You can trace the birth of gaming laptops back to 1996, when a company called Alienware first opened its doors for business. The wackily named company had cannily spotted a gap in the nascent laptop market for high-end portable PCs aimed at gamers. It came out with a range of machines that had bizarre, alien-inspired styling - which meshed perfectly with the gaming culture of the time - no-expense-spared specifications and eye-watering price-tags to match.
Luckily for Alienware, PC gamers had long been reconciled to the fact that their pastime was an expensive one and, thanks to clever marketing, the brand dominated the gaming laptops market in the late 1990s. But in 2006, Alienware was purchased by Dell, and lost the maverick image that endeared it to gamers.
Now, Alienware has been overtaken in the gaming laptop stakes: by HP's Omen range. HP's Omen laptops are more than mere challengers to their Alienware equivalents: they outclass them comprehensively, on various grounds. Most notably:
Value for money
Towards the bottom of the Omen gaming laptop range lies the Omen by HP 15-CE199NR. It's still a mightily well-specified gaming laptop (with power way beyond what most of us have ever experienced in our laptops). It features an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an nVidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti, and costs $1169.99.
The same-spec Alienware 13 gaming laptop costs £1,198.99 including VAT. And even the bottom-of-the-range Alienware 13, with a slower Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor and an otherwise identical specification to the Omen by HP 15-ce017na, costs $1499.99.
Those struggling to get the cash together for a gaming laptop will find that they can buy an Omen by HP 15t, with an Intel Core i5-8750H processor and an nVidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti graphics processor for just $949.99. That bottom-of-the-range Alienware - with a slower processor (i5-7300HQ) - costs a whopping $300 more at $1,499.99.
The same effect occurs all the way up the range - an Omen by HP 15-dc0052nr featuring an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics processor will set you back $1,499.99; the same-specification Alienware 15 costs $1999.99. HP's Omen and Omen X gaming laptops are, quite simply, significantly better value for money than their Alienware equivalents.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but to our eye, HP's Omen and Omen X gaming laptops are much more appealing than Alienware's laptops. The latter - surprisingly given their wacky design touches in the days before Dell bought Alienware - are visually bland.
Yet HP's Omen and Omen X gaming laptops, while eschewing design gimmickry, are much more interesting - especially texturally, since they make use of a carbon-fibre-style finish. All tech-heads love the look of carbon-fibre. If you care about how your laptop looks, you'll be more than happy with an HP Omen or Omen X.
Both the Omen X by HP gaming laptops introduced the ability to overclock - much-loved by gamers looking to get the absolute maximum out of their gaming hardware. Previously, overclocking laptops had been a pipedream, but the ground-breaking design of the HP Omen X's cooling system (and use of Intel's overclockable Core i7 7820-HK processor) has finally made it a reality.
Finding the right gaming laptop for your budget
If you hit the respective websites for Alienware's laptops and HP's Omen and Omen X gaming laptops, one difference between the two is immediately striking. Alienware's website - although it does include a cursory number of sample configurations - invites you to assemble your own configuration of laptop.
That approach may well have been decided upon in order to mask the fact that configuration-by-configuration, HP's Omen gaming laptops are significantly cheaper than their Alienware counterparts. But it also suggests that Alienware's priority is to extract more money from each consumer than they originally wanted to pay.
On HP's site, each possible configuration of an Omen or Omen X gaming laptop is given its own model number, so you can find the perfect one to fit your budget. HP's approach also allows individual models to be discounted for limited periods - which they often are.
If you're a hardcore gamer looking to go mobile without having to compromise, you'll literally be better off with an Omen or Omen X by HP rather than an Alienware.