HP 250 G4 review

HP 250 G4 review

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, and a style that positively wants to be ignored. See also: Best cheap laptops you can buy.

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.

HP 250 G4 review: Price

You can buy the HP 250 G4 for £269.97 from Saveonlaptops which lent us this laptop for review. It's one of the first times a Core-series processor has been in a laptop at this price without it being part of a sale clearout.In fact, with £20 cashback, the final price can be as low as £250. In fact, at the time of writing, HP was also offering this model for £249 direct from its online store.

There are many variants of the of HP 250 G4. You can save a bit if you go for the model with 4GB rather than 8GB of RAM, and 500GB of storage rather than the 1TB here. There are also higher-spec versions: one model has a Core i5-6200U and a 128GB SSD. It's harder to find than the similar model with a 500GB hard drive, but we found it at Tesco Direct for £299. If you can afford it, we recommend this as the best version of the HP 250 G4.

That sort of spec is going to give you Windows performance comparable with a much more expensive laptop. It may not have it all, but the HP 250 G4 offers plenty of pep for your pound.

HP 250 G4 review: Features and design

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

HP 250 G4 review

None of this matters one jot if you're simply after a basic laptop with good performance for little money.

Decked out in black and very dark grey, many will think it’s boring. But there are some little aesthetic gems. There’s an embossed diamond pattern on the lid 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 hugely cheap. Compared to the similarly priced Asus X553 we reviewed recently the HP 250 G4 is extremely sturdy. No part of the laptop flexes much under finger pressure and the hinge feels very solid.

Treat it rough and the mechanical hard drive would probably fail before the shell becomes too damaged.

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

HP 250 G4 review

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 (1x USB 3.0, 2x 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.

HP 250 G4 review: Keyboard and trackpad

Typical of the HP 250 G4’s practical style, the keyboard and trackpad are decent already, though. The keyboard is a standard chiclet design, also fitting a number pad 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 HP 250 G4’s keys have been radically shaved down or moved too silly positions either.

Like the build, the keyboard is not fancy, but solid. Like other laptops at this price, there’s no backlight.

HP 250 G4 review

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 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.

HP 250 G4 review: Screen

Typical of an entry-level laptop, the HP 250 G4 has a basic screen. It’s 15.6 inches across and 1366 x768 pixel resolution. This is the sort of screen that has been used in laptops for well over a decade. It’s not very sharp.

Its colour is clearly undersaturated, making the display look a little anaemic. Our colorimeter tells us it hits just 55.2 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is poor but predictable given we’re looking at a pocket-money PC.

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.

If you need more proof that this isn’t a laptop to get if you want to avoid having to buy a TV, its native contrast is just 200:1, which is pretty dismal.

These figures make the HP 250 G4’s screen sound awful, but when used in a lit room, all you will notice is that the colours are a bit weak. The screen 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 in concert with the matt finish means you can use the HP 250 G4 nearby a bright window or outdoors.

HP 250 G4 review: Performance

A bad screen is something you are just going to have to accept if you want a new, full-size laptop and only have £270-odd to spend. The HP 250 G4 does have great internals for the money, though.

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. And as we mentioned at the top, you can pay a little extra and get a Core i5 version with a 128GB SSD that should see performance increase by a good chunk.

For the Core i3 version we tested, its PCMark 8 score of 2171 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 £200-250 mark.

As long as you’re not expecting a powerhouse PC, you should be very happy. We can’t overstate the difference between the performance of an Intel Core i3 with 8GB RAM and a Celeron with 2/4GB RAM.

The Core i3 here is a 5th-gen processor rather than a current 6th-gen (Skylake) one. But the Core i5 in the more expensive model is a 6th-gen chip, which is why we recommend going for that model if you can handle the more limited (but much faster) storage. Also, a Skylake CPU would get you better gaming performance.

At lowest settings, 720p resolution, Alien: Isolation is almost playable, reaching an average 18.6fps. Really cut the settings down to their bare bones and you can reach 24.5fps (average). Some might consider that acceptable.

Outside of our normal testing we also tried Elder Scrolls: Skyrim with the HP 250 G4, which is playable at Low settings, native resolution. Trying to step up to Medium fidelity is a bad idea, though. It’s just that bit too slow

Our other standard gaming test, Thief, is a bust too. At Low settings you’ll get 12.8fps, which is really 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 PS4 or Xbox One. However, the takeaway is that the HP 250 G4 is still much more adept than many laptops at the price.

The most noticeable performance issues with this laptop, day-to-day, come from the use of a 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.

Another reason to go for the 250 G4 with an SSD then. Even the version tested here has enough power to handle things like Photoshop, which would be a nightmare with an Intel Celeron machine.

Unlike some laptops with the 'U' version of the Core i3, the HP 250 G4’s fans run all the time during use, but they are quiet. The noise steps up a bit under strain, but never becomes worryingly loud.

HP 250 G4 review: Battery Life

Like most 15.6-inch laptops, the HP 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 15.6-inch laptops. It lasts for five hours five minutes when playing a 720p MP4 video, which is similar stamina to what you’d get while writing documents and doing the odd bit of browsing.

HP 250 G4 review

It’s not all-day stamina, but is respectable for a full-size machine.

HP 250 G4 review: Audio and visual

Finally, we come to sound quality. The HP 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.

There are no such positive notes for the webcam, though, which is VGA and produces a very soft-looking image. HP has bunged a camera in here expecting very few people to use it.

HP 250 G4: Specs

  • 15.6in (1366 x 768) 100dpi TN LCD matt
  • 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz Intel Core i5-5005U two cores, four threads
  • Intel HD GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n 1×1
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2 USB 2.0 port
  • 1 USB 3.0 port
  • Ethernet port
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • Webcam, single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard
  • 31Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 384 x 254 x 24 mm
  • 2.14 kg
  • 15.6in (1366 x 768) 100dpi TN LCD matt
  • 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz Intel Core i5-5005U two cores, four threads
  • Intel HD GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n 1×1
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2 USB 2.0 port
  • 1 USB 3.0 port
  • Ethernet port
  • HDMI
  • SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • Webcam, single mic
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • UK tiled keyboard
  • 31Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 384 x 254 x 24 mm
  • 2.14 kg

OUR 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 very good CPU for an affordable machine, it has loads of storage, good build quality and plenty of RAM. HP’s upgrades are keenly-priced too. Spend a bit more and you’ll get a surprisingly fast machine with a good-size SSD.
You’ll need to spend considerably more to get good screen quality, though. While the display here is practical, poor colour and contrast don’t make it a good fit for an entertainment device.

1 Comment
  1. Reply Ron 31.08.2016 at 22:46

    Nice specs and design for a budget laptop. I think it’s not a bad choice for those who prefer cheaper models.

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