I love it when companies try something new or different with an established product type. That’s just what HP did with its latest OMEN 15 gaming notebook: they moved the keyboard to make room for a second screen.
It’s a small touch that enhances the notebook’s already-nice features, and propels it head and shoulders above what the other vendors are doing.
It’s clear that HP believes this is a very special product, as their engineers gave it every chance of wowing even the most jaded of gamers: in addition to the handy little extra screen, it has an 8-core/16 thread Intel Core i9 processor, a massive 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB M.2 SSD, and the piece de resistance, a GeForce RTX2080.
The Right Stuff
To anyone not in the know as to what that means, in a nutshell this is almost the most powerful hardware a consumer-grade notebook can get in 2020, short of packing in another 32GB of RAM and maybe a bigger SSD.
This gives the OMEN unparalleled performance in a compact, portable form factor, and enough raw horsepower to give even high-end desktop systems a run for their money.
In real terms, it means exceptional gaming performance in all titles at their highest graphics settings, even at 4K. It also means incredibly fast photo and video editing, as well as any other productivity task you have in mind. Opening a browser happens in a flash, applications load quickly, and getting around Windows is a true pleasure. This is an incredible system from a performance perspective.
There is a trade-off for these capabilities, however: heat and noise. Because the notebook isn’t very thick, HP’s cooling options were limited, and whenever it’s under load, the OMEN gets very warm – I’m talking 80+ degrees Celsius for its processor and 50+ degrees for its graphics card – and all of its fans kick in.
It’s not deafening by any means, but it’s certainly what I consider to be “noisy”. Noisy enough that I chose to play with headphones on, which is a pity because the Bang & Olufsen speakers the OMEN ships with are pretty damn nice to listen to (good volume and bass without distortion).
Initially I was playing games with the notebook on my lap, but once it heated up I couldn’t do that anymore – the underside of the notebook gets unbearably hot. Doing that also showed me how the notebook throttles performance when off battery – Diablo III went from 120fps on power to 30fps on battery, and Mount & Blade II: Bannerlords dropped from 40fps on mains to 10fps on battery.
While many games are still playable at 30fps, and thus on battery, clearly this notebook is designed to be gamed on when connected to power.
Battery life is just “okay”. Even with Battery Saver on, I got about 45 minutes of Diablo III played before the notebook died completely, and when I left it to play a YouTube video at fullscreen and at 50% brightness, it lasted for 1hr45 before shutting off. So it’s not a full-work-day-on-battery machine, then.
Which is probably for the best, since the notebook is fairly heavy and not something you’ll want to carry around a lot anyway.
It’s not 4+kg heavy like the Acer Predator notebook I reviewed a while back, but it’s metal and hard and not what I’d call lightweight. Official figures put it at 2.6kgs.
At its best
No, where the OMEN 15 shines is on a desk, connected to power, with a handy app like the HP OMEN Command Center set to display on the secondary screen, showing things like CPU & GPU temperatures/current load and upload and download speeds.
There, it’s an absolute beast of a machine, chewing through work, games, editing, anything you want to do with it. Take it off mains power and it loses some of its bite.
So overall I really liked the OMEN 15. Here are some of the pros and cons I picked up on in my time with it.
- The secondary screen is a nice touch
- The new keyboard position was comfortable once I got used to it
- The keys press very satisfyingly and the keyboard is really nice to type on
- RGB backlighting on keyboard keys looks rad
- Speakers sound amazing
- The chassis isn’t too thick and looks and feels “Premium”
- The trackpad tracks smoothly and is very precise
- Games run amazingly even at 4K (on power)
- 4K screen is gorgeous
- WASD keys are highlighted in red
- Plenty of ports: HDMI, 4x USB, Ethernet, 1x USB-C, Sound Jacks
- Battery life is quite short
- It heats up significantly
- Fan noise is loud
- Game performance is throttled on battery
If the specs push the price up a little too much for you, I looked on Evetech and saw that there are multiple models available with different hardware configs, so you can give up things like the 4K screen or cut down on the amount of RAM or get a slightly less beefy graphics chip to save some cash if you like.
Prices range from R38,999 to R69,499, depending on how you want it specced.
This is a very compelling package. The OMEN 15 looks amazing, performs like a beast, and only disappoints when it’s not running on mains power. As a gamer I really like it and would happily buy one if I were in the market for a new notebook for personal use.
Specs of the HP OMEN 15 we were sent to review:
• Intel 8-core 16-thread Core i9-9880H @ 2.3GHz (Turbo up to 4.6GHz)
• 32GB DDR4 RAM
• 512GB M.2 SSD
• 15-inch 4K G-Sync display @ 3840×2160 60Hz
• NVIDIA GeForce RTX2080
• 6-inch 1080p Secondary Display
• Windows 10 64-bit
• 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x USB-C, Ethernet, Audio jacks.