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(Pocket-lint) - It seems that as well as competing to produce the thinnest laptops with the fastest refresh-rate screens, brands are also now cramming two screens into compact frames. We've seen Asus doing it with the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, and now it's HP's turn with the Omen X 2S.

Of course, none of these devices are as bonkers as Razer's Project Valerie, but the concept is simple enough: the addition of the extra screen is meant to add extra convenience, usefulness and enhanced multi-tasking capabilities to your gaming machine.

But is this just a gimmick or a worthwhile addition? We had some hands-on time with the Omen X 2S at a recent event to bring you our initial thoughts. 

Our quick take

We'll save full judgement for when we get the Omen X 2S in to Pocket-lint towers for a full-on gaming session and in-depth testing, but after some initial poking and prodding it certainly seems an interesting gaming laptop. 

Features like per-key RGB backlighting, a fast refresh-rate screen, plenty of customisation options in the Omen Command Center software, all help make the Omen X 2S well worth considering. We have no doubt it'll pack some punch and if the new thermal system manages to keep it running cool it should be a great gaming tool to have around.

Whether the second screen is worth having will really depend on how you see yourself using it. But that certainly shouldn't be the only reason to eye-up this laptop. Overall, the Omen X 2S appears to be a well-rounded packaging and a gaming powerhouse. 

HP Omen X 2S initial review: Dual-screen greatness or just a gimmick?

HP Omen X 2S

  • Powerful spec
  • Understated design
  • Second screen
  • Software highlights
  • Fast-charging
  • Second screen is a bit small
  • Price might be too much for some

Why two screens?

  • Main screen: 15.6-inch IPS anti-glare micro-edge WLED-backlit display
    • Full HD resolution at 144Hz/240Hz / 4K resolution at 60Hz
  • Second screen: 6-inch touch panel, Full HD resolution at 60Hz
  • 20mm metal chassis with micro-edge bezels

We certainly had a lot of good feelings about the HP Omen 15 gaming laptop, and the Omen X 2S is essentially a swankier version of that with yet more going for it. With the X 2S you get the choice of either a Full HD display with a 144Hz or 240Hz refresh rate, or a high-res but less responsive 4K panel with 60Hz refresh rate. From what we saw, this latter setup is also colourful, vivid and easy on the eye.

Pocket-lintHP Omen X 2S initial review Dual screen multitasking or unnecessary gimmicks image 3

Whichever main display option you choose, you get the addition of the secondary 6-inch touchscreen slotted above the keyboard. This smaller screen is touch-sensitive and you can treat it like any extra screen you have in a Windows setup.

This second screen can be used for all sorts of things like watching tips videos on YouTube, dedicating it to Twitch chat, displaying Discord or showing off performance stats via the Omen Command Center. 

You can snap browser windows into it and you can even split-screen down there too - with two windows side-by-side. 

You can also "draw" a part of the main screen to show on the second screen, such as the minimap in a game, to give you a quick-glance of the battlefield.  

If you feel the need to be a bit more productive, this second screen can also work as a touchscreen numpad to replace the one that's missing from the main keyboard layout. 

Of course, 6-inches is a bit on the small side, so don't expect to be gaming down there (although you can) and if you cram too much on that screen you'll be squinting at it too. Similar designs from other manufacturers include full-width extra displays, so the HP one feels somewhat small. Plus we did notice a little stutter during testing.

A potential gaming powerhouse

  • Up to Intel Core i9 9880H CPU
  • Either Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 or RTX 2080 GPU options
  • Up to 32 GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM
  • Up to 2 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Bang & Olufsen speakers, HP Audio Boost 2.0, Omen Audio Control Support DTS:X Ultra

The HP Omen X 2S is more than just good looks and fancy screens though. On paper, it's also a bit of a gaming powerhouse. The specification options mean you can snatch up one of these laptops with a high-end Core i9 CPU, a cutting edge Nvidia GPU, and masses of storage too. 

Pocket-lintHP Omen X 2S initial review Dual screen multitasking or unnecessary gimmicks image 2

The X 2S has a new-and-improved cooling system that includes intake fans on the bottom and exhaust at the rear and left side. But on the inside, it sports a fancy liquid metal cooling system that's meant to keep the machine running at optimum temperatures to ensure best performance. 

This laptop surely seems to have it all, both in terms of looks and power, but we'll have to wait to see how it performs under proper testing in the near future. 

Keyboard layout and customisation

  • Full-size island-style shadow black RGB backlit keyboard
  • Per-key RGB lighting 

The inclusion of the extra screen means less space for the keyboard, so HP has opted for a front-forward layout similar to the Asus Zephyrus S in the Omen X 2S. There's also a side-slung trackpad that we like a lot - but do feel it's a bit narrow. 

The design has a similar vibe to the Omen 15 in terms of keyboard design. Nicely accented keys include subtle white highlights around the WASD keys are an immediate standout. But the real attraction lies in the RGB backlighting: while the Omen 15 only had three zones of such lighting across the keyboard, the X 2S has per-key RGB lighting. 

Pocket-lintHP Omen X 2S keyboard and trackpad image 5

You can also adjust the logo on the rear of the laptop to either turn the lighting for that on or off independently of the keyboard lighting.

HP has also made pains to design the Omen X 2S to be as stylish as possible. Turn the lighting off and the laptop wouldn't look out of place in the office. The extra screen can be used for productivity tasks and the wealth of connectivity options means you could also hook it up to plenty of other devices too. 

Connectivity and battery life

  • 1x USB 3.1 (Thunderbolt 3), DisplayPort 1.4, 3x USB 3.1, 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 6-cell, 72 Wh Li-ion polymer battery with fast charge (50% in 30m)
  • Intel 802.11b/g/n/ac (2x2) Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 5 Combo, Ethernet

The Omen X 2S continues to be interesting right down to its connectivity options. There are several USB ports as well as options for both DisplayPort (via Thunderbolt) and HDMI outputs to let you output to an external monitor or VR headset

We're not sure what battery life will be like in the real world, but the Omen X 2S also features fast-charging capabilities so it can be boosted to 50 per cent battery in just 30 minutes. 

Pocket-lintHP Omen X 2S initial review Dual screen multitasking or unnecessary gimmicks image 5

The Omen Command Center gives you access to numerous tweaks and customisation options. This gives you access to various options including doing things like setting your bandwidth usage on a per-app basis. Essentially this allows you to give weight to games you're playing and stop other software from hogging your broadband and lagging your gaming experience. 

That same Command Center is used for customising keyboard lighting, monitoring hardware performance and temperatures and much more besides. 

To recap

We wonder whether two screens are really necessary or just an added gimmick. Nonetheless, this HP gaming laptop offers enough feature highlights elsewhere based on specs alone to make it worth considering.

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Writing by Adrian Willings.