmed to the OS. There are a lot of little bugs or half-working features, which is actually pretty standard for Microsoft OS releases. I’m not terribly surprised, but I guess I’m still a bit disappointed.

HP Pavilion 15t Review: Sharp Corners

Finally, the rear edge of the lid has a really sharp edge to it. This is bad for two reasons. First, trying to carry the laptop by the hinge side means you’re putting the weight of the Pavilion 15t on that edge and into your hand. Second, the hinges rotate down towards your lap whenever the lid is up, so there are two short sections of sharp edge digging into your legs. It’s not a big deal if there’s clothes in the way, but if you find your shorts riding up a bit or you like to sit cross-legged, you might find those sharp plastic bits digging into your legs.

HP Pavilion 15t (ab100/Skylake)
Links:Homepage
Release:Late 2015
Price:$650
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

At the end of the day, the HP Pavilion 15t (ab100) is a cheap laptop. Cheap cuts both ways, though. I was able to get a lot of power under the hood for not a lot of cash – this is easily equivalent to the specs of many “gaming laptops” that cost $1000 or more. On the other hand, the construction and build quality are definitely on the cheap side. I’ve only had it for a week, so time will tell if it holds up to my daily use. At the moment, though, I must say I’m pleased with the price and performance.

Review Policy

  • SnorriChinchilla

    Awesome review, I was muddled by the number of Pavilion 15t reviews that were not actually for the newest Pavilion 15t. I was wondering if you actually bought one with an IPS screen, because you said that you paid an extra $20 for a 1080p screen when above you said you got an 1080p IPS display, which costs $40 more than the 720p screen. I am trying to decide whether of not I should buy the IPS display upgrades. I am also not sure if I should buy the AC Wifi upgrade, because I am only paying for 150 mbps Wifi from my ISP.

    • agent86ix

      Hey Snorri!

      Yeah, HP needs to think about their model numbers some – that’s why I posted so many details about the laptop, so that folks would have some idea which one I’m talking about. Glad you found my article :)

      The pricing may have changed since I bought mine, the specific line item on my order was:

      15.6-inch diagonal Full HD WLED-backlit IPS Display (1920×1080)

      My invoice doesn’t list the line item pricing, so I don’t know if I was wrong in the article or the pricing has changed.

      The display on this laptop is really quite good. I almost prefer it to my 22″ ViewSonic desktop display. It’s really clear and has proven quite nice for gaming. If you’re on the fence, I say grab it. It’s one area that you really can’t upgrade after purchase.

      The wireless card is user-replaceable, assuming you’re not squeamish about taking out all the screws and popping the case apart. You can grab a replacement AC card at Amazon for pretty cheap, and it’s about as hard to install as RAM is.

      I opened mine up again the other day, and having a set of spudgers really helps. This set of spudgers over on Amazon is a solid deal. It made popping the keyboard tray apart a lot easier than the first time, where I was using metal tools and a plastic putty knife.

      • Jeffrey McClain

        Hi, I just read your article, and was wondering if you would consider posting a Youtube video showing how to open up the laptop to upgrade the Ram and hard-drive. I’ve tried finding a video for this particular laptop model and couldn’t. I read your description and while it seems doable (although somewhat difficult), I’d still prefer a step-by-step walkthrough to ensure I don’t accidentally break anything.

        • agent86ix

          Mmmmmmm… mkay. Your wish is my command.*

          (*not really. offer void where prohibited.)

          • Jeffrey McClain

            WOW, thank you so much!!!

            I honestly didn’t expect such a prompt and thorough response, I figured you might not even respond considering this post was a few months old.

            I really wish HP would design their laptops with upgradability in mind. Are a couple separate slots on the bottom case for easy access to the Ram and Hard-drive really that much to ask?

            Regardless of HPs questionable manufacturing choices, I’m very impressed with your video. I might try the upgrade myself eventually, planning to upgrade to 16GB of Ram and a 1TB solid-state drive.

          • agent86ix

            Well, you caught me in a spot where I had time to do a quick video. :) Hope it helps you and others. Throw a like or a subscribe on the YouTube channel if you don’t mind, it helps! (Plus we’re donating a dollar to charity for every YT sub in 2016, more on that here: https://twitter.com/agent86ix/status/690676481685487621 )

            I do wish they hadn’t made it one giant panel, but I’m guessing that saves on cost. My older Toshiba laptop had separate “windows” in the base for accessing RAM and HDD at least.

            My only suggestion would be to take it apart the minimum number of times possible. I’m always a little wary of flexing the plastic and popping the catches on the edges myself, as I’m sure sooner or later something’s going to snap that I don’t want to snap.

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  • Ivan

    Hello, can you recommend it after all this time?

    • agent86ix

      Hey Ivan!

      Yes, I still like my HP laptop quite a bit. I did have an issue with the audio jack where sometimes it doesn’t like my headset. I bought a cheap ($5) USB audio adapter and haven’t looked back. Other than that, it’s not had any issues!

      • Ivan

        thank you for your review, this is the only HP Pavilion 15t ab100 review I’ve found

        • Rajarshi Muhuri

          I bought the HP Pavallion 15t ab100 , and am very disappointed to see that upgrading the HDD and RAM is very difficult.

          Also your specs said DDR4 RAM , can you tell me the specifics of the DDR4 variety ? ( is it DDR4-2133 )

          • agent86ix

            Bleh, looks like I made a typo. According to HP, it’s LPDDR3. The HP parts list shows it to be 1600MHz, PC3L-12800. I’ll make the edit to the article to fix the typo.

          • Rajarshi Muhuri

            thanks for clarifying . I love the laptop too for its aesthetics , but what i hate the fact that it is so hard to upgrade ram and hdd . i managed to open it . watched numerous videos and then attempted it . It took me an hourto do it . many a times i thought .. damn .. i am breaking the laptop.

            but this design really sucks , every one will be upgrading the ram and hdd at certain point , but with this very very few will manage to do it

          • agent86ix

            Yeah, all-plastic designs are pretty common. Usually they’ll use plastic snaps to avoid using screws, but there are a TON of screws on this laptop as well! So weird. Anyhow, at this price point you really have to sacrifice something, and I’d rather sacrifice the case than the hardware specs.

  • SIMONEGA

    Review for HP Pavilion 15t Non-Touch Laptop 2016

    I researched for over a month and looked at hundreds of laptops to find the one that fit my needs and budget. It was very important for me to get the perfect computer because I spent about four years dealing with a horrible Toshiba satellite laptop and I did not want to relive that. I also did not have money to get another one if I got a used or refurbished laptop that did not have a warranty and did not work. I also did not have the time to wait to get another one. So after much searching and headache I decided to go with HP. I ordered my HP Pavilion 15t non touch laptop on Feb 22, 2016 and it was delivered on March 3, 2016, so the delivery time was ok but it did not ship in the standard 3-6 business days like it was stated. It was also stated that HP laptops are made in America, which is not true, they are made in China, which adds to delivery time. I customized my laptop with blizzard white, 8 Gb Memory, 15.6-inch diagonal Full HD WLED-backlit Display (1920×1080), 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R) [1×1]. I wish the blizzard white looked more white rather than looking like a light silver/gray color. I love the design of the laptop, it is very smooth and sleek. The keyboard is perfect but the mouse does not click that great, HP should have made 2 separate bumps so it could be easier to distinguish the sections. I like the placement and look of the speakers and the sound is decent but its nothing special like was advertised. The camera is good. The DVD/CD drive has to be the cheapest I’ve ever seen! They really could have done better with that. The screen size is 13 ½ inches instead of 15.6”. It’s not that big of a deal for me but it’s false advertising. It could have been the advertised size if the black framing was cut back. The weight of the laptop is good. It does not feel cheap at all, it’s not too light and it’s not too heavy. Battery life is not good; it charges fast but I only get about 2 to 2 ½ hours unplugged. Most laptop batteries last a lot less then they advertise, which does not make it ok but it’s something I noticed. Lucky for me it’s not that big of a deal to be plugged in but if it was I would be very upset! HP’s customer service is a joke! I tried to use the online chat to ask a question and I never got anybody! When I called them I had to wait a very long time and when I finally did speak to somebody I had to deal with a guy with a thick Indian accent that I could barely understand and he did not know the answers to most of my questions! When he transferred me to another department (and had to wait long again) I was disconnected! HP needs to work on their customer service ASAP!!!! There are some other features that I have not checked out yet but so far so good. So would I recommend this laptop? Yes, I would! There are a few things I don’t like and some false advertising going on but besides that I am happy with my laptop! I love the color choices they have. It has almost everything I wanted for the best price compared to the rest! HP really needs to do a lot better with their customer service and stop false advertising but if this computer holds up they will have a long time customer. The HP Pavilion 15t non touch laptop gets 4 out of 5 stars from me!