A mid-range gaming laptop, the HP Omen 15 has plenty of oomph under the hood, if a little short on battery life
Today, I’m looking at HP’s latest gaming-focused laptop, as the well-established Omen series rears its head once again. We’ve been pretty impressed with the Omen range in recent years, with this year’s Omen 15 looking to continue that trend.
The range starts at just £699, which is certainly a reasonable price, at least for a gaming laptop. HP here is really aiming this at the mid-range performance laptop market, while also offering substantial upgrade options for those who need more serious amounts of power.
Options include an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, with 8 or 16GB of memory. The £699 version comes with a dedicated GeForce GTX 950M, while the £850 and £1,050 models come packaged with a GTX 965M inside. All options include Windows 10 Home, a 15.6in 1,920×1,080 display and a 1TB HDD with an additional 128GB SSD.
The i7 with 16GB of RAM was sent over to us for the purposes of this review, albeit with the added extra of a 3,840×2,160 resolution display, which means this particular model retails for a whopping £1,200. The final £150 price rise is all down to the display and it’s worth mentioning you can’t buy this version direct from HP like the other models, so you’ll have to do a bit of digging and see if your local retailer stocks it. As I write this, nowhere was stocking this model yet.
Finished in black, with red detailing around the keys, the chassis is tasteful by the standards of such devices, with a faux carbon effect on the chassis. The textured lid makes carrying it around a little easier by giving you something to hold on to, but is still pretty basic in terms of overall looks, despite the ominous red logo on the back. HP aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but the design they’ve gone with is decent enough, if a little basic for some tastes.
Unlike last year’s Omen 15, which stood out from the rest of HP’s range, the 2016 Omen 15 simply uses a reskinned chassis from HP’s new Pavilion range. While this isn’t exactly a bad thing, it would have been nice to see the Omen 15 differentiate itself from the crowd a bit more.
While it’s certainly not svelte, the Omen 15 doesn’t reach the often elephantine levels of weight and footprint, that some gaming devices do. Weighing 2.2Kg, it still wouldn’t be considered a device for day-to-day mobility, yet is substantially lighter than the likes of the Gigabyte P55W v5 and the Aorus X7 Pro v5’s colossal 3.2Kg heft.
It’s also thinner too, at just 34 mm thick with the lid closed. Sure, you might still suffer from bouts of shoulder ache if you’re carrying it in your bag, but it feels lightweight enough should you need to take it out with you now and again.
As you’d expect with a device of this calibre, I didn’t really have too many glaring issues in terms of overall performance. Running our tough 4K benchmarking tests, the Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor proved more than capable for serious processor-intensive tasks. An overall score of 97 is impressive for any laptop and tallies with other similarly-equipped devices. However, the Gigabyte P55Wv5 scored a monumental 118 with the same processor, though its bigger chassis undoubtedly provides better cooling for the chip.
With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M inside, gaming performance was just as expected, with the 4GB of graphics memory really coming into play here. Running older games such as Dirt: Showdown was a breeze and while newer titles weren’t quite as speedy, you could still achieve respectable framerates, should you delve into some of the settings.
Dirt: Showdown ran flawlessly on the highest graphical settings at 1,920×1,080 resolution, achieving a more than capable 64.2fps average overall. You can’t really expect much better than that on a device this portable and should have minimal problems running your older games collection.
Trying out more recent games proved to be a tad trickier, yet is still by no means an underwhelming machine. Running Metro: Last Light on Ultra settings at 1,920×1,080 resolution with SSAO turned on chugged along at a 24.5 fps average, which of course is still perfectly acceptable given that the game is notoriously tricky to run at respectable frame rates on anything that isn’t a souped-up desktop. Turning SSAO off garnered much better results at 44.7 fps, and if you aren’t too fussed about having the best visuals, tinkering with the graphical fidelity helped bring the fps well above 60.
Display and sound
The display is a tricky one to judge considering the 4K resolution model isn’t as widely available as the 1,920×1,080 model and after plenty of digging it looks like it isn’t being stocked yet. In consequence, my display testing results can’t really be applied to the consumer-available devices at present.
The 4K display produced some reasonably crisp colours, despite the somewhat dull looking matte finish. Viewing angles are respectable and should be fine for the frequent fidgeter, yet an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 85% gave colours a distinct lack of vibrancy. Likewise, a poor contrast ratio of just 633:1 is incredibly underwhelming, and is trumped by the equally priced Gigabyte P55W v5’s marginally more detailed 936:1 ratio.
Maximum brightness was similarly lacklustre too, with 294cd/m2 proving to be far too dull when using it outside or in a very brightly lit room. Obviously, this is more than enough for average indoor use, but it would have been nice to have a little more. While the screen is nice and thin, it’s laughably flimsy, and I feel it’d be better served with a little bit more thickness in order to hold its own shape better.
The speakers are significantly more impressive, with plenty of bass and audio clarity. While slightly on the quiet side, sound is punchy enough, even if low-end noise could do with a little bit of a boost. Found just above the keyboard, the Bang & Olufsen speakers are ideal for games such as shooters, that have a heavy reliance on audio positioning, and it’s welcome to see a capable pair of speakers that provide a great level of sound orientation.
Keyboard and touchpad
The red highlighted chiclet keys are nicely cushioned and provide a decent amount of responsive feedback. I didn’t notice any rattle during my time spent with it, and there was very minimal flex, with the keys making full use of the space available. As it’s a gaming-centric laptop, it would have been nice to fit in at least a small set of customisable macro keys, yet what we’ve been given more than suffices.
The touchpad is equally as enjoyable to use, if a little on the small side. There just isn’t a lot of height to it, and I often found my fingers crashing into the top. During my time with it, it felt reasonably responsive, with Windows 10 finger gestures working just as you’d expect them to. The integrated buttons often occasionally mistook left and right clicks, which was annoying from time to time, yet it wasn’t really something that made me rip my hair out in frustration.
Ports and connections
You’ve got plenty of ports on offer with the HP Omen 15, and there’s more than enough to keep you going. All three models come with one USB2 port, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.2 for staying connected too.
Yet again I have to point out that the sample I was sent had a different display to its current commercial counterparts, so the higher resolution screen might have somewhat hindered the disappointing battery life result. Running for 4 hours and 17 minutes in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness, the 3-cell 61.5Wh battery really struggled to provide longevity.
It’s well over an hour and a half less than the Gigabyte P55Wv5, and you wouldn’t be able to stray away from the wall socket for too long, especially if you’re performing particularly processor heavy tasks. Sure, models with the 1,920×1,080 display resolution might fare a bit better, but I can’t see it getting anywhere near as close to the 10 and a half hour battery life that HP boasts.
My final thoughts are a bit of a mixed bag, while 2016’s Omen 15 starts at a reasonable price, this top-end model doesn’t quite have the display quality we’d expect and the battery life looks to be negatively affected by the 4K screen. This HP Omen 15 is by no means a bad machine, not by a long shot, but when compared to it’s similarly priced rivals, it just doesn’t quite hold up.
Performance is reasonably impressive, yet having to fork out just over £1,000 for a high-end device, I’d expect a little bit more under the hood. The similarly priced Gigabyte P55Wv5 has the same processor and 16GB of RAM too, yet the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics chip is far superior to the GTX 965M found inside the Omen 15. That makes it a better choice if you’re looking for a laptop that can handle almost anything you throw at it.
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|Processor||Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ|
|Memory slots (free)||2 (0)|
|Sound||Realtek High Definition Audio|
|Graphics adaptor||Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M|
|Graphics outputs||1x HDMI|
|Total storage||1TB Hard disk, 128GB SSD|
|Optical drive type||N/A|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||1x USB2, 2x USB3|
|Networking||802.11ac Wireless, Wired|
|Memory card reader||SD card|
|Other ports||1x Headphone/mic port|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||One year RTB|
|Price inc VAT||£1,200|