Many years ago, Ultrabookreview.com started due to my loathing of the chunky and heavy notebooks mostly available around 2010, and while we cover laptops more broadly these days, it’s always a joy to me to test thin and lightweight ultrabooks once more.
This here is the HP Pavilion Aero 13, an ultra-compact sub 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) laptop with a 13-inch 16:10 matte screen, uncompromised IO and inputs, snappy hardware, and a highly competitive price tag. In fact, all these combined are the reason I went ahead and bought this laptop for myself a few weeks ago, trying to figure out how it compares to the more premium ultraportables out there and whether this could be a worthy replacement for my travel buddy, my very old now XPS 13.
Spoiler alert, this Pavilion Aero 13 is a very well-balanced ultrabook, and only shows its budget nature here and there, by implementing a rather small battery and lacking a few features that you will get with higher-tier models. Let’s get in-depth down below.
Specs as reviewed – HP Pavilion Aero 13
||HP Pavilion Aero 13
||13.3 inch, 16:10 format, 1920 x 1200 px, IPS, matte, non-touch, LG Philips LGD06B9 panel
||AMD Cezanne Ryzen 5 5600U CPU, 6C/8T
||AMD Vega, 7 EUs, 1.8 GHz
||16 GB DDR4-3200 (soldered)
||512 GB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD (Micron 2210)
||Wireless 6 AX (Realtek RTL8852AE), Bluetooth 5.0
||2x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 1x USB-C gen2 with data, DP and charging, HDMI 1.4b, audio jack
||43 Wh, 65W barrel-plug charger
||398 mm or 11.73” (w) x 209 mm or 8.23” (d) x 17 mm or 0.67” (h)
||2.1 lbs (.95 kg)+ .69 lbs (.31 kg) charger and cables, EU version
||white backlit keyboard, HD webcam, stereo speakers, fingerprint reader
Our test unit is arguably the better-value configuration of the Pavilion Aero 13, but higher-specked options going up to a Ryzen 7 5800U processor and extra storage are also available.
Design and construction
Despite weighing less than 2.2 lbs (or 1 kilo), this Pavilion Aero feels very well made and reliable, and I expect it to age well over time.
Aluminum is used for the entire construction, with thick pieces that do not flex or squeak in any way. HP also went with a basic silver color and a slightly rougher finishing for all the surfaces, the kind that does a great job fending off smudges and scratches, and gives the laptop good grip when picked up.
At the same time, I do have to add that this type of aluminum feels a bit cheaper than the finishes on the more premium HP Spectre lineup. Plus, the design is basic and perhaps a little boring as well, with that big shiny HP logo on the lid and some HP, Pavilion, and B&O markups here and there.
I do like that HP put a 16:10 display on this laptop, with slim bezels and still a camera and mics at the top. The hinges allow you to easily pick up the screen and adjust it single-handedly, but they’re a bit weak and won’t keep the screen in place when you’ll pick up the laptop and take it to another place. While stationary, though, the display doesn’t move or wobble in any noticeable way. These hinges also limit the lean-back angle to about 145 degrees, and I wish HP would have implemented a screen that goes back flat to 180-degree, something I much appreciate on ultraportable devices.
This aside, my other small complaint is with the thermal design of this laptop. The screen lifts up the main body on small rubber feet placed at the bottom, much like on the Asus ZenBooks of this generation, and then the hot air is pushed out through a vent placed between the hinges, under the screen, which means that some of it goes into the panel. While not an ideal design, this isn’t a deal-breaker on this laptop, and I’ll explain why further down in the Performance and Emissions section.
On a more positive nature, I like how the big rubber feet on the bottom keep the laptop well anchored on a desk, how HP dulled and sloped down the front lip so it doesn’t bite into the wrists, and how this ultra-compact laptop doesn’t compromise on ergonomics in any noticeable way.
It even offers a fair selection of ports on the sides, with 2x USB-A slots, one USB-C, a full-size HDMI port, and a headphone jack. Most of these ports are placed on the left edge, and the USB-C supports data, video, and charging. The laptop ships with a barrel-plug charger that plugs in on the right, which means you can freely use the USB-C port while the laptop is plugged in, but you can also charge this via USB-C with a matching adapter.
A drawback of this thinner design is the fact that HP had to put some flappy covers over the USB-A slots and they’re annoying in real life, having to use both hands to be able to properly insert anything in those slots. They bothered me during my time with this laptop, but I still prefer this approach that allows for full-size ports, while many of the thinnest designs of this generation go USB-C only.
Finally, I’ll add that what you don’t get here is a card-reader or an IR Hello camera, or up-firing speakers. The side-effects of this being a budget option.
Keyboard and trackpad
HP offer some of the better keyboards in the ultrabook space and this here is no different, as long as you get past the fact that that they went with silver keycaps, the kind that make the writing poorly visible with the white illumination switched on. For that reason, I much prefer the black keyboards available on the HP EliteBook lineups.
This aside though, there’s hardly anything to complain about here. The illumination is bright enough and fairly uniform, and light only creeps out from underneath the top row of F-keys. HP also made sure to implement a physical Caps Lock indicator and enabled the brightness to activate by swiping your fingers over the clickpad, just like on premium devices.
I’m happy with the typing experience as well. This is a compact 13-inch laptop, and yet HP implemented a full-size keyboard with proper spacing and feedback, as well as an extra column of keys for Home/End/PgUp/PgDn at the right. The half-sized up and down arrows flanked by the full-size left and right arrows took me some time to get used to, but they’re something I can learn to live with.
The clickpad is plastic, so where this Pavilion somewhat shows its nature once again. The surface is spacious and responsive, but doesn’t feel as nice to the touch as the glass implementations on other laptops. It’s a solid and sturdy surface, though, so it doesn’t rattle with taps and implements smooth and quiet clicks in the bottom corners.
As for biometrics, there’s a finger-sensor with Hello support on the right-side of the arm-rest, underneath the arrow keys, but no IR camera.
Over here HP offers the Pavilion Aero 13 with a single screen choice, a 13-inch 16:10 matte option without touch, and a fair-quality panel by today’s standards.
We measured 450+ nits of max brightness, which means you can comfortably use this computer in bright light if you want to, as well as excellent blacks and contrast for this class. Color coverage is ~100% sRGB, so perfectly adequate for daily use.
On the other hand, this goes to around 23-nits at the very lowest brightness setting, which might not be dim enough for some of you in dark environments. The good news is that we noticed very little light bleeding on our unit.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: LG philips LGD06B9;
- Coverage: 98.8% sRGB, 69.4% AdobeRGB, 72.4% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.03;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 454.59 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 23.35 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1688:1;
- White point: 6900 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.27 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
Calibration is required to address the slightly Gamma and White Point imbalances here. This takes a slight toll on the max brightness, but in the end, the panel comes out well balanced in luminosity and color quality, with slight and acceptable DeltaE variations in the corners. This means you could consider this screen for occasional creative work as well, even if it’s not ideal for such workloads.
There’s also a QHD+ 2560 x 1600 px panel option available for the Aero 13 in some regions, still IPS with 400+ nits of brightness and 100% sRGB colors. It’s an inexpensive upgrade at around $30 in the US, but I wouldn’t go for it on this model as it would most likely further eat into the battery life, which is not great to begin with on the FHD+ screen option either.
Hardware and performance
Our sample is a mid-specced configuration of the HP Pavillion Aero 13, built on the AMD Cezanne Ryzen 5 5600U processor, 16 GB of DDR4 memory and 512 GB of PCIe x4 SSD storage.
We’re testing a retail unit of this laptop that I bought with my own money, and has not been provided by HP or anyone else. We’re also testing with the software and drivers available as of late Sept 2021 (F1.02 BIOS, HP Support Assitant 188.8.131.52 software).
Specs-wise, this is built on an AMD Ryzen Cezanne platform, with the more affordable Ryzen 5 5600U processor on our configuration. This is a 6C/12T processor, but built on the Zen3 Cezanne architecture, so a step-up in IPC and performance over the Ryzen 5 5500U.
8C/16T Ryzen 7 5800U configurations are also available, but as you’ll find down below, HP only implemented a conservative power profile in this laptop of around 15W of sustained power. That’s somewhat limiting even for the Ryzen 5 5600U, but even more for the 5800U, especially in combined demanding loads where the power limit affects but the CPU and the iGPU’s frequencies. We’ll get in-depth in a bit.
The CPUs are also paired with DDR4-3200 MHz memory, and not with the newer and more efficient LPDDR4x, which further takes a toll on performance and efficiency in some cases. I chose my configuration with 16 GB of memory, as the RAM is onboard and non-upgradeable. The memory is the newer SR type with the timings displayed in the ZenTimmings printscreen above.
Finally, an M.2 2280 slot is available for storage, and this unit came with a 512 GB Micron 2210 SSD, a middling-performer that’s fine for daily use, but not ideal for intensive transfers, as it tends to choke once it heats up above 60 degrees, despite the drive having an aluminum heatsink over it, which is not common in this class of ultrabooks. You can replace the default drive with a higher-capacity and quality SSD if you want to.
The SSD and WiFi chip are the only upgradeable components. As shown in the video down below, to get to them you’ll first need to peel off the rubber feet, as the screws that keep the bottom panel in place are positioned underneath these feet. So be careful not to rip or dirty the adhesive, so you can properly put the feet back in place and not risk them peeling off on their own later on.
This is not ideal and I’d advise you not to open this laptop unless you absolutely must.
As far as the software goes, I installed a fresh copy of Windows on my unit, so I can’t tell you anything about the software that comes preinstalled on the devices that come with Windows by default. I did install the HP Support Assistant to help with updates, but that’s not required. I can’t figure out if there’s any control software that would allow me to mess up with the battery settings, power profiles, audio profiles, and so on. This is my first HP laptop in a while, so maybe you can help me out here?
So that being the case, I only juggled with the Windows power settings during my time with this laptop, opting for the Better Battery profile with daily use and Best Performance with our benchmarks and games. Here is what to expect in terms of performance and internal temperatures with daily use, when the laptop keeps completely silent and runs cooly on the touch.
OK, so on to demanding tasks; we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run, in the Best Performance Windows mode.
The Ryzen 5 5600U processor in this laptop kicks in aggressively at 25+W for a little while, but quickly drops and stabilizes at 15W sustained, with quiet fans (37-38 dB) and CPU temperatures in the mid-80s. This results in scores of around 1050 points.
I haven’t tested the lesser power profiles, but I did test this unplugged from the wall, and it performed exactly the same as when plugged in. All these findings are detailed in the charts below.
To put these findings in perspective, here’s how this 15W Ryzen 5 5600U fares in this test against 15W implementations of the Ryzen 5 5500 (6Core), Ryzen 7 5700U and 5800 (8Core), and a 15W Intel-based i7-1165G7 configuration (4Core). I’ve also included a higher-power implementation of the Ryzen 7 5700U, for a comparison of what the platform is capable of in a more permissive design.
Based on these results, a Ryzen 7 5800U configuration of the Aero 13 would score roughly 1300 points in this test, about 20% higher than the Ryzen 5 5600U version here. However, the same Ryzen 7 5800U processor would be able to score 1500-1600 points in a higher-power laptop with a more capable thermal design.
I also tested the Ryzen 5 5600U CPU in the 3Dmark CPU test.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings by running the longer and more challenging Cinebench R23 and Prime95 tests, which both resulted in ~15W of sustained CPU power.
Finally, the 3DMark stress benchmark runs the same test 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time in combined CPU+GPU loads, and this laptop easily passed it. This suggests a balanced thermal profile and no performance losses as the heat builds up.
Overall, these are the results I would expect from a 15W limited implementation of this Ryzen hardware. Furthermore, the system only allows the CPU to run at higher power for a very short time, and that’s why the 3DMark stress test did not show any variations in performance. The power limit does take a toll on the CPU and GPU performance, this implementation ending up scoring roughly 80-90% of what the Ryzen 5 5600U platform would be capable of in an ideal non-power-limited implementation. That can’t be a surprise for anyone in this sort of ultra-compact chassis with a minimalistic thermal design, though.
Next, here are some benchmark results. We ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the Best Performance Windows profile on this Ryzen 5 5600U configuration. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2908 (Graphics – 3153, Physics – 15488, Combined – 1039);
- 3DMark 13 – Nigh Raid: 12305 (Graphics – 13756, CPU – 7703);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1133 (Graphics – 999, CPU – 4777);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 1821;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 574;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 28.68 average fps;
- PassMark10: Rating: 4507 (CPU: 13826, 3D Graphics: 2181, Disk: 13058);
- PCMark 10: 5177 (E – 8736, P – 8791, DCC – 4903);
- GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1299, Multi-core: 4861;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1260 cb, CPU Single Core 217 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2918 cb, CPU Single Core 522 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 6390 cb, CPU Single Core 1326 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 54.11 fps;
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 6m 42s;
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 17m 5s.
Once more, fair results for this 15W Ryzen 5 5600U implementation.
I’ll also add that we measured the same kind of performance while running the laptop on USB-C power or unplugged, on battery. This last part is not common for ultra-portables, too bad it’s somewhat negated by the small battery in this Pavilion Aero 13.
With that out of the way, we also ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the Best Performance profile, FHD and FHD+ (native) resolution, and Low/Lowest graphics settings, and we’ve thrown in a few other similar platforms tested recently for comparison. Here’s what we got:
|Ryzen 5 5600U + Vega 7
||Pavilion Aero 13,
Ryzen 5 5600U 15W,
|Pavilion Aero 13,
Ryzen 5 5600U 15W,
|ZenBook 13 UM325,
Ryzen 7 5800U 15W,
|IdeaPad Flex 5,
Ryzen 7 5700U 24W,
|ZenBook 13 UM325,
Ryzen 5 5500U 15W,
|ZenBook 14 UX425,
Core i7-1165G7 19W,
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||66 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||71 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||78 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||75 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||46 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||54 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||21 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||23 fps (19 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
||23 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||43 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||46 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||51 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||47 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||60 fps (53 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX12, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||30 fps (25 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (15 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||39 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||44 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||22 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||22 fps (12 fps – 1% low)
- Dota 2, NFS, Witcher 3 – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
We’re looking at 60+ framerates in the older titles, but 20-30fps in the more demanding AAA games launched in recent years. The performance logs down below show the CPU/GPU clocks and temperatures in a couple of games, and you can tell how the system quickly drops to 15W and how the ambient temperatures slightly affect the clock rates. I’ve tested at 22C ambient and 26 C ambient, for comparison.
On top of these, gaming on battery returns the same results as when the laptop is plugged in.
Based on these findings, I feel that this Ryzen 5 version is the best bang for your buck in the HP Pavilion Aero 13.
You would end up with 10-20% increased performance in CPU-heavy loads with the Ryzen 7 5800U configuration, due to the increase in Cores/Threads, but don’t expect that to run at its full capacity in this 15W limited design. And don’t expect significant differences in GPU-demanding loads either, due to that same power limit that’s not allowing the Vega 8 GPU in the 5800U to run at max clocks in sustained loads.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
HP went with a basic thermal module here, with a single heatpipe and single fan, the same kind we’ve seen implemented on most mid-tier ultrabooks.
That aside, the system favors low fan noise and limits the hardware power in sustained loads, but the results are a pleasant balance of noise levels and thermals. With daily use, the fan keeps mostly idle and only kicks in with light multitasking when the laptop is plugged in and set on Best Performance. Coil whine or electronic noises are not noticeable at ear level, but I could hear a slight hum when putting my ear over the keyboard.
With games and demanding loads, the fan ramps up to 37-38 dB at head-level, with fair internal and external temperatures. Due to how the internal system is designed, the hot air is pushed into the screen, but the plastic hinge and bottom bezel soak up most of the heat and the panel itself only warms up to low and mid-30s, which is perfectly safe long term.
The hottest part of the whole laptop is around the WASD keys, though, but even that hottest part is up to 40 degrees Celsius, so lower than on most of the other ultraportable designs and not something that would cause discomfort in actual use.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Better Battery Mode, fans at 0-35 dB
*Gaming – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Best Performance Mode, fans at 37-38 dB
There’s the latest-gen WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5 on this laptop, but through a basic RealTek 1×2 chip, so the connection is not as fast as on other modern laptops. I still found it fine for daily use, though, both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between. And if this is not sufficient for you, the wifi module can always be replaced with a faster one.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through grills on the underside. The angled shape of the D-Panel allows the sound to bounce off the table without distortions, and I also haven’t noticed any vibrations in the arm-rest at higher volumes. However, we only measured average maximum volumes at about 73-75 dB at head-level in our tests, and the audio quality isn’t much either, with little on the lower end.
The HD camera placed at top of the screen isn’t much in terms of quality either, but it’s usable in a fair light and has a wider angle than on most other ultraportable. The mics are OK as well, not awesome, not bad.
There’s only a 43 Wh battery inside this HP pavilion Aero 13, which is much smaller than what you’d normally get on a 13-inch notebook these days. The efficient display and AMD Ryzen hardware implementation help mitigate the smaller capacity to some point, but even so, this notebook is not going to break any battery life records for you.
Here’s what we got, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 7 W (~6 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Standard + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (8+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Standard + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5 W (8+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Standard + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9 W (~3-5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Standard + Better Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop ships with a compact 65W charger that plugs in via a standard barrel-plug connector, and USB-C charging is also an option here. The included charger is a dual-piece design with a compact brick, but long cables that add up to a fair amount of bulk. A full charge takes less than 2 hours, with quick charging for the first part.
Price and availability- HP Pavilion Aero 13
I got this Ryzen 5 5600U variant of the HP Pavilion Aero 13 with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage for around 700 EUR over here, which is an excellent price for this configuration.
Ryzen 5 with the 8GB RAM/256 GB SSD versions are also available, starting at around 650 EUR over here, while the Ryzen 7 5800U model starts at around 900 EUR.
In the US, the Aero 13 starts at $750 MSRP right now, but occasional discounts will drop it under $700 for the base model. The configuration we have here goes for $850 MSRP at this point.
You’ll find more about this laptop on HP’s website, or you can follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
Final thoughts- HP Pavilion Aero 13
At roughly 700 USD/EUR, this Aero 13 does almost everything right and is one of the best-balanced mid-tier ultrabooks that you can buy right now. Well, hopefully, you can, as this seems to be in high demand and little stock in some areas.
What you’re getting here is a sub 1-kilo lightweight 13-inch laptop that’s built well, offers good inputs, uncompromised IO, and a nice matte-screen, as well as a well-balanced hardware implementation for daily use and occasional light-work and gaming. I’m especially recommending this Ryzen 5 5600U configuration with 16 GB of RAM that I got here, there’s little reason to pay extra for the Ryzen 7 5800U in this chassis and the 8 GB configurations might not suffice for multitasking.
On the other hand, this laptop still shows its budget nature here and there. It doesn’t feel as premium as perhaps an Hp Envy 13 or a Dell XPS 13 or even a Asus ZenBook 13, it’s not available with touchscreens or higher-resolution panels, it doesn’t get the best audio or an IR camera or a glass touchpad, and it’s also not as fast as the larger implementations of the AMD Ryzen hardware. But I can live with all these.
In fact, the battery life might be the only real potential deal-breaker here, HP opting for a rather small battery that gives me 3-6 hours of realistic daily use on a charge. Personally, I would have preferred a slightly heavier chassis with a 50-60 Wh battery inside, but that’s not the case here. So at this point, I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping this. I still think this is a very good-value option in its class, but I’m not convinced this sort of battery life is enough for me, mainly because this laptop would only be used during my occasional travels, where long battery life would be crucial.
Nonetheless, this wraps up my review of the HP Pavilion Aero 13, and I’d like to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section down below.
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