Capable mainstream gaming laptop

The HP Omen 15 is the PC-maker's latest attempt at getting a slice of the booming gaming market. It takes after last year's mainstream Omen gaming laptops rather than the ultra-slim variant that I tried four years ago.

From its appearance, you can deduce that it is closer in features and pricing to mid-range gaming laptops from mainstream PC vendors such as Lenovo and Acer, than the exotic, high-end models from gaming brands like Alienware and Razer.

For one thing, it still looks relatively chunky, though HP has shaved the weight by a few hundred grams compared with its predecessor. Aesthetics wise, it is similar to the previous version, sporting an angular, busy chassis decked in red and black.

Some of the ports, like the Ethernet port, and display outputs have been shifted to the rear of the new Omen. This means less clutter at the sides from connected devices and cables and, hence, adequate space for gamers to freely move their mouse.

HP has also upgraded the processor from a quad-core model to the latest six-core chip from Intel.

The keyboard now offers four customisable backlit zones, instead of the single backlight on last year's model. It is a middle-of-the-road solution as it does not have the individually backlit keys offered by pricier gaming laptops .

Users can select their preferred backlight colour using the Omen Command Centre software. However, the app does not have any special lighting effects, such as the ability to cycle through multiple colours, unlike its competitors.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $2,799

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3, 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, LAN port, SD card reader, audio jacks

    BATTERY: 70 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 1/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The app has a few other useful tricks. A Network Booster feature can prioritise the bandwidth for the currently running app, like a game, over background apps.

And if the Omen is connected to your home router by both Wi-Fi and Ethernet cable, a Dual Force feature can be enabled to tap both connections for the best networking performance.

The keyboard has good depth and can register unlimited simultaneous key presses. The touchpad has two distinct buttons that are surprisingly tactile.

Its 15.6-inch display is surrounded by fairly thin bezels. It has good viewing angles, as expected of an in-plane switching screen. More importantly for gamers, it has a high 144Hz refresh rate for a smooth gameplay experience as long as the game is running above 60 frames per second (fps).

In my testing, the mid-range Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip in the Omen can probably achieve such high frame rates with the right settings.

At the maximum graphical setting (Ultra) in Doom, the Omen managed an average frame rate of about 96 fps. In Crysis 3, it scored about 64fps at Very High setting. Both games were running at the laptop's native 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen resolution.

I installed these games in the Omen's primary solid-state drive (256GB) for the best performance. Those with a larger games library can tap the secondary 2TB hard drive for extra storage, though you should know it is a much slower 5,400rpm drive.

Its internal fans are audible while running a game, but at least the palm rest feels relatively cool. The keys, however, are slightly warm - I would recommend avoiding the uncomfortably hot zone above the keyboard.

Battery life is unsurprisingly short at two hours 40 minutes in our video-loop test.

• Verdict: The price has gone up with the improvements to Omen 15. But it is still a capable, mid-tier gaming laptop for mainstream users.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Capable mainstream gaming laptop'. Print Edition | Subscribe