This page reports my success with installing and using Linux on an HP Pavilion 17 laptop, model e153sa.
These results apply to Linux Mint Debian Edition (2014-03) and Linux Mint 16. (These are similar to Debian and Ubuntu).
Overall status: Almost everything works perfectly.
Screen, keyboard, touchpad, SD card reader, VGA output, HDMI output (multi-monitor setup), CD/DVD reader/writer, 8Gb RAM, CPU (Linux reports and uses 4 cores as expected for this i5 processor), wifi, webcam, built in microphone, built in speakers, analog headphone/speaker out and microphone in, USB inputs.
To install Linux from CD/DVD, you have to press 'Esc' during bootup to go into the BIOS settings. Change the boot order to boot from the install CD/DVD before hard drive, and disable UEFI secure boot, then exit and reboot.
The laptop monitor seems to have some kind of default brightness that is really, really low (almost black).
Thankfully, you can adjust this using the keys on the keyboard. After you've fixed it once after bootup, it can sometimes be triggered again e.g. when you go into "System Settings" on Linux Mint - the laptop screen goes completely black. This is a bit annoying, and can make you think it's not working at all, but after setting the brightness once or twice I usually don't have a problem again until I reboot, which is pretty rare.
The wifi/webcam/graphics all worked perfectly out of the box with no extra drivers needed.
WebGl in Firefox works great. I found it was disabled on Chrome by default, but this can be easily fixed by enabling “Override software rendering list” (opening a tab with the URL chrome://flags/#ignore-gpu-blacklist) and then it works fine.
Initially I found that SD cards were not recognised at all when inserted into the slot. After some Googling, I found this can be solved by having an SD card in the slot while the laptop boots, and whenever you resume from suspend. Annoying, but not too serious if you have an old SD card that you don't mind leaving in your laptop.
Very occasionally my external USB mouse stops working when I plug other devices in to the nearby USB ports. Solved by unplugging and re-plugging the USB mouse. I'm not sure if this is a hardware or Linux issue.
Multi-touch for touchpad works, at least to a basic level e.g. two finger scrolling, using the Linux Mint control panel.
I have not succeeded in getting HDMI audio output to work (using PulseAudio). Update 2015-12-19 - with Linux Mint 17 this now works fine.