HP 250 G4

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

£299 inc VAT • hp.com/uk

Com­pared to some of the colour­ful and stylish bud­get lap­tops around, such as the Dell In­sp­iron 11 3000, the HP 250 G4 is a plain-look­ing lap­top with no fancy de­sign fea­tures. There is some­thing spe­cial hid­den in­side, though. This is one of the cheap­est new lap­tops you’ll find to use an In­tel Core-se­ries pro­ces­sor, in­stantly solv­ing many of the most se­ri­ous day-to-day prob­lems you’ll run into us­ing a cheap com­puter. If your lap­top fund is lim­ited, you can’t ar­gue with this bar­gain ma­chine.

De­sign

If you’re think­ing this is fa­mil­iar, we re­viewed the sim­i­lar AMD-based model, the HP 255 G4, ear­lier this year. The 250 G4 shares the same chas­sis and de­sign: it isn’t out to thrill – it’s a work­horse. In fact, this de­sign has been around a while: even HP’s web­site still has pho­tos of the lap­top back when it was sold with Win­dows 8.

None of this matters though, if you’re sim­ply af­ter a ba­sic lap­top with good per­for­mance for lit­tle money. Decked out in black and dark grey, many will think its de­sign is bor­ing. But there are some lit­tle aes­thetic gems. There’s an em­bossed di­a­mond pat­tern on the lid, for ex­am­ple, and a dotty tex­ture on the key­board sur­round. Both look good when they catch the light, but their biggest ben­e­fit is in putting a sen­sory layer be­tween your fin­gers and the ba­sic plas­tic that makes up the HP 250 G4’s shell. We’re glad the part around the key­board doesn’t feel like the plain rough plas­tic above it.

You’d prob­a­bly guess this was a cheaper lap­top, but it doesn’t feel like a bud­get com­puter. Com­pared to the sim­i­larly-priced Asus X553SA, the HP is ex­tremely sturdy. No part of the lap­top flexes much un­der fin­ger pres­sure and the hinge feels very solid. Treat it roughly and the me­chan­i­cal hard drive will prob­a­bly fail be­fore the shell be­comes too dam­aged.

You won’t want to take the 250 G4 out too of­ten any­way. This is not a hugely por­ta­ble lap­top. It weighs 2.14kg and the 15.6in frame isn’t go­ing to fit eas­ily into a lot of bags. If you’re af­ter some­thing to use on-the-go, check out a 13.3in dis­play lap­top or smaller first.

This is the sort of lap­top you can use as your main ma­chine, not least be­cause it has a good spread of con­nec­tions for a cheaper model. There are three USB ports (one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0), an SD card slot, and Eth­er­net port and both VGA and HDMI video con­nec­tors. HP has clearly de­signed this ma­chine know­ing that some of you will want to plug in a mon­i­tor and key­board/mouse.

Key­board and track­pad

Typ­i­cal of the 250 G4’s prac­ti­cal style, the key­board and track­pad are de­cent. The key­board is a stan­dard chi­clet de­sign, also fit­ting a num­ber­pad to the right side of the nor­mal keys. Key travel is a lit­tle shal­low and feed­back on the soft side, but it’s still clearly-de­fined and non-spongy. None of the keys have been rad­i­cally shaved down or moved to silly po­si­tions ei­ther. The key­board is not fancy, but solid. Like other lap­tops at this price, there’s no back­light.

None of the keys have been rad­i­cally shaved down or moved to silly po­si­tions ei­ther. The key­board is not fancy, but solid

At first glance, the track­pad ap­pears far more un­usual. The pad isn’t sep­a­rated from the key­board sur­round. It’s just an area where there aren’t glossy dots, just plain rough­ened plas­tic. This is not the nicest sur­face for a track­pad, and is one of the few dis­ap­point­ments of this lap­top. Some­thing a bit smoother would give the ma­chine a much less bud­get feel.

From a pure prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive, the track­pad is fine, though. Its but­tons are sep­a­rated out, sit­ting below the pad in a plas­tic bar. A nice lit­tle touch, the right but­ton re­quires a much lighter press than the left one, a con­scious nod to the fact that you’re more likely to be press­ing it with a digit other than your in­dex fin­ger.

As com­fort­able as the track­pad is to use from a po­si­tion and but­ton-prod­ding per­spec­tive, the pad sur­face could be nicer.

Dis­play

Typ­i­cal of an en­try-level lap­top, the 250 G4 has a ba­sic 15.6in 1366x768-pixel screen. This is the sort of dis­play that has been used in lap­tops for well over a decade. It’s not very sharp ei­ther. Colours are un­der­sat­u­rated, mak­ing the dis­play look a lit­tle anaemic. In our tests, it hit just 55.2 per­cent of the sRGB gamut, which is poor but pre­dictable given we’re look­ing at a pocket-money PC. Its na­tive con­trast of 200:1 is dis­mal, too.

Hor­i­zon­tal view­ing an­gles are pass­able, suf­fer­ing from some loss of bright­ness, but it’s only the ver­ti­cal an­gle that causes the con­trast shift we as­so­ciate with the TN LCD panel used here.

This all makes the HP’s screen sound aw­ful, but when used in a lit room, all you will no­tice is that the colours are weak. The dis­play looks its best when there’s a de­cent amount of am­bi­ent light, let­ting the reflection-bust­ing matt fin­ish show off what it can do.

Max­i­mum bright­ness is 273cd/m2, a typ­i­cal en­try-level re­sult, but thanks to the matt fin­ish you can use the HP 250 G4 nearby a bright win­dow or out­doors.

Per­for­mance

With an In­tel Core i3-5005U (dual-core, 2GHz) pro­ces­sor and 8GB of RAM, there are al­most no creaky pauses as Win­dows 10 goes about its daily busi­ness. It’s re­fresh­ing to see such an af­ford­able lap­top whose gen­eral per­for­mance does not feel com­pro­mised, a le­git­i­mate bud­get ma­chine that can han­dle genuine multi-task­ing with­out be­com­ing a chore to use.

Our test unit recorded a PCMark 8 score of 2171, which is much closer to that of a high-end lap­top than the circa-1000 score you might see from some of the Celeron-based lap­tops that sit around the £200 to £250 mark. As long as you’re not ex­pect­ing a pow­er­house PC, you should be happy.

At low­est set­tings, 720p res­o­lu­tion, Alien: Iso­la­tion is al­most playable, reach­ing an av­er­age 18.6fps. By cut­ting the set­tings down to their bare bones we scored 24.5fps (av­er­age), which some might con­sider that ac­cept­able.

Our other stan­dard gam­ing test, Thief, is also a no-go. At Low set­tings you’ll get 12.8fps, which is too low to be any fun. And at high set­tings you get just 6.1fps. If you only have a few hun­dred pounds and want to do some gam­ing, buy a PlayS­ta­tion 4 or Xbox One. How­ever, one the plus side the HP 250 G4 is still much more adept than many lap­tops at the price.

The most no­tice­able per­for­mance is­sues with this lap­top, day-to­day, come from the 5400rpm 1TB hard drive. It can read and write at just un­der 100MB/s (98MB/s read, 93MB/s write), but as this is a hard drive and not an SSD, it’s much slower at juggling bits and pieces of data from through­out the stor­age.

Un­like some lap­tops with the ‘U’ ver­sion of the Core i3, the HP’s fans run all the time dur­ing use, but are quiet. The noise steps up a bit un­der strain, but never be­comes wor­ry­ingly loud.

Bat­tery life

Like most 15.6in lap­tops, the 250 G4 isn’t de­signed for amaz­ing bat­tery life. The bat­tery unit can be re­moved, though, held in place with a clip at the back of the un­der­side. This is a very tra­di­tional de­sign. Bat­tery life is on the higher-end of what you might ex­pect for from a very con­ven­tional 15.6in lap­tops. It lasts for five hours five min­utes when play­ing a 720p MP4 video, which is sim­i­lar to what you’d get while writ­ing doc­u­ments and do­ing the odd bit of brows­ing.

Au­dio

The 250 G4 has two speak­ers that sit on the un­der­side of the lap­top, and their out­put varies hugely on whether you use the Dolby DSP soft­ware or not. With­out it, the out­put is weak and quiet. With it, the sound has a lot more mid-range power, and seems fuller.

How­ever, it also in­volves a lot of com­pres­sion, mean­ing the vol­ume of parts of a mu­sic track seems to go up and down as the ar­range­ment be­comes busier or more sparse. It also sounds boxy, but the ex­tra weight to the sound is all-but nec­es­sary.

Verdict

Those af­ter some­thing flashy may not find an aw­ful lot of ap­peal in the HP 250 G4. How­ever, it’s one of the best-value, low-cost lap­tops you can find right now. As well as hav­ing a de­cent CPU for an af­ford­able ma­chine, it has loads of stor­age, good build qual­ity and plenty of RAM. While the dis­play here is prac­ti­cal, poor colour and con­trast don’t make it a good fit for an en­ter­tain­ment de­vice.

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