Overhauled HP Omen laptops respect that PC gaming is pricey enough already

While the Omen desktop is a veritable VR monster

PC gaming is expensive enough – especially when all you might have room for is a gaming laptop. HP has finally come around to this widespread attitude with a fresh take on its classic Omen line of gaming notebooks and desktops.

The firm is keeping it simple (enough) and approachable this year, issuing 15.6 and 17.3-inch versions of the Omen gaming laptop – based on its latest budget multimedia Pavilion line – and a single gaming desktop. It's also known as the Omen.

Want a 15.6-inch HP Omen (read that review and you might) laptop? They start at $899 (about £611, AU$1,252). Need something bigger? The 17.3-incher goes for $979 to start (£665, AU$1,363). Both are slated to hit Best Buy and HP.com on July 10, though the 17-inch model asks for $1,029 (about £699, AU$1,433) on the latter.

There's one type of Omen PC, due out in August, but HP won't talk price just yet. So, are you going to want this thing?

hp omen

Aiming for the new wave

One look at the spec sheet for these gaming laptops and one thing is obvious: these rigs are not for the power-hungry PC gamer. The new Omen is looking squarely at the entry level, the ground floor, the first rong – and the PC gaming masses.

With a graphics chip starting at Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M and up to – up to – 965M, seasoned frame rate junkies won't give these machines a glance. But, what are the most-played PC games?

League of Legends, Minecraft and Hearthstone are a quick few that come to mind – none of which recommend anything close to what these machines provide.

Rounding out the spec sheet is an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor at 2.5GHz (which comes standard), 8GB (up to 16GB) of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB (7,200 rpm; up to 4TB) hard drive paired with a 128GB solid-state drive and an FHD (1,920 x 1,080; 4K also available) IPS LED screen. All of that is said to run for up 6 hours for the 15-inch and 8 hours and 15 minutes for the 17.

hp omen

So, how did HP bring the price down so low coming from last year's super-premium model? Turn an existing, affordable design into something gamers might appreciate. Using the Pavilion frame and similar build materials (plastic, soft-touch paint, etc) must have help keep costs down.

Plus, HP sticking to its guns on graphics options – aiming squarely at a helluva lot of people – had to have helped here as well. This focus gave room for HP to hone in on the other modern basics of a solid gaming laptop: namely 802.11ac Wi-Fi, backlit keyboard and HDMI 2.0.

Oh, and two top-firing Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers.

HP left the room for those fancy premium options, like an Intel RealSense camera or a 4K display, but they honestly only betray the spirit of this laptop.

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Going hog wild on the desktop

While HP is keeping it approachable and focused in gaming laptops this year so far, it's approach to desktop gaming is about as hardcore as it gets. You're looking at a monolithic new chassis with sharp lighting effect options that can even represent its current CPU temperature.

How's that for something different?

Inside, HP is all about this box taking you to VR land, ideally in an HTC Vive. The computer maker has teamed up with HTC to tune each Omen desktop for an "out-of-the-box" experience with its headset. This rig is certifiably ready for the highest end of virtual reality gaming.

The firm isn't being specific about the system's hardware yet, but promising support for up to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 or an AMD R9 390X video card and Intel Core i7-6700K CPUs. You'll also get to cram up to 3TB worth of hard drive in there with up to a 512GB SSD and as much as 32GB of RAM.

hp omen

Plus, toolless entry should make upgrading or maintaining easier than with most cases, while optional liquid cooling could allow for overclocking. Something's got to power that 4K, three-screen driving rig setup of your dreams, right?

Speaking of which, HP might not have a 4K display in the works, but it'll do you 2,560 x 1,440 pixels on a 32-inch panel. Set to launch in August with the Omen desktop, the screen is nearly bezel-less and hits 100% of the sRGB color space.

HP is firmly planting itself with AMD's FreeSync monitor-GPU-synchronization tech, likely because it's open source whereas Nvidia's version requires special hardware in each screen.

At any rate, it's clear that HP is re-entering the PC gaming bout with more refined focus than ever. We'll see how well that focus has paid off once we get these rigs in for review.