HP has redesigned its Omen line of gaming laptops, moving away from an off-the-shelf HP chassis with a GPU wedged into it. The new Omen line not only has proper space for a GPU, but it also includes a new cooling system. True to its original mission, HP’s Omen line still combines performance and affordability with pricing that starts at $400.
However, the model I received for review is the HP Omen 17 is a customized build that leans heavily on the performance scale. Of course you can lower the price a bit without a major sacrifice in performance by opting for less storage, less than 32GB of RAM, a different panel, and so-on.
Here are the specifications of the HP Omen 17 I’m evaluating:
- Model: Omen by HP Laptop 17-an004xx
- Display: 17.3-inch UHD (3840×2160) IPS Display
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Quad-Core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.8GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
- Memory: 32GB DDR4 SDRAM
- OS: Windows 10 Home
- OS Drive: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
- Storage Drive: 1TB 7200RPM SATA
- Ports: 1 x mini-DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Ethernet, 3 x USB 3.1 ports, 1 x USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3), 1 x audio out, 1 x audio in, 1 x SD card reader
- Battery: 8-cell 86Wh lithium-ion
- Wireless: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
- Dimensions: 16.65 x 11.97 x 1.3-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 8.23 pounds
- Price: $378
Design and Features
Bucking the trend of going for a smaller chassis thanks to Nvidia’s Max-Q tech, the Omen 17 is unapologetically big. Not overly big, by any means, but nowhere near as thin and streamlined as, say, the Alienware 15 R3 or Dell’s Inspiron 15 Gaming. Measuring 16.65 x 11.97 x 1.3-inches and weighing just over 8 pounds, the Omen 17 will fit in a bag or backpack, but you’ll undoubtedly know it’s in there.
The all-black exterior is interrupted by red highlights on the lid, labels on each of the ten expansion ports, and on the keyboard. There is also a red backlight on the keyboard, and if you want RGB lighting you’ll have to pony up for the next model higher in the product stack.
I rather enjoy the keyboard on the Omen 17. The keys have just a little travel and feel well-balanced. For instance, when you press the Shift key on an edge, the entire key travels — it’s not lopsided. The full-sized keyboard with number pad on the right side and macro keys for gaming shortcuts on the left side take up most of the housing’s width. The touchpad has two physical buttons and is smooth when used for scrolling or moving files across the desktop.
As a full-sized laptop the Omen is loaded when it comes to expansion ports. On the left side are the following: mini-DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C , audio-in/out, and an SD card reader. On the right side there’s a charging port and two more USB 3.1 ports. There are more than enough ports on the Omen line to power and connect to pretty much whatever you’d like, with room to spare.
The 17.3-inch UHD (3840×2160) IPS LED display is a looker, but a bit oversaturated for my tastes. You can also order it with a 120Hz 1920 x 1080 panel, or a 144Hz 1080p G-Sync panel as well, but HP sent me the most expensive version, which is 4k. Tucked inside the hefty housing is an Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, a ridiculous 32GB of DDR4 memory, and two storage drives. The primary drive is a 256GB PCIe SSD for the OS, with a secondary 1TB 7,200RPM SATA drive for your data and games. Again you can configure this laptop to have less RAM, more storage, etc. Connectivity options are abundant, as the Omen 17 includes a physical Ethernet port, 802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) wireless, and Bluetooth 4.2.
Any time a laptop is pushing the sheer number of pixels a UHD display requires, there’s bound to be a performance hit when gaming at that resolution — regardless of what’s inside the chassis. Even with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and GTX 1070 GPU, getting smooth gameplay at 3840 by 2160 is going to be a challenge. The HP Omen I reviewed is no exception. Though these high-res panels are great for desktop work, we’re still not at the point technologically where a lone mobile GPU can power a display of this resolution, at maximum level of detail. Because of this, IGN tests laptops at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Here’s a quick rundown of the scores tallied by the HP Omen 17 compared with similar systems:
The benchmark scores listed are with each game or program running in 1080p. We run all of our standard tests in regular HD to give all machines a level playing field. But, out of curiosity, I ran a couple of tests with UDH enabled and the performance hit was far more than I expected.
The Uningine Heaven 4.0 test when ran at 1080p, for example, returned a score of 83 frames per second. However, when ran at UHD resolution, the score was 21fps. The GTA V benchmark also returned such a stark contrast in performance, with a 1080p score of 55 and UHD score of 20. Ouch. So, if you really want a UHD display on a laptop, you can get it, but don’t expect to be blown away by frame rates or overall performance when gaming. It’s more for desktop work, and you’ll need to run games at a lower resolution, even if you pony up for the GTX 1080 upgrade in the building process.
I also played PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in both resolutions and consistently experienced 110-120 fps in standard HD. That number dropped to around 30 fps with UHD — not unplayable, but nowhere near as smooth as the alternative.
As for performance outside of gaming, the Omen 17 worked as you would expect from a device with these specs, meaning it’s fast. The 32GB of RAM is a bit of overkill for most folks, but it not only benefits gaming but also is a boost to Chrome’s often times resource-intensive use. It’s also quite handy for photo and video editing, too. All-in-all, there’s very little to frown upon in terms of performance for this particular setup. Its benchmark scores, and my experience were right on par with the likes of the Alienware 15 R3 and Origin EVO-15S.
Also, the bottom panel of the Omen 17 can be removed if you ever need to upgrade its RAM, storage, and Wi-Fi. Though this is a fairly common feature on gaming laptops it’s always nice to know you’ll be able to upgrade some parts down the road since you’ll likely have it for several years.
The new cooling setup on the Omen line exhausts hot air out the back of the machine instead of out the sides where it could wash over your hands or a cold beverage. The fans can get a tad loud at times, but the overall power of the Bang & Olufsen speakers mitigate the noise quite easily.
As for storage, with a 256GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, so there’s enough room to keep your favorite games along with school documents or work folders without having to constantly delete stuff. HP offers various storage options for both the SSD and HDD, but that’s going to increase the cost, of course. Up to two SSDs and one HDD can fit inside, so you can get two SSDs up to 1TB if you’ve got a trust fund.
My battery life test didn’t fare as well as the other performance tests, with a respectable but still disappointing 128 minutes. I say disappointing only because HP touts the battery life of GTX 1070/UDH variants as lasting 3 hours and 45 minutes. At 128 minutes, that puts the battery life of the Omen 17 I tested at 2 hours and 8 minutes. The battery life is also less than that of the Origin EVO-15S and Alienware 15 R3, which came in at 144 and 155 minutes, respectively.
The main software suite HP installed on the Omen is called Omen Command Center. A dedicated shortcut button to launch the command center is found just above the numeric keyboard. The home screen of the command center displays current CPU and GPU loads, along with memory utilization and temperatures for each component.
Within the command center, you can customize up to 12 macros, as well as enable or disable the built-in Network Booster. For those who opt to go with an Omen X, the command center is also where you can tailor the LED backlit keyboard and its zones to your liking.
Outside of the Omen Command Center, HP also installs myriad applications like CoolSense (designed to recognize and adjust performance when the laptop isn’t stationary), McAfee LiveSafe (yuck), and HP Orbit for syncing your mobile phone with your Windows 10 laptop. Overall, HP falls in the middle of the road in terms or preloaded software. McAfee is most certainly annoying, but the Omen Command Center and its ease of access is a convenient way to quickly check your laptop’s stats.
Because the Omen 17 I received has a fairly stacked spec sheet, it’s hard to gauge just how well a lesser model would fair. Still, I wouldn’t pay the extra cost for the 4k panel since you can’t game at that res with a gaming laptop.