My experience with Windows 8 has been limited to a few devices, including the Microsoft Surface, so I was happy to get the opportunity to review the Hewlett-Packard Pavilion Sleekbook 15, a fairly inexpensive laptop.
The Sleekbook 15 is a thin, light and good-looking computer with a widescreen format that allows for a full-size keyboard plus a number pad.
The Sleekbook is about an inch and a half wider and a pound lighter than my 15-inch Macbook Pro. Externally, it measures 15.9 by 10.2 by 0.83 inches and weighs 4.6 pounds. The all-plastic body seems sturdy, with no discernible flex when closed or picked up with one hand.
HP is positioning the Sleekbook between smaller and less powerful netbooks and its more full-featured laptops.
The Sleekbook gets its sleekness from the lack of an optical drive, which lets HP make the laptop thinner.
The computer ships with AMD's dual-core A4 processor. There are build-to-order upgrades available up to AMD's quad-core A8 processor.
The Sleekbook (starting at $480) has three USB ports, including one USB 3.0 port; an Ethernet port; a full-size HDMI out; an SD card reader; and a headphone jack.
It ships with 4 gigabytes of RAM, which can be upgraded to 8 GB. It also ships with a 500 GB hard drive, but upgrade options are available up to 1 terabyte.
The widescreen LED-backlit display measures 15.6 inches diagonally and has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels.
The 4-cell lithium-ion battery is on the small side, so you may want to invest in a spare. Wi-Fi is included, but Bluetooth is a $15 upgrade - and totally worth it. Also included are an HD webcam and built-in microphone.
The Sleekbook ships with Windows 8 64-bit, and the Windows 8 Pro 64-bit version is available as an upgrade.
The Windows 8 interface just screams for a touch screen, which the Sleekbook lacks. Instead you interact with Windows 8's gestures through its track pad, which works well after an adjustment period. My previous Windows 8 experience, on the Microsoft Surface, spoiled me. I found myself trying to swipe on the Sleekbook's screen more than once. (A more expensive model, the TouchSmart Sleekbook, does have a touch screen and starts at $650.)
The 3.8-inch-by-2.8-inch track pad has a nice feel.
Also around the keyboard are speakers, featuring Dolby Advanced Audio, which sounded nice, but the Sleekbook's built-in speakers aren't exactly going to be the sound system for your next party.
Overall, I'd have no problem recommending the Sleekbook 15 for almost anyone looking for a good mid-priced Windows 8 laptop. This would be a perfect PC for students, as it's thin and fairly light and would drop into any backpack with ease.
It would also be a great laptop for around-the-house use.
I'd only fault the battery, which according to Laptop Magazine lasted 3 hours and 53 minutes. I wish HP would release an extended-charge battery, but since the battery is so small, a spare would fit easily in your bag.
HEWLETT-PACKARD PAVILION SLEEKBOOK 15
-Pros: Inexpensive, impressive build-to-order options, light and slim.
-Cons: Less than average battery life.
-Bottom line: Solid machine.
-On the Web: hp.com
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