HP Omen Outpost & Photon: What’s the deal with wireless charging?

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When several companies began to show off their special wireless charging mousepads – which could power wireless mouse on the fly – the reception was a bit mixed.

On top of the constant joke of making every single part of your gaming setup RGB, it just felt a bit unnecessary. Those who use a wireless mouse can usually attest to the fact that their batteries require remarkably little juice, and when they do run out they usually charge up in short order or you can resort to going back to wired mode. You know, like a cave man.

But that’s all in theory, really, and we didn’t really have a chance to try out this tech until HP borrowed us some products from their Omen gaming lineup. The Outpost Mousepad packs in that wireless tech that has gained popularity, and the Photon Wireless Mouse can take advantage of it, so how does it stack up?

Well, rather impressively actually. On paper and in videos we all know how this stuff works but it’s a different thing entirely once you’ve used it. We’re not sure if it was the novelty factor or not but it is genuinely exciting every time you boot up your PC in the morning and just start using your wireless mouse without the need to worry about its charge.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s talk what’s in the respective boxes of these products first.

The Outpost is a sizeable thing with the actual mousepad section measuring in at 33.5 X 26.5 centimetres by our count. The overall unit, however, is slightly larger than that due to the solid hub placed above the mousepad that houses some extra electronics, an RGB logo and – get this – a wireless charger for your phone.

The build quality here is superb. Everything feels nice to the touch and a lot of care and thought is put into things. Our favourite example of this is the choice of mousepad material. Because of the way wireless charging works you can’t just throw any old surface on top of the charging coils and hope things work out. That presents a problem though as everyone has their own preference of mousepad material.

In the box HP has accounted for the two most common choices – hard and soft surfaces. They’re actually build into the same mousepad and you can just flip them over at will. This removalable nature also means that cleaning can be done without the worry of breaking any electronics.

The wireless charging for your phone is a nice touch but it’s rather slow and the placement in the top left corner can make it awkward to use your mouse without bumping into your device.

A mousepad would be nothing without a mouse, so how is the Photon? Out of the box the same build quality and high production value on the packaging is all here. Once you dig into the multiple layers of the box you will find that there are adjustable side panels that connect tot eh main body with a very strong magnet so you can adjust things as you like.

With everything out of the box and on our desk for many days of testing, the novelty and fun of using these two in tandem never wore off, but major problems in the designs of both started to show through.

The Outpost mousepad is intended to be used in a horizontal manner because the wire to provide its power comes out at the top. Turning it vertical, which is how we like to position our mousepads, would mean that said wire would either go right across your keyboard or awkwardly around the entirety of your desk to get to an open USB port.

We understand that this can be solved with stuff like USB hubs or it may never be a problem depending on your desk layout and preferences but it was a big inhibiting factor for us and, we imagine, many others.

The Photon mouse has similar ergonomic issues. Without the optional thumb rest attachments this mouse measures in at 12.98 X 6.05 X 4.4 centimetres. In hand this means that the mouse is very tall but also very narrow, which just isn’t as nice to use as the regular shorter and fatter options most are used to, and the thumb rests really don’t help with this.

On the software side of things we found the Omen Command Centre suite to be a bit on the slow side which also required a few kicks to apply certain changes.

The problem with our, well, problems here si that once we gave it to a few friends and family members to try out (this was before the lockdown) they didn’t complain nearly as much. This could be to do with our journalists’ sense of looking for flaws but we suspect it has much more to do with the fact that ergonomics are a deeply personal set of preferences and the ones from both the Outpost and Photon did not match up with ours.

So, is the wireless mousepad / permanently charged wireless mouse gimmick just that, or does it have some merit? We truly think it does. There’s a large number of people who would prefer the wire to be attached to their mousepad and not the mouse itself, and for them the Outpost and Photon combo is great with just a few niggles.

There’s also a lot of great tech here that we didn’t get a chance to talk about. The Qi Charging, the great DPI and customisability of the Photon, and all the RGB you could want. We also have to reiterate that the build quality is really up there.

Just keep in mind the dimensions and limitations, and the price. Locally the Photon will set you back around R1 699, and the Outpost goes for R 1999. Neither of them are cheap and you will probably want to pick up both if this is a solution you’ve been looking for.

Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of htxt.africa.