HP 15-ay196n Laptop Review

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January 22, 2017
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HP has been known to make quality notebooks for decades. Be it the 90s, 00s or the recent years, their laptops have satisfied people ranging from beginners to power users to even gamers. This time, they have released a mid-priced HP 15-ay196n model to cater to casual users. The spec sheet promises some decent performance, after all you will find Core i7 processor in this laptop. Below you will see my comments about the various aspects of the notebook – please read!

General performance

One of the strongest things of HP 15-ay196n is its processor! It’s the mobile-friendly Intel Core i7-7500U, a dual-core chip with nice 2.7GHz clock speed coupled with 3.5GHz turbo. So yes, it’s a low-voltage unit (7.5W TDP) which usually means savings in battery life. Sometimes, it also means worse performance, however the processor in question still holds ~5300 points in CPU Mark. That’s a desktop-grade score and processor-wise there is nothing wrong with the laptop’s performance.

The notebook RAM is set at 8GB, the type is DDR4. It is not expandable RAM however I think eight gigabytes does the trick for anybody. It can be even an overkill for casual users, but professionals surely appreciate the leeway the extra memory brings.

Unfortunately for many, this model doesn’t come with a solid-state drive. What it instead has is a platter-based, spinning 1TB 5400RPM hard drive. The system doesn’t support extra units. So in case you want SSD here you’d better remove the current drive first. That way you’ll have empty slot for your drive upgrade.

Gaming in nutshell

HP 15-ay196n can do something for gamers, yes. But not that much. The graphics engine is Intel HD 620 and it’s an integrated graphics unit. If you’re in the know, you might know integrated means poor graphics performance compared to dedicated cards like GeForce. You are restricted to lower settings and resolution if you want playable frame rates. For example, on low details and 1366×768 you can expect ~30FPS out of Grand Theft Auto 5. GTA being a demanding game that is not a surprise. Yet, you can max out the settings on Counter-Strike: Go and enjoy smooth frames above 60!

Ports and connections

There’s nothing unusual in the ports section. Three USB ports are available, of those one is USB 3.1 and two the older USB 2.0 standard. This model does not sport the new USB Type-C connector. Still, those three regular ports should be enough to connect your favorite devices to this.

HP 15-ay196n comes with one video output, the full-size HDMI. This way you can hook up an external monitor to this computer. Indeed, some people like to use their laptops that way while most of the folks never plug an external display to notebook I guess!

There’s a basic-level 802.11bgn WiFi adapter installed in the machine, allowing for effortless WiFi access. It supports Bluetooth too. For those who like networking through cable also 100Mbps (sadly no Gigabit) RJ-45 port is available.

The notebook plays and burns CDs and DVDs, the right hand side has an optical drive installed. I can also see a memory card reader there, it should accept at least SD and MMC type memory cards.

Other things you might find interesting

I don’t think the screen in HP 15-ay196n is anything spectacular. It has the common 15.6″ diagonal meaning not too small or not too big. Unfortunately, resolution is limited to 1366×768 (720p) so don’t expect Full HD from this rig. But in my experience, there is not much difference between 720p and 1080p content on a screen of this size. The display is touch sensitive but it does not operate in tablet mode – no 2-in-1 functionality in other words. The top panel hosts a webcam for Skype etc.

The ad copy says the notebook will last even 9 hours on a single charge. That is far from truth. You’re looking at most a 5 hours battery life before recharge calls. If using full screen brightness and watching videos now and then, the running time will drop to 3-4 hours.

It does not have a backlit keyboard.

Verdict

I don’t think HP 15-ay196n is better or worse than its competitors in that price range. It has its strong points such as very powerful processor and decent amount of RAM. But there are disadvantages present as well, mainly the slowish hard drive and no Full HD support. Also gaming performance is far from optimal which is admittedly true to any laptop costing the same. The HP works as a good tool for people surfing the web and popping some emails, but a true workhorse it is not. If you just want a laptop for everyday use, you can’t go wrong with this HP.

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