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HP Omen 15 review: A gaming laptop for everyone

From Engadget - September 7, 2017

Hardware

The last Omen notebook tried to downplay its gaming sensibility with a somewhat boring aesthetic. Perhaps that was in an effort to make it appeal to a broader audience, but it's not the sort of thing most gamers are looking for. The new Omen 15 has a more aggressive, "fighter jet" design that emphasizes sharp lines and angles instead of friendlier rounded corners. You can tell it's a gaming machine just by looking at it, which should make it more tempting to people who view their rigs like hot rods.

The Omen 15's case is still made of plastic -- not machined aluminum like the gorgeous 2014 model -- but it's mostly sturdy. The aesthetic is all black and crimson, with a touch of faux carbon fiber for good measure. It's an elegant design overall, but I am not sure how well it would hold up over time. I managed to somehow scratch the top of the case in the midst of this review, and I honestly have no idea how that happened. There's a bit of flex behind the Omen logo and the display as well, which makes me wonder how safe it would be if I were to stuff it into a laptop bag.

At 5.68 pounds, it's on the lighter end for full-fledged gaming laptops. You definitely wo not mistake the Omen 15 for an ultraportable, but it's easy to carry around. Additionally, HP applied NVIDIA's Max-Q design philosophy, which is one reason why it's so portable. The Omen 15 does not take Max-Q as far as ASUS' Zephyrus laptop, though, which comes in under five pounds and packs in more-powerful hardware.

As for ports, the Omen 15 includes three USB 3.0 connections, a USB-C socket with optional Thunderbolt connectivity, an SD card reader and an Ethernet jack. It also has full-size HDMI and Mini DisplayPort connections for video output. If you want to upgrade later on, you can also remove the bottom of the laptop to swap out its SSD, hard drive and RAM -- in theory, at least, since some of the tiny screws would not budge when I tried to open the case. Even worse, they ended up getting stripped, which means a Phillips-head screwdriver ca not grip them anymore.

Keyboard and trackpad

To give the laptop more of a premium feel, HP draped a layer of aluminum around the keyboard and trackpad, both of which are also significantly improved over last year's. The keyboard feels great to type on, with a decent amount of travel. And it's also very responsive for games: I felt just as capable maneuvering through Overwatch matches as I do on my desktop keyboard.

Sure, it's not mechanical, but you have to step up to far more expensive gaming laptops for that (e.g., HP's huge Omen X). There's a full number pad on the right side of the keyboard, as well as a crimson backlight for when you are gaming in the dark. HP claims it offers "26-key rollover anti-ghosting," which means it can accept that many key commands at once without mistaking any inputs. That's particularly useful for fast typists and gamers who need to hit a plenty of keys often.

The Omen 15's touchpad is smooth and accurate for all of your productivity needs, and its two buttons are also very responsive. While you will still need a decent mouse for playing most games, I particularly appreciated the touchpad. Plenty of Windows machines tend to skimp on them, especially gaming laptops.

Display and sound

Performance and battery life

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