HP Pavilion Plus 14 Review

Posted on August 8, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 11 with 1 Comment

The HP Pavilion Plus 14 offers an interesting combination of functionality and value, with just a few notable downsides. But given its price, you may find its failings to be minor. I do, for the most part.

Design

HP’s Pavilion brand is the Honda or Toyota of PCs in that the models in this product line are generally reliable and affordable but a little bit boring and down-market. But HP also has a history of pushing boundaries, and it’s been bringing premium PC features to Pavilion for years. So while the Pavilion Plus 14 isn’t the first beneficiary of this strategy—check out last year’s HP Pavilion Aero 13 too—it is perhaps the best example yet.

So, yeah, it’s a Pavilion. But it’s also made (semi) completely from recycled aluminum, if you don’t count the display bezel and, I assume, the keyboard keys. It’s the thinnest-ever Pavilion at 18.4-mm at its thickest, in the rear, and 16.5 mm towards the front. It is smaller than its non-Plus predecessor, but it has a higher screen-to-body-ratio, thanks to its 16:10 display and smaller bezels. And it’s the first-ever Pavilion with an OLED display option.

The Pavilion Plus 14 is allegedly available in five colors—Space Blue, Warm Gold, Mineral Silver (dark gray), Tranquil Pink, and Natural Silver (light gray)—but good luck finding the interesting ones. The review unit is the bland Natural Silver, and my understanding is that that’s what most U.S-based customers will be offered, at least for now. That’s too bad, as some of those other colors look amazing.

But even in silver, the Pavilion Plus 14 manages to give off a professional, even premium vibe. It’s not a CNC design like the more expensive PC brands—its keyboard deck is made, instead, of separate top and bottom pieces—but that’s a distinction that few would notice, let alone care about. And the ability to take this thing apart can only help with repairability: there are four Torx screws on the bottom, and the SSD (but not the RAM) is upgradeable.

My only real gripe with the design, and it’s minor, is that the display can’t lay flat. But it’s a nice-looking PC and should prove durable enough for students or creators.

Display

The industry’s move to 16:10 displays should be celebrated by one and all, and it’s nice to see this change happening to mainstream Pavilion PCs as well. All models feature a 14-inch display panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio, but new for 2022 is the optional OLED panel with up to 2.8 K (2880 x 1800) resolution and 400 nits of brightness that came with the review unit. Most Pavilion Plus 14 units will ship with a 2.2K (2240 x 1400) IPS panel with 300 nits of brightness, anti-glare and Low Blue Light capabilities.

I wish the review unit did: the OLED panel is as lush and rich as you should expect, but it kills the battery too quickly, is reflective, and isn’t necessary for productivity or creator tasks. Indeed, because the Pavilion Plus doesn’t include Dolby Vision (HDR) or Dolby Atmos (immersive sound) capabilities, the OLED panel is somewhat wasted for the entertainment apps—Netflix, Movies & TV, and so on—that would otherwise be ideal.

The OLED panel also offers a 90 Hz refresh rate, as compared to the more typical 60 Hz. High refresh rate displays are standard in smartphones and tablets, but they remain an oddity in Windows PCs outside of gaming. And this, too, impacts battery life as Windows 11 doesn’t intelligently handle this capability. You can at least manually choose a more standard 60 Hz refresh rate in Settings (Display > Advanced display) if you want to preserve your battery and can’t see the “buttery smooth” scrolling and motion that reviewers are always going on and on about. I’ve never seen any difference.

But the move to 16:10 displays has practical benefits no matter which panel type you choose: the Pavilion Plus 14 offers a smaller overall footprint than its predecessor—it is 10 mm less wide, but a bit under 8 mm taller—and a higher 87 percent screen-to-body-ratio, compared to 84 percent for its predecessor.

Internal components

For the past several years, ultra-mobile computers like the Pavilion Plus all used Intel’s mainstream 15-watt U-series microprocessors, with the only major innovation being the move from dual-core CPUs to quad-core with the 8th-Gen product line. But with the shift to hybrid 12th-Gen Intel microprocessor designs this year, PC makers suddenly have a lot of choice. Maybe too many.

Case in point, the HP Pavilion Plus 14, which can be had with U-series (15-watt), P-series (28-watt), or H-series (45-watt) Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, depending on the configuration. For some reason.

The review unit, alas, came with a 12th-Gen Intel Core i7-12700H processor, a woefully overpowered part for this class of PC, and a major contributor, no doubt, to its middling battery life. Fortunately, it only provides integrated graphics, but you can configure some Pavilion Plus 14 models with up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2050 4G graphics. I can only assume that would kill the battery even faster.

I don’t get it. Sure, beefier processors and dedicated graphics can help with certain high-end tasks, like video processing and video gaming. But it’s unclear how many potential customers would seek out this kind of performance from a Pavilion. And whether the resulting battery life issues would be acceptable to them.

What I’ve experienced is terrific performance and very little in the way of heat or noise, even when I’ve used the PC on a soft surface like a bed. HP explained that it uses a new cooling design with dual fans and dual heat pipes that offers an 84 percent increase in air flow over the previous design. Granted, those P- and H-series Intel Core chipsets and dedicated graphics will need that kind of cooling. But I never had any issues.

You can, of course, control how the system handles its performance characteristics. But instead of sticking with the vanilla Windows power plans, HP offers two applications—HP Command Center and OMEN Gaming Hub—that you can use to turbocharge your experience if needed. Command Center lets you configure and monitor your PC’s temperature and cooling preferences, while OMEN Gaming Hub can be used to automatically boost the performance of games even further.

I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, this level of control is good. But on the other, it’s forced by HP’s curious decision to offer three different processor family choices and, optionally, dedicated graphics. Worse, it also contributes to the proliferation of crapware on this PC. Surely, these functions could all be handled by a single configuration app like Lenovo’s Vantage.

Looking past the microprocessor and graphics, the Pavilion Plus 14 can be had with 8 or 16 GB of RAM depending on the model, and 256 GB to 1 TB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage.

Connectivity

This PC’s connectivity options are as confusing as the processor choices, and depending on the configuration, you will get Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, or Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5 or 5.2. There’s no cellular broadband because it’s a Pavilion and HP has to draw the line somewhere.

Ports and expansion

The HP Pavilion Plus 14 delivers a reasonable combination of modern and legacy ports, but the lack of Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 is a curious omission given the machine’s powerful innards and the creator audience this PC would otherwise attract.

On the left, you find a full-sized USB-A port with 5 Gbps throughput and a microSD media card reader. There is also a combo headphone/microphone port.

And on the right, HP provides a second USB-A port, a full-sized HDMI 2.1 video-out port, and two USB-C ports with 10 Gbps of throughput, USB power delivery, and DisplayPort 1.4.

Audio and video

With its brilliant OLED display, the Pavilion Plus 14 should be a multimedia powerhouse. But this is one area where HP saved a few bucks to the PC’s detriment: it has dual, bottom-firing stereo speakers, and they’re tuned by Bang & Olufsen as always. But there’s no Dolby Vision for the display and no Dolby Atmos for the sound. Instead, we get a B&O Audio Control app that forces you to manually choose between presets that are optimized for music, movies, or voice.

The lack of Dolby Vision isn’t hugely problematic: HDR content on Netflix still looks great on the OLED panel assuming you can find a glare-free space for viewing. But I missed the immersiveness of Dolby Atmos. The B&O speakers sound fine and offer good stereo separation, but this just feels like a missed opportunity. And music is a middling experience, with distortion at higher volume levels.

The Pavilion Plus fares better for those who spend a lot of time in online meetings. It’s outfitted with a terrific 5 MP front-facing camera that is a nice step up from the middling 720p webcams we were stuck with for so long. And it supports HP Presence capabilities so that you remain centered on-screen even if you move around.

But the HP Enhanced Lighting utility is comically unnecessary: it’s a software-based onscreen light ring that literally covers much of the screen so it can bathe your face in white (or another color) light. Silly.

Completing the hybrid work functionality, HP also provides dual array digital microphones that work well enough and are configured with AI noise reduction via that B&O Audio Control app.

Keyboard and touchpad

HP makes some of my favorite portable PC keyboards and the Pavilion Plus 14 benefits from this rich history by providing an excellent, full-sized layout with two levels of backlighting and what feels like a reasonable key pitch.

The keys are a little rattly and tinny sounding when compared to the keyboard on the new Spectre x360 13.5, but I suppose that’s understandable given the respective price ranges.

I like that HP added that vertical column of Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn, and End keys on the right. But I’m perhaps too old to appreciate the dedicated Emoji key (F2), which just opens the Windows 11 Emoji pane (WINKEY + .) The integrated power button is likewise as expected and in the right position. But the fingerprint reader, which is fast and reliable, is on the right wrist rest and not integrated into the keyboard as is the case on more expensive PCs. That’s fine.

Less happily, the precision touchpad is touchy and error-prone. Even after disabling three- and four-finger gestures, I found myself having issues typing—as with this review—because it would record errant hand brushes and move the typing cursor location. I’m a big, sloppy typist to be sure. But this is the kind of error that we shouldn’t see on a modern PC of any kind.

Security

The Pavilion Plus 14 supports Windows Hello fingerprint and facial recognition capabilities. This is the preferred configuration, and an area where HP might have tried to save a few bucks, but did not. Kudos for that. As noted above, the fingerprint reader is on the wrist rest.

Portability

This is where the HP Pavilion Plus 14 breaks my heart. At just 12.34 x 8.83 x 0.65 inches and 3.09 pounds, this should be a reasonably portable PC. But the battery life—an average of just 3:35 in my testing—is abysmal, so you’ll need to stay near a power source. Power comes via USB-C, but the 90-watt charger is enormous, over twice the size of HP’s normal 65-watt charger. The good news? It can charge up to 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

Software

If the battery life didn’t turn you off to this otherwise fine PC, this might: the Pavilion Plus 14 comes with an unacceptable amount of crapware. And some of it is insidious, like the Adobe offers, Amazon.com, and Booking.com Start menu shortcuts that can’t even be removed (at least by mainstream users). But there are 15 (!) HP-branded utilities (including the OMEN apps), a pointless additional game (Simple Solitaire), several apps, McAfee anti-virus, and much more.

That this is undesirable should be obvious to anyone, but it has to hurt HP as well: some of HP’s utilities and apps are truly useful—if duplicative in some cases—and might benefit users if it wasn’t so hard to sort out the useful from the crap. For example, a utility called Duet Display lets you use an iPad for a secondary display, and it worked well. Other HP apps, like HP Palette and HP QuickDrop, might likewise find fans assuming those fans could be bothered to look.

I wish this was better.

Pricing and configurations

The HP Pavilion Plus 14 starts at just $709 for a Staples configuration with a Core i5-1240P processor, integrated graphics, a 2.2K IPS display, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. Walmart is selling a version with the same components but 512 GB of storage for $703. And the review unit, with its Core i7-12700H processor, 2.8K OLED display, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage is $849 when purchased directly from HP.

Folks, these are incredible prices for this much horsepower. You’ll spend a bit more if you opt for dedicated graphics, of course: a version with a Core i7-1255U processor, NVIDIA RTX 2050 graphics, that OLED display, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD storage is $1229. But still quite reasonable.

Recommendations and conclusions

HP got so much right with the Pavilion Plus 14, and its hard to argue with the price. But its terrible battery life and stupefying amount of crapware could be problematic. If you can live with those flaws, you’ll love the PC’s 16:10 display—which can be had in OLED if you prefer that—impressive performance, webcam, and Windows Hello capabilities. And you may even get some value out of HP’s bundled apps, as some of them are truly useful. At the end of the day, that’s the Pavilion sacrifice: you can save a lot of money if you can live with a few issues. And I suspect that many people will be happy to make this compromise.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Incredible value
  • Gorgeous 16:10 display
  • Impressive performance
  • Very good integrated webcam
  • Windows Hello fingerprint and webcam

Cons

  • Inexcusable amount of crapware
  • Middling battery life
  • Curiously large 90-watt power adapter
  • Touchpad can be a bit sensitive
  • Somewhat pedestrian design

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