A sub-$600 laptop never sounded so good--literally. The new HP Pavilion g6x ($544 as configured) offers a snappy Core i3 processor and stereo speakers that beat the pants off of most budget notebooks. A DVD drive is also part of the deal, as is a roomy 500GB hard drive. Just as important, the Pavilion g6x doesn't look cheap, and shoppers can choose from multiple eye-catching colors. Check out our full review to see if this mainstream machine is right for you.
While we wouldn't call it bold, the base model of the HP Pavilion g6x sports an attractive charcoal-gray color scheme. The notebook's shiny lid resists fingerprints, feels sturdy, and has smoothly tapered edges. Inside, the Pavilion g6x's screen and deck are framed with a darker gray, save for the lighter hue of the wrist rest and the recessed keyboard well. A lone oval power button with a subtle light sits above the keys.
If you're willing to spend $25, you can add some flair by outfitting the Pavilion g6x with one of four color options: blue, pewter, purple, or red. This color carries over from the lid to the deck as well.
Measuring 14.7 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches and weighing in at 5.2 pounds, the Pavilion g6x is fairly light and compact for a notebook with this size display. For example, the 15-inch Samsung RV511 has a larger footprint of 15 x 10 inches and weighs 5.4 pounds, though that system has a dedicated number pad. We easily moved the Pavilion g6x from room to room; it's even portable enough for occasional travel.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Island-style keyboards are all the rage these days, but the HP Pavilion g6x opts for a more traditional layout. Still, typing on the keyboard was comfortable, thanks to the nice terraced shape of the keys and solid feedback. HP also gets extra points for reversing the function keys so that you can adjust the brightness, volume, and other settings without using a button combo. Our only problem is that the touchpad isn't centered between the G and H keys, like on most notebooks; switching between touch typing and moving the cursor took some adjustment.
A wide Synaptics touchpad (3.5 x 2 inches) with a textured surface sits below the keyboard. Cursor control was satisfactory, but executing multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom required more effort than on other laptops. We appreciate the indented dimple in the top left corner of the touchpad that toggles it on and off when tapped twice. While nice and large, the touchpad buttons on the g6x felt a little stiff.
Display and Audio
Gracing the HP Pavilion g6x is an LED-backlit 15.6-inch widescreen display with a standard resolution of 1366 x 768. The is bright enough, but contrast wasn't as high as we would have liked. The black of outer space in 2001: A Space Odyssey DVD wasn't as deep as it should be, especially in darkened rooms. Still, the 720p HD YouTube trailer for Green Lantern looked good, with pleasing colors.
Backed by SRS Labs technology, the stereo speakers on the front edge of the Pavilion g6x produce better sound than most sub-$600 notebooks. The system got loud enough to fill a medium-size room when we streamed Dashboard Confessional's "Vindicated" on Slacker. You can also easily tweak the audio using the handy SRS Premium Sound utility, which has enhancement settings for Movie, Music, and Voice, as well as an equalizer.
Ports and Webcam
Most of the ports on the Pavilion g6x reside on the left side. These include an SD card reader, two USB ports, Ethernet, and headphone and mic jacks. You'll also find an HDMI port and a VGA connector. On the right side sits a SuperMulti Drive to burn and play DVDs and CDs. Next to this is an additional USB port and a Kensington security slot.
The Pavilion g6x's 0.3-megapixel webcam is nothing to write home about. Snapshots and video had a grainy look when taken near a window and appeared dark with just fluorescent lighting.
The Pavilion g6x remained relatively cool during our testing. After playing a Hulu video for 15 minutes, we measured temperatures of 78 degrees at the touchpad, 88 degrees in the center of the keyboard, and 93 degrees underneath the system. This compares well to the heat we've seen from the average mainstream laptop at these locations (88.4, 90, 94).
The HP Pavilion g6x features a 2.53-GHz Intel Core i3-380M processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive spinning at 5,400 rpm. This hardware helped the laptop achieve a PCMark Vantage score of 5,384, which is above the current mainstream notebook average of 5,177. The g6x's score was enough to crush the $499 Acer Aspire 5253-BZ480 (2,371, 1.6-GHz AMD E-350) but it couldn't quite catch the $599 Samsung RV511-A01 (5,297), which has the same CPU as the HP.
The Pavilion g6x took a leisurely 74 seconds to boot Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), which is longer than the typical mainstream notebook (66.3). By contrast, the Samsung RV511-A01 fired up in 53 seconds and the Aspire 5253-BZ480 was up and running in 60 seconds flat.
On our file transfer tests, the Pavilion g6x copied a 5GB folder of mixed files in 3 minutes and 25 seconds, a data rate of 24.8 MBps. That's a little under the current average of 25.9 MBps.
The Pavilion g6x certainly has enough oomph, with the notebook converting a 114MB MP4 file to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder in 1 minute and 1 second. This is 14 seconds quicker than the average mainstream laptop and enough to slip past the Samsung RV511-A01 (1:05).
Graphics and Gaming
Running Intel HD integrated graphics, the Pavilion g6x turned in a low 3DMark score of 1,826, more than 1,700 points below the average mainstream notebook. Even so, this showing is higher than what the Samsung RV511-A01 turned in (1,559) using the same chip. With its ATI Radeon HD 6310 GPU, the Acer Aspire 5253-BZ480 delivered a higher score of 2,266.
The Pavilion g6x's weak graphics performance continued on our real-world gaming tests. While playing World of Warcraft, the laptop was able to muster only 15 fps in autodetect mode. The Samsung RV511-A01's WOW performance was on par with the g6x (18/8), but the Aspire 5253-BZ480 fared better (26/12). If you want beefier graphics, you can step up to an AMD Radeon GPU starting at $50.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
Powered by a six-cell battery, the HP Pavilion g6x managed to run for 4 hours and 27 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continous web surfing over Wi-Fi). This is a little longer than the usual runtime from a mainstream laptop (4:15). Nevertheless, both the Samsung RV511-A01 (4:50) and the Acer Aspire 5253-BZ480 (5:00) offered more endurance.
The Pavilion g6x's wireless performance was mixed. At a distance of 15 feet, the Atheros AR9285 802.11n card turned in a data rate of 41.9 Mbps, which is above the current category average of 35.5 Mbps. Moving 50 feet away from the router resulted in throughput of 16 Mbps, well below the 21.8 Mbps average. Adding Bluetooth costs $25.
The $549 base configuration of the HP Pavilion g6x we tested came with a 2.53-GHz Intel Core i3-380M CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB (5,400-rpm) hard drive. For an extra $25, you can deck this machine out in one of four colors (pacific blue, sonoma red, sweet purple, and pewter). Processor upgrades include Intel Core i3-390M ($30), and Intel Core i5-480M ($80). Discrete graphics are available, too, including a Radeon HD 6470 GPU with either 512MB or 1GB of DDR3 memory ($50/$100). RAM and hard drive capacities can be pumped all the way up to 6GB ($60) and 750GB (5,400 rpm/$100). An extended battery is available for $87.
Software and Warranty
HP packs the Pavilion g6x with lots of software and utilities. Some of the more compelling tools include HP CloudDrive, which provides up to 2GB of online data storage for free (with an account). HP CoolSense alters fan speeds to match system performance schemes. The HP MovieStore, basically a portal to the Roxio Now digital video service, allows for movie rentals and purchases. To save battery power, HP Power Manager can kick the laptop into preset power plans. To reach an HP support rep or diagnose a potential problem, there's the HP Support Assistant as well.
HP covers the Pavilion g6x with a standard one-year limited warranty that covers hardware. However, software help is provided for only 30 days. You can see how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown, as well as our annual Best & Worst Brands report.
The HP Pavilion g6x provides a solid computing experience for an aggressive $544 price. The Core i3 processor has plenty of muscle for multitasking, the keyboard is comfy, and the speakers deliver suprisingly good sound. We also like that the g6x is fairly portable for a 15-inch notebook, and that it's available in multiple colors. In this price range we give a slight edge to the Samsung RV511 because it has a sleeker design and an easier-to-use touchpad. But but if you're looking for a laptop that offers better audio in a more compact package, along with more configuration options, you can't go wrong with the Pavilion g6x.