HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook review

Despite niceties like a large touch-capacitive display and a spacious hard drive, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook's so-so performance and short battery life ultimately make it a questionable choice.
Photo of HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook

For non-demanding users, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook ($649.99 list) is a relatively inexpensive way to jump into the Windows 8 fray with a touch-enabled ultraportable laptop. Its feature set doesn’t immediately betray its low price tag by including niceties like a large touch-capacitive display and roomy hard drive. That said, its so-so performance and short battery life hold it back and, ultimately, make it a questionable choice in the face of better-featured competitors with the same price or better.

Design and Features
The TouchSmart 15z-b000′s ultrabook-thin chassis measures 0.97 by 15.19 by 10.2 inches. Its weight of 5.47 pounds is reasonable for a 15-inch ultraportable—especially one with a touch screen—though users seeking something lighter may be better off with a 14-inch system, like our current Editors’ Choice for entry-level ultrabooks, the Acer Aspire M5-481PT-6644 (4.4 pounds). As a touch-enabled update of the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000, the TouchSmart 15z-b000 shares all of the former’s design cues. Accordingly, its plastic chassis is decked out in a glossy black finish speckled with glittery sparkles, giving it the cool, smooth appearance of a meteor. At the same time, it’s highly prone to smudging.

One of the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s greatest strengths is its generously-sized 15.6-inch display. With a maximum resolution of 1,366 by 768, it can support 720p content and dishes out bright colors and crisp text with aplomb. Touch functionality also benefits from the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s larger display by giving users a spacious canvas to swipe and pinch. Sturdy hinges keep the display’s wobbling down to a minimum. Meanwhile, the Altec Lansing speakers beneath the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s display are capable of belting out sound loud enough to fill a small- to medium-size room.

Despite its thin profile, the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s chiclet-style keyboard doesn’t fall victim to the dreaded shallow key travel of, say, the keyboards on the Asus VivoBook S500CA-Ds51t. Although it flexes a bit and doesn’t feature a backlight, it accordingly deserves credit for at least delivering both a comfortable typing experience and a dedicated alpha numeric keypad. The TouchSmart 15z-b000′s textured touchpad is equally easy on the fingers and its support of Windows 8 gesture controls nicely complements the system’s touch functionality.

Port selection is average on the TouchSmart 15z-b000. The left side of the system sports a USB 2.0 port and headphone jack while the right side houses HDMI and Ethernet ports as well as an SD card reader and a pair of USB 3.0 ports. However, since the USB 3.0 ports come in the same black color as the single USB 2.0 port, less discerning users are susceptible to confusing these two types of ports.

The TouchSmart 15z-b000′s 5,400rpm 750GB hard drive offers plenty of room for storage, though it’s initially bogged down with a litany of preloaded software. Consequently, users must shovel through the usual suspects that range from bloatware (Windows Live Essentials, WildTangent games, desktop links to eBay and Netflix), trialware (60-days of Norton Internet Security), the occasional useful program (Office Starter 2010, CyberLink Media Suite), and some proprietary offerings (HP Games, HP MyRoom, HP Connected Photo, and so on). HP covers the TouchSmart 15z-b000 with a one-year limited warranty.

Performance

Unlike its Intel-equipped ultrabook competitors, the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s quad-core 1.6GHz AMD A8-4555M Accelerated Processor Unit (APU) has the system’s CPU and AMD Radeon HD 7600G GPU baked onto the same die. While the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s integrated graphics are competitive with the Intel HD Graphics 4000 found in comparably priced ultrabooks, the A8 performed markedly slower on the other benchmark tests. Its PCMark 7 score of 1,791 points landed nowhere near the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 (3,013 points) or the Acer Aspire M5-581T-6405 (3,241 points). Likewise, its Cinebench R11.5 score of 1.33 points lagged behind its competitors by sizable margins.

Light multimedia creation is possible with the TouchSmart 15z-b000, though you might have to wait for a while if you like plan on editing photos or videos as a hobby. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 2 minutes 29 seconds, taking nearly twice as much time as the Acer M5-481-PT-6644 (1:25) and Acer M5-581T-6405 (1:25). Similarly, it ran through the dozen or so filters in Photoshop CS6 in 8 minutes 58 seconds, considerably longer than the Asus S400CA-UH51 (6:28) and, to an even greater extent, the Asus S500CA-DS51t (5:30).

Conversely, the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s AMD Radeon HD 7600G GPU outshined the rest of the pack when it came to rendering 3D graphics. Its 3DMark11 scores (1,367 points in Entry-level settings, 278 points in Extreme mode) outflanked the Asus S500CA-DS51t (1,168 points and 210 points, respectively) as well as the Acer M5-581T-6405 (1,194 points and 215 points, respectively). Nevertheless, its GPU still fell in line with the others in its failure to crack the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier in both Aliens vs. Predator and Heaven.

The TouchSmart 15z-b000′s Achilles heel is its 37Wh battery, which lasted a paltry 3 hours 26 minutes on our battery rundown test. Though that’s marginally longer than the HP Sleekbook 15z-b000 (3:20), it’s still nowhere near as good as the Asus S500CA-DS51t (4:52) and was left far behind by the class-leading Acer M5-581T-6405 (6:17). Since the TouchSmart 15z-b000 sports a removable battery, users at least have the option of stashing additional batteries. At any rate, this doesn’t change the fact that the TouchSmart 15z-b000′s mediocre battery life forces users to either remain tethered to a power outlet or, worse yet, shell out extra cash for a spare battery.

Even with its large touch-capacitive display, roomy hard drive, and reasonable price tag, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook is a so-so entry point into the world of Windows 8. Between its subpar performance and short battery life, it’s aquestionable choice in the face of better-featured competitors that fall in the same price range, including our current Editors’ Choice for entry-level touch-screen ultrabooks, the Acer Aspire M5-481PT-6644.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name AMD A8-4555M
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 5.47 lb
Graphics Card AMD Radeon HD 7600G
Screen Type Widescreen
Type Ultraportable
RAM 6 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
Processor Speed 1.6 GHz
Screen Size 15.6 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 750 GB

Verdict
Despite niceties like a large touch-capacitive display and a spacious hard drive, the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z-b000 Sleekbook's so-so performance and short battery life ultimately make it a questionable choice in the face of better-featured competitors with the same price or better.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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