Laptop Review: HP Omen 17
I like to think I’m an open-minded individual. Gaming is gaming, whether your device of choice is a mobile, a laptop, or a desktop you built yourself. As long as it’s not the original Xbox One, you are within your rights to call it a gaming device [GASP. — ed]. But I can’t deny that late at night, when I’m in bed alone with my thoughts and the cold of winter to keep me company, I feel a sense of trepidation when thinking of gaming laptops (I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks of gaming laptops before bed, right?). They were never any good, so why should I expect any less than an expensive, underperforming, overheating mess? I’m happy to report that I sleep much more peacefully after trying out this one.
The Omen series is HP’s attempt at catering to the high-end gaming market. Not necessarily limited to the high-end gaming laptop market either, because as this review will show, the Omen 17 is absolutely the total package, a laptop that can easily compete with its brethren in the high-end laptop space, while also trading punches with equivalent desktops.
The Omen 17 has all of the ostentatiously gamer-forward aesthetics you would expect, and while I might find it unimpressive — especially the angular bevel design that makes flipping the lid feel more stressful than it should — I do understand the target market HP is shooting for, and I can’t argue the premium feel of it all. It’s heavy, it has obnoxious stickers touting RTX, 144Hz, and Bang & Olufsen audio, it comes in a fancy box, but most importantly, it has that Omen logo to let everyone know that this right here is a Gaming Laptop™, boys.
The Omen 17 sports Intel’s 9th-gen i7-9750 for processing, paired with 16GB of DDR4 memory, and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 on rendering duty. It also ships with two hard drives, a 512GB NVMe SSD for Windows (but I mean, there’s space for games, except for Call of Duty Modern Warfare), and a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD no doubt intended for Call of Duty Modern Warfare.
In prolonged gaming sessions, this combination of hardware was solid enough to easily hit 144fps at 1080p Ultra settings without RTX enabled, or 60fps with RTX Ultra and DLSS enabled. It never broke a sweat no matter what I threw at it, from isometric RPGs to third person shooters to multiplayer arenas to open world racers. It was the absolute business under the hood, never running too loud or too hot to become a serious issue. This only got better when I stopped gaming, and tried out some media that better took advantage of the audiovisual experience on offer.
Let’s talk about the screen first, because I am thoroughly impressed with this one. The 17-inch 1080p 144Hz IPS panel features Antiglare, and 300 nits of brightness. This is good enough for HDR video (though sadly, not games) which made for cosy evenings of YouTube ignoring my actual big-screen TV in favour of this little Flippy McLaptop. Switching back to SDR was relatively painless, with idyllic colour reproduction and smoothness thanks to that fantastic 144Hz IPS panel.
The audio was also an omega-level surprise. I typically don’t even bother mentioning laptop audio because it’s so tragically awful, but whatever necromancy HP and Bang & Olufsen have dabbled with has utterly paid off here. For the first time in my life, I can safely recommend speakers on a laptop, without resorting to a headset. Couple that with the built-in webcam, and you actually won’t need a headset ninety-nine percent of the time. At least until you decide it’s time for a pants-shitting, headphones-only experience like Hellblade, or Binging with Babish, at which point the audio ports come into play.
There is minor customisability on offer using the Omen Control Panel, a remarkably clean and useful tool that provides some nice-to-haves, such as hardware monitoring, audio equaliser settings, LED backlight customisation, and the actually-useful-this-time “Battery — Normal — Performance” mode switcher. A thoroughly impressive tool, and something I wish more brands did equally well. Oh, they do try.
In a fitting twist of fate from my opening paragraph, the biggest flaw in play with this laptop was the battery. It doesn’t last very long, totalling only four hours of productivity from 100%, and running on battery power tanks gaming due to aggressive throttling of the GPU. This is understandable given the power-hungry hardware in play, but it necessitates having the laptop connected at all times when gaming. Further to this, the actual port that the charging cable connects to isn’t the best, so the cable would fall out when moving the laptop around, forcing me to avoid moving it whenever possible.
What does that look like in your mind? A gaming device that cannot be moved around. Probably not a laptop, right?
Still, I see this as the tiniest set of nitpicks in an otherwise overwhelmingly attractive package. The strongest argument in the Omen 17’s favour is that despite being perched next to my 1440p 144Hz ultra-spec gaming desktop (not a humblebrag, this thing took me years to build) I often found myself gravitating towards the laptop when I had a cool video I wanted to watch, or when I wanted to experience games that supported DXR. Furthermore, because it’s a 1080p laptop capable of 144Hz, I found the gaming experience much more stable too.
If we wanted to argue semantics, we could talk about the RRP for the laptop. I often struggle with this myself, because you can often find better specs on a desktop for the same price, but with a laptop you inherit none of the complexity of the desktop. If both are within the same price ballpark, surely the choice should be up to the consumer? For me, the Omen 17 is as close to 1080p 144Hz perfection as gaming laptops get, and if I had the cash to spare, I wouldn’t hesitate.