HP teased professional gamers in India recently with the launch of its new Omen X gaming lineup that has some really exciting offerings. The most exciting among these was definitely the HP Omen X Compact Desktop which the company designed specifically for use with its very own Windows Mixed Reality headset.
The HP Omen X Compact Desktop is not your run of the mill desktop; it has a downsized form factor and comes with a backpack on which it can be mounted and paired with the Windows Mixed reality headset that gives a wireless form factor to the whole experience. I’ve been using the HP Omen X Compact Desktop and here’s what I think about of the device.
HP Omen X Compact Desktop Design
The HP Omen X Compact Desktop comes boxed like a Russian doll, and once it is out of the boxing, I was really impressed how HP had managed to fit a GTX 1080 graphics card into such a small form factor. The desktop body looks rather cool if not anything else. It may have the general shape of some of the other compact desktops that we have seen through the years, but it definitely feels like a device a gamer would use with the diamond-like sides to the device.
The desktop can be mounted on a dock that comes with the device, and the dock is mainly used when the desktop is not mounted on the backpack. The dock makes the desktop upright like a shield that is on display. The desktop comes with two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort Mini, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a power connector at the top, while the bottom has connectors for the battery packs and the dock.
On the dock itself there are two USB-A ports and a USB-C port on the front and three more USB-A ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, a DisplayPort, two differently sized power connectors, and a Kensington lock slot on the rear.
The device uses two distinct patterns to make an X at the front which houses the RGB lights that can be customized. The dock follows the same style but does not have any RGB lights of its own.
Moving on to the backpack that is used to mount the desktop when going mobile, I can begin by saying that it not much of a backpack. Rather it’s just a couple of shoulder straps with a flat separated panel on the back that is used to mount the desktop. There are two separate housing for the batteries on each side which in turn can be connected to the desktop. The batteries can be swapped out on the go without having to turn off the desktop but for someone who is wearing the whole contraption it is a clumsy job to get done.
As for the headset itself, it has a very rounded look to it with the two cameras at the ends pointing straight. The headband can be tightened or loosened using the knob on the back and the hinge on the top helps to quickly move the main body up without always having to take off the headband. There is enough space between the lenses and the padding to create a hollow space to fit spectacle for those that wear. I wear rather large spectacles and they fit perfectly inside. The headset is connected using a DisplayPort on the headset end and the wire translates to a USB-A port 3.0 and an HDMI, both of which need to be plugged in.
The controllers feel comfortable in the hands and have rings with white LED lights on them for the cameras to track. These lights glow bright when connected to the desktop using Bluetooth.
When the whole setup is running, the desktop edges get quite hot due to the vents pouring out the heat from the processor and GPU inside. Now HP has made sure that the desktop mounting plate does not touch the back of the user but while my colleague was using the desktop she happened to touch the desktop side with her arm and got quite surprised by the heat. Besides, the desktop weighs almost 2.5 kgs and along with the backpack, battery packs and the headset, the whole experience becomes quite strenuous after a while. And with the headset on for a while, the lack of ventilation tends to cause a lot of sweat buildup around the eye region.
When it comes to setting up the desktop, it is simple enough. But one needs to follow the instructions quite diligently when setting up the headgear to sync with the Windows Mixed Reality application on the desktop. Once done, the Steam VR app will automatically detect the headset and the controllers and integrate them to the game being played.
The ingame experience is great and there are no performance issue at the software end with the devices. Sometime the controllers seem to vanish when they are taken out of the range of the cameras, but that is easily fixed. The app asks you to create a boundary which is shown in-game for the use of the players to not trip over or run into a wall and it is quite a convenient feature.
I played Waltz of the Wizard, Heart of the Emberstone: Coliseum and Regenesis Arcade Lite on the desktop using the MR headset and I have to admit that it was a rather fun experience. Mixing potions in Waltz of the Wizard to create spells to use on the objects around and moving things on Emberstone was very accurately tracked by the controllers. But the only difficult part that I felt was shooting accurately on Regenesis, and the controller just could not seem to help me aim right.
One of the inconveniences that I faced was that there is no hardware switch to control the focal length of the lenses, and if someone does not want to wear their spectacles they would have to adjust the focal length through the Windows settings which does not quite do the job.
In terms of the hardware performance, the HP Omen X Compact Desktop does a good job justifying its specifications. The Intel Core i7-7820HK processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Notebook) GPU gets its act together to score a decent 9,020 on VRMark’s Orange room benchmark which puts it between a VR-ready PC and a high-end PC.
And if we were to talk about the gaming performance of the PC, I ran Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds on it on ultra settings and the desktop averaged 100 frames per second which is decent. In comparison, my own PC with a GTX 1070 AMP Extreme and Intel Core i7-7700K processor averages 80 frames per second.
One of the biggest perks of the Omen X series by HP this time is that these systems are overclockable, and this can be done using the native HP Omen X software which is also used to control the RGB LEDs. Overclocking is a serious and delicate business and I managed to achieve some better results with some tweaking. But honestly I felt that the same amount of tweaking on an assembled PC would have produced slightly better results. But then again it’s always great to have the option.
The HP Omen X Compact Desktop is not a frugal buy because it costs Rs 2,94,988 and the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset with the controllers costs Rs 51,187 separately. But if one were to consider that this is one of the first examples of what a wireless VR experience could mean, then the price should not matter to an enthusiast. Other options like the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR need a PC and a PlayStation 4 respectively to use. And the PSVR does not even have support in India.
The HP Omen X Compact Desktop does not make for a wise buy on its own, because there are much better options than than in that price range purely for gaming. But combined with the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset it makes for a good buy for someone who is eager to have a pleasant VR experience during gaming, and is a unique product in its own right and unmatched by anything else currently.