HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 £350
2nd Oct 2013 | 10:26
Cheap and cheerful, but the performance of this entry-level laptop is underwhelming
The HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 e030sa reminds us a little of the netbooks of yesteryear - small, running a grown-up version of Windows, good battery life - but not much in the way of power.
But this little tike also happens to be packing a quad-core AMD processor, so in theory it should be a little more impressive than a netbook - the majority of which had fairly basic processors.
What really impresses us most about this little laptop is the price tag attached to it - just £330 and you have yourself a whole lot of very portable computing for practically nothing. At 11 inches, the TouchSmart is perfect for working in tight situations, such as a busy train, and the touchscreen gives it a boost of usability that you would normally expect in something much more expensive.
HP's no stranger to the world of budget computing though, with recent forays including the bigger HP Pavilion TouchSmart Sleekbook 15 and the HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook. Both performed really well at their respective price point.
There's not much else available right now that can really compete with the TouchSmart. Sure, there are plenty of RT machines floating about, but the HP offers the full, unadulterated Windows 8 experience.
The Asus Vivobook S200 came up trumps when we reviewed it last year, and it's one of very few laptops available now that are able to compete directly with the TouchSmart 11. It, too, offers an 11-inch touchscreen at a fair price, albeit a tad more expensive.
You can certainly forget about the 11-inch Macbook Air - the TouchSmart is plain old bargain-bucket computing. Due to its pleasing price tag, as well as the small screen size and touch capabilities, we reckon HP's aiming this squarely at college students looking for something they don't have to be too precious about. Just chuck it in a bag and away you go.
There's obviously scope for it to work within the corporate sector too, since it's running a full version of Windows, allowing you to install any application and work comfortably from the desktop. However, there are various constraints that might make it unsuitable. For instance, is the screen too small to allow you to work properly? And, is it really fast enough to meet the demands of a power user?
While ultra-portables such as the Lenovo Yoga 11S and the Sony Vaio Duo 11, are designed to represent the pinnacle in mobile computing innovation, with convertible screens and powerful processors, regardless of the price; the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 is the polar opposite - it offers as much as can be, for as little cash as possible. Surprisingly, the spec sheet turns out to be quite competitive.
The TouchSmart gets an 11.6-inch screen with 10-point multi-touch built in. Less than a year ago you would have struggled to get a touchscreen on anything below £600, so kudos to HP for implementing it into its entry-level laptop. It works well too. As you would expect from 10 point, inputs are accurate and smooth, and there's really no lag either.
While the lack of full HD isn't a surprise at this price point - the TouchSmart instead has 1366 x 768 pixels - what does surprise us is the lack of quality. The panel is of a fairly low quality - the result of which is a fairly blotchy overall look - and the TouchSmart also lacks a range of decent viewing angles. HP has obviously made the screen its chosen corner to cut.
That's not the only area that suffers from its budget nature - the processor takes a wallop too. The AMD might play the quad-core card to bring in the punters, but behind the curtains the A4 chip is really designed first and foremost with mobile computing in mind. Performance is not intended to be its strong suit, with just 1GHz on tap. You'll find smartphones packing more punch these days.
However, the on-board Radeon HD 8210 graphics promise good things for HD content, while 4GB of memory does help to alleviate concerns a little, giving this laptop greater ability to multitask. There's a 500GB hard drive - no SSD at this price, naturally – which is plenty for those wishing to install lots of applications and store a decent amount of movies and music on board. Media capabilities don't end there - the TouchSmart boasts DTS Sound+, which gives it a generous capacity for volume, but don't expect a particularly invigorating soundtrack.
We were pleased to see that on the connectivity front, things haven't been scrimped. Though the TouchSmart looks as if it only has three regular USB 2.0 ports (since there's no signature blue in sight), two are actually USB 3.0, denoted by the Superspeed label. There's also HDMI or VGA for connecting up to bigger screens, and an SD card slot, as well as an Ethernet port - but no Gigabit Ethernet.
A full version of Windows 8 is present here, giving the TouchSmart the full functionality it needs. Any desktop apps can be installed, although sadly this has given HP license to outfit the TouchSmart with its choice of bloatware. We kind of understand why: when a laptop is this cheap, manufacturers have to make up costs elsewhere, but it's never a good thing to see - especially when it can be detrimental to the performance of a device which already struggles in this department.
Due to the TouchSmart's small size, HP has made the sensible choice of outfitting it with a keyboard that's 95 per cent of the normal size. It works quite well in practice, with decent key feel, although if you have bigger hands you might find that it's just a little tight for working for long periods.
Speaking of size, the TouchSmart might have a small screen, but it's certainly not a slim laptop by any means. It's definitely erring on the chunky side, and the weight of 1.4kg isn't particularly impressive either. Having said this, overall it feels reasonably well made and fairly stylish, if a little basic.
3DMark - Ice Storm: 13,340, Cloud Gate: 1165, Fire Strike 211
Cinebench 11.5 - graphics performance: 8.43 FPS, CPU performance: 0.47pts
PC Mark 8 battery life (Home test): 3hrs 42mins
Performance is poor in general use - with just a few programs open in Windows and several browser tabs in action, the TouchSmart struggled. The Cinebench 11 score reinforces this feeling with a CPU score of just 0.47 pts; incredibly low, even for a budget processor.
The CPU might feature four cores, but the clockspeed is a rather lowly 1.0GHz - therefore it's unsurprising that performance is held back. The TouchSmart has clearly been designed for simple applications like web browsing and Office, but in practice it struggled even at this modest level.
With just four or five browser tabs open and a Word document in use, the TouchSmart felt as if it was at its limit. This was backed up when we went into Task Manager and found that the CPU was running at anything from 50 per cent, all the way up to a rather shocking 96 per cent, most of the time.
Honestly, we found this surprising, and we haven't seen this poor a performance since we looked at the Asus Eee PC 1025C - ironically, a netbook - over a year ago. Even a simple processor should be able to cope with basic tasks.
Multi-tasking is definitely not up to scratch here. Other AMD processors (such as the A6) seem to have suffered the same fate, where they look great on paper but just can't seem to deliver the goods.
The lowly performance does have one plus point - battery life is much better than you might expect, with an impressive performance of just under four hours in mixed use; its strengths obviously lie more in its mobility rather than its processing prowess.
With a little more time spent refining the power options, there's definitely a few more hours to be eked out of the Pavilion. It'd make a great laptop for a few hours out of the office, although you might want to carry the power supply just in case you get caught out.
Interestingly, the graphical performance of the AMD Radeon HD 8210 seemed to fare better than the processor.
The benchmarks are nothing to write home about, but then again it's not that far off the performance of more expensive laptops, such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite. Although most games, other than really basic 2D titles, are out of the question, we did manage to happily run 1080p movies without issue.
We're in a bit of a quandary with this review. While the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 has plenty of nice features going for it, such as the great touch capabilities and strong battery life, not to mention the amazing price tag, which make it perfect for portable computing for those with slightly lighter wallets, it has some really rather significant shortcomings. The biggest of these is the poor processor which makes the TouchSmart almost unusable with more than a couple of applications running at once.
There's lots to like about the TouchSmart. Obviously, the price is a real winner, and it allows anybody easy access to the full Windows 8 experience, without being hampered by the limitations of Windows RT. To get excellent touch capabilities thrown into the deal, too, is amazing; it's practically unheard of at this price point.
Ignoring the processor performance, the rest of the TouchSmart is really top notch. Lots of useful ports, a hard drive with plenty of capacity, great battery life and a small size which makes it very easy to throw in a bag (although you will notice it there). You really do get a lot of value for money.
The TouchSmart's biggest faux pas is the tiny amount of performance available. The quad-core processor just isn't powerful enough to handle more than a few tasks at a time, which, in this day and age, is really surprising. The screen quality isn't the best either, although we can forgive this because it's obviously one area where cost cutting had to take place.
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The HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 would make a good buy for students on a tight budget, but not so good for business users needing more power. If we were making the decisions at HP, we would have left the touch capabilities out and spent the money on either a faster processor, or a better quality screen.
As a result of the poor performance, we find it hard to recommend the TouchSmart. We'd suggest saving your cash, waiting a little longer and choosing something like the Asus Vivobook S200. It's a similar size, but offers much better performance, for just a little more money.