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HP Omen 15: New Gaming Laptop Line Is a Good Omen, Review

Within the last year, several mainstream PC manufacturers have started offering entrylevel gaming laptops capable of playing current-gen titles, if not at the performance level you’d expect from more expensive (and customizable) boutique systems. Now HP is jumping into the category, resurrecting the last remnants of the Voodoo PC brand and the company is playing to win. The first laptop in this new line is the Omen 15: Possessing all the bells and whistles, it holds its own nicely against big releases from the likes of Digital Storm and Maingear. If the Omen 15 is a sign of things to come, consider me a believer.
DESIGN
Measuring 0.8 by 15.1 by 9.7 inches (HWD), the Omen 15 is definitely on the thin side. The trapezoidal chassis, which is dressed up in a black anodized finish and glowing red accents, is milled from aluminum, so it’s just as sturdy as it is light (the whole system weighs just 4.7 pounds). Visual flair is present both on the lid, where you’ll find an attractive pattern of tiny triangles and the HP logo, and even the hinge, which is made of shiny chrome and bears a colored flame pattern on both ends. Two heat exhaust vents on the back edge of the chassis expel hot air away from the user.

Open up the laptop and you’ll be greeted by a 15.6-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) display with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, a combination ideal for gaming some premium systems offer higher-resolution screens, but the limits of current notebook GPUs make it nearly impossible to take advantage of all those pixels for gaming. It’s also a touch screen, a feature that has previously been rare on gaming systems. The Omen 15 also boasts impressive sound, thanks to two frontfacing speakers and Beats Audio.

The keyboard features RGB backlighting, with four fully customizable lighting zones (right, left, center, and WASD keys) and a feature that lets the speakers’ lighting throb to the beat of the music you’re listening to or react to loud noises in games. The chiclet-style keyboard is similar what you’ll find on HP’s other laptops, but adds a row of six programmable macro buttons along the left edge. The Omen 15 also features an extra wide touchpad; this offers better gesture support for day-to-day use, but for gaming, you’ll still want to use a separate mouse.

FEATURES
Nearly all of the Omen 15’s ports are located on its back edge, situated between the exhaust vents. Although this does help reduce the tangle of cables snaking around the sides of the laptop, it’s also inconvenient whenever you plug in a device such as a mouse, flash drive, or external monitor. Despite the location, the Omen does offer a good selection of ports, with four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort jacks for connecting external monitors, and a headset combo jack. The one side-mounted feature, on the right, is an SD card slot.

Internally, the laptop is outfitted with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The Omen 15 has no Ethernet port, but it does come with a USB Ethernet adapter for those times you need a wired connection. Above the display is a built-in webcam that captures 1,920-by-1,080 video at 30 frames per second (fps). For storage there’s a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), connected via PCI rather than SATA for faster data transfer speeds.

Something of a surprise: The Omen 15 isn’t preloaded with much in the way of software and apps. Many mainstream companies tend to stick with their usual software load when selling a gaming system, resulting in premium-priced machines that feel compromised with unwanted bloat. But the Omen 15 comes with 30-day trials of McAfee Security and Office 365, and little else aside from a dashboard that manages keyboard customization, performance monitoring, and driver controls. HP covers the Omen with a one-year warranty.

PERFORMANCE AND CONCLUSIONS
The Omen 15 is outfitted with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor that can run up to 3.5GHz in Turbo mode. With 16GB of RAM and the aforementioned PCI-connected SSD, the Omen 15 scored 3,400 in PCMark 8 Work Conventional; the Acer V 15 Nitro managed only 3,160 and the Maingear Pulse 15 3,047. Likewise, the Omen 15 finished our Photoshop CS6 test in just 3 minutes, 24 seconds, well ahead of most competing systems.
The level of gaming muscle provided by the HP Omen 15 does a lot to close the gap between mainstream manufacturers and boutique vendors.
The real question, however, is gaming performance. With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU and 4GB of dedicated memory, the Omen is decent: slightly ahead of the similarly equipped Acer V 15 Nitro and the Lenovo Y50 Touch, which also use the GTX 860M. In 3DMark the Omen 15 scored 15,651 on CloudGate and 1,840 on FireStrike. In gaming tests with basic 1,366-by-768 resolution, the Omen cranked through Heaven at 66fps and Valley at 79fps. At 1,920-by-1,080 resolution with anti-aliasing on, those rates dropped to 22fps in Heaven and 25fps in Valley; you can play current-generation games at full HD, but you may need to back off on the eye candy. This performance is all quite respectable, but the GTX 860M is an entry-level gaming GPU. At this price range, you might also consider the Maingear Pulse 15 and the Digital Storm Krypton, which respectively use Nvidia’s more powerful 870M and 880M.

In our battery rundown test, the Omen 15 lasted 4 hours, 17 minutes, which is on the longer end of the spectrum for a gaming laptop. In comparison, the Maingear Pulse 15 lasted 3:13, the Acer V 15 Nitro 4:10, and the Lenovo Y50 Touch 4:33.

Although the HP Omen 15 easily outstrips the entrylevel gaming rigs from other mainstream manufacturers like Acer and Lenovo, this model is priced to compete with systems from gaming specialists and those still win the day. As such, the Editors’ Choice Digital Storm Krypton keeps its top spot, but the level of gaming muscle provided by the HP Omen 15 does a lot to close the gap between mainstream manufacturers and boutique vendors.

Price: $2,099

8/10

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