Just because HP Omen isn't running a serious GPU, like the Nvidia GTX 970M, does not mean this machine can't play the newest games. I had no trouble running both Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood at a very playable 30 fps with a more modest Nvidia GTX 960M graphics chip onboard.
You'll have a hard time running some more demanding games, like Cities: Skylines, but – for the most part – the HP Omen has no trouble on medium to high settings in most games. Just don't expect to bump up any graphical settings beyond high, much less get 60 frames per second (fps) on any title without turning off most of the graphical flourishes.
Here's how the HP Omen fared in our benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 16,952; Sky Diver: 12,616; Fire Strike: 3,965
- Cinebench CPU: 670 points; Graphics: 94 fps
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,242 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 6 minutes
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 31 fps; (1080p, Low): 67 fps
- Metro: Last Light (1080p, Ultra): 33 fps; (1080p, Low): 76 fps
The HP Omen might not be packing the most rip-roaring set up for a gaming machine, but it still performed admirably in our suite of benchmark tests. I'm mainly proud of its 3DMark Fire Strike score of 3,965 points, which just barely buzzes over the Asus ROG G501's 3,927 point performance. However, the Omen falls well short of the 4,823 points put up by the Gigabyte P35K v3.
Despite the fact that all three of these machines are powered by the same processor, the Omen edges out the competition with a PCMark 8 score of 3,242 points. By comparison, the Gigabyte P35K v3 scored 3,042 points while the Asus gaming rig lags behind by a significant margin with 2,563 points – no doubt thanks to driving quadruple the number of pixels with its 3,840 x 2,160 UHD display.
It becomes truly evident that the Asus ROG G501 struggles to keep up with the demands of its QHD screen when you look at its lackluster gaming performance with only 15 fps in Metro: Last Light and 28 fps in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The HP Omen might not be able to render games to the same fidelity with its FHD screen, but it can play titles at a higher and smoother frame rate such as 33 fps in Metro: Last Light and 31 in Shadow of Mordor.
As expected, the Gigabyte P35K v3 takes the lead in again in this heat. While running the same Shadow of Mordor benchmark loop with maxed out settings, the Gigabyte laptop kept up with an average frame rate of 37 fps.
One of the biggest joys on the HP Omen is its incredibly vibrant screen. Colors pop off the glossy screen with life-like vibrancy and accuracy. What's more, you can easily distinguish every shade of grey in a scene, thanks to its equally excellent contrast. While glossy finishes are usually shunned, especially on gaming machines, I have almost no problems with glare and reflections.
I just wish HP went with a brighter panel for the Omen, as direct sunlight easily overpowers the display. I also find myself almost always pushing screen brightness to its limit even in a well lit room, which can become problematic for conserving battery life.
The speakers offer up an equally pleasing experience when gaming. Explosions splash off the screen and echo into your room with all the ferocity and oomph you'd expect. That said, it seems the audio experience on the HP Omen is better tuned to the beat of high-octane games and movies over easy listening music. I found the speakers to lack the fidelity and fullness of a dedicated sound system.
Still, these tweeters can put out some impressive and room-filling tones without running into any distortion issues when you really pump up the volume.
Lackluster battery life
In my own testing, I was able to squeeze out a maximum run time of 3 hours and 40 minutes while streaming two back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones with some significant buffering issues through a VPN client while abroad in Malaysia. This test was also done with the screen set to a medium brightness and the speakers set to 30%.
I estimate that you can expect to use this machine away from the power plug for four hours max. All in all, this isn't too bad. However, the HP Omen tends to lean closer to a runtime of 2 hours and 6 minute, as it did whilst running the PCMark 8 battery test.
The Gigabyte P35K v3 managed to eke out the same 3 hours and 40 minutes of battery life with regular use. Meanwhile, the Asus ROG G501 clocked out with a maximum battery life of 3 hours and 36 minutes.
These mediocre battery life figures might not sound very long compared to the extended use you can get out of a Chromebook or budget 15-inch notebook. However, consider that machines such as the Omen have to contend with the extra power draw of a high-end Intel Core processor and discrete GPU.
The HP Omen comes stock with a sprinkling of preloaded applications, but for the most part they are useful. This machine even comes with a full-year license of McAfee LiveSafe, rather than the usual 30 day trial, though, it will be up to you if you want to keep it at all. Here's the shortlist of apps you might want to keep on your machine.
- HP Omen Central Ops – A central hub full of shortcuts to the following applications and utilities.
- HP Omen Control – The most useful preloaded application, HP Omen Control lets you set up everything from your macro keys to the customizable lighting zones.
- HP Performance Advisor – View your system performance at a glance with memory graph and workstation monitor.
- HP Support Assistant – A handy assistant app, which you'll find most useful for downloading updates such as new Intel graphics drivers.
- HP Recovery Manager – This app helps get your laptop back up and running in case it stops working correctly.
- Heaven Benchmark – In case you don't own benchmarking software like 3DMark and PCMark, HP has included a copy of this DX11 tool for your testing pleasure.