Suddenly, it seems as though every PC manufacturer in the country is pushing a gaming laptop or two. Maybe it’s because of recent advancements in mobile graphics capabilities, or maybe it’s because there’s only so far you can go in the thin-and-light category. Either way, we’re glad to see the comeback of powerful machines. HP seems to agree, but unlike some other products we’ve seen of late, the HP Omen is really trying to be the best of both worlds.
Gaming laptops are generally portable, but you wouldn’t want to carry them around every day. That isn’t necessarily true of the HP Omen, which at 2.12kg and just 20mm thick, isn’t too much of an inconvenience. What this machine does have in common with its counterparts though is aggressive styling, an abundance of LEDs, and a very ambitious price tag. Let’s see how it stacks up.
The HP Omen comes in a distinctive trapezoidal box with a graphic printed sleeve. The laptop is nestled under a foam-padded lid, and the charger and bundled USB Ethernet adapter fit into a cavity below it. The Omen itself follows the same design cues, with a wide top and sides that taper down and inwards to meet a much smaller base.
The Omen’s lid is matte black metal with a pattern of embossed triangles. It looks great at first, but the tiny indentations quickly fill up with dust. Hewlett Packard’s name is spelt out in bold, off-centre lettering. The other thing you’ll notice at once is the bright metallic hinge, which protrudes a little from the back and has a unique burnt effect on the ends. Flipping the Omen over, you’ll see that HP has paid just as much attention to the design of the bottom. There’s a huge vent in the same triangular pattern and large rubber legs that seem to encircle the entire device.
When opened, you can see that the angular design results in the lid being wider than the base. This looks a little odd, especially because the screen appears to have an extra border around its frame. The keyboard deck is also metal, but is devoid of texture other than the perforated speaker grilles running down the sides. All attention is meant to be focused on the multi-coloured lighting effects.
The keyboard has a standard layout with an additional column of programmable shortcut keys on the left. Sadly, the available space wasn’t used to make the core layout any better, so you’ll have to deal with a ridiculously squashed arrow cluster.
The keyboard has six different lighting zones – the power button, the programmable keys, the WASD keys, and the rest of the main QWERTY block in three sections. The two speaker grilles are another independent zone. HP’s preloaded software lets you tweak the colours and intensity of the lighting – more on that later.
There isn’t any other laptop that looks quite like this, and with good reason. The sharply tapered sides make it impossible to have any ports there, so they’re all on the rear; out of reach. From left to right, you have the power inlet, four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort video outputs, and a 3.5mm audio socket. They’re all very closely spaced, so you might have a tough time especially with larger USB devices. The only thing that isn’t on the back is the SD card slot which fits in a cutout on the right.
HP has made some interesting choices in order to balance power, physical design, cooling, weight, and maybe to some extent, cost. The CPU is a pretty high-end Intel Core i7-4720HQ – the same as we saw in the MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI. It runs at 2.26GHz with the ability to turbo up to 3.6GHz for short bursts. The four cores support Hyper-Threading for a total of eight concurrent threads.
There’s 8GB of DDR3 RAM though we would really have liked to have seen 16GB on a machine of this calibre. The only storage option is a 256GB SSD which again seems like it might run short especially considering that each top-tier game can occupy 60GB or more these days.