Now this is a good Omen. HP's latest entry in its Omen line of laptops gives the 17-inch gaming machine a drastic, yet welcome redesign. Instead of playing it safe, the Omen 17 sports a daring look that's sure to turn heads. And the shock and awe doesn't stop there, as the company has added Nvidia's powerful GTX 1070 GPU and paired it with an equally robust Intel Core i7 processor and a crazy-fast SSD. The result is one of the best gaming laptops that's capable of delivering showstopping performance whether you're playing games or crunching numbers.
Design: The Reinvention of Omen
Va va va voom! The HP has given the Omen 17 a much-needed design overhaul. Instead of the safe, frumpy solid-carbon-fiber exterior from previous iterations, HP chose to go bold. It was the right decision. You'll still get your carbon fiber on the lid; the majority of the panel is made from the black material. The rest is made from brushed black plastic, which takes away from that premium look HP is going for.
The glossy fire-engine-red Voodoo logo gleams in the top-center panel accentuated by the four blood-red matte darts forming an X at the center of the lid. The lid then angles down gently with the center portion seamlessly transitioning into the hinge, with Omen stamped along the center. Meanwhile, the vents are doing their best impression of a high-powered super car.
The Omen 17's interior panel is made of black brushed aluminum and is cool to the touch. The large keyboard with its red-lined keys is inset into a shallow depression in the deck. The power button, shaped like a glossy parallelogram, sits in the top left corner, leaving the bright-red Omen in the center and branding for Bang & Olufsen on the right. Below the keyboard is the silver chrome-lined touchpad. My favorite part of the interior is the small Voodoo emblem positioned along the bottom-center bezel. It holds your gaze as if it were casting a spell.
Like most desktop replacements, the Omen 17 is beset with ports, including a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the right and a power jack. You'll find another USB 3.0 port on the left along with a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort, an SD card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, jacks for a headset and microphone, and a security lock slot.
At 8.2 pounds, the 16.7 x 12 x 1.3-inch Omen 17 is in the middle of the pack. It's lighter than the Lenovo Legion Y920 (10.1, 16.8 x 12.1 x 1.4 inches) and Alienware 17 (9.6 pounds, 16.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches) but heavier than the Gigabyte P57Xv7 (7.2 pounds, 16.7 x 11.4 x 1.1 inches.
Prepare for a sumptuous sea of color from the Omen 17's 3840 x 2160 matte 17.3-inch display. Watching the 4K Tears of Steel short, I was blown away at how clear some of the more minute details were. For example, I could see individual strands of hair in the lab tech's dreads as well as the dust caked into the creases of his white smock. I was also taken by the overall vibrancy of the scene, especially the prominently featured neon pink and blue overlays from the futuristic computers.
But the real wow moments came once I started playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. As Geralt rode his horse to his next destination, the animal's chestnut brown and black haunches gleamed in the faint moonlight. I hit a forest clearing, just in time to look up and see the pale yellow moon peak out from behind a thicket of wispy clouds. Soon, that night sky transitioned into dawn, calling forth a bright red orb that painted the sky in shades of rose, tangerine and lemon before settling into a clear blue horizon.
The Omen's panel is capable of reproducing an insane 176 percent of the sRGB gamut. That means it's more vivid than the desktop-replacement average of 130 percent. It's also better than the Y920 (119 percent), the Alienware 17 (113 percent) and the P57Xv7 (112 percent).
However, that matte display isn't as bright as I typically like even though it topped the 291 nit average. The P57Xv7, the Alienware 17 and the Y920 were much brighter at 314, 340 and 362 nits each.
Usually I'm not a fan of bottom-mounted speakers, but the Omen HP makes a compelling case for the placement. Located on the bottom-front edge of the laptop, the pair of Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers easily filled the test lab with loud, clear audio. SZA's floaty vocal was crisp and clean on "The Weekend," as were the cymbals and piano. The bass was a little weak, but forgivable.
That overall rich sound carried over into the Witcher 3, allowing me to enjoy the gentle swell of violins as I rode looking for my next adventure. As a storm blew in, I could hear the plants in a nearby wheat field whip wildly around, punctuated by the heavy clump of my horse's hooves against the dirt road.
As nice as the speakers sounded, I did find a small problem. When I was directly in front of the speakers, I noticed that the previously clear audio sounded crowded and a bit muffled. I adjusted a few settings in the Omen Audio Control app to correct this issue. And while I got a little more bass out of the system, that didn't help with the overall quality.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Omen 17's overall design is definitely future-forward, but in some ways, its keyboard is stuck in the past. I'm disappointed that HP hasn't jumped on the customizable backlighting bandwagon with the rest of its competition. Instead, I'm left with the white backlit keys, which glowing against red-lined keys.
The keys are bright enough that you can see them in a darkened setting, but it would have been nice if HP had added a pop of color outside of the typical gamer black and red. At least the W,A,S,D keys are red with white lettering to ensure gamers can quickly find them.
The Omen 17 serves up a 1.5-millimeter key travel and 68 grams of actuation force that makes for a comfortable typing experience.
In relation to the massive palm rest, the 4 x 2.2-inch touchpad seems small. But it was big enough to support my long fingers as I navigated the desktop. Gestures such as two-finger rotate and scroll and three-finger swipe performed perfectly. The pair of discrete mouse buttons are a bit too skinny for my tastes, but provided firm, springy feedback.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
HP's pulling out the big guns with the Omen's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM. That means this notebook is more than capable of the delivering the high performance gamers expect from premium gaming desktops, and it supports virtual-reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Speaking of VR, this laptop scored 10.4 on the SteamVR Performance Test, surpassing the 9.4 category average. With their own GTX 1070 GPUs, the Alienware 17 and Y920 obtained 10.9 and 10.6, respectively. When I started playing a round of Robo Recall, I enjoyed smooth renderings, which played up the sparks from all the robot wreckage I was creating. And when the action really got heavy with hordes of defective robots swarming from every angle, forcing me to teleport wildly throughout the board, I never noticed any juddering.
The Omen 17 also held its own on our traditional gaming benchmarks, hitting 52 frames per second (fps) on our Rise of the Tomb Raider test (1920 x 1080, Very High), matching the average. It managed to slightly edge out the Alienware 17 and the P57Xv7, which both notched 50 fps. But the Y920 took the win with 59 fps.
When we ran the Hitman benchmark, the Omen 17 achieved an impressive 104 fps, sailing past the 82-fps average as well as the Alienware 17 (89 fps) and the P57Xv7 (76 fps). But the Y920 was several frames higher at 107 fps.
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On the Grand Theft Auto V test, the Omen 17 obtained 58 fps, missing the 70-fps average. The Y920 and P57Xv7 tied at 72 fps, while the Alienware 17 obtained 89 fps. The Omen 17 performed better on the Metro: Last Light test with a score of 66 fps, which was enough to beat the P57Xv7 and category average of 57 fps. However, the Alienware 17 and the Y920 performed slightly better at 67 and 69 fps.
Omen Command Center
As proof of its commitment to better graphics and overall performance, HP preinstalled its Omen Command Center software on the laptop. Similar to other higher-end gaming laptops, the software lets you check the CPU and GPU temperature. However, it lacks an overclocking tab so you can squeeze every drop of performance out of that GTX 1070. The software also allows you create custom macros and set network priority so your games have access to the fastest internet bandwidth.
HP outfitted the Omen 17 with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and 32GB of RAM. While neither is overclockable, together they make quite the multitasking monster. I streamed an episode of BoJack Horseman on Netflix, with 30 additional Google Chrome tabs open running a myriad of messaging and social media apps with a few Twitch streams. The system was unbothered, as I saw nary a hint of lag.
The Omen 17 also had a great showing on our synthetic tests, scoring 14,306 on Geekbench 4, topping the 13,108 desktop-replacement average and the P57Xv7's (Core i7-7700HQ) 12,387. The Alienware 17 and the Y920 and their overclockable 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK CPUs weren't too far behind at 14,020 and 14,051, respectively.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Omen paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 13 seconds, which is just enough to stay ahead of the 3:24 category average. The Y920, the P57Xv7 and the Alienware 17 were a bit slower with times of 3:48, 3:38 and 3:21.
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On our file copy test, the Omen 17's 512GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 9 seconds for a transfer rate of 565 megabytes per second. That's impressive, especially when you compare it to the 496.1 MBps average the Alienware 17's (512GB PCIe SSD) 282 MBps, and the P57Xv7's (256GB M.2 SSD) 137 MBps. However, the Y920 and its 512GB PCIe SSD turned in a blistering speed of 636.2 MBps
What's big and powerful and doesn't last long on a charge? If you guessed the Omen 17, you're correct. The desktop replacement lasted only 2 hours and 18 minutes on our battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's far shorter than the 4:20 average as well as the times posted by the P57Xv7 (2:36), the Alienware 17 (2:46) and the Y920 (3:02).
The Omen 17's redesign goes deeper than the exterior aesthetic. HP also did some tinkering with the cooling system, adding a larger pair of fans with four heat pipes that allow for better airflow. There's a small whirring noise when you start playing games, but it's not too distracting.
I spent 15 minutes fighting bandits in Witcher 3. After which I measured key spots on the notebook, including the touchpad, which registered a cool 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The center of the keyboard and undercarriage were considerably hotter at 103 and 102 degrees, respectively. However, thanks to the plastic bottom, I never felt uncomfortable using the Omen 17 in my lap.
When it's not working hard, rendering graphics and delivering smooth frame rates, the Omen 17 remains fairly cool. After 15 minutes of streaming a 1080p YouTube video, the touchpad reached 79 degrees while the space between the G and H keys and bottom hit 91 and 93 degrees, respectively.
It's not the sharpest webcam I've used, but it's definitely one of the more accurate ones.
The 1920 x 1080 integrated camera on the Omen 17 did a fantastic job of capturing my bright red dress as well as my chocolate complexion and purple hair. However, there is a noticeable amount of visual noise.
Software and Warranty
Since it's a gaming laptop, the Omen 17 doesn't carry the typical bloatware you'd find on mainstream laptops. That's not to say there isn't any at all. The system has Asphalt 8, Minecraft, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Bubble Witch 3, Sketchbook, Drawboard PDF and Netflix preinstalled.
Some of the more useful programs come from HP. One such program is JumpStart, which helps you register your laptop for warranty purposes and provides helpful tips for using your new notebook. Another is HP Orbit, which lets you transfer files between your laptop and a mobile device via Wi-Fi or LAN. HP Support System constantly checks for new drivers and updates, and just in case of a system crash, there's Recovery Manager and Recovery Media Creation to help recoup your losses.
Other helpful apps include Dropbox, which offers 25GB of storage upon sign-in and a 30-day free trial of McAfee LiveSafe.
The $1,899 version of the HP Omen 17 I reviewed comes configured with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and 32GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 4K display.
The $1,099 base model keeps the CPU, but bumps the RAM, storage and GPU down considerably to 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU. It also has a 1080p panel instead of a 4K screen. The $1,499 middle child bumps the RAM up to 16GB, a 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, and an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU with 8GB of VRAM.
No matter what version of the HP Omen 17 you pick, HP made sure that you can future-proof your system by adding a bottom-mounted access panel. Simply remove the screw, and you can replace the RAM, hard drive or SSD, which comes in handy if you want to expand the storage or squeeze out a bit more CPU performance.
Now that's what I'm talking about! After several iterations of Omens with handsome but safe designs and mid-level specs, HP is throwing caution to the wind. The $1,899 HP Omen 17 boasts an avant-garde design that's a definite conversation starter. But beyond the new look lies a vivid 4K display, blistering-fast SSD, Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, making this a bona fide gaming and multitasking powerhouse.
If you're hankering for even more power, an Nvidia G-Sync display and a little more battery life, you'll want to check out the $2,229 Lenovo Legion Y920. But if you're looking for a powerful gaming laptop that's relatively affordable with no shortage of panache, the HP Omen 17 is a great choice.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag