Slick design; Strong gaming performance; VR ready; Vibrant 4K display; Respectable battery life
Gets hot and noisy; Less display brightness than competitors
The HP Omen 17 packs impressive gaming and VR performance into a beastly, slick-looking and reasonably priced package.
Gaming laptops have little reason to envy their desktop counterparts anymore, and the HP Omen 17 ($1,299 starting, $1,799 as reviewed) shows why. This beastly notebook’s Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card and Intel Core i7 processor allow it to handle gorgeous-looking PC games and virtual reality with equal aplomb, and it looks great to boot. If you can live with some heat and fan noise, the Omen 17 is one of the best values for enjoying compromise-free gaming on the go.
The new HP Omen has a big and bold design that ditches the slim look of its predecessors in favor of more powerful guts. Still, the same signature Omen aesthetic is there: You’ve got a red-backlit keyboard, a slick-looking charcoal paint job and a smooth lid that sports HP’s trademark, butterfly-esque Omen logo. The laptop’s plastic build might turn off those hoping for metal, but the notebook still feels sturdy and substantial.
The Omen’s port layout leaves enough room for your VR headset or any combination of favorite peripherals. You’ve got three USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, an SD card reader, and headphone and mic jacks. There’s also a Mini DisplayPort and an HDMI port for connecting to external monitors.
Despite the Omen’s fairly massive size (16.3 x 10.98 x 1.17 inches), the laptop isn’t nearly as loud-looking as rivals such as the Asus ROG Strix and MSI GT62 Dominator Pro, which I appreciate. The 6.28-pound notebook is about as thick and heavy as those two competitors, but I didn’t mind carrying this machine in my backpack to and from work.
Display and G-Sync
Our Omen features a 17-inch, 3840 x 2160 display that’s vibrant enough for movies and games alike. When watching a 4K trailer for Suicide Squad, I could make out the finer details of Killer Croc’s scales and El Diablo’s facial tattoos, while the cotton candy colors of Harley Quinn’s hair and makeup popped.
The display also made it easy to get immersed in the brutal warfare of Battlefield 1. The burning debris around me had a bright orange glow, and I could spot the individual chunks of mud that my tank’s massive tires picked up.
Our lab tests backed up the Omen’s impressive color performance. HP’s laptop produced 178.7 percent of the sRGB color gamut, with a Delta-E color-accuracy score of 1.38 (closer to zero is better). That means this display is more colorful and accurate than the Asus ROG Strix’s 1080p screen (115 percent, 1.8) but not quite as accurate as the 1080p MSI Dominator Pro’s display (108 percent, 0.68).
I did find the Omen’s screen a bit too dim, however, which our testing supported. HP’s notebook registered an average brightness of 286 nits on our light meter, which slightly trails the Strix (300 nits) and the Dominator Pro (301), while still edging out our 268-nit average.
The Omen 17 features Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, which allows the display to sync directly with the graphics card for the smoothest performance possible. While most games ran well on the Omen regardless of whether this feature was on or off, G-Sync did clean up some minor stutters and screen tears I noticed when moving around in Gears of War 4.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
Packing Nvidia’s desktop-grade GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, the Omen is well-equipped for handling modern games at cranked-up settings. The notebook handled the intense trench warfare of Battlefield 1 at a smooth 60 frames per second at 1080p with graphics on high, making it easy for me to admire the detailed debris and big orange explosions surrounding me at every turn. When I bumped the resolution to 4K, I enjoyed a highly playable 45 to 50 fps.
In benchmarks, the Omen netted a solid 52.3 fps on our Rise of the Tomb Raider test (1080p at max settings). That tops the Dominator Pro (51 fps, GTX 1070) and the 47-fps category average, but trails the Strix (77 fps, GTX 1070). HP’s notebook beat out both machines by a few frames on our Grand Theft Auto V test, notching 69 fps at 1080p on max settings.
The Omen is a certified portable VR powerhouse, scoring a 10.1 on the SteamVR performance test. That score, which Valve says is more than enough for high-end virtual reality, ties the Omen with the Dominator Pro (10.1) and puts it right behind the Strix (10.6).
Powered by an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor with 16GB of RAM, the Omen is as much of a multitasking machine as it is a gaming powerhouse. The system never slowed down under a heavy load, even as I jumped among a slew of browser tabs while downloading two games, watching four Twitch streams and performing a full-system scan.
The Omen netted a 13,352 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, topping the Strix’s 12,371 while nearly tying the Dominator Pro’s 13,556 (both machines also pack Core i7-6700HQ CPUs).
On our spreadsheet test, HP’s notebook matched 20,000 names to addresses in 3 minutes and 35 seconds. That’s about on par with the Strix (3:39) and Dominator Pro (3:47), and quicker than our 4:29 mainstream notebook average.
The Omen’s 256GB SSD copied about 5GB of files in 25 seconds, for a transfer rate of 203.6 MBps. That’s respectable, but not nearly as fast as the 256GB SSDs found in the Strix (424 MBps) or the Dominator Pro (628.6 MBps).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Omen’s soft-touch keys are snappy and cozy, making them well suited for those dreaded moments when you need to stop gaming and knock out some work. The laptop’s keyboard (1.28mm of travel, 63-gram actuation) allowed me to breeze through the Key Hero typing test at 104 words per minute with near-perfect accuracy, and I never felt uncomfortable as I sped through Google Docs and emails.
As impressive as the Omen’s keyboard is, don’t expect any gaming-specific features. The laptop’s red backlighting can’t be customized, and there aren’t any special macro keys for performing in-game functions faster. I can personally live without those extra frills, but competitors such as MSI’s Dominator Pro offer a wealth of keyboard color and customization options.
The Omen’s 4.6 x 2.5-inch touchpad is more of a mixed bag. Scrolling and performing Windows 10 touch gestures felt fine, but the touchpad’s squishy click button didn’t feel responsive or satisfying to press. I also had a hard time pinpointing where exactly the touchpad registers a right click, which often led to me accidentally left-clicking on web pages and apps.
The Omen’s 88-degree Wide Vision HD webcam is serviceable, but I definitely wouldn’t use it for my next Twitch session. My face looked red and blotchy in my photos, and my stubbly beard became a single black blur.
HP’s laptop features quad Bang & Olufsen-branded speakers, which were loud and crisp. The Omen filled a small testing room with the sounds of an epic Battlefield 1 fight. Missile explosions had lots of oomph, machine gun fire had a satisfying pop, and I could easily hear the sound of bullet shells dropping and my tank tires slowly sloshing through mud.
When I took a break from trench warfare to kick back with some tunes, I found that the Omen is just as apt at playing music. The moody guitars and atmospheric vocals of Balance and Composure’s “Midnight Zone” came through clearly, as did the song’s snappy drums and distorted bass. My only complaint is that the song’s busy chorus sounded a bit muffled at full volume.
You can customize the laptop’s audio output via the Bang & Olufsen Experience app, which manages to offer a good amount of useful options within a simple and clean interface. You can choose from among presets for music, movies and voice, or go in and manually adjust bass, treble and dialog clarity yourself. You can also play with an equalizer to fine-tune your sound, as well as switch between microphone presets, whether you want noise cancellation for a single person or a wider sound for capturing groups.
Heat and Noise
While you probably weren’t planning to put the 17-inch Omen on your lap anyway, you should use this notebook on a desk whenever possible. After I played Battlefield 1 for 15 minutes, the rear portion of the Omen’s underside warmed to a scorching 124 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The keyboard also registered a quite hot 99 degrees, while the touchpad reached a manageable 85 degrees. It doesn’t help that the notebook’s fans were whirring pretty loudly during my play session.
The Omen offers enough juice to keep you busy during a short layover, but you should keep the system plugged in whenever possible. The laptop lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes on our battery test, a longer time than those of the Strix (2:39) and Dominator Pro (3:18) but not quite as strong as our 6:44 mainstream notebook average. Note that this is for web surfing; you’ll get less endurance when playing games.
The Omen is fairly light on bloatware, leaving plenty of hard drive space to be filled up with games. You’ve got HP’s usual support and printing apps, a preloaded Netflix app, and CyberLink’s Power Media Player. You also get a free 25GB of Dropbox storage for a year, as well as a 30-day McAfee LiveSafe trial.
The Omen 17 starts at $1,299, and that configuration includes a 1080p display, an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Nvidia GTX 965M graphics. This is the only model that isn’t G-Sync-enabled or VR-ready.
Stepping up to the $1,479 model gets you a 1TB hard drive and GTX 1070 graphics but only 8GB of RAM, while the $1,539 config adds a 128GB SSD in addition to the hard drive. If you want a 2TB hard drive and a 4K display, you’ll have to spend $1,699.
Finally, there’s the highest-end, $1,799 unit that we reviewed, which packs a 4K display, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB GB SSD with a 2TB hard drive.
The HP Omen 17 offers high-end gaming and VR performance in a portable package for less than $2,000, and it looks good doing so. The notebook’s GTX 1070 GPU is more than ready for the latest blockbuster games and rich VR experiences, and its Core i7 processor and speedy SSD make it an excellent multitasking machine. Despite how huge it is, the Omen has a slick, understated look that’s refreshing compared to the machine’s aggressive-looking competitors.
My only knocks against this system are the hot temps on the bottom — don’t use this rig in your lap — and a touchpad that could feel snappier when it’s pressed down.
Fans of eye-catching designs may prefer the Asus ROG Strix ($1,699 as reviewed), and those who want customizable lighting should consider the MSI GT62 Dominator Pro ($1,999 as reviewed). But the Omen manages to offer a 4K display for a price comparable to both of those 1080p machines, and has the impressive internals to justify the cost. If you want the best mix of performance and features for your money, this Omen is a great buy.