After carefully reviewing the laptop makers out there, you’ve decided to go with HP. But do you know which model is right for you? 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?
Here’s a quick guide to HP’s laptop offerings. Below the description for each product line, we’ve listed a few standout models.
Behind the Numbers
HP notebooks have names such as Spectre and Omen, but those names are often followed by numbers. You may not know what makes a ProBook 440 different from a ProBook 650, for instance, but there is a method to this numerical madness. The hundreds digit signifies the class of the device (higher is better), and the tens digit represents the size of the display (4 means 14-inch, and so on). Models with a 5 in the ones column feature AMD processors, and a 0 in that space means the laptop has an Intel processor.
Models with an x360 in their name offer touch screens that bend back, so you can seat them in tablet, display, laptop and stand positions, and those with x2 in their name are detachable tablets. If a notebook simply uses a number and a “t,” such as the Envy 13t, it’s a touch-screen notebook that doesn’t bend back. That number is often followed by G1, G2, G3, etc., which represents which generation and iteration of this model you’re getting. So, for example, an HP ProBook 440 G3 is a third-generation, 14-inch notebook with an Intel CPU.
Spectre: Best Overall (if you can afford it)
HP’s premium laptops usually cost more than $1,000, but they’re 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.
Standout models include:
- Spectre x360: Our favorite 2-in-1 fits a 7th-generation Kaby Lake processor, Intel’s latest, into an amazingly thin bend-back 2-in-1 design that allows you to take advantage of Windows 10’s touch capabilities. Despite its razor-thin looks, the Spectre x360 lasts 10 hours on a single charge.
- Spectre: Our favorite HP Ultrabook is so thin, HP needed to create a new hinge design to accommodate it. And although notebooks often sacrifice good typing experiences in the name of thinness, the HP Spectre cuts no such corner and offers an excellent keyboard.
- Spectre x360 15t: If you need both style and size, this convertible has a 15-inch touch screen so you can take advantage of Windows 10’s tablet mode. And for an extra $60, you can bump its display resolution up to 4K.
Envy: Good for Style-Conscious Users
HP’s Envy notebooks are thin, beautifully designed machines, clearly named after HP’s desire to make a computer even a MacBook owner would covet. Envy notebooks offer the luxuriously vibrant displays and strong Bang & Olufsen audio you see throughout HP’s hardware, but the machines can also offer business-friendly features, such as fingerprint scanners.
Standout models include:
Envy 13t: We didn’t love this 13-inch touch-screen notebook, but its attractive design, accurate display and strong speakers certainly give it a chance. Unfortunately, its thin design probably didn’t help its battery life, which we found to be just 5 hours and 48 minutes, or its sluggish hard drive, which hampers its performance.
EliteBook: Best for Business, Built for IT
HP’s EliteBook line is designed for large businesses, offering a mix of security and durability. These laptops pack biometric login options and system-protecting software, and certain models meet the MIL-SPEC standards that U.S. military equipment requires. Models bearing the Folio brand are thinner and sleeker than standard EliteBooks.
Standout models include:
EliteBook Folio G1: The EliteBook Folio G1 is a 12.5-inch notebook that’s thinner than Apple’s 12-inch MacBook and built to survive drop after drop. It even offers an infrared camera so you can log in with Windows Hello in the dark. We love its snappy keyboard and attractive design.
EliteBook Folio 1040 G2: This lightweight 14-inch notebook packs a fingerprint reader and a bright display.
Elite x2 1011: This detachable 11.6-inch 2-in-1 offers lengthy battery life and a solid keyboard.
ProBook: Best for Small Business
If the EliteBooks are outside your budget, the next step down is HP’s ProBook line. Though less expensive and predictably less impressive, ProBooks still manage to feature durable designs and enough performance to get things done.
ProBook 440 G3: This 14-inch notebook packs remote management tools that IT teams will appreciate and a ton of legacy ports that help it fit into any office.
ProBook 650 G2: This notebook provides a 1080p display, a USB Type-C port, an optical drive and a serial port, so we’re pretty sure it will work with whatever your office throws at it.
ZBook: Best for Creative Professionals, Engineers
Video editors, architects and creative professionals who need workstation processing power but can’t be pinned down to a single desk should check out HP’s ZBooks. Companies focused on securing sensitive intellectual property can add on fingerprint readers, and those still using Windows 7 should be happy to hear that many come with that version as the default.
ZBook Studio G3: This $1,999-to-$3,039 15.6-inch notebook is far more stylish and lightweight than your average workstation.
ZBook 15u G2: This drop- and shock-resistant $1,119-to-$1,999 15-inch notebook is more affordable, as it packs a Core i7 CPU.
“Notebook” Line: Bland Choice for Budget-Conscious Consumers
HP is tipping its hand by giving the Notebook series of laptops the blandest name possible. From their plastic cases to their dim displays, these machines don’t exactly impress; rather, they meet some bare minimums.
Notebook 15: This $649 15-inch notebook offers a 1080p display and decent battery life, but a shallow keyboard and a ton of bloatware take away from the experience.
Pavilion: Premium Features for Those Who Can’t Afford a Spectre
HP’s Pavilion line includes a wide variety of notebooks at relatively affordable prices. This means the Pavilion name is attached to everything from a detachable 2-in-1 with great battery life to a sub-$1,000 gaming machine with a solid graphics card. Unfortunately, they rarely offer great display panels; that affordable price has to come from somewhere.
Pavilion 15 Gaming: This 15-inch $899 notebook delivers solid gaming performance, and its green, backlit keys give it the look of a more expensive model.
HP Pavilion x360 (13-inch): This $450 hybrid with a fancy-looking gold case and solid performance is hampered only by bloatware and a dim display.
Pavilion x2 10t: This $350 10-inch notebook has great battery life, solid build quality and decent performance that are best experienced when typing comfortably on its undersized keyboard.
Omen: Best for Gamers
Most people don’t see HP as a gaming laptop company, but its Omen laptops pack a ton of firepower that gamers need for buttery-smooth graphics. They not only offer vibrantly backlit keyboards but eschew HP’s own logo for Voodoo’s old glyph. Some models even pack VR-capable graphics cards, so they’re ready for the virtual future.
Omen 17: This $1,799 17-inch beast comes armed to the keys with a Core i7 CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card. Sure, it might get a little noisy, but because this machine enables VR, you’ll be too deeply engrossed in virtual content to hear those fans.
Omen: The $1,029 15.6-inch Omen’s keyboard glows with a seductive red and produces solid frame rates with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU. It delivers smooth-enough gameplay when titles are set to Medium but cannot maintain consistent frame rates when games are set to High.
Chromebooks: Best for Kids, Chrome Fans
HP’s Chromebooks are available in a range of designs, but each offers a decent keyboard and passable performance. The only real problem is that HP doesn’t offer one with a touch-screen display, which you’d want for Chrome OS’ upcoming support for Android emulation.
Chromebook 14: This $258, teal-and-white, 14-inch notebook offers a comfortable wrist rest, a 1080p display and a Celeron processor that supports decent multitasking.
Chromebook 13 G1: This 13-inch brushed-aluminum laptop looks far nicer than most Chrome OS machines, but with a starting price of $499, it isn’t as affordable as the rest of them.
Chromebook 11: This $219, 11-inch notebook offers solid sound and a comfortable keyboard, but its battery life and dim display make you think twice, even at this price.
Stream: Best Secondary Computers
Chromebooks may lure budget-conscious users away from Windows, but HP’s Stream notebooks are an attempt to bring them back to the pack. While the strikingly colored shells will catch your eye, these machines typically feature only 32GB of storage, and not much of that is left for users thanks to Windows’ digital footprint.
Stream 13: This $230, 13-inch Windows 10 machine comes in blue or magenta matte, plastic shells. Even though it doesn’t cost a lot, the Stream 13 still offers solid performance and a comfortable keyboard.