HP added another device to their wildly successful 15 series, namely the HP Notebook 15-ay018nr model. More powerful than the previous two iterations, this notebook has what it takes to challenge Dell and Acer in the mid-range segment, but not ASUS. At least not yet.
So, the HP Notebook 15-ay018nr is not only an updated version of the previously launched models, but an upgrade altogether when talking about performance and bang for your dollar. Core components have been replaced with more advanced pieces of equipment, but the chassis and features haven’t seen any improvements, not significant anyway.
The first major piece of hardware to be changed was the processor. The HP 15-ay018nr features an Intel i7-6500U unit that also powers many more mid-range models from a variety of manufacturers, including ASUS, Acer and Dell. This dual core processor has 4 megabytes of available cache, a clock speed of 2.5 GHz with boosts up to 3.1 GHz and a moderate thermal design power of 15 Watts. The 4300+ points registered in benchmark tests suggest it will handle multitasking and other, more intensive activities successfully. This CPU is a major improvement from its predecessor, the i7-5500U, and from its cousin, the i5-6200U. Therefore, I think it makes sense to choose this notebook over the 15-ay013nr model, especially if you’re also a professional and need to run more demanding programs, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, virtual machines, and so on.
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System memory remains unchanged since the last model. 8 gigabytes of DDR3L-1600 SDRAM will likely be sufficient for any needs you may have. However, you should note that the memory is user extendable by adding another 8 gigabyte memory stick, since only one slot is occupied. Even when using the factory equipped version, multitasking won’t prove a problem and furthermore, the laptop should handle the programs listed above (and not only) superbly.
Storage space has been doubled since the last version I’ve reviewed. Now, there are 256 gigabytes of available storage space on an M.2 form factor solid state drive. The speed boost is significant compared to a mechanical hard disk drive and will make the operating system – Windows 10 – boot up in seconds and programs run smoothly, without lag or sluggishness.
Graphics and Display
The graphics department doesn’t feature a dedicated video card as I would have liked, but instead the HP Notebook 15-ay018nr comes with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 video card. Playing games on this laptop may prove to be difficult, especially when talking about new titles, but you should get decent frame rates in games like CS:GO, LoL, DOTA and the likes. Video rendering shouldn’t be a problem, due to the i7 processor prowess coupled with the Intel video card, playing content up to 4K resolutions without issues.
The display is unexpectedly good for a laptop in this price bracket. The 15.6 inch screen features an IPS UWVA WLED-backlit FHD display with great viewing angles, bright, vivid colors and deep black tones. Also, the 1920 x 1080 resolution is brilliant for a display this size.
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The HP 15-ay018nr has some decent interface options, but nothing out of the ordinary and, most importantly, no USB-C type port yet. Here are the available ports:
1 x USB 3.0 port
2 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x HDMI-out
1 x RJ-45
1 x Audio Combo Jack
1 x SD card reader
1 x DVD-Writer
The 15-ay018nr model has a 802.11ac (1×1) wireless card with integrated Bluetooth 4.0 technology and 10/100 Base-T Ethernet LAN, making the HP quite versatile in a home/office environment where you may need the extra speed and reliability offered by an Ethernet connection when no high-speed routers are available. This is especially useful when using the laptop to hold a meeting via Skype, when playing games or when streaming massive video files.
Battery Life and Portability
The 4-cell Lithium-Ion battery pack can hold a charge for up to 6 hours, a rather modest result. You’ll want to take your charger along for longer trips or extended business meetings, since those 6 hours will likely turn to 5 after some discharge cycles and usage in real life conditions.
The HP 15-ay018nr weighs as expected, 4.8 pounds: this is not a lightweight device, nor is it heavy. It will therefore depend on your preference regarding carrying 15-inch laptops around town.
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All in all, the HP Notebook 15-ay018nr is a significant improvement from the previous models that comes with a fair price increase (there’s a $150 difference between this model and the ay013nr at the time of this review). I think this laptop will work great for college students, home offices, work environments, but I think it will shine as a modest desktop replacement for people with moderate computing needs.