HP has impressed in the past when it comes to budget notebooks, and now the company has refreshed its Pavilion line with a Windows 8 software upgrade and a 2.7-GHz AMD dual-core A6 processor. Like the Intel-powered Pavilion g6t-2000, the HP Pavilion g6z-2200 comes equipped with Dolby audio and a roomy keyboard with a full numeric keypad. Sporting an aggressive price tag of $454, is the g6z the budget notebook to get?
The HP Pavilion g6z-2200's rounded corners give the body a softer, more approachable look than some other notebooks on the market, such as the Acer Aspire V5-571-6869. The sparkling black lid on our unit sports a glossy finish, as does the bezel and keyboard deck, which sparkles differently depending on the lighting. For $25 more, you can choose from four other color options, including bright purple, ruby red, winter blue and linen white.
Dolby's integrated Advanced Audio speakers sit just above the keyboard, and the elongated silver power button is situated in the upper left corner. We love the Pavilion g6z's smooth exterior, but the shiny plastic does little to hide fingerprint smudges.
Measuring 14.8 x 9.6 x 1.2-inches and weighing 5.2 pounds, the g6z fit comfortably on our lap and is lighter than Acer's Aspire V3-551-8458 (5.4 pounds). HP's 4.6-pound Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000 weighs less but lacks an optical drive.
Keyboard and Touchpad
HP integrates a spacious and responsive keyboard with a full numeric keypad into the Pavilion g6z, allowing for a generally smooth typing experience. HP leaves plenty of room on the deck to rest our wrists while typing, although we had to lean in toward the machine to reach keys at the top of the board. We notched a respectable 60 words per minute with a zero percent error rate during the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, which is good but below our desktop keyboard average of 72 wpm with zero errors.
A reasonably sized 3.75 x 2.8 inches, the Pavilion g6z's touchpad has a dimpled finish that made it easy to control the cursor. Tasks such as scrolling and clicking were smooth and lag-free. As the g6z lacks a touch screen, you'll need to perform Windows 8 gestures via the touchpad; fortunately, we could execute all with ease.
Display and Audio
Just like the Pavilion g6t-2000, the Pavilion g6z-2200 features a 15.6-inch 1366 x 768 BrightView LED-backlit screen. Images and videos looked crisp, even when viewing clips from wide angles. When watching the trailer for "Man of Steel," details were sharp but the brightness was sub-par. The colorful explosions and airy flight sequences didn't pop as much as we would have liked, but close-up scenes were rich and defined.
The Pavilion g6z-2200's brightness registered 159 lux on our light meter, falling significantly below the 227 lux category average. This showing was higher than HP's Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000 (142 lux), but the Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 registered 172 lux.
Powered by Dolby's Advanced Audio technology, the g6z-2200's Altec Lansing speakers offer impressive sound quality for a sub-$500 notebook. Since the speakers are located between the display and keyboard, sound quality didn't degrade when the notebook was in our lap. When listening to Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go," the vocals and melody sounded full and boisterous. We could fill our testing room at half volume.
Dolby's Advanced Audio v2 control panel let us customize audio settings, and use presets for Movie, Music and Voice. It also has a setting to eliminate background noise, such as fans, when recording audio.
The Pavilion g6z managed to stay cool during our heat test, which involves streaming Hulu at full screen for 15 minutes. The touchpad registered 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the area between the G and H keys reached 80 degrees. The underside measured 78 degrees, and we found that the Pavilion g6 didn't feel hot to the touch after it had been running for an hour. Generally, we consider anything above 95 degrees uncomfortable, and the Pavilion g6z barely came close to that threshold.
Ports and Webcam
For a budget notebook, the g6z isn't lacking for ports. The left side houses a headphone jack, a microphone jack, two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a multi-format digital media card reader, an HDMI port and a VGA port. The right side has a charging jack, a tray-loading optical drive and another USB 3.0 port.
The Pavilion g6z-2200 sports a webcam that can take photos and videos up to 1280 x 720 pixels. The webcam captured adequate photos with a fair amount of detail in well-lit environments, but you'll find some noise when looking at images closely.
The notebook comes with CyberLink's YouCam software, which allows you to add visual effects, which range from mounting silly hats on your head to inserting animations.
Our configuration of the Pavilion g6z-2200 comes with a 2.7-GHz AMD dual-core A6-4400M processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB 7200-rpm hard drive, which performed well during everyday use. We never had to wait more than a few seconds to launch apps even while running eight tabs in Google's Chrome browser.
The AMD-powered HP took only 21 seconds to load the 64-bit Windows 8. That puts this notebook right between the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000 (0:18) and the Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 (0:24).
During PCMark 7, the g6z-2200 scored 1,731, which is comparable to other budget notebooks we've tested recently. The Acer Aspire V3-551-8458, which has a 1.9-GHz AMD quad-core A8-4500M APU, scored a similar 1,788, while the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 14z-b000 (1.7-GHz AMD quad-core A8-4555M) notched a lower score of 1,469. The HP Pavilion g6t-2000, which had a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i3-2370M GPU, scored 1,992.
On Geekbench the Pavilion g6z-220 scored 3,332. While that showing is half that of the 6,608 mainstream notebook category average, it's slightly better than the Pavilion Sleekbook (3,150). The Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 (3,713) scored higher.
It took the g6z-2200's hard drive 2 minutes and 30 seconds to duplicate 4.97 GB of mixed media files, equaling a rate of 33.9 MBps. That rate is much faster than the Pavilion Sleekbook-15Z-b000 (22.9 MBps) and the Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 (25.8 MBps).
The g6z-2200 performed moderately well during our Open Office Spreadsheet test, taking 7 minutes and 35 seconds to match 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses. While the category average is 5:50, the g6z-2200 is still faster than the Pavilion Sleekbook (10:12) and the Aspire V3 (10:09). The Intel-powered g6t-2000 finished the test in 6 minutes and 43 seconds.
During our 3DMark11 test, which measures a PC's overall graphics performance, the g6z-2200's AMD Radeon HD 7000 graphics card scored 642. This is far below the 1,117 average, but is still higher than the Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000 (468). Acer's Aspire V3-551-8458, which boasts an AMD Radeon HD 7640G graphics chip, outshined both machines with a score of 982.
The g6z-2200 ran "World of Warcraft" at an unplayable 21.6 frames per second using autodetect settings, which doesn't come close to the 67 fps category average. The Acer Aspire V3 averaged a much higher 46 fps on the Good setting.
Like most sub-$500 Windows 8 laptops we've tested, the Pavilion g6z-2200 failed to break the 5-hour mark on the LAPTOP Battery Test. The 6-cell Lithium-Ion battery lasted 4 hours and 27, but this runtime is better than the Sleekbook 15z (3:53) and is on a par with the Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 (4:24). The Intel-powered G6t-2000 lasted somewhat better, at 4 hours and 50 minutes. All of these times are below the average mainstream notebook (5:43).
HP loaded the g6z-2200 with its own suite of apps, including the HP+ store, HP Support Assistant and HP MyRoom. The company also bundles its Web-based photo-sharing platform HP Connected Photo, or Snapfish, and HP Connected Music, which is a music player and marketplace similar to Apple's iTunes.
While the g6z doesn't come with any pre-installed security software or a backup manager, you'll find all the standard apps that come with Windows 8. Netflix, eBay, Kindle, iHeartRadio and Skype are also included. The g6z-2200 is preloaded with reduced-functionality versions of Microsoft Word and Excel with advertising, but no other Office apps.
The Pavilion g6z-2200 starts at $429, which gets you the same hard drive and RAM as our $454 review unit, but a less powerful 2.5GHz AMD Dual-Core A4-4300M APU.
Upgrading to a 1.9-GHz AMD Quad Core A6-4500M is $50 above our $459 configuration, and you can opt for a 1GB AMD Radeon HD 7670M graphics card for $50. Consumers can also increase the RAM to 8GB ($100), and opt for a 750GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive for $70.
Priced at $454, the HP Pavilion g6z-2200 is a feature-rich notebook at a budget price. While this AMD-based machine doesn't boast blazingly fast benchmark scores, it provides solid Windows 8 performance and comes with a boisterous Dolby sound system. The keyboard and touchpad are also comfortable. In this same price range, the Intel-powered g6t-2000, which costs about $20 more, offers slightly better performance, while the $499 Acer Aspire V3-551-8458 offers better graphics, but less than stellar audio. Overall, the Pavilion g6z-2200 is a strong choice for those on a tight budget.