Gaming laptops often have garish designs to declare their credentials.
Not so the HP Pavilion Gaming Notebook, which is finished almost entirely in black except for the green rubber feet.
Its matt black lid is fairly resistant to fingerprint smudges. Open it and you will to find a subtle green honeycomb pattern on the palm rest. The keyboard backlight is a shade of green that evokes gaming products from hardware maker Razer.
This laptop comes with a midrange Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M graphics chip. The graphics prowess may not be enough to satisfy hardcore gamers, but the 950M is good enough for less demanding games - Bioshock Infinite, for instance, ran acceptably (37 frames per second) even at the highest setting. However, I could run only newer games such as Witcher 3 at the laptop's 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen resolution by lowering the graphics setting.
This $1,499 laptop appears to have very decent hardware for its price: The latest Intel Core i7 chip, 8GB of RAM and a nice display. It even has an optical drive.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M 4GB DDR3
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader, Ethernet, audio jack
BATTERY: 48 watt-hour
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
BATTERY LIFE: 2/5
But delve into the specifications and you can see where the corners have been cut. For instance, the HP supports the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi interface, which sounds good. But it has a single antenna, instead of the usual two, resulting in slower Wi-Fi speeds. Changing to Ethernet cable is not the solution because the Ethernet adapter is rated at 100Mbps and not the typical 1,000Mbps.
The 5,400RPM 1TB hard drive is slow to load apps. A solid-state drive coupled with a secondary hard drive is ideal for gaming laptops, but probably unrealistic because of the cost.
That said, a 7,200RPM hard drive could have made the system more responsive without significantly increasing the price.
After all, Aftershock manages to fit a 7,200RPM drive on its new M-15 gaming laptop, which costs around $1,500 for a system having similar hardware as the HP. In addition, you can customise the Aftershock's hardware to suit your needs.
The Aftershock also comes with software tools to configure keyboard macros and disable the Windows logo key from interrupting your game if you hit the key by accident. It may seem like a minor feature, but little details like this show that Aftershock caters to its gamer audience.
HP, on the other hand, loads the laptop with "apps" from Trip Advisor and Agoda that are simply shortcuts to their online websites. To be fair, there are other useful preloaded apps such as CyberLink's multimedia suite, but it is a hassle to remove the unnecessary apps.
Gaming laptops usually have dismal battery life, but the HP actually managed a decent four hours while playing a video at full brightness and volume. HP also sells a removable battery at $89.
• Verdict: It may be affordable for a gaming laptop, but the HP is unable to run the latest games in their full glory.