At $499 as tested, the HP Pavilion Desktop (model TP01-0014) is at the middle to upper end of what we consider a budget desktop PC. With an Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics, however, it’s not a big bargain from a performance standpoint. It’s solidly built, though, with an attractive chassis, plenty of USB ports, and a speedy solid-state drive instead of a hard drive. The Pavilion also has room for upgrades, including the ability to add a discrete graphics card and additional memory and storage, and people who haven’t yet ditched their DVDs will appreciate its optical drive. (The power supply will put a limit on your video-card aspirations, however.) If you have a bit of spending flex, we would suggest also looking at the configuration of the Acer Aspire TC-885 we tested alongside it, our Editors’ Choice pick.
Attractive, Modern Look
A traditional tower PC like the Pavilion Desktop takes up a lot of room compared with a laptop or an all-in-one (AIO) desktop. It stands more than a foot tall and weighs about 13 pounds, which means that it’s best suited to stay out of sight underneath your desk. But unlike stodgy, boring desktops of old, the HP looks attractive and modern, with a brushed silver faceplate and rounded edges. If you do need to find a place for it on your desk, at least it won’t look ugly.
There are plenty of cheaper desktops, and even some Core i3-powered laptops around $500, so the Pavilion Desktop isn’t a great choice if all you want is a basic productivity machine that you plan to replace in a couple of years. Instead, it’s mainly attractive to people who want a larger PC that can accept upgrades in the future, as budgets and computing needs evolve.
To that end, the system offers lots of room for adding additional storage. There’s a 2.5-inch drive bay, a 3.5-inch drive bay, and two M.2 slots on the motherboard, for a total of four possible places to stick storage drives. (At least one of these is occupied by the drive that comes with the PC). You’ll also find a single PCI Express x16 expansion slot for adding a dedicated GPU, as well as a PCIe x1 slot that can accept a less powerful add-in such as a TV tuner or additional USB ports.
Perhaps the most limiting factor for future upgrades will be the system’s 180-watt power supply. The Core i3 CPU alone consumes 65 watts, and if you’re planning to add a 100-watt GPU, you’ll quickly approach the power limit.
Plenty of Ports Up Front
Too many inexpensive desktops skimp on front-facing ports despite their relatively vast surface areas, so it’s nice to see that HP bucks the trend. There are no fewer than four USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports mounted on the front of the desktop, as well as a full-sized SD card reader, a headphone jack, and a USB Type-C port. The front of the Pavilion Desktop also includes an optical drive that can read and write DVDs. The drive is an anachronism, to be sure, but if you’ve still got a large photo archive or movie collection stored on discs, you’ll appreciate it.
Around back, you’ll find VGA and HDMI video outputs, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, two audio outputs, and a 3.5mm microphone input. There are four more USB ports on the back as well, for a total of eight, but unfortunately the rear ones support only the slower USB 2.0 standard. That means they have glacially slow transfer speeds, making them all right for a mouse, keyboard, or printer but a poor choice for connecting an external hard drive.
Speaking of USB keyboards and mice, the set that HP includes is quite decent by budget desktop standards. The color of the wired mouse and keyboard matches the black sides of the Pavilion chassis, and the peripherals are sturdy enough for casual use. Gamers and novelists will want to invest in a more comfortable set, however.
There are no Thunderbolt 3 ports on the Pavilion Desktop , but we don’t expect to see any at this price point. The unit does have 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless options built-in, though, which means you won’t have to run an Ethernet cord if you don’t want to. The wireless radio has an internal antenna instead of an externally mounted one that you must screw on.
HP includes a one-year warranty and 90 days of phone support with the Pavilion Desktop.
The Pavilion Desktop model reviewed here includes a quad-core Intel Core i3 CPU, Intel UHD Graphics 630, 8GB of DDR4-2666 memory, and a 256GB SSD. There are multiple memory and storage configuration options available, including the option to add a hard drive for secondary storage and to boost system RAM to 16GB.
HP also offers several different CPU options, including an upgraded Core i5 model and another version that uses an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and AMD Radeon Vega integrated graphics. Although the latest Intel models use ninth-generation CPUs, a few retailers may still offer ones with eighth-generation processors like the Core i3-8100 in our review unit.
In terms of horsepower, our test system is really only suited for basic computing tasks. I found that web browsing worked fine as long as I didn’t keep more than three browser tabs open. Installing and uninstalling apps took a bit longer than I’m used to seeing on Core i5 and Core i7 machines, but at least the Pavilion never felt sluggish or laggy during my testing.
See How We Test Desktops
I compared the desktop’s performance in our benchmark tests with that of several other competing systems in the $500 to $800 range. They include the Acer Aspire desktop, a configuration of the HP Envy Desktop, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 510A, and the Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny. On most tests, the Pavilion performed behind the Core i5-equipped Aspire and Envy, but roughly equal to the Ryzen 3-powered IdeaCentre and the diminutive ThinkCentre.
Productivity and Media Performance
To assess overall system performance for basic productivity tasks like word processing and web browsing, we use the PCMark benchmark suite. The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. Anything above 4,000 points on this test represents excellent performance. While the Pavilion didn’t quite hit this mark, it came close.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Since all of the systems tested have SSDs instead of spinning hard drives, they all performed roughly equally.
The Pavilion Desktop is by no means suited to heavy multimedia content creation, as evidenced by its performance in Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 benchmark, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The Pavilion landed at the bottom of the pack here.
The Cinebench results largely mirror those of our Handbrake video editing exercise, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video to a 1080p MP4 file.
The Pavilion Desktop fared a bit better in our Adobe Photoshop image editing benchmark, coming in ahead of both Lenovo desktops.
The test involves applying a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image; we time each operation and add up the total. The test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with discrete graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
None of these systems has a dedicated graphics card, although the IdeaCentre 510A does have a perkier-than-most Radeon Vega CPU-integrated GPU. As a result, the IdeaCentre’s performance in our 3DMark and Superposition graphics tests was significantly better than that of the Pavilion Desktop and the rest of the field. 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. The Sky Diver test is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff.
Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the Unigine engine, offering a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
A Well-Built Budget Desktop
It’s not an exceptional value at list price, but the HP Pavilion Desktop is well-built, with an attractive chassis, plenty of USB ports, and both a cutting-edge SSD and old-school optical drive. If you can find it on sale, it’s well suited to serving your basic needs now and accepting increased storage, memory, and at least a modest discrete GPU as your budget evolves.