The gaming laptop segment has a very niche target audience. Hardcore gamers usually prefer configuring a high-end desktop PC with top-notch hardware as per their requirements, over a gaming laptop. However, there are some who prefer a gaming laptops as an on-the-go portable gaming solution. After first introducing the Omen series in 2014, and launching it in India a year later, HP recently refreshed the lineup by introducing five new models in India. With prices starting from Rs 79,990, the top end variant costs a whopping Rs 169,990.
HP sent us the top end variant – the Omen 17 – for review. While the pricing may seem too much, the Dell Alienware 17 starts at Rs 207,990, but it also features more powerful hardware. Other competitors are Asus ROG series and MSI gaming laptops, and they are placed in a similar price category. I personally own a mediocre gaming laptop, and looking at the specifications of HP Omen 17, I was quite excited to review it. After using the laptop for about two weeks and putting it through the paces, here’s what I think about it.
HP Omen 17 – Design and Build
While most gaming laptops from Dell, Razer and Asus feature fancy design with angular bodies, big stylized fan vents for cooling and multicolored lights glowing on the lid, HP has gone for a rather simple look for the new Omen-series. The new Omen 17 is a thick and bulky laptop that weighs about 3.3kg, and it’s not quite easy to carry around, especially if you use public transport for your daily commute. ALSO READ: Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Review
The laptop’s design is rather plain, with a carbon fiber lid that has a Kevlar-like pattern which looks and feels nice. The prominent Omen logo is placed at the center, but it’s a tad disappointing as there isn’t backlighting to it. The backlight on the logo is one of those elements that make the Apple MacBook Air and Pro series, Dell Alienware, Asus ROG and others stand out. One problem, however, is that the lid is fragile, and could easily get damaged if you open or close it roughly.
On the inside, the Kevlar pattern is also consistent through the palm rest and the area around the keyboard. The touchpad is pretty big and spacious. It has a smooth finish to it, is responsive and quite accurate too. Above the touchpad, you have the full-size backlit keyboard. While you can turn the backlight on and off, there is no option to adjust the brightness. The keys have good travel, and the rubberized finish makes it easier to type for long hours.
What’s more, the keyboard is also spill resistant, but it’s best not to put it through too much abuse. Above the keyboard, you have the speaker grille with Bang & Olufsen speakers underneath.
Talking about port placement, you have one USB 3.0 port, followed by two 3.5mm audio sockets – one for the microphone and another for audio out. On the right edge, you have the socket for charging, an RJ45 LAN port, an HDMI port and two USB 3.0 ports. You also get a USB Type-C port and a card reader on the same right edge. The heat vents are located at the back of the laptop.
HP Omen 17 – The Hardware
Talking about the hardware, the Omen 17 is a VR-ready gaming laptop and it features a 17.3 inch full-HD (1080p) WLED IPS display. The screen has a matte finish to avoid reflections, and it’s something that gamers will appreciate. Talking about display quality, the color reproduction is punchy, to an extent where colors often seem inaccurate. Some people love exaggerated colors as it makes the content lively, but to be honest, the panel is over-saturated. Also, considering the price of the laptop, a 4K screen id the least we could have expected.
With brightness of 300 nits, it is also G-SYNC ready. For those wondering what G-SYNC is – it is NVIDIA’s display technology designed to offer smooth gameplay, with screen refreshing at rates of up to 240Hz. Powering the HP Omen 17 is Intel’s latest seventh generation Core i7-7700HQ quad-core processor clocked at 2.8GHz with TurboBoost frequency of up to 3.8Ghz. It is paired with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070 8GB discrete graphics solution. There’s also a 256GB SSD for fast boot up and 1TB hard-disk drive for larger storage needs.
The laptop also comes with Intel’s Real Sense Web camera which also works with Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition and unlocking. It’s pretty quick in unlocking the laptop without having to key in your password every time. When I initially scanned my face, I wasn’t wearing any spectacles, but when I tried to unlock with spectacles on it didn’t work. So, if you’re someone who wears specs, I’d recommend to run the facial recognition software for a couple of times – once with spectacles and once without it, to improve the recognition. Otherwise, the camera is quality is just average, and is barely usable when making video calls.
HP Omen 17 – Performance
Thanks to top-end hardware, performance is no issue on the HP Omen 17 at all. The basic tasks such as web browsing with about 12 tabs open with one playing full-HD video YouTube, and some apps such as Word 2016 and Slack’s native app open in background, multitasking was a breeze. And even with these tasks minimized, playing a graphics-intensive game didn’t affect the performance.
The Bang & Olufsen dual speakers are very loud compared to most other laptops, and they are good for audio when listening to music or playing games. Highs are sharp, whereas bass and mids are average. However, watching movies or TV shows is a challenge, as sometimes you might miss out on detail. But that’s a common problem with almost all laptops, and it’s best that you use headphones for better audio. You can also tweak equalizer options such as the bass, treble and dialogue clarity, offering a bit of improvement over the default settings.
My testing included playing a bunch of games, such as Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Left 4 Dead 2, Rocket League, and the resource-heavy ‘The Crew.’ Performance was no issue at all. Thanks to optimized Windows 10 OS and high-performance NVIDIA GTX 1070 discrete graphics solution, even with graphics settings kept at max, the games ran without any frame lag or stuttering. ALSO READ: Lenovo Yoga 710 Review
Apart from these, I also played the less graphics-hungry games such as Flight Simulator X, Dota 2 and Train Simulator all of which ran without any hiccups. And just to give it a try, I also downloaded some games from Microsoft Store, such as Asphalt 8: Airborne, Asphalt Xtreme, Modern Combat 5: Blackout, and did not face any issues playing them either. Yes, after playing games for prolonged hours, it does get warm at the back, but that’s expected after an intense gaming session.
One of the good things about having NVIDIA GTX 1070 GPU is the support for game streaming. Open the GeForce Experience center, and under ‘Shield’ activate Gamestream option. Next, download the Moonlight game streaming client from here on your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. There is also a Raspberry Pi client that you can install. This let’s you stream games from you laptop or desktop onto the smartphone, tablet or Raspberry Pi connected to the same home network. You can even connect the Xbox gaming controller and play games. So, for instance, your PC / laptop could be in your bedroom and the smartphone / tablet / Raspberry Pi can be in your living room, and you could be able to stream and play the game on these devices. I tried streaming on my smartphone, and it worked well.
HP Omen 17 – Battery Life
HP has bundled a 6-cell 95.8w Lithium-ion battery with the Omen 17, along with a fast charger that can quickly charge the laptop in under two hours. The charger is a bulky block, bigger and heavier than the usual charger. During my usage, I noticed that the charger takes approximately an hour-and-45-minutes to fully charge the laptop.
In terms of battery life, with brightness set at 25 percent, and power settings set at ‘power saving mode’ the battery lasted roughly four hours and 15 minutes. My usage included music streaming on iTunes (Apple Music), listening via headphones, about six tabs open and working on Google Docs. On a balanced mode and with same usage, the battery would last about three hours. However, when put on ‘high performance’ mode and playing games, the battery would die in a little over an-hour-and-a-half. This isn’t great, but gaming does need that amount of sheer power.
HP Omen 17 – Accessories
A gaming laptop or PC cannot be complete without accessories, and HP has partnered SteelSeries to launch Omen series accessories which includes a headphone with mic priced at Rs 7,499, a gaming mouse priced at Rs 5,499 and a mousepad priced at Rs 2,199. There is also a gaming keyboard priced at Rs 9,999 with five independent full RGB color backlit zones. Out of these, HP had sent us the headphones, mouse and mouse pad.
These are pretty comfortable to wear, and designed especially for prolonged usage. Audio quality is good, you get a wide sound staging to give you have virtual surround sound effect. They are good enough for listening to music or watching movies and TV shows, but they are not something that audiophiles would love.
However, as they are meant for gaming, you can hear even the minutest details in games. I had the headphones put on while playing games such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Counter Strike and I could even hear faint sounds like the gun recoil after firing a bullet or the steps when someone is walking from across fairly clearly.
Mouse and mouse pad
The HP Omen gaming mouse is slim and slightly elongated in shape. For proper grip, you have rubberized material on both sides. The Omen logo has a red LED light. The mouse has the right and left click buttons, a scroll button and a DPI setting button. On the left, you have two additional buttons which are useful when surfing the web on browser, which can be used as forward and back buttons. And while gaming, you can cycle between weapons and reload ammo too.
But for Rs 5,999 or lower, there are a lot of better options out there, just in case you don’t want to spend that much. I personally prefer using a wireless mouse, such as the Logitech G602 with six configurable buttons on the left edge, which costs about Rs 4,500. Talking about the Omen mousepad, it has a very large surface area, with high-quality non-slip rubber base and smooth surface to offer precision controls.
Overall, the HP Omen 17 is an interesting high-end gaming laptop. It offers good gaming performance, audio, and decent battery life. While I didn’t like the exaggerated color reproduction of the display, there are people who prefer such high color saturation, making this subjective. HP is also offering a backpack and a choice of either one of two games – Ghost Recon or Honor – which will be in the form of a digital download.
For Rs 169,990, HP is also offering MS Office Home and Student edition with the laptop. For those who have no budget constrains and want a good gaming laptop for gaming on-the-go, the HP Omen 17 could be the one to go with.
But its clearly not for those who like to have the freedom to choose the kind of monitor they want (screen size and resolution), the keyboard, graphics card and more. For such users, a gaming PC is a more viable solution as it is can not only be upgraded, but is also more affordable than buying a gaming laptop if you assemble it yourself.