The HP Pavilion g6 is exactly what you'd expect for its price: bland. While there's absolutely nothing exciting about this machine, it does what it's supposed to do and does it well. The chassis is simple yet sturdy, the keyboard and trackpad are well designed, and the performance is just around average. This is a straightforward, solid all purpose laptop for a good price.

Our review model costs a bit more than the barebones version of the g6. That price gets you the latest-generation Intel Core i3-380M processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 5400-rpm, 500GB hard drive. Our review model also comes preinstalled with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium and features a built-in webcam, a microphone and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. In WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, the g6 received a score of 101, which is on the low side of average for laptops in this class.

The g6 is surprisingly attractive, considering its price point. Don't get me wrong, it still looks and feels like a budget machine. But its minimalist form and rounded edges lend it an air of style that most budget laptops lack. The lid is a shiny, solid-gray plastic that bends slightly in the middle if you put any weight on it. A small, brushed metal HP logo is on the bottom left corner, and the edges are smooth and rounded. The underside of the chassis is your typical matte black plastic, with two Altec Lansing speakers located on the front, just under the keyboard.

The interior of the laptop is simple, with a smooth black plastic border around the silver keyboard and wristpad area. A slightly depressed border is also around the matte black island-style keyboard. The trackpad is just a textured area directly on the wristpad, with two separate silver buttons below it. The laptop weighs about 5.5 pounds, and is roughly 1.5 inches thick at its thickest.

Port-wise, the g6 is typical for its class. On the right side, you'll find a VGA port, an ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports, plus an HDMI port and a SD/MMC card reader, both nice touches. The left side is dominated mostly by the tray loading DVD-RW drive with LightScribe, but HP manages to squeeze in an additional USB 2.0 port along with a Kensington lock slot.

The g6's full size keyboard is quiet and comfortable to type on. The keyboard itself is a pseudo-island-style affair, and the keys have flat tops and are wider on the bottoms. The keys are evenly spaced and offer good tactile feedback. The keys move a little too much as you press down, but overall the g6 still offers one of the best typing experiences I've had on a budget notebook.

The trackpad is also impressive, considering it's just a square of textured plastic on the wristpad area. I'm usually not a fan of textured trackpads (I prefer indented ones), because they usually don't work as well as their counterparts. However, the HP g6's trackpad is extremely responsive, and the discrete mouse buttons are large and easy to press. The trackpad has no scrolling area, because HP has built in multitouch support. Unfortunately, multitouch gestures work sluggishly at best.

The HP g6's 15.6-inch LED-backlit display has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The glossy screen is nicely bright and has good image quality, so long as you're sitting directly in front of it. Off-axis viewing is poor, and the glossy screen throws back a lot of reflections if you happen to be in direct or bright light. Speaker quality is pretty good (perhaps not as rich as you might like), and the Altec Lansing speakers are loud enough to fill a medium-sized room.

Since the g6 features a second generation Intel processor, it also comes with integrated Intel HD graphics. Casual video playback is good on the g6, but it's not exactly a gaming computer. In our Unreal Tournament 3 graphics tests, the g6 managed an unplayable frame rate of just 16.8 frames per second (highest quality, 1024-by-768-pixel resolution). By contrast, the Asus U41JF is four times faster at 66.5 fps (highest quality, 1024 by 768 pixels). Of course, the U41JF also costs nearly twice as much as the g6.

The g6's WorldBench 6 score of 101 is pretty average for its category. The Acer Aspire 5741G-6983 received exactly the same score, while the Sony Vaio VPCEA22FX received a score of 95. So you're not getting a closet gaming machine, but this laptop will support everyday use just fine.

OUR VERDICT

The HP Pavilion g6 is, above all things, totally average. It's definitely not a performance machine, or a sexy piece of art, but if you're just looking for a decent laptop for web surfing, word processing and lightweight photo editing, it's a pretty good deal. The only real drawback I see is battery life. HP says you'll get 5.5 hours, but we managed to get only 4 usable hours out of the g6's battery in our testing.