HP Omen gaming laptop
A few stand-out features make this an enjoyable notebook to use as a main system
- Excellent screen
- Relatively thin and light for a gaming notebook
- PCIe based solid state drive
- We couldn't find extensive control settings for the wide touchpad
- Palm rest tends to get warm during gaming sessions
Price$ 2,999.00 (AUD)
HP’s high-performance consumer laptop is the one called Omen. Specifically, it’s a 15.6-inch laptop that’s made to entice the gaming crowd, though it doesn’t look like a big and bulky gaming laptop. Instead, a thin chassis with a wedge design gives the Omen an airy feel while housing components that can easily run many of the latest games.
An Intel Core i7-4710HQ is the processing force behind the Omen, while its graphics department has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M adapter with 2GB of its own memory. The rest of the configuration includes a 512GB solid state drive (SSD), and 16GB of DDR3L SDRAM. This is the top model in HP’s stable of Omen offerings. Others can be found with less RAM and storage space, but the Intel CPU and NVIDIA graphics are constants.
They are set components across the range because the chassis has been designed around them for optimal thermal management. As we’ve already mentioned, while it’s a 15.6in notebook, it’s not thick and bulky. Its base has a thickness of 17mm at the rear (when you include the rubber feet), and this goes down to 12mm at the front. With the lid closed, the overall thickness is 23mm at the rear and 17mm at the front. That’s not bad at all for a laptop that’s a gamer.
Dual exhausts sit at the rear of the base (they even light up), and these allow warm air to be pushed out by a couple of fans. Heat pipes are the conduit between the heat spreaders on the CPU and graphics chips and bigger heat sinks that reside at these exhaust points. While you could be forgiven for thinking such a set-up would make this a heavy notebook, the weight is a manageable 2.1kg. We had no problems at all transporting this laptop to and from the office in our backpack. Don’t forget, though, that its large power adapter (with long cords) needs a place in your bag, too -- it’s no travel adapter, that’s for sure.
Sturdy build quality is a theme throughout the Omen’s chassis, with the palm rest and keyboard tray, in particular, being rock solid. There is a great balance to the laptop as well, as you can lift the lid with one hand without the base rising up off the desk. The slanted profile, along with a 58 Watt-hour battery located at the front of the base, both help to keep it grounded in this instance. The lid opens up in a motion that feels smooth, and the hinges keep it angled in your desired position.
It doesn’t tilt all the way back, and this is due to all of the ports being located along the rear. This includes the power port, four USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort, and the headset port. If you will be using the Omen on a desk for the majority of the time, then all the cables will be kept neatly out of the way thanks to this layout, but it’s also a layout that could be frustrating if you want to insert and remove USB keys or external hard drives.
The ports have to be at the rear since the sides of the base have a wedge shape. That wedge shape makes the laptop look a little like it’s floating on a desk due to the way it casts shadows. The only feature present on the side is a full-sized SD card slot, and this is purely due to space issues. It’s the only place it can go, and it’s hard to use. You have to lift the base up to insert and remove an SD card.
A silver hinge stands out when you open the laptop, and the edges of this hinge stand out even more. HP has coloured them in a rainbow of colours that’s reminiscent of metal being heated. It starts off with a yellow colour, transitions to red, purple, and then ends in a light blue. It’s one of the more interesting design details we’ve seen in a laptop for a while.
Another visual touch that should take your fancy is the backlit keyboard. Through the pre-installed Omen control software, you can customise it so that three zones on the keyboard light up in different colours. Furthermore, you can give different colours to the WASD and shortcut keys, as well as the power button and the lights that reside in the speaker chambers. We feel like there is a bit of a missed opportunity with the speaker chamber lights: we would have liked either a series or lights or the intensity of the light to be tied to the volume control. That said, the speakers don’t go up too loud, and while they sound okay, they are no substitute for headphones or Bluetooth speakers.
There is a luxurious feel when using the keyboard, primarily because there is so much space given to it. The keys feel solid, yet they are soft under the fingertips, requiring only a slight snap before they leave their mark on the screen. Importantly (for a laptop, at least), they are quiet in operation.
HP has not crammed in a number pad, despite the temptation being there to do so on a 15.6-inch laptop. Instead, there is the column of shortcut keys that can be customised for in-game situations, and there are the speaker chambers either side of the keyboard, which take up the rest of the space. The palm rest is vast, and the touchpad has the widest aspect we’ve seen in a long time, measuring 140x66mm. We couldn’t find a way to take advantage of this wider space via extra gestures, nor could we even find a way to change the scroll direction in the Omen software. In any case, HP supplied a mouse with this laptop so that you can start gaming immediately.
In addition to the keyboard and the touchpad, the screen offers touch, so you can use your fingers to scroll up and down or flick between things like Web pages and photos. Apart from that, there is not much use for touch on this laptop, and you’ll want to keep the screen smudge free since it’s such an attractive screen to look at.
We found the screen on the Omen to be among the best we’ve seen on any laptop in recent times. It has a Full HD native resolution and uses IPS (in-plane switching) technology in order to provide wide angles, but its colours are what we find appealing. They are rich, bright, and just jump out of the screen at you. It’s a great screen for viewing photographs and movies, in addition to gaming.
For games with plenty of distant detail and fast moving objects, the clarity and vibrant nature of the screen comes in handy. In games such as Need For Speed: The Run, for example, you can easily see where the track is leading you. For dark games, the contrast excellent, and we also didn’t have any issues with motion.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M graphics adapter, which is a middle-of-the-road adapter, produced playable frame rates at high detail for the games that we tried. Using Metro 2033: Redux, the Omen recorded 51 frames per second at the native Full HD resolution of the screen and while image quality was set to ‘high’; Battlefield 3 gave us an average of 43fps at Full HD and with ‘ultra’ graphics detail.
All-round performance from the Omen’s configuration was swift for us when we used it as our main computer, and this was reflected in our Blender 3D rendering benchmark, in which a quick time of 18sec was recorded.
The 512GB SSD that’s available in the top model is more than a usual capacity for a typical SSD-equipped laptop, and while it isn’t on par with a hard drive for storage capacity, it still has more room than most for installing games. It’s most definitely a better performer. In fact, it can put most other SSDs to shame.
It finished up with a read rate of 783.2 megabytes per second (MBps) in CrystalDiskMark, along with a write rate of 732.7MBps. These rates are among the fastest we’ve seen, and it has to do with the SSD making use of the PCI Express interface, rather than Serial ATA. If you’re worried about boot times, then don’t. This thing gets to the Windows 8.1 login screen in seven seconds.
Battery life in our tests was 3hr 14min, which is just enough for using the laptop while lounging at home. You won’t want to play games while running on battery, as that will chew threw the battery even faster. Our test result was obtained by looping a Full HD MP4 file while power management was disabled, Wi-Fi was enabled, and the screen was set to maximum brightness.
HP might market this as a gaming machine, and it’s great for those of you who want a mobile gaming laptop rather than a custom built desktop PC, but as with many of the gaming notebooks that we’ve seen over the years, we think that it should also tickle the fancy of anyone who just wants a powerful luxury notebook. It looks good, it’s solidly built, the lights are fun to play with, the keyboard is comfortable to type on, and the screen is sensational.
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