HP’s OMEN 17 is an epic gaming laptop that needs just a tweak or two

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The PC gaming space is dominated by a few enthusiast brands and is further supplemented by far more serious custom builds. HP Inc. isn’t a name that comes to mind when you think of “enthusiast PC gaming system,” but the more endearing folks at HP think that recent tweaks made to OMEN gaming brand can change brand perception in the eyes of PC gamers, like myself.

It turns out, they’re eerily close to gaining gamers’ respect with the OMEN 17, but there is some room for a little more.

Price as reviewed: $1,799 at HP.com

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Basics

  • 17.3″ 4K G-Sync screen (3840 x 2160p)
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ clocked @ 2.60GHz
  • 16GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics
  • 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
  • Three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort, mic/headphone ports, with Ethernet and SD card slot
  • Red-backlit keys and carbon fiber palm rest
  • Bang & Olufsen quad speakers

Using it as a (great) gaming PC

dsc_3006The best thing about using a highly capable gaming PC is the initial feeling that arises, telling you that you can throw anything at it. Think about it: there’s tons of storage space, a fast quad-core processor, a 4K screen and a respectable GPU — play games, I shall.

In the OMEN 17’s case that meant loading Arma 3: Apex, Rainbow Six: Siege and a press copy of Battlefield 1. The goal: run them all at native 4K resolution with G-Sync and maximum settings (via preset, not custom input).

All three of the aforementioned are military simulation/first-person shooter games with high hardware requirements, namely Battlefield and Arma. Still, it worked out pretty well: Siege ran at a buttery 60-80fps, while Arma 3: Apex a still comfortable 40-65 frames per second.

But of all three titles, Battlefield 1 is the latest and most visually impressive, excluding scale, where Arma has it beat. Running in DirectX 12 mode, with all settings cranked up, the OMEN 17 ran it and it looked incredible. There’s no doubt that this particular OMEN configuration can do a lot in the gaming space — and that’s a good thing.

dsc_3035Meanwhile, for those of you who don’t play games or aren’t interested in VR, or even more strangely, want a gaming computer for the high processing power and nothing more, then the OMEN 17 will do all of that on Windows 10.

Battery life isn’t anything to speak of, and there’s no optical drive, but HP does bundle an external USB DVD-RW drive in the box, which I think is rather thoughtful (and almost unheard of) and definitely useful, since you can use it with any other computer hardware you may have.

(A few) Off-putting things

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Let’s cut straight to the icky stuff and speak of them in detail. The touchpad, screen hinge and power brick are among some of OMEN 17’s most glaring errors. The rest fall into obscurity (like lack of USB-C ports) once you get used to the idea that despite all of its power, a laptop is still restricted to its chassis. Which is interesting, because the only faults I have with the OMEN are with its build.

Carbon fiber lid and palm rests are great, don’t get me wrong, but a wobbly screen hinge isn’t. Considering HP makes the x360 laptops with 360° hinges, I thought that at least some of that knowledge would be imparted here. In most cases, it might not matter, but if you’ve upgraded the OMEN 17’s screen to 4K quality, then you eventually won’t be fond of it.

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Next up, the touchpad: for gaming, it’s useless. This goes for almost any gaming laptop, but especially here, so the best thing would be to invest in a gaming mouse — any gamer would, you should be no different.

The last of my gripes: the power brick. It’s bigger than any power brick for a laptop I’ve ever seen. Besides the electrical requirements, I’d say that this is HP’s way of saying keep the OMEN 17 at a desk and never move it.

Bottom line

dsc_3016By all means, if you have no reservations about the size and weight that a GTX 1070-equipped, 17-inch laptop provides, then take aim at the OMEN 17.

You can upgrade your RAM in the future (via a user-removable latch on its underside) while also being mildly comforted that both the processor and GPU will be capable of running through many DirectX 12-enabled titles for at least 1-2 years, without grinding to a sputtering halt.

I personally would delegate the $1,800 price tag of this system toward building a custom gaming desktop, but if your requirements are for a gaming laptop that can act as a desktop replacement, then here is your vessel.