Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 3 / 5
Enjoyment: 4 / 5
Design: 4 / 5
Value for Money: 3 / 5
Portable gaming has seen a huge uptake lately. It’s no wonder that companies have positioned numerous products to cater for this growing market, with specific brands to focus solely on the gaming aspect. HP launched their Omen brand some time back and recently started showcasing their product line at many of the gaming events in South Africa this year, giving hands-on experiences to would-be buyers and gaming enthusiasts. HP also launched their 2nd-generation line of laptops, including the HP Omen 15, a mid-sized, mid-budget gaming laptop.
Almost all manufacturers were stirred into action this year when news dropped that Nvidia was updating their GPU architecture. It paved the way for more powerful gaming. The company then unveiled their Max-Q laptop architecture in early 2017, which gave way to laptop experiences almost as powerful as the desktop. In addition, the Skylake CPUs from Intel was also launched for mobile (laptops) in late 2016 and desktops in 2017. These upgrades have changed the shape of the market in 2017 and, with the sequel to the Omen 15, we have a really powerful unit at a really affordable price.
Build and Design
There are two variations of the Omen 15 (2017), in terms of their overall look and feel. The unit I received falls into the lower end of the scale, so is not equipped with some of the bells and whistles when it comes to the looks department. The unit still looks good, though. The lid of the unit features a lightly textured, matte finish, which looks and feels good. It is prone to some fingerprints, but only really if/when your hands are a bit on the moist side. The centre of the lid features the Omen logo in its primary, red colouring, and two-tone grey pattern surrounding it. The frame of the unit is part plastic and part carbon fibre, given it extra appeal. The design is very simple and minimalistic, which is something that I can definitely get behind here, and applaud.
Unlike the higher-end HP Omen 15 model, this unit doesn’t include the fancier hinge option, but a more slim and simple rounded, metal hinges. The (full-length) keyboard is gloriously backlit in red. Right above the keyboard, you’ll find triangular patterned speaker grill, which blends well with the similarly patterned inner frame. The unit has three USB ports, HDMI, Ethernet, SD card slot and auxiliary. No sign of the modern, almost standard, USB Type-C port which is a bit worrying here.
Screen and Display
The 2016 version of the HP Omen 15 included an FHD panel manufactured by LG. Fast-forward a few months and HP has fitted a panel from AU Optronics instead. My immediate assumption here is that it’s possibly due to the short timelines between the two devices, and the quick turnaround meant finding a new vendor to deliver in time. As the name suggests, the unit has a 15.6″ panel, which has Full HD IPS display with a 1080p resolution. The panel isn’t quite as bright as some of their competitors but isn’t a worrying factor. There’s no trace of any backlight bleeding, which is a huge plus for the panel and design. In addition to this, the unit also has a really good contrast and black value, which is amongst the top in this regard.
Colour reproduction isn’t as great as I feel it could have been, with an often washed feel to it, and scoring relatively low on the sRGB and AdobeRGB colour spaces. It’s recommended, as a result, to use a secondary monitor to make the best use of the device’s capabilities. As a portable gaming station, however, you’ll just have to live with the slightly off colour reproduction.
Performance and Gaming
Having highlighted the changes in hardware upgrades in the introduction between the 2016 and 2017 models, this is where the Omen 15 is expected to shine. This particular unit is fitted with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050, with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, alongside the Intel Core i7-7700HQ, which produces 2.8GHz of clock speed, executing up to eight threads simultaneously. Interestingly, the clock speed is up on the average 2.6GHz found on the standard i7-7700HQ CPU, which indicates some tinkering to provide additional performance on the HP Omen 15. In terms of stored benchmarks comparisons available online, you’ll notice that there’s an average of 10% increase in outright computational speeds on the 2017 version. While a good improvement, it’s nothing to write about just yet.
Where the unit does better is in the graphics department, allowing users the capability to play almost all available games on the market. Having tested quite a few from my Steam library, I was able to play even the more graphically intense games, although having to settle for a bit less in terms of the settings. Still, just being able to run a few of these shows its capabilities, and as an entry-level unit from the range of HP Omen 15 variants, that’s quite impressive. Again, available benchmarks to compare against the 2016 version indicates a much better 30% increase in gaming performance.
Other specs include 12GB of DDR4 RAM, 128GB SanDisk SSD coupled with a 1TB HGST HDD for additional storage, and Bang & Olufsen speakers, which provides reasonable sound quality, but distorts a bit on higher volumes, mostly due to the vibration against the chassis. In the battery department, the Omen 15 doesn’t perform all that great. The unit is fitted with a non-removable battery and has seen improvements over its predecessor, increasing to over 12 hours of battery life under normal usage. During maximum stress, the unit has a continuous life expectancy of around 100 minutes and normal gaming more reasonable 150 to 180 minutes. This isn’t the greatest across the industry, and you’ll definitely require carrying the charger for best results when it comes to gaming on the go.
There’s a lot to enjoy on the HP Omen 15. It offers reasonable results across the board while suffering a touch under certain situations. At a cost starting around R18,999, the unit is very well-priced compared to other gaming laptops in the same category.