If the computer is to be a faithful companion every day, it should be as light and compact as possible. Which usually means it has to be as light and compact as the budget allows. For most super-lightweight ultrabooks, are (almost) worth their weight in gold.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 (there are no prizes for guessing which Apple computer it should compete with) is an exception to that rule. Although we are dealing with a small and slim 13-inch in a magnesium cabinet and with a weight of just 973 grams, the price stays in the comfort zone.
As mentioned, the screen is 13 inches, but it is in the contemporary 16:10 format, which means more vertical screen space, but also means that the cabinet gets a little deeper. The screen resolution is 1920 x 1200 pixels, which is a bit more than Full HD. And in terms of size and price, thisis fully adequate. The screen has a reasonable brightness (400 nits), but it does not have the depth and clarity that we are used to from more expensive laptops.
The keyboard is full size – including the keys in the outer rows – and the white backlight can be set in two levels: dim light and very dim light. The quality of the keys and the touchpad, on the other hand, is mediocre. They work fine, but instead of the feeling of key travel and resistance, you just feel the soft “blop” when the bubble membrane under the keys is pressed. And the touchpad has to receive a pretty hard push to detect a click. The built-in fingerprint reader pulls up a bit in the accounts.
The cabinet is ultra-slim (only 1.7 cm with the lid closed). This makes the computer formidable for the shoulder bag or study backpack. But it also means that it is difficult to fit full-size USB ports. HP has chosen to provide the USB ports with a small flap that must be pressed down when the plug is inserted into the port. It is a cumbersome way to solve the problem as the plug needs to be pryed in and it is almost impossible to avoid using two hands.
Good processor – weak graphics
It’s not just on the outside that the HP Pavilion Aero 13 looks relatively luxurious. HP has chosen a really good processor in the form of an AMD Ryzen 5, 5600U. It is a six-core CPU with 12 threads and 2.3 GHz operating frequency. There is 8 GB of RAM, which is just adequate, considering the price. And for typical office applications it will suffice. The same can be said about the 256 GB SSD storage space.
It will be the graphics that set the limit for what the Pavilion Aero 13 can be used for. The graphics processor is AMD Radeon, but without any specification. In practice, this means the integrated graphics in the Ryzen processor. Which also means that the graphics processor shares the RAM with the CPU instead of having its own dedicated and fast graphics memory.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is equipped with a very nimble AMD Ryzen 5 processor with six cores. In terms of performance, it is similar to the average 11th generation Core i7 processors. The GeekBench 5 test gave a result of 5,163 in multicore and 1,344 in single-core. And PCMark 10, which simulates typical office applications, ended up with a score of 5,673. It’s really nice, and it should ensure several years of hassle-free daily service.
The Radeon series has given us many great graphics cards through its many years of existence. However, the Radeon graphics found in the Aero 13 will not go down in the history books.
With a 3DMark Time Spy score of 1,100 and 2,890 in 3DMark Fire Strike, the Radeon graphics in the HP are only twice as fast as the abysmal Intel HD Graphics. Which is quite an achievement. In practice, it is of no particular consequence, as the tiny PC still manages what it was created for, quite smoothly.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is in the lightest weight class and it can be felt on battery life. 3:15 hours is a bit short for an ultrabook computer that is meant to be brought to meetings and lectures throughout an entire, long day. However, since the PC Mark 8 battery test is far more intense than the office work it simulates, the computer should be able to handle a full working day just fine. In case of overtime, you can also emergency charge, using a colleague’s USB-C charger.
Ultra-slim laptops weighing less than a kilogram are few. And none of them are cheap. The closest competitors to the HP Pavilion Aero 13 are machines like the MSI Modern 15 and Acer Aspire 5. But both are somewhat heavier 15″ laptops with plastic cabinets.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a sleek little ultra-portable ultrabook computer at a price you can almost only love. It has a surprisingly good processor and a trustworthy design, which you have to look closely to discover the difference between it and more expensive PCs. The graphics processor is downright miserable – but no worse than the Intel UHD Graphics that was the norm in Intel-based ultrabooks until recently. If you need a laptop for work or study that can be carried in your bag all days of the year, it is difficult to find an equally attractive offer in the price range.