The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a laptop that delivers excellent all-around performance, decent battery life in a surprisingly compact and affordable package. Weighing just under 2.2 pounds, the HP Pavilion Aero has a starting price of $750.
While that’s not surprising for a member of the HP Pavilion line of laptops, which are typically budget notebooks, it is surprising for a model with the kind of performance and design that you’d normally associate with a higher-priced notebook like members of the HP Envy or Spectre family.
For example, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 has a magnesium-alloy chassis, which helps explain its light weight. The material is lighter than aluminum, but sturdier than plastic. The laptop also has a 90% screen-to-body ratio thanks to slim bezels on all sides. And it’s available with up to a 2560 x 1600 pixel display, up to an AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor, and up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe NVMe solid state storage.
HP loaned me a Pavilion Aero 13 and after using it for the past few weeks, I’ve found an awful lot to like about HP’s thin, light, and affordable notebook. But it may not be the best choice for everyone.
Like most AMD laptops, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 lacks Thunderbolt ports. Some features that come standard on pricier models will cost you extra: for example, the model HP sent me does not have a backlit keyboard. And folks who are interested in performing their own upgrades or running Linux may have some difficulty.
But as far as Windows laptops go, it’s hard to find another model in this price range that packs so much into such a small, but usable device.
HP Pavilion Aero 13 Specs
|HP Pavilion Aero 13|
1920 x 1200 or 2560 x 1600
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 5600U or Ryzen 7 5800U|
|RAM||8GB or 16GB (onboard)|
|Storage||256GB / 512GB / 1TB|
M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe SSD
|Ports||1 x USB Type-C (10Gbps with DisplayPort 1.4 Alt Mode)|
2 x USB Type-A (5 Gbps)
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio
1 x AC power jack
|Charger||65W AC adapter|
Also compatible with USB-C chargers
|Keyboard & touchpad||Backlit keys optional ($20 extra)|
|Webcam||720p with dual array digital microphones|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with B&O audio|
|Wireless||Realtek WiFi 6 (1×2) + Bluetooth 5.2 or|
Realtek WiFi 6 (2×2) + Bluetooth 5.2
Plastic bezels around the display
|Dimensions||11.72″ x 8.23″ x 0.67″|
|Colors||Silver, gold, white, rose gold|
|Price||$750 – $1130|
Note that performance, battery life, and other details may vary depending on configuration. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be describing my experience using a demo unit that HP sent me, which features a 1920 x 1200 pixel display, an AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage, but no backlit keyboard.
The laptop, as configured, sells for around $1000.
Design and features
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a thin, light, and quiet laptop available in silver, gold, white, or rose gold color options. The model featured in this review has a silver body, which means that pretty much everything except for the slim black plastic bezel around the display is silver, including the keyboard, touchpad, and fingerprint sensor.
HP equips the notebook with a matte IPS LCD display which it describes as an anti-glare screen. Compared to the glossy screens found on most modern laptops, it really does reflect much less glare when there’s a bright light source pointing at the screen, and the screen doesn’t look particularly dull or muted – it supports up to 400 nits of brightness and colorful videos and graphics look pretty good.
Whether you opt for a model with a 1920 x 1200 or 2560 x 1600 display, you’re getting a laptop with a 16:10 aspect ratio, giving you a little more vertical screen than you’d get with, say, a 1920 x 1080 pixel display, such has a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The screen is not covered with edge-to-edge glass, so there is a chance that dust could accumulate in the bezels over time, but that hasn’t really been much of a problem in my testing, despite the fact that dust and cat hair are constant presences in my house.
Around the sides of the notebook you’ll find an HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, an AC power jack, a USB Type-C port, and two USB Type-A ports.
The Type-C port supports 10 Gbps data transfer speeds as well as USB Power Delivery (if you have a 45W or higher USB-C power supply, you can plug it into the Pavilion Aero 13 to charge the laptop), as well as DisplayPort 1.4 Alt Mode (you can connect an external monitor).
That means you can connect up to two displays to the HP Pavilion Aero 13 (via HDMI and USB-C), or hook up a USB-C hub (sold separately) to charge the notebook, connect an external display, and use other accessories (via USB, Ethernet, or SD card ports) all while using a single cable. But since the USB-C port is not a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port and does not support 40 Gbps speeds, you won’t be able to use it for external graphics docks.
While the notebook measures about 0.67 inches at its thickest point, the laptop curves upward toward the sides, so there’s not quite enough room for full-sized USB ports. So HP put a little door that covers part of these ports. Pull it down and you can insert a USB Type-A cable or flash drive without any problems. Remove the drive and the port covers will snap back into place.
One rather surprising omission? There’s no SD or microSD card reader. While that’s not a port that I need to use very often on a laptop, it’s something I’ve grown used to having and so it’s a little strange not to see one on the Pavilion Aero 13. If you need to transfer data to a microSD card, you’ll need to use a USB dongle of some sort.
HP used a drop-hinge design, which means that once you push the screen back past a 90 degree angle, the bottom of the laptop’s lid will extend down and lift the back edge of the notebook a bit, giving the keyboard a small tilt so that the back keys are a little higher than the ones in front.
The lid doesn’t extend back very far though – this is not a convertible tablet, it’s just a clamshell-style notebook. There’s also no touchscreen option for this model, which might be one of the few things that makes it feel like a budget notebook rather than a premium laptop. Even if it’s not a feature every user will want, it’s one we’ve become used to seeing on higher-priced devices.
The keyboard features mostly full-sized keys in an island or chiclet-style design, with a small row of function keys above the number row and a row of keys along the right side for Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End.
I personally really like having that row of keys on the right rather than mixing those keys in with others, but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. It’s also worth noting that the up and down arrow keys are half-height, while the left and right arrows are full-sized.
Overall I’ve found that it’s quite comfortable to type on the HP Pavilion Aero 13 keyboard.
Below the arrow keys is a fingerprint sensor with support for Windows Hello, allowing you to login to the computer, your Microsoft account, or password-protected websites with a tap of your finger. It’s also the only biometric security on the device, since there’s no IR camera option for facial recognition.
In the slim bezel above the display, there is a 720p webcam, dual digital microphones, and an LED light to let you know when the camera is active. The camera is probably good enough for your typical Zoom call, but like most laptop cameras, it won’t hold a candle to a good USB webcam.
We’re starting to see laptop makers offer higher-quality laptop webcams, but they’re still uncommon enough that I won’t ding the Pavilion Aero 13 for lacking one.
The laptop’s trackpad is a fairly large Precision touchpad with support for multitouch gestures including two and three-finger swipes and taps.
Since the model I’m testing does not have a backlit keyboard, I cannot comment on that feature, and that’s another thing that just feels odd not to have on a laptop that sells for around $1000, which is how much a model configured like the one I’m testing would cost. But it’s only a $20 upgrade, so if that’s a feature you care about, it won’t cost you much to get it.
Speaking of upgrades, HP offers a range of options at what seem like reasonable prices. An entry-level Pavilion Aero 13 has a 1920 x 1200 pixel display, a Ryzen 5 5600U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. But here’s how much you’d spend on various upgrades:
- Backlit keyboard – $20
- 2560 x 1600 pixel display – $30
- 512GB SSD – $50
- 1TB SSD – $130
- Ryzen 5 5600U with 16GB RAM – $50
- Ryzen 7 5800U with 8GB RAM – $120
- Ryzen 7 5800U with 16GB RAM – $190
The HP branding on the laptop is relatively simple, with an HP logo in a mirror-like circle on the lid of the laptop, and a subtle “Pavilion” stenciled on the back edge of the laptop.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 has two downward-facing speakers along the left and right edges of the notebook (at the area where they start to curve upward, so the audio won’t be muffled by your desk or lap).
There are also a pair of rubber feet along the front and back of the notebook that help keep the base of the computer from touching a desk or table, which presumably helps with both audio and cooling.
During my use, I never noticed the HP Pavilion Aero 13’s fan getting particularly loud, but the laptop also never felt like it was struggling to complete day-to-day tasks, so as far as I can tell the cooling system does its job. There’s an air intake vent on the bottom of the laptop, a fan that moves air across the CPU area, and a vent that allows the hot air to move out through the back.
According to the HP website, the Pavilion Aero 13 is supposed to ship with a 65 watt power adapter, but the review unit HP sent me came with a 45 watt version, which seems to work just fine, although the notebook would likely charge a little faster with a 65W power supply.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800U is an 8-core, 16-thread processor that has a well-earned reputation for offering an excellent balance of performance and energy efficiency. In my testing, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 benefits very much from both of sides of that equation.
Despite featuring just a 43 Wh battery, the notebook was able to stream 1080p video from YouTube for nearly 10 hours before shutting down. And when using the laptop as a blogging machine, I got around 7 hours of battery life in real-world usage, which involved connecting a Bluetooth mouse, listening to music on Spotify, editing images in Irfanview and GIMP, and spending a lot of time with as many as 20 browser tabs open in Google Chrome.
In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 with a Ryzen 7 5800U processor is one of the fastest notebooks I’ve ever used… although it’s not a slam dunk in every case.
The Ryzen 7 5800U is a champ when it comes to tasks that can leverage multiple CPU cores, so it got top marks in PCMark, Passmark, and other tests that lean heavily on multi-core performance. But in tests like Cinebench and GeekBench which offer both single-core and multi-core scores show that recent Intel chips like the Core i7-1165G7 and Core i7-1185G7 still have an edge in single-core performance.
Intel also comes out ahead in tests that look at graphics performance. While AMD’s Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics are more than good enough to handle 4K video playback and some light gaming duties, the Pavilion Aero 13 is very much not designed to be a gaming laptop or a graphic design/video editing workstation.
The computer is also held back a little by its solid state drive. With top sequential read/write speeds of 1843 MB/s and 970 MB/s, respectively, I wouldn’t call the Pavilion Aero 13’s SSD slow. It’s certainly faster than any hard drive. But it’s not as fast as the SSDs in some other notebooks I’ve tested recently, like the MSI Prestige 14 Evo, which has storage that’s more than twice as fast.
While benchmarks aren’t always indicative of real-world performance, they do provide a way to compare one computer to another, and the scores above feel about right to me: the HP Pavilion Aero 13 feels at least as fast as any other computer I’ve used in the past year for most tasks, and it might be even faster for some.
Combined with its compact design and decent battery life, that makes one of the most powerful laptops I’ve used to date also one of the most portable.
But I do have a few other notes on real-world usage. First, the notebook’s speakers are reasonably loud, but like most laptop speakers they’re not particularly bass-heavy. Music sounded particularly tinny to me until I opened the B&O Audio Control application and started playing around with different EQ presets (the “club” setting is a pretty decent starting point), which helped Spotify streams sound a little more full.
Second, while I haven’t had any serious WiFi connectivity issues when using the laptop in my office (where it’s just a few feet from a wireless router), it does occasionally drop the connection briefly in other rooms in the house. Your results may vary, but I’ve found that the HP Pavilion Aero 13’s WiFi connections seem a little less reliable than most other devices on my home network.
And third, the laptop comes with a lot of bloatware. In addition to a series of HP apps and the B&O Audio app, here’s some of the software pre-installed on the HP Pavilion Aero 13:
- McAfee LiveSafe
- McAfee Personal Security
- McAfee File Lock
- Microsoft Office free trial
- WildTangent Games
There was also a shortcut in the taskbar for Amazon and one in the Start Menu for Booking.com. It’s safe to uninstall all of these, but it’s kind of annoying that you have to.
That said, companies like HP partially subsidize the cost of computers by signing deals with companies to have some of these apps or shortcuts preinstalled, so you can probably consider the time you’ll spend removing unwanted software the price you pay for getting a laptop as capable and compact as the Pavilion Aero 13 without spending more money on it.
Can I upgrade it?
The HP Pavilion Aero 13’s memory is soldered to the motherboard, so if you bought a model with 8GB of RAM that’s all you’re ever going to have. HP does offer models with up to 16GB of RAM though, so if you think you might need more than 8GB, you can pay for it up front. Unfortunately there’s no 32GB or higher option.
You can upgrade or replace the SSD. The computer has an M.2 2280 slot for its PCIe NVMe drive, and you can access it by removing the rubber feet on the bottom of the case and then using a small Phillips-head screwdriver to remove all of the hidden screws before prying off the bottom panel.
Note that there’s a thermal pad covering the SSD, so you’ll also need to carefully remove that and replace it when you put in the new drive.
While I didn’t perform any surgery on my review unit, HP does provide a helpful video for those looking to provide service and repairs for the Pavilion Aero 13. In addition to showing how to remove the bottom cover and access the SSD, the video also shows that it’s at least theoretically possible to remove and repair the battery, wireless module, speakers, fingerprint reader, fan, and many other components… just not the RAM.
Can I run Linux on it?
The good news is that it’s very easy to boot an operating system from a USB flash drive, which makes it easy to try out a Linux distribution before deciding whether to install it. Just hit Esc during startup and then you can press F9 to get to the boot device menu or F10 for the full BIOS menu.
The bad news is that when I did this with Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS, I found that the wireless card wasn’t detected at all, and the computer did not sleep properly. Close the lid and the computer reboots instead of sleeping. And if you try to enter sleep manually, the screen goes black and stays that way. I’m not the first person to notice these problems.
While it seems that there is a driver that should allow Ubuntu and other Debian-based operating systems to use the laptop’s wireless card, you need an internet connection and some patience and familiarity with Linux to build it.
I’m not aware of any solution yet for the sleep problem.
It’s possible that some of these issues will be temporary. The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a relatively new laptop featuring fairly new hardware. As more Linux developers get their hands on it, or other computers with similar components, we could see support for its wireless card and other hardware added to the Linux kernel.
Some progress already seems to have been made – before trying Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS, I booted Ubuntu 20.04.02 LTS and noticed that the display resolution was stuck at 1024 x 768 with no option to change it. So I updated my liveUSB to a newer version of Ubuntu, which had no problem recognizing the laptop’s native 1920 x 1200 pixel display resolution and also offered the option to change the resolution manually.
But for now, unless you’re a Linux developer who wants to help make that happen, or someone with a lot of time and energy to search for solutions, I wouldn’t advise picking up the Pavilion Aero 13 if you’re looking for a Linux-ready notebook.
With the Pavilion Aero 13, HP has broken the mold. It’s a Pavilion-branded laptop with the sort of features and design that you’d normally associated with an Envy or Spectre.
It’s thin and light enough to take with you almost anywhere you go, but powerful enough to get real work done, and energy-efficient enough to run for most of a work day without stopping to charge. Since it supports USB-C charging, you can also always toss a power bank if your bag if you think you might need one.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the HP Pavilion Aero might not be the best option for everyone. Linux users, folks who want upgradeable RAM, or those who need Thunderbolt ports, for example, might want to look elsewhere.
And it’s worth noting that while prices start at $750, the model I tested sells for closer to $1000, so performance will likely vary depending on the processor, memory, and display options you choose when configuring the laptop.
Overall though, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a very compelling laptop for bargain-hunters looking for a device that punches above its price class when it comes to performance and design. If I were in the market for a laptop today, the Pavilion Aero 13 would certainly be on my short list.
The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is available from HP.com for $750 and up.