With budget gaming laptops, you get what you pay for. The HP Omen 15t ($849 as tested) is a capable machine that can play the latest games at 1080p, and you get this solid performance in a sleek and portable design. But you know HP had to make some sacrifices to reach this price, and those include a dim display and shallow keyboard. The Omen 15t is a solid choice for entry-level gamers, but it's not our top pick under $1,000.
Design: Sleek and Light
When carbon fiber meets soft touch, magic happens. The combination just feels so good against my fingers that I took some extra time running my fingers across the lid. The blood-red Voodoo logo, referencing the brand's gaming roots, glistened seductively in the light against the inky-black surface.
But alas, it was time to open the lid and get on with the review. And I was relatively happy I did. The deck is awash with a smooth black finish with a faux carbon-fiber pattern, encasing the keyboard and touchpad. Red lettering toward the bottom of the deck reminds you that this is indeed an Omen and it's using Bang & Olufsen speakers and software. You'll find that the power button sits in the top left corner of the deck next to the speaker grille. The two chrome, plastic hinges are a bit on the chunky side and are a little out of place against the ebony beauty.
The Omen 15t has enough ports to support a small gaming station, including the USB 3.0 port, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card reader and a power jack on the right. Along the left, you'll find a pair of USB 3.0 ports with a headset jack and a secure lock slot.
The 15.1 x 9.9 x 1-inch Omen 15t is noticeably lighter than competing systems. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (15.2 x 10.8 x 1 inches) weighs a hefty 5.8 pounds, while the Asus ROG Strix GL553VD (15.1 x 10 x 1.2 inches) and Acer Aspire VX 15 (15.3 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches) are 5.6 and 5.4 pounds.
Display: Colorful but Dim
Somehow, the Omen 15t's matte, 1920 x 1080 panel manages to deliver decent color despite its lack of brightness. As I watched the full-HD trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on the 15.6-inch screen, I was immediately transfixed by the blue and red rock outcroppings that jutted upward toward a multicolored pastel plume of clouds floating in a crystal-blue sky. Although I could make out the more pronounced cracks in the rock face, the finer fissures were harder to discern.
As I played Mass Effect: Andromeda, the normally vivid oranges and blues of Habitat 7 were somewhat muted. Details, however, were sharp enough that I could see the fine lines in Ryder's shield as it reformed when I was taking a break from the action.
The Omen's 15.6-inch display can reproduce only 71 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is below the 95 percent mainstream average. Still, it was enough to edge in front of the Acer VX 15 (65 percent) and the Dell Inspiron 15 (67 percent), but not the Strix, with its vivid 122 percent.
From my viewing experience, I wasn't too surprised to discover that the Omen 15t's screen notched a below-average result on the brightness test. At 247 nits, it matched the VX 15 but was nowhere near the 278-nit average. The Strix and Inspiron 15 did much better, at 269 and 253 nits.
Audio: Where's the Oomph?
Equipped with a pair of top-mounted speakers and subwoofer along its undercarriage, the Omen 15t delivers serviceable audio. It wasn't quite able to fill my bedroom with audio, even at maximum volume. As I listened to Stevie Wonder's Overjoyed, I could hear the musicians iconic voice loud and clear. However, certain strings, like the violins and harp, sounded a bit washed out compared to the piano, and I could barely hear the maracas despite trying to augment the sound with the preinstalled Bang & Olufsen Audio control panel.
When I was in the midst of a heavy firefight during Mass Effect: Andromeda, I noticed that the normally robust blasts sounded a bit hollow. Dialogue among the characters was crisp and clear, but the background music sounded somewhat submerged. It's worth noting that despite this machine being a gaming notebook of sorts, neither HP nor Bang & Olufsen thought to add a gaming preset for the Omen line.
Keyboard and TouchPad: Mixed Results
As inviting as the glowing red backlighting on the Omen 15t's black, island-style keyboard is, the actual typing experience leaves something to be desired. With 1.3 millimeters of travel (1.5-2mm minimum) and 61 grams of actuation force (60g minimum), the keyboard is shallow despite its slight clickiness. The lack of feedback made for a more deliberate typing pace, which dropped my typing speed from 65 words per minute to 56 wpm on the 10FastFingers typing test.
Some of my colleagues didn't like the textured surface of the Omen 15t's 4.7 x 2.5-inch Synaptics touchpad. But I really liked how the slightly grainy texture rubbed against my fingers. Thanks to the touchpad's wide dimensions, I had no problem performing multitouch gestures like pinch-zoom and three-finger flicking, commands that elicited fast, accurate response. I did encounter a fair amount of cursor jumping as I wrote the review, however.
The bottom edges of the touchpad were a bit mushy, but they performed their left- and right-click duties fairly well.
Gaming: Good on Modest Settings
Yes, you can explore uncharted galaxies in Mass Effect: Andromeda on Medium with the Omen 15t's entry-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU and 2GB of VRAM. If you go for anything higher than Medium, you're setting yourself up for blurry, stuttering disappointment.
The game played at smooth clip on Medium at 34 fps as I made my way through Habitat 7, dodging errant lightning bolts and fighting a hostile alien race. It's not the ideal 60 fps, but it was slightly above our 30-fps playability threshold. When I dared switch over to High, the laptop averaged 28 fps. This didn't produce serious stuttering, but there was definitely a lot of motion blur when I made any sudden turns. The frame rate rose to 40 fps on low, but who wants to play a game like this on such low settings?
Next, we ran our budget-laptop version of the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (1080p with high settings with SMAA anti-aliasing) on the Omen 15t instead of the regular test (1080p on high).
On the less rigorous test, the Omen 15t notched 43 fps on Tomb Raider, which matched the GTX 1050 GPU-powered Aspire VX 15. This was enough to overcome the 39-fps mainstream average and the Strix's 38 fps, but not the Inspiron 15 7000's score of 49 fps, with its GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
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During the regular test, the Omen 15t delivered only 22 fps, tying the Inspiron 15 7000, missing the 34-fps average and the playability threshold. Still that's better than the 16 and 18 fps obtained by the Aspire VX 15 and the Strix.
When we ran the Hitman benchmark, the Omen 15t managed to turn in 32 fps on High at 1080p. It's below the 57 fps average, but on a par with the Strix (30 fps) and the Inspiron 15 7000 (35 fps).
If you were hoping to get some VR time in with your Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you're going to be sorely disappointed, as the GTX 1050 GPU is by no means VR-ready. If you want virtual reality, you should invest in a system with at least an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU.
When you're not trying to liberate the galaxy or frag your foes, the Omen 15t switches over to its integrated Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU via Nvidia's Optimus technology.
Overall Performance: Solid for the Money
Thanks to the Omen 15t's 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor with 8GB of RAM, you can multitask to your heart's content. I had 18 open tabs in Google Chrome, including one streaming an episode of Chewing Gum on Netflix, while running a full-system scan in Windows Defender, and I saw only a hint of lag.
The Omen 15t hit 11,769 when we ran Geekbench 4, a synthetic performance test. That's better than the 11,556 mainstream average as well as the 10,363 and 7,898 put up by the 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ-powered Inspiron 15 7000 and Aspire VX 15. That wasn't enough, however, to top the Strix's (2.8-GHz Intel Core i5-7700HQ CPU) score of 12,253.
During the File Transfer test, the Omen 15t's 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive copied 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes for a transfer rate of 42.4 megabytes per second. That's well below the 192.7 MBps average as well as the scores compiled by the Strix (94.2MBps, 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive), Aspire VX 15 (103MBps, 256GB SSD) and Inspiron 15 7000 (106MBps, 256GB SSD).
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Omen 15t took 3 minutes and 48 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses, beating th 3:58 category average. However, the Aspire VX 15, Inspiron 15 7000 and Strix were all faster.
Battery Life: Good But Not Great
The Omen 15t lasted 5 hours and 34 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), which is short of the 7:04 mainstream average, but better than the Strix's 3:41. Still, both the Aspire VX 15 and Inspiron 15 7000 lasted longer, at 7:08 and 11:14, respectively.
Heat: Pretty Cool
When you're not gaming, the Omen 15t maintains a lap-friendly temperature. After 15 minutes, the touchpad, space between the G and H key, and bottom measured 82, 89 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The 720p integrated webcam takes images and video that are relatively color-accurate, but plagued by graininess. You could easily make out the red and blue stripes on my shirt. However, the fuzziness throughout the whole of the shot made it hard to make out finer details like my eyebrows.
Software and Warranty: A Bit Much
Unlike most gaming laptops, the Omen 15t has quite a bit of preloaded software. The HP-branded apps include Recovery Manager, Support Assistant and Orbit, which allows you to transfer files between your laptop and mobile device.
The bulk of your gaming needs will be taken care of by Nvidia's GeForce Experience, which offers a suite of apps including Game Optimization, Battery Boost and ShadowPlay in case you want to live-stream your gaming prowess.
The only other worthwhile app is Dropbox, which comes with 25GB of cloud storage free for a year. The rest of the software is pretty much bloatware: Facebook, Twitter, Asphalt 8, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Netflix, Sling, Paradise Bay and Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition.
Configurations: Get This Model
I reviewed the $849 base model of the HP Omen 15t, which has a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU with 2GB of VRAM and a 1920 x 1080 display. The $1,299 version of the laptop doubles the RAM, adds a 128GB M.2 SSD to the hard drive, increases the GTX 1050 GPU's VRAM to 4GB and upgrades the display to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution.
HP also lets you tweak memory with a 128GB M.2 SSD and 2TB 5,400-rpm hard drive ($45), a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD ($100), or a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive ($170).
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To get the best specs possible while keeping things fairly affordable, I'd recommend upgrading to the $90 4K panel and the $190 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM. That brings the grand total to $1,089, which is slightly above the sub-$1000 threshold, but you're getting a better display and more powerful graphics card.
The HP Omen 15t has a few things going for it, the biggest of which being the price. For $849, you get a lightweight and stylish 15-inch system that can play games at 1080p on lower settings and can transition to a good productivity machine when you need it. However, a dim display, slow transfer speeds and below-average battery life are more hindrances than mere compromises.
If you want to stick to the sub-$1,000 budget, get the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, which, for the same price, offers nearly 12 hours of battery life with better overall and gaming performance. However, the Dell's screen leaves much to be desired. If you're interested in VR, I'd recommend the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro. It's more expensive, at $1,399, but has a beefier virtual reality-ready Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with a lovely display in a slick 4.2-pound chassis.
If you want a system that can play games reasonably well without cleaning out your bank account, the HP Omen 15t is worth a look But there are better options.