(Pocket-lint) - The HP Omen range of gaming laptops offers an unmistakable design style that leaps out at you. There are the specs to match, too, delivering a high-end experience with plenty of punch.
The Omen 15 is the latest 15-inch version in the range, complete with a variety of specification options - including Nvidia's latest RTX graphics processors. But how does this machine stand up against the competition?
A snazzy design in a portable frame
- Intel Core i7-8750H CPU
- 8GB 2666Mhz DDR4 SDRAM (user-expandable)
- Up to 1TB HDD and up to 256GB NVMe SSD storage
- Bang & Olufsen speakers, HP Audio Boost and DTS Headphone:X support
The HP Omen 15 uses a mix of metal and plastic, combined with a brushed aluminium/carbon fibre-esque finish to create a stylish-looking laptop. It's compact, portable and packed full of potential.
Though perhaps not the thinnest gaming laptop we've seen, it's certainly a contender for most outwardly appealing. We love the cool accents and carbon fibre look, though whether you do will be a matter of personal taste.
Opening the laptop up and turning it on, you're greeted by a tasty view that includes a beautiful 144Hz G-SYNC capable IPS panel and a four-zone RGB backlit keyboard.
Under the hood, the specs include a number of customisable options that go all the way up to an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070. The model we tested is a bit more middle-of-the-road with just 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, but there's plenty of potential for more gaming power if you have the budget.
It's also upgradable if you choose to tinker in future. HP says it's geared towards upgrades with a single easy-access panel to swap or upgrade the HDD, SSD and RAM. So there's plenty of flexibility depending on your budget.
With a 15.6-inch screen and a compact frame that weighs around 2.52 kg, the Omen 15 is a portable and comfortable-to-use gaming machine. It's also flexibly designed with a multitude of connectivity options and built to please in a number of different ways. As well as stylish looks, the Omen 15 also packs dual Bang & Olufsen speakers, HP Audio Boost technology and DTS Headphone:X support - meaning it's as easy on the ears as it is on the eyes.
The Omen 15 also doesn't go overboard with the gaming extras features you might have seen elsewhere though. Sure, there's a backlit keyboard, but there's no RGB underlighting or complex gaming software to muddle your experience. The result is a gaming laptop that's as easy to use for day-to-day work, superb for binge-watching Netflix but also great for gaming too. An all-rounder that rarely disappoints.
Storage is also satisfying, no matter the spec you purchase. A zippy NVMe drive is installed to handle the OS (Windows 10 64-bit) and any important programmes or games you wish to stick on it, while a larger capactity but slower HDD is included to handle your game library. This setup is preferable to having a small single main drive that you'd have to keep cleaning to maintain enough space for your favourite games.
Display visuals and gaming capabilities
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Graphics (up to RTX 2070)
- 15.6-inch 144 Hz G-SYNC IPS anti-glare micro-edge 1080p display
- HP Wide Vision (88-degree) HD webcam with integrated dual array digital microphone
- 3DMark benchmark scores: Sky Diver, Time Spy, Fire Strike, Fire Strike Ultra
The main draw of the Omen 15 may well be its 144Hz G-SYNC IPS panel, which runs at native 144Hz by default. Sure, it's only 1080p, but it's also features "micro-edge" technology - which means offers trim bezel and has some nifty visuals for you to enjoy. It delivers rich colours, bright visuals and decent viewing angles.
We found this laptop's gaming capability to be a bit of a mixed bag though (here in GeForce GTX 1060 GPU spec with 8GB of RAM). Some games ran well and looked fantastic. Overwatch, for example, ran at around 60fps on ultra settings with no fuss at all. Battlefield 5 managed around 50fps on ultra or high settings, while Apex Legends pushed those numbers even higher. Kingdom Come: Deliverance didn't do as well, though, with around 20fps on higher settings.
Benchmarking with Tomb Raider achieved around an average of 40fps and the 3DMark scores were equally middling. Essentially, unless you opt for the better graphics versions, you're not going to be able to run recent triple-A titles on max settings without compromising frame rates.
For gaming, we found the Bang & Olufsen speakers deliver a decent sound, but sometimes lack punch and can verge on sounding a bit tinny. The accompanying microphone is, like most built-in mics, fairly underwhelming.
We are happy to report that the Omen 15 runs quite quietly though. During our playtime, we weren't overpowered by fan whine or frustrated by white noise generated by the device. The speakers are enough to counter such issues, but we'd still recommend a good gaming headset for the best possible experience.
The trackpad is also a bit hit-and-miss during gaming sessions. We found it to be perfectly capable for day-to-day use, but less than accurate during gaming. Even to the point of being incredibly frustrating. But then any serious gamer will get a proper gaming mouse anyway.
Compatibility and outputs
- 1 x Thunderbolt 3 port
- 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports
- 1 x Mini DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x headphone/microphone combo
- 1 x multi-format SD media card reader
- 1 x Ethernet port
- Intel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11ac (2x2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5
As well as an impressive screen, the Omen 15 also impresses in other areas. There are several different connection options here including three USB ports for your gaming mouse, headset and more. There's also the multiple screen connection options and an Ethernet port if you're the sort of gamer who enjoys wired connections over Wi-Fi.
The multiple connectivity options also mean it's possible to run an Oculus Rift on this laptop, though the graphics card of this review model only just meets the minimum requirements.
The internal Intel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter ensures a decent Wi-Fi connection and we never had any problems with dropping connection during testing.
Keyboard layout, comfort and snazzy lighting
- Full-size backlit keyboard with zone customisation lighting
- 26-key rollover and anti-ghosting capabilities
The Omen 15's keyboard is another highlight to the design. It's a full-size keyboard that includes a numpad and everything else you'd expect for gaming goodness. However, this layout includes a frustratingly small enter key and weirdly placed hash key that often lead to some annoying typing experiences at first. Otherwise this keyboard is generally comfortable to use, although the way the laptop sits on the desk can result in some occasional wrist discomfort.
We were impressed with the simple yet easy-on-the-eye backlighting, which is split into four zones that can be customised within the HP Omen Command Center software. The default settings see this lighting set to different colours in each zone and it looks really good. The WASD keys also have a slight highlight around the edges, though that's purely visual and there's nothing tactile to let you know the difference between those keys. Via the function keys, backlighting is either on or off, there are no brightness settings here and that's the kind of no-frills, user-friendly design that carries on with other settings too.
The accompanying software allows for various customisation options. These include the ability to adjust fan speeds, a network booster to tweak the priority of specific apps - ensuring games or streaming tools get the most bandwidth when you're playing - and performance controls to increase the gaming prowess of the machine with a focus on power and visuals at the expense of cooling. All easy to understand and easy to use too.
Middling battery life and lap-warming cooling
- 4-cell, 70 Wh Li-ion battery with fast-charging
The battery life on the Omen 15 is fairly disappointing. Like other thin gaming laptops we've tested, it's not up to much at all. We found we'd get around two to three hours out of the battery for standard use - browsing, working and the like. Even with Nvidia's battery boost turned on, brightness down and keyboard backlighting off, we rarely got anything more out of it. It does support fast-charging, though, so it's possible to get 50 per cent power in just 45 minutes at the plug.
Just like other gaming laptops we've tried with similar specs, the gaming performance dips considerably when running on battery alone. Games that could manage 50-60fps are suddenly running at a painfully choppy 10-20fps. You might be able to manage some casual gaming, but anything more serious and you'll need to plug in.
The HP Omen 15 uses underside fans to draw cool air in and it blows hot air out of the back of the machine through the snazzy-looking vents. This works reasonably well when you're gaming on a desk, but when you're playing with the laptop on your lap, things get a little bit more toasty. Not unpleasantly uncomfortable, but certainly warmer.
The HP Omen 15 is a great-looking and accomplished all-rounder that delivers a satisfying gaming experience that's perfect for all-day use when plugged in or just a quick gaming blast when you want it.
We really enjoyed having this laptop around and for the price it's not bad. The gaming results are a bit lacklustre in places, however, but there's always the option of speccing up to an RTX powered machine instead for more punch.
Razer Blade 15
The Razer Blade 15 might not have the same outward style and finesse as the Omen 15 but it's worth considering. It does have a similarly delightful 144Hz panel and manages some impressive gaming results, while its longer-lasting battery also makes it mildly more appealing.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531
If you're looking for something snazzy and stylish then the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531 might be the one. This is an ultra-thin gaming laptop that's packed full of power. It offers a 144Hz panel and RTX options, too, meaning it is capable of delivering the greatest visuals. It's feature-packed but incredibly pricey.
Acer Predator Helios 500
The Acer Predator Helios 500 is chunkier than the Omen 15, but it's also powerful and doesn't mess about. The battery life is fairly disappointing with this device too, but if you're not concerned with that and just want a gaming machine with plenty of punch then this is worth a look.