HP Omen Enters Sub-$1000 Gaming Laptop Arena

HP has ominous intentions for budget gamers--and that's a great thing. Following the launch of last year's Omen gaming laptop, Starting July 10, HP is expanding the line to include several new gaming laptops that vary in size and price, including a 15.6-inch and a 17.3-inch notebook that start at $899 and $979 respectively. The new strategy allows the company to reach gamers at every budget, without sacrificing too much power or quality.

I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with both laptops during a recent press event, and I've got to say that HP might be on to something with its new approach.

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Outside of the obvious size difference, the new Omen laptops are virtually identical. In the interest of sparing shopper's wallets, HP swathed both devices in a faux carbon fiber, dubbed shadow mesh. The material is smooth and cool to the touch and provides a solid grip. Instead of the typical HP logo, these Omens are branded with a shiny red Voodoo logo -- a callback to VoodooPC, the gaming PC maker HP purchased back in 2006.

The notebooks' interior serves up more shadow mesh accentuated by a dragon-red backlit keyboard. HP kept a version of the 2014 Omen's hinges for this new crop of the devices. However, they're a little thick for my taste and lack the sweet blue tinge that made them look like they'd been kissed by hellfire.

The 15.6-inch Omen has a starting weight of 4.6 pounds with a thickness of 0.96 inches. That's on a par with the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition (5.1 pounds, 15.4 x 10.3 x 0.9-inches). The 17.3-inch version weighs 6.3 pounds and is 1.17 inches thick, which puts it in distance of the Acer Predator 17 (7.5 pounds, 15.4 x 11.8 x 1.5 inches) or the Gigabyte P37X (6.7 pounds, 16.4 x 11.2 x 0.88 inches).

Display and Audio

Both iterations of the Omen are available in full HD (1920 x 1080) or a 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS display. The 4K versions I encountered appeared bright with crisp detail and vivid color. A slow pan of a forest of pine trees allowed me to enjoy the sun-dappled ground and dark green foliage.

HP is flaunting its recent partnership with Bang & Olufsen, adding the specially-tuned speakers to both systems and augmenting it with its own Audio Boost technology. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to give the speakers a test listen, but I'm looking forward to the doing so when our review unit arrives. 

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Since both Omens are sub-$1000 devices, you're not going to get the most powerful specs. However, what is packaged with the laptops should deliver solid multitasking capabilities and frame rates, allowing  you to play most titles at medium or high settings.

Each notebook will be outfitted with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with up to 16GB of RAM, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics. Gamers will have several storage options to choose from including up to a 512GB PCIe SSD or 2TB for single storage or up to a 4TB hard drive with 128GB solid-state hybrid drive. 

Ports and Features

The Omen is designed to accommodate all your gaming needs, including supporting a 4K monitor. The laptops will feature a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, an SD reader and an HDMI 2.0 port. In terms of connectivity, the notebooks will have Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11 a/c. 

Certain configurations of the Omen will be outfitted with an Intel RealSense camera that will allow for some novel ways of gaming and live streaming. 

Battery Life

HP claims the Omen laptops will have 10 hours of battery life on certain models. Most gaming laptops fall short of their lofty battery claims, but maybe HP will prove us wrong on this one. The notebooks will also feature Fast Charge, which is supposed to recharge up to 90 percent of your battery in 90 minutes when the system is shut down. 

Bottom Line

Gamers love having a powerful rig that can deliver high frame rates and crisp graphics. However, they might not always have the money for the top-of-the-line system. HP is hoping its sub-$1000 Omens can split the difference, delivering strong mid-level performance at a budget-friend price. Throw in a large amount of storage, an optional RealSense camera and a lovely 4K display and HP might have a winner on its hands. However, those looking for more oomph will have to hold out until this summer for the high-performance Omen X laptop.

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.