Which HP laptop is right for you?

HP Spectre x360 13 (2021)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

HP is the world's largest PC seller, accounting for 1 in 5 computers sold. The company offers a dizzying array of notebook choices for every budget and use case, from sub-$200 Chromebooks to high-end workstations and mobile gaming rigs. So, if you've decided that you want an HP laptop, you need to choose not only which model you need, but which line.

Do you want a value-driven Pavilion, a stylish and high-performing Spectre, or a superthin Envy? If you're buying for a business, do you know the difference between an EliteBook and a ProBook? Below, we explore each HP sub-brand to help you decide.

Which HP laptop is best for you

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HP Consumer Laptops
LineBest ForPrice RangeCommon Features
SpectreConsumers who can afford the sleekest lightweight laptops$999 - $1550CNC aluminum; SSDs; high-res displays; Thunderbolt 3
EnvyConsumers who want high-end laptops but also want to spend less or get more ports than on a Spectre$729 - $1,200Stamped aluminum; SSDs; IR cameras
PavilionFamilies and mainstream consumers$369 - $950Colorful chassis; IR cameras; wide range of CPU and storage options
HP (no name)Budget-conscious consumers$279 - $700DVD drives; mostly plastic; wide array of configs
OmenGamers$950-$1,899Discrete graphics; H-Series processors
ChromebooksChildren, Chrome fans$179 - $350Celeron processors; touch or non-touch screens
StreamKids, adults who need a second PC$199-$249Celeron processors; brightly colored chassis

Spectre: High-end consumer laptops

HP's most premium laptops usually cost more than $1,000, but they are lightweight, have gorgeous designs and include beautiful displays. If you can afford the premium, these are the top-of-the-line HP notebooks for consumers or business users who don't need IT management features such as vPro. Some Spectres even have the optional Sure View privacy screen, which limits viewing angles to prevent the person next to you on the plane from seeing your work.

A step above the Envy line, Spectres are usually made from CNC aluminum, which gives them a more refined, unibody look than other laptops. All Spectre laptops have SSDs, and it's unlikely you will see one with lower-end specs, such as a Core i3 CPU or a sub-1080p display.

Common Spectre features include:

  • CNC aluminum chassis in silver or ash color
  • High-end processors (ex: Kaby Lake G)
  • Exclusively SSDs
  • Optional 4K displays, Sure View privacy screens
  • Thunderbolt 3 ports

Standout models:

  • Spectre x360 (13-inch): Get this model if you want the best combination of portability, versatility and style and you can spend at least $1,249. This gorgeous 2-in-1 has an ultrathin design, a snappy keyboard and long battery life. (Buy Now)
  • Spectre 13: If you don't need a 2-in-1 but you do want a powerful, stylish system, the Spectre 13 is built for you. But beware its short battery life. The Envy 13 offers much longer endurance and a fantastic keyboard for $300 or $400 less. (Buy Now)
  • Spectre x360 (15-inch): If you need both style and size, this convertible has a 15-inch touch screen, so you can take advantage of the tablet mode in Windows 10. The next version of this laptop will have Intel's new Kaby Lake G processor, which combine's AMD's speedy Radeon graphics with a 45-watt Intel, quad-core CPU. (Buy Now)

Envy: Stylish, powerful but less expensive than Spectre

HP's Envy notebooks are thin, beautifully designed machines, which feature all-metal chassis and high-end components such as SSDs, high-res screens and discrete graphics. Envys are a little less expensive than Spectres and sometimes offer better value. However, you may see lower-end components such as mechanical hard drives on some models. The metal is usually stamped aluminum rather than the more-premium precision-milled metal on the Spectre line.

 Common Envy features include:

  • Metal chassis
  • Optional IR camera
  • Latest-Gen CPUs
  • USB Type-C ports
  • Hard drive or SSD

Standout models include:

  • Envy 13t: Our favorite HP laptop and one of the best values in tech, the Envy 13t has a wide array of ports, a fantastic keyboard and a long battery life. It starts at under $900 and is the best choice for students or anyone who wants a premium clamshell laptop for under $1,000. (Buy Now)
  • HP Envy x360 15t: This 2-in-1 starts at under $700, which makes it a much more affordable option than the Spectre x360 (15-inch). It's also one of the few laptops that's available with AMD's Ryzen mobile processor. However, this laptop is heavier than the Spectre and has shorter battery life. (Buy Now)

Pavilion: Mainstream consumer

HP's Pavilion line includes a wide variety of laptops at mainstream prices. You may find Pavilions with metal chassis, but plastic is also common. Some of the laptops also come in bright colors.

 You can find low-cost laptops such as the Pavilion x360 (11-inch) for under $400 or more-powerful systems such as the Pavilion Power for over $900. If you can't spend more than $700 or $800, consider a Pavilion.

Key Pavilion features include:

  • Hard drive or SSD
  • Optional IR cameras
  • Optional discrete graphics

Standout models include:

  • HP Pavilion x360 (11-inch): This compact 2-in-1 starts at under $400 and provides pen support, but it also has short battery life and a low-res display. (Buy Now)
  • HP Pavilion Power 15t: Designed for budget gamers, the Power 15t features discrete Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics, a 45-watt Intel H-Series CPU and your choice of full-HD or 4K display. (Buy Now)

HP Laptops (No Name): Budget consumers

The least expensive HP laptops lack an official sub-brand, like "Pavilion" or "Envy." They are simply named HP + model number. These lower-cost systems come in a wide array of colors and sizes. Prices range from around $279 on the low end to $700 on the high end, but most are under $600.

HP laptops start with low-end, Pentium and Celeron CPUs, but you can also find models with Intel 8th Gen Core processors inside. You can also get these HP laptops with optical drives, a feature you won't find on the higher-end models.

Key features of "HP laptops," include:

  • Many colors and materials
  • Start at Celeron, but go up to Intel Core i5 / i7
  • Hard drives and SSDs

Some standout HP laptops are:

  • HP 15-BS015DX: This 15-inch laptop costs under $500 and offers a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. It has a low-res, 1366 x 768 display, but it is a touch-screen laptop. (Buy Now)
  • HP 15-BW011DX: One of the cheapest 15-inch laptops you can buy, this model goes for just $279. It has an AMD A6 CPU, a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. (Buy Now)

Chromebooks: Made for kids, Chrome fans

While HP doesn't make as many Chromebook as Asus or Acer does, the company has healthy line of laptops powered by Google's browser-centric operating system.

Standout HP Chromebooks include:

Stream: Secondary computers

If you prefer Windows to Chrome OS and you're looking for an inexpensive secondary computer or a first laptop for kids, HP's Stream line is for you. These sub-$250 PCs come in vibrant colors, such as purple and blue, and feature Celeron CPUs with flash storage.

Standout HP Streams include:

  • HP Stream 11: This $240, 11-inch laptop weighs just 2.5 pounds and features a Celeron CPU, 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. (Buy Now)
  • HP Stream 14: The larger Stream has a 14-inch, 1366 x 768 screen but the same specs as its little brother, and it goes for as little as $199. (Buy Now)

Omen: Made for gamers

If you're a serious PC gamer, HP's Omen line is made for you. These laptops have attractive, carbon-fiber lids that include the old Voodoo logo (HP acquired Voodoo about 10 years ago), along with high-end graphics cards and CPUs.

Standout HP Omens include:

  • HP Omen 17: This 17-inch beast is available with up to a GTX 1070 graphics card and a Core i7 H-Series CPU. It offers an attractive design, a vivid screen and plenty of performance. (Buy Now)
  • HP Omen 15: The smaller Omen has a bright display, great audio and the same attractive design as its larger counterpart. It starts at under $1,000 and comes with up to an Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU. (Buy Now)
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HP Business Laptops
LineBest ForPrice RangeCommon Features
EliteBook 1000High-end business users$1,000 and upCNC aluminum; lightweight; SSDs; high-res displays; enterprise-level security and manageability
EliteBook 700/800Mainstream business users$800+Aluminum chassis; high-res displays; SSDs; Sure View privacy screens
ProBook 600Businesses on a budget that still need enterprise-grade security$599 and upIntel vPro management; self-healing BIOS
ProBook 400Business users with modest needs at small-to-medium-size companies$499 and upUSB Type-C ports; Intel or AMD processors; optional IR camera
HP 200Business users on very-tight budgets$359 and upOptical drives; low-end specs
ZbookProfessionals who need workstation-class performance$1.000 and upOptional Xeon processors; Nvidia Quadro graphics; 4K displays


EliteBook: Built for big business, top of the line

HP's EliteBook line is designed for large businesses, offering a mix of security and durability. These laptops pack biometric login options and built-in security software, such as self-healing BIOSes and durable chassis that meet MIL-SPEC standards. These machines also provide vPro manageability, so IT departments can remotely update and control their fleets. If you settle on this line, be sure to check out our 5 essential accessories for EliteBooks.

EliteBooks are divided into two series:

  • EliteBook 1000 Series: The highest-end HP business laptops use premium materials and higher-end components.These products cost well over $1,000. Common features include CNC-aluminum chassis, pen input, Thunderbolt 3 ports and 2-in-1 form factors. Standout models include the EliteBook x360 G2 and EliteBook 1020 G2.
  • EliteBook 700/800 Series: Made for mainstream knowledge-workers, these laptops still offer the latest components. Common features include aluminum chassis, SSDs, full-HD screens and a variety of docking options. The EliteBook 820, 830 and 840 G5 all have innovative, rear-facing microphones that you can use to conduct better conference calls.

ProBook: Made for small business

Designed for small-to-medium-size businesses that don't necessarily have large IT departments, HP ProBooks are less expensive than EliteBooks but still made to help you get work done. Some ProBooks also have old-time, legacy ports such as VGA connectors.

ProBooks are divided into two series:

  • ProBook 600 Series: Secure enough for large businesses that are on tighter budgets, these laptops come with Intel vPro manageability, flexible docking options and some very slim models. These laptops start as low as $599.
  • ProBook 400 Series: Made for smaller businesses, this midrange line offers USB Type-C docking and a choice of Intel or AMD processors. These computers come in 14-, 15- and 17-inch sizes. They laptops start at under $500.

HP 200 Series: Low-cost business laptops

These are the least expensive business laptops of all and the only choices for users who want optical disc drives. The HP 255, for example, costs just $359 and comes with an AMD processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

ZBook: Mobile workstations

Video editors, architects and creative professionals who need workstation-level processing power but can't be pinned down to a single desk should check out HP's ZBooks. These workstation-class laptops are available with the most-powerful mobile processors and graphics, including Intel's Xeon chip and Nvidia Quadro graphics.

Standout ZBook models include:

  • HP ZBook 17 G4: One of our favorite mobile workstations has a gorgeous 4K display, a rugged design and best-in-class performance. (Buy Now)
  • HP ZBook 15 G4: This 15-inch workstation has an eye-popping display, great performance and plenty of ports. (Buy Now)

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