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HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Smooth operator

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,599
inc VAT

A well-balanced combination of power and portability – and the price is rather good, too

Pros 
Powerful internals
144Hz display
Plenty of storage and connectivity
Cons 
Short battery life
Noisy fans
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Gaming laptops have, historically, had a reputation for being bulky, noisy and on the garish side. The introduction of the Max-Q “standard” in 2017, however, has seen manufacturers gradually producing lighter and thinner gaming portables. The preconception is slowly changing.

HP’s 2018 Omen 15 machine sits somewhere in the middle ground of modern gaming laptops. It’s no garish behemoth like the Acer Predator Helios 500, but neither is it an ultra-slim stunner like the Razer Blade 15 or Asus ROG Zephyrus. Instead, it’s designed to be a practical, games-capable gaming laptop that doesn’t cost the earth and you can, at a pinch, carry around with you.

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HP Omen 15 (2018) review: What you need to know

The HP Omen 15 is, as you’ve probably already guessed, a 15.6in Windows laptop that’s aimed firmly at the gaming fraternity. It has a Full HD, non-touch display with a high refresh rate of 144Hz and it’s powered by a six-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU.

It’s a beast of a machine and, being a gaming laptop, it has all the trappings that come with that: customisable multi-coloured lights behind the keyboard, bright red visual flourishes scattered around the chassis and angular, aggressive detailing.

It’s not the slimmest or lightest 15in laptop you’ll come across, weighing 2.5kg and measuring 25mm thick with the lid closed, but neither is it prohibitively bulky. In other words, it’s a portable machine, but not exactly the sort of laptop you want to be carrying around with you all day, every day.

HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Price and competition

The compensation for that extra heft is that the HP Omen 15 (2018) is pretty good value for money. The unit we were sent for this review (15-dc002na) sits at the top of the Omen 15 range and costs £1,599. That’s some £460 cheaper than the Razer Blade 15, which we reviewed at a similar specification a few months ago.

Specify the Dell Alienware M15 and MSI GT63 Titan with the same or very similar components and the HP comes in, again, £100 cheaper. The HP Omen is very good value for money in this sector.

And, if you don’t want to spend £1,600, HP has some other options for you. At the bottom of the range is the £879 15-dc0001na model with a Core i5-8300H, Nvidia GTX 1050, 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD. Next up is the £1,000 model with a Core i7-8750H and a GTX 1050Ti (15-dc0003na), while £1,250 gets you a Core i7-8750H with a GTX 1060 (15-dc0029na). All of these models come with the 144Hz screen and either a 128GB or 256GB SSD.

View our latest HP discount codes

HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Design and features

As I’ve intimated, despite the slightly chunky design, the Omen 15 is far from the worst example of the gaming breed. At 2.5kg and 25mm thick, it adds some weight to your bag, but if you’re not constantly on the go, it’s a decent compromise. What might put you off is the chunky 200W power brick, which weighs 670g on its own.

Design-wise, though, it’s reasonably stylish. Red highlights abound, with Omen’s inkblot logo inset into in shiny red chrome flanked by triangular facets of carbon-fibre effect plastic. Open up and you’re faced with a four-zone RGB-backlit keyboard that is surrounded, tastefully, with brushed aluminium plate. Couple this with sharp angles and integrated exhausts at the rear corners and the Omen 15 looks a bit like some bizarre deskbound 1990s Lamborghini without the wheels.

If this all sounds rather tasteless, don’t worry too much – for a gaming machine, the HP Omen 15 (2018) is rather likeably understated. My biggest gripe about the design is the plastic lid and suspended hinge mechanism, both of which feel a little flimsy. Otherwise, it makes a striking, yet fashionably smart statement and feels well put-together.

From a practical standpoint, there’s plenty to like. There is an SD card slot on the left edge, plus one USB 3.1 Type-A port and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. These are joined by another USB 3.1 port on the right, plus a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port, one sleep-and-charge USB 3.1 Type-A port, a full-sized HDMI output, one mini-DisplayPort out and a Gigabit Ethernet socket on the rear.

If I’m honest, I’d like one or two more USB Type-C ports but with a selection this generous it would be somewhat churlish to complain. Overall, the HP Omen 15 (2018) is a rather pleasing conglomeration, combining flamboyant flourishes with good, solid laptop design. I rather like it.

Plus, it’s good to see that HP hasn’t neglected the ergonomic basics. The keyboard has a light yet positive click to it that makes it very pleasant to type on, while four-zone RGB backlighting makes it possible to highlight different areas of the keyboard in different colours.

The touchpad is sensitive and responsive. While it's not the largest I’ve ever come across, it has the bonus of physical left and right mouse buttons below it, instead of those buttons being integrated into the touch surface. It’s also good to see that the left and right wrist rests rarely get uncomfortably warm.

HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Display and ergonomics

The business end of this laptop, of course, is the display: a 144Hz Full HD IPS panel. You could specify this machine with a 60Hz IPS 4K, but that would be missing the point somewhat. To play games at frame rates above 60fps, you’re going to need the 144Hz display model.

Technically, this is neither the brightest (290cd/m²) nor the most colour-accurate screen I’ve ever come across and viewing angles are somewhat limited. You don’t have to move far off the perpendicular (in the horizontal or vertical plane) for colours to start shifting and brightness to fade.

But that 144Hz refresh rate makes up for everything. Not every game will run at the maximum 144fps available, of course, but there are plenty that will run at frame rates considerably better than bog-standard 60fps, which is great for a laptop. Fast-paced action games feel more responsive and those of you who could potentially seize victory in Overwatch duels or Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout matches might just find that the faster, tear-free refresh gives you the extra edge you need.

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HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Performance

And there’s certainly plenty of power on tap here. I was sent the top-end Omen 15 for review and it’s endowed with a six-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and a beefy Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of its own RAM. System RAM amounts to 16GB and this is backed up by a 256GB NVMe SSD and a 1TB HDD, the latter taking care of mass storage duties.

HP also markets the Omen 15 as having an “access door” so you can upgrade the RAM and storage more easily. This had me excited until I realised that by “door” HP actually means you have to remove eight screws and the entire bottom plate of the laptop to get at the internals. That’s stretching the definition a little.

Fortunately, you’ll probably not need to upgrade anything if you opt for the model I have in front of me because it’s very, very quick. In all our in-house, gaming and cross-platform tests, the HP Omen 15 performed admirably, returning fluid frame rates in games.

Anecdotally, you’re looking at frame rates of around 120fps for PUBG at native resolution and Medium settings and around 70fps for Forza Horizon 7 at Ultra settings and 1080p, so it’s a bit of a beast.

The rest of the spec is fully up to scratch, too. The Omen 15’s SSD, for instance, isn’t quite as quick for sequential reads (1792MB/sec) as the Razer Blade 15 or even the Surface Book 2 (Core i7), but its write speeds are pretty impressive at 1,364MB/sec. Either way, you should see zippy boot times and games shouldn’t keep you waiting too long to launch.

In fact, the only things I might complain about are: when the fans ramp up they create a bit of a racket and the battery life isn’t so good that you can use the Omen out on the road for long without needing to plug in. In our video rundown test, the Omen lasted a mere 3hrs 20mins, which is somewhat behind the Razer Blade 15’s time of 7hrs 7mins.

HP Omen 15 (2018) review: Verdict

In all, though, there’s not much that the HP Omen 15 (2018) does wrong. It may not be as thin, light or drop-dead gorgeous as the Razer Blade 15 or as all-out brutish as the Acer Predator Helios 500, but it’s well-priced and a darned good compromise.

One of the best indicators of how good a product is is how much I’m going to miss it when it goes back and, on this front, the HP Omen 15 (2018) scores big. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my all-too-brief time with this laptop and I’ll be loath to go back to my (relatively) underpowered Huawei Matebook X Pro when the time eventually comes.

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