Senior Editor for North America
Oct 4, 2020 08:00 EDT
with 8 comments
Announced back in June, HP’s OMEN 15 has an all-new design. Right on the lid is a new OMEN logo, and the metallic diamond seems to be symbolic for a new low-profile look. It also comes in a chassis that has an 8% smaller footprint than its predecessor, and it’s 11% thinner.
With the OMEN 15, you get a choice between Intel’s Comet Lake H processors or AMD’s Ryzen 4000 H-series chips, and the model that HP sent me includes the latter. It also has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch FHD 144Hz screen all for $1,299.99. It’s pretty impressive.
I feel like we’re seeing the market trend more and more toward more humble-looking gaming laptops. Not everything has to light up or come in bright colors. In the age of working from home, many of us need something that’s good for work and play, and also will look professional if we bring it to an in-person meeting. We really are in an age of needing one PC for all of our needs.
The OMEN 15 comes in a matte black color, and it has a sleek and clean look. You’ll find a brand-new OMEN logo stamped in the lid that’s a metallic blue-green. Below that logo is the word OMEN, and that’s all you’ll see. It looks professional, premium, and clean.
It’s not particularly heavy at just under five and a half pounds. This makes it easy to carry, but it also has the power to be docked at home to do more. It’s also thinner than its predecessor at 22.5mm, and is has a bigger thermal bump on the bottom, allowing for better airflow.
All of the ports of the PC are on the left and right sides, a design choice that I’m not a big fan of. As I just said, you might have this docked at home, with multiple monitors plugged into it, various peripherals, and so on. I’d like to have seen some of the ports moved to the back, although the back is a big vent.
On the left side, there’s an AC charging port, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, an SD card reader, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port. On the right side, there are two more USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, along with a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port and a Mini DisplayPort.
Now, here’s what I mean about cable management. I typically use a Thunderbolt 3 dock with two 4K monitors connected to it; being that this is an AMD-powered machine, there is no Thunderbolt 3. In order to get both 4K monitors pumping at full resolution, I have to use two of the three ports that support display output: USB Type-C, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI. On top of that, I’ll probably have a mouse plugged into a USB Type-A port for minimal latency, and possibly a gaming controller. Naturally, power is always plugged in wherever possible.
At this point, I have five cables plugged into the sides of my PC, when most of them would be better served in the back.
The selection of ports is appreciated though. It’s nice to have things like HDMI and Mini DisplayPort when there’s no Thunderbolt 3 and there’s only one USB Type-C port. It’s very frustrating when I can’t power two 4K displays off of a premium laptop.
Also, you can easily remove the bottom panel with Philips-head screws, and this will give you access to the memory and the SSD. Naturally, this is a nice way to easily upgrade your machine down the line.
The OMEN 15 that HP sent me includes a 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz display. The higher refresh absolutely makes a difference in your gameplay, and if you want to go even further, you can get it with a 300Hz refresh rate.
On the other hand, HP sells this thing with a 4K OLED display that has a 60Hz refresh rate. But I think that if you choose that configuration, then gaming probably isn’t your primary reason for buying it. For gaming, you probably want to prioritize a higher refresh rate. But of course, there are other reasons to buy a gaming PC, such as if you’re frequently editing photos or videos. In this case, a 4K OLED display might make a lot more sense.
As far as the screen that HP sent me goes, it’s absolutely made for gaming, as opposed to making things look pretty. It’s a matte anti-glare screen, so it’s not glossy at all in a way that will distract your gameplay.
The OMEN 15 maintains narrow bezels on the sides and top, with a sizable chin. In the top bezel, there’s a webcam, but there’s no IR camera for Windows Hello. In fact, there’s no fingerprint sensor either, so there’s no method of biometric authentication at all. It’s actually pretty rare to find any biometric authentication on a gaming laptop, and I’m really not sure why.
As usual, the OMEN 15 has Bang & Olufsen speakers, with HP continuing its longstanding partnership with the firm. The speakers are placed right above the keyboard, so they fire right up at you. The speakers make for an immersive experience whether you’re gaming or just listening to music.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on with 1.5mm key travel, although I did get the occasional (fairly rare) double-press or missed keystroke. I’m not sure why HP wouldn’t just use the same magnificent keyboards that it’s using in its EliteBooks these days.
This model has a regular backlit keyboard, although you can get it with RGB lighting if you want. I’m not much of an RGB fan. Like I said, I like a more clean look, something that looks great at an office and at home all the same. To me, these backlit keys are perfect.
There’s no numpad on the right of the keyboard, but there is a separate space for the arrow keys, which is pretty awesome. It makes it a lot harder to accidentally hit surrounding keys when you’re trying to hit arrows without looking. Above the arrow keys are the regular panel for Insert, Home, Pg Up, Pause, End, and Pg Dn, which probably isn’t super necessary, but above those, we have some extras. There’s a shortcut to launch the Calculator, which is just awesome. There’s also a shortcut to launch the OMEN Command Center, which you can use to control performance and more.
As you’d expect, the HP OMEN 15 includes a Microsoft Precision trackpad. The bad news is that it’s clickable. Sure, this is probably preferable if you’re using it for productivity work or creative work. What it’s not great for is gaming, and this PC might have been better served with a non-clickable trackpad with physical buttons above it.
The problem is obviously that if you’re controlling your game with the trackpad instead of a mouse or a controller, you really don’t want to accidentally click. I made this same comment about Lenovo’s latest gaming laptops, the Legion 5i and the Legion 7i. I wonder if these companies have some telemetry that shows that gamers just don’t use trackpads. Maybe everyone is using mice these days.
The performance on the HP OMEN 15 is pretty solid for what it is, as is the battery life. You can get this machine with up to an Intel Core i7-10750H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics. Obviously, those RTX graphics will get you real-time ray tracing and DLSS.
This model has an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, an octa-core CPU with 16 threads and a 45W default TDP. It also comes with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 1660 Ti. You can think of this configuration as mainstream. You can definitely play just about any game on it, but at the same time, you can’t play those games at their top-end settings.
What piques my interest is the AMD Ryzen processor, which is built on the firm’s new 7nm process, while Intel is still using its 14nm Comet Lake H. Of course, with machines like this that have a dedicated GPU, the CPU is almost less important. I’ll tell you that with Geekbench 5, the Lenovo Legion 7i that I tested got 1,218 on single-core and 6,190 on multi-core with a hexa-core Core i7-10750H, while this machine got 1,188 on single-core and 7,946 on multi-core.
Indeed, AMD’s Ryzen processors are legit, and as it seems, so are Intel’s 45W chips. Personally, I don’t think you’d go wrong with either option, but I do suggest shelling out for RTX graphics.
Battery life, as always, varies based on what you’re doing, and what your settings are. With the battery slider on one notch above battery saver and the screen at 50% brightness, I got about six hours of regular work, although I do think you could go beyond that if you’re just streaming video or something. Of course, things like gaming and video editing use more power.
You can also boost the power. In the OMEN Command Center app, you can adjust between Comfort, Default, and Performance modes, and there’s a toggle to set the fan speed to Auto or Max. For performance benchmarks, I turned everything to the max.
When I first made the above chart, I actually didn’t include the Legion 7i, but honestly, I had to find something in the same class that would beat this thing on some tests.
The HP OMEN 15 is a great all-around gaming laptop. The thing that really catches my eye is the striking design, which is both minimal and stylish, with the new OMEN logo and the matter black finish. This is something that looks cool to game with, but it also looks professional. And if you follow my gaming PC reviews, that’s a priority for me.
My only complaints were minor. One is that there’s no Windows Hello, and the other is that the trackpad is clickable. The latter is easily solved if you don’t use the trackpad while gaming.
Aside from the design, I really appreciate the performance, and the ways in which HP allows the user to control it. You can adjust it in a way that you get really great battery life, or you can adjust it in a way that’s great for powerful tasks like gaming and video editing.
Another thing that’s awesome is that this thing costs $1,299, which is a deal when you consider everything that you’re getting. The Legion 5i that I compared it to was $1,599.99, and the Legion 7i was $3,049. If you want to check out the HP OMEN 15, you can find it on Amazon here.
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