Review: HP’s Omen 17 is as close as gaming laptops get to a bargain

Honestly: Ripley here walked over and posed of her own volition while I was taking photos. I guess you know what they say about black cats and omens...

When I began my quest to review a horde of gaming laptops, at the end of which I would purchase the one I liked the most, I was reasonably convinced of two things. One, I wouldn’t settle for something that I considered to be graphically underpowered. Two, I didn’t want something gigantic. The first conviction was challenged by the relatively affordable Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming, whose humble 1050 Ti GPU proved surprisingly meaty (sadly, the awful screen ultimately deterred me from purchase there), and now the second has come undone in the face of the colossal 17″ HP Omen.

Cards on the table: I arranged a loan of this machine – Omen by HP 17-w200na, to give it its full name – in the near-certain belief that I really wouldn’t like it. The sheer size of the thing, the cod-Satanic branding, a perceived plastickiness in photos, the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and, most of all, a suspiciously cheap price for a laptop with a powerful NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card. You can get this thing for £450-£650 less than the very similarly-specced Alienware 15 I looked at a while back, and £600-£750 less than Alienware’s broadly equivalent 17″ model. Surely this meant the Omen is nasty?

Not a bit of it. It’s a significantly nicer machine than the Alienware despite the significantly lower cost. And a dramatically superior machine to the Inspiron 15 despite being “only” £500 more (‘only’ £350 if you use an HP voucher).

First, let’s do the specs thing. In the spirit of full disclosure, the review unit I have is in fact a last-gen model, but all that actually means is it has a marginally slower CPU – a 2.6-3.5 GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ, versus the 2.8-3.8 GHz in the more recent model’s 7700HQ; there are few real life scenarios in which this would make a perceptible difference. Everything else is just the same as the Omen 17 you can buy now, though you’ll find different RAM, hard drive, screen and graphics card configurations depending on where you buy and how much you pay. Here’s what we get:

CPU: Intel Core i7 6700HQ, 2.6 GHz / 3.5Ghz max boost (again, if you buy a brand new one you’re more than likely to find a 7700HQ in there instead)
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
RAM: 8GB DDR 4
Hard drive: 128GB M.2 SSD and 1TB HDD
Screen: Full HD 1920×1080, IPS, 40-75Hz G-Sync
Size: 41.6 x 27.9 x 3.3 cm
Weight: 3.4 Kg

That spec, once again with the fractionally faster 7700HQ, can be had for £1500 from Amazon, or a pretty remarkable £1,350 direct from HP if bought using a ‘MAY10’ voucher code valid until the end of this Month.

Alternatively, you can drop the GPU down to a 1060 (still a very capable card, but you’re future-proofing yourself less) and an i5 6300HQ (bit slower and has no hyperthreading, but this won’t be an issue in the vast majority of current games) for £1,179.

I’m not at all comfortable using the word ‘bargain’ when it comes to dropping £1,500 or even £1,350 on a single item, but certainly it’s true that I haven’t turned up a better value proposition for a high-end gaming laptop than this one. A few Asus and Gigabyte models do get close to it, however, so I can well imagine that the right sale in the right place on the right day will see one of those undercut this one. I’ll do my best to get hold of those for review later in this seriesette, anyway.

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room, which was my fear that the Omen 17 would be like keeping an elephant in my room. I’ve owned or borrowed many laptops during my time, but never gone above 15″ because, well, I wanted an actually portable device, not effectively a desktop PC that folded up a bit. The Omen 17 is certainly big and thick, but nothing like as big as I’d feared – or as heavy. Relatively efficient use of bezel means that there aren’t acres of plastic either side of the screen, and there’s minimal use of metal styling (or external heatsink blocks, as with the Alienware 15) to create excess weight.

PS4 pad pictured for size as well as heresy.

Though its all-plastic construction means you miss out on the premium feel of, say, an Apple or Razer laptop, I find the fact that I can carry this thing about without my back collapsing infinitely preferable. It’s the same weight as the Alienware despite being quite a bit bigger, and doesn’t feel dramatically heavier than the Inspiron 15 gaming. Moving betwixt home and office involves an almighty hill, and so far I haven’t keeled over and died halfway up while carrying this. Summer’s only just begun, mind you.

There’s no doubt about it though, this is a big old lad, and it requires a power supply the size and weight of a paperback too. There is simply no way I’m using it in a coffee shop or on a train or plane tray table, and that’s a combination of practicality and embarrassment factor. The latter at least relates mostly to size rather than appearance. Though the blood red Omen logo on its cover was described by a colleague as resembling “a grumpy beaver” rather than whatever proprietary demon graphic it’s intended to be, the branding is comparatively discrete here. It’s certainly not beautiful, but it’s not “oh God I’m a victim of a marketing executive’s stereotypes about ‘gamers'” either.

I feel significantly less self-conscious about its carbon black with red backlit keyboard design than I did the little grey man and neon striplighting of the Alienware 15. (I know I keep picking on the Alienware machine here, but as I get to see more of these machines I’ll have more points of comparison – and, in this case, Omen and Alienware are very much rivals for the gaming laptop buck right now.) I even prefer it to the more neutral grey with red accents of the Inspiron. Though also all-plastic, the matte finish and carbon fibre effect broadly looks smart rather than cheap. If I owned one, I’d definitely be slapping a sticker over the grumpy beaver, however.

So, no coffee shop use, but as a machine to move between home and work, the Omen’s surprised me. It’s not just that it’s a little more portable than I’d suspected, but also that the generous 17″ screen gives me a sense of using a proper PC that I’ve ever known in any previous laptop. Even with 15 inchers, I’ve quickly found myself keeping an external monitor to hand because screen real estate has felt so cramped, and games so tiny. I wouldn’t bother here – 17″ is the sweet spot in that regard. Big and roomy and games look great on it.

It helps a lot that the screen itself isn’t trash, of course. There’s an IPS panel in there (i.e. the same sort of tech used in phones and Apple laptops) so you get good colours and viewing angles. The displays on the Alienware and Dell models made me deeply miserable, as everything looked pale and uninteresting on them even if you could find the tiny window of correct viewing angle. The Omen doesn’t come close to matching the glorious vibrancy of the Razer Blade Stealth‘s 4K screen, but in day-to-day practice I have no real complaints. Everything looks right. I’d worried from afar that ‘just’ 1080p might look a bit lousy on a screen this big, but that’s been no issue whatsoever. Sure, 4K makes fonts look pretty and games look sharp, but the reality is it’s a big hit on battery life and is likely to have your GPU hitting its performance ceiling too soon for no major gain.

One thing the Alienware does have over this one, screen-wise, is that it has up to 120Hz refresh (and therefore framerate), which appeals to the speed-above-all-else crowd. Though both machines have G-Sync, this one tops out at 75Hz. Speaking personally, that’s more than enough (I can feel a slight difference from 60 > 75 Hz, but very little if anything above that) and I find that plus an IPS panel is an infinitely more pleasant experience than 120Hz + a TN panel. Each to their What Hi-Fi-reading own, however.

As for the GPU, a 1070 is a 1070 so other than checking it works as it’s supposed to (it does), there’s little new to say there. As with the Alienware 15, it’s maxing out the likes of the Witcher 3 and Deus Ex Mankind Divided without breaking a sweat. Add Prey to that roster, which in most cases is seeing a solid 75 FPS on the Omen, with G-Sync compensating for minor drops (adaptive sync means a game’s framerate can flicker happily all over the place rather than hard-switch between 60/45/30 as it does with V-Sync). Only time will tell, but my feeling is that a 1070 won’t age too quickly, the G-Sync panel will help when it does and, if you can afford it, that GPU makes for a better investment than does a 1060 laptop.

That said, on the issue of upgradeability, this sadly lacks a Thunderbolt 3 connection, so you won’t be able to use an external graphics card dock with it when you need a bit more graphical oomph a few years later. It’s difficult to say what the lie of the land will be for eGPUs a few years hence, but right now it does seem a mite foolish to be buying a laptop that definitely cannot support it. I’d probably steer clear of the less powerful 1060 version of the Omen 17 for exactly that reason.

It should also be noted that a few other concessions have been made to keep this Omen’s price down. 8GB of RAM is enough for many situations, but you’ll probably find yourself wanting to upgrade to 16GB in short order if you like to have a few browser tabs open in the background while you game, or use Photoshop or Premiere or stream or anything like that. 16GB is by no means a necessity in 2017, but it’s definitely helpful.

The same’s true of the 128GB solid state boot drive. It’s enough for Windows, a few key applications and one or two games, but you’ll need to start using the 1TB mechanical drive for game installations before long, which means far slower loading times. Ideally the SSD would be 256GB, just for a bit more breathing room, so that might turn out to be another deferred cost if you go for the Omen, depending on how much you’re bothered by loading screens.

I think those are entirely fair compromises made in the name of selling a very powerful gaming laptop for £1500, however. As such, despite these niggles, the lack of Thunderbolt 3 and the fact it’s too chunky to use in some public places, the Omen has currently shot right to the top of my ‘laptops I might buy’ list. Strong specs, an entirely decent screen and a price that meaningfully undercuts most of its rivals: there’s so much to like here. I’d honestly expected to not get on with the Omen 17 at all, but now I’m finding it fits into my work/play laptop gap eerily snugly.

All being well, next up we’ll be looking at the Razer Blade, a very different proposition, but one which is likely to create a real dilemma for me about which machine I’ll end up buying.

Omen by HP 17-w200na is available now. HP are currently selling it direct for £1,350 until the end of the month, or it can be found for £1,499 from online stores including Amazon.

Review sample loaned to us by HP.

From this site

54 Comments

  1. Alice O'Connor says:

    DOES THE CAT COME WITH IT?

  2. Fede says:

    That’s a great cat! It looks like one I had 15 years ago <3

  3. Konservenknilch says:

    I won’t even bother to read the article. There’s a cat, so I’ll buy it.

  4. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    I kept reading to find out more about the cat, but the man would just ramble on and on about computers.

  5. Doomlord says:

    The SSD is WAY too small. You’ll have room for that bloated pig of an OS called Windows, and maybe a few applications or small games. Certainly, you won’t have room for any bigger AAA-style games. And 8 gig of RAM just simply doesn’t cut it these days. You’ll find games like Battlefield 1 won’t run reliably.

    If those two things were better, this would be a good deal.

    • Bforceny says:

      Doom, the SSD size and the RAM are more than appropriate for a cat this size. I can run Battlefield 1 on a 4 year old Tabby cat on High, but Tabbies are limited to 1080P as far as resolution – On a Bombay cat like the one in the picture, you can do 4K no problem…even with only 8 gig.

    • Daymare says:

      Is there an extra slot for another SSD?

      How hard is it to switch/add RAM with this model?

      The last 2 laptops I bought (MSI and ASUS) I could just add both, not harder than installing some hardware on a PC. Depending on the model, you might lose your warranty, though.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      I agree with this 100%. It’s the one real kicker for this laptop, you shouldn’t be allowed to call something a gaming machine when you only have room for one game on it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      What does this even have to do with cats? Clearly off topic.

  6. Merry says:

    I’m sorry. I was weak. I bought one. I shall probably not move from my bed for the next month.

    For similarly weak-willed people, note that you must register on the HP UK Store before you go to checkout. You’re assured that, even without an account, you will have a chance to register after you’ve completed the transaction, but there will be no opportunity to enter the discount code if you do it that way. £150 is a lot to lose due to an oversight.

    • ramirezfm says:

      How is the first impression? I want to upgrade my old Alienware 15 to something new. Was aiming for the new Alienware 15 R3 but missed the sale on the previous model with weaker cpu and now the same model just with kaby lake is 500 euro more expensive :/ Maybe Omen would be ok despite being 17″… The price seems to be nice.

  7. zulnam says:

    Are you high? The cheapest Omen-17 on Amazon (UK) is 999 pounds. HOW is that a bargain?!

    I did a full PC upgrade for slightly less than that. I7-6600k, 32gb RAM, RX 480+, 256 SSD, 2 TB HDD. Even that can’t be considered a bargain and it’s better than your advertisement product.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      Oh, you built a custom laptop with all that, did you? Or did you miss that he’s talking specifically about laptops? Or that he says in the article that he doesn’t like using ‘bargain’ when it’s so expensive?

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      “As close as a gaming laptop gets to a bargain” =/= “a bargain”.

      He lists the good, he lists the bad. It’s up to you to buy it, but if you’re on the fence I suggest first actually reading the article.

      • Sakkura says:

        He may still have slightly exaggerated how close this is to a bargain.

        Wouldn’t be surprising since it was by comparison to Alienware, which is often horrifically overpriced.

        • ramirezfm says:

          For a gaming laptop with 1070 anything below 2k euro is a bargain. A bargain =/= a bargain though, if you know what I mean.

    • JOJOFACE says:

      does your PC fit in a backpack?

      • Sakkura says:

        You could do that with an mITX system.

        Still doesn’t give you the same capabilities as a laptop does, of course.

        But then again, I think people tend to overestimate how much they’ll actually exploit those capabilities, gaming-wise.

        • LexW1 says:

          I don’t think people really do. I don’t and never have owned a gaming laptop, but I have friends who do, and it’s very clear that having a powerful PC they can just bring to places, put down, and start playing modern PC games is the main “capability” that they are exploiting. If you’ve got the money and you don’t have a lot of space and/or are on the move a lot, a gaming laptop is pretty great.

          Even the price differential to normal PC isn’t as extreme as initially appears, when one considers that there is a 4K monitor involved as well. Though obviously it is still pretty severe (you could probably build a home PC with similar specs and a decent-sized 4k monitor for about 60-70% of the price).

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            I dunno, most of the people I see with gaming laptops use them in the same place pretty much all the time. It strikes me as the same kind of rationalization that leads people to buy a brand new $40k truck they commute to work with 99% of the time.

          • Someoldguy says:

            Guilty as charged, but that place happens to be the dining table, so it gets picked up and stowed every evening when we eat. There’s simply no space for us to have two desktop machines in the flat and competition for just one machine would be too fierce. The 1-2% of the time when we go on holiday or visiting relatives it’s pretty handy too!

    • ramirezfm says:

      So you’re comparing a desktop pc upgrade, with an inferior graphics card to a gaming laptop with a superior graphics. My Mazda 3 is way cheaper than that Lotus Evora! Stoopid!

      Read the article before commenting maybe?

  8. CaptainKoloth says:

    Alec:

    A few weeks ago I was in precisely the same boat as you looking for exactly the same things in the laptop.

    And I found THE laptop. May I humbly suggest the Asus ROG Strix GL502VS-WS71, which is at moment on sale (at least here in the US) for $1399, which gets you:

    GTX 1070 8G
    i7-7700HQ
    16 GB DDR4 RAM
    Gorgeous 15.6″ 1080p IPS display with G-sync
    256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
    Light for power at 5.2 lbs

    Only real downside is lack of Thunderbolt-C. But try this laptop- I think it will hit the spot for you exactly as it did for me.

    • Shuck says:

      Huh, I was pricing the parts for a desktop machine with almost exactly the same specs – and somehow the laptop is cheaper, at least from some vendors. Substantially so. I have no idea how that works.

    • Daymare says:

      What store did you find it at that price?

    • agentd says:

      Bought my wife an Asia laptop last year and have been really impressed, had previously bought only MSI or customs built ones but will definitely be considering a ROG for my next purchase

    • Kerans says:

      After the kind of research session which involved about 50 Chrome tabs opened at once, I came to the same conclusion that the Asus ROG GL502VS-WS71 offered the best sides of the inevitable trade-offs that you seem to have to make when buying a gaming laptop. For my usage, which involves running games at high/ultra detail and connecting to an external 1440p monitor, it seemed perfect.

      It doesn’t have Thunderbolt for an external graphics card, but that seemed to me to be a major extra pain in the arse, to carry around an expensive enclosure and its own PSU. Seemed much better to get a 1070 built in than having some kind of weird upgrade path that would tie it to a desk.

  9. Curundir says:

    There’s an IPS panel in there so you get good colours and viewing angles.

    Really now? Well I would like to know how good the colours are. And while I’m at it, I’d also like to know how strong the case is? Does the screen wobble while typing? How much heat and noise does it generate idle and under load? Can it easily be opened for maintenance and upgrades?

    If you ask me, all these things (and many more) belong in a proper hardware review. As it is, I think you’ve merely written a shallow and not very scientific “Wot I think”. Honestly, I couldn’t care less that you wouldn’t dare show this in a coffee shop. I’m sure that some other laptop gamer would be proud to show it at his or her coffee shop.

    I really don’t understand where RPS is going with these cursory hardware articles. With so many well-researched, well-informed, expertly tested and well-written hardware reviews out there, they can’t really think to compete, do they?

  10. xvre says:

    All nice and well regarding specs and price, but how does it perform under heavy load? And I mean in terms of generated heat and noise levels. That’s super important, if we’re talking gaming laptops. You can have a really fast one, but if you can’t hold the hands on the keyboard due to the heat, it’s no good (I’ve had this happen with an old Dell XPS). Maybe an infrared picture of the thing, while it’s running Battlefield 1 or Witcher 3.

  11. telpscorei says:

    Can anyone who has one confirm it doesn’t suffer from the HP Keylogger issue? It’s to do with a device driver by Conexant- full details here:
    link to arstechnica.co.uk

    Easiest way to check is to look for this file – C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log – if it does have it, you’re a little bit screweeeeeed.

  12. Philopoemen says:

    I reeeeaalllly want to see how it stacks up to an ORIGIN-PC Eon17-X …true they be custom…but basically waiting for tax return to drop a substantial sum on one of those badboys unless I somehow get talked out of it.

    Here’s to no children!

  13. Barts says:

    Who cares about laptop, there’s a kitty!

  14. 4004 says:

    If only it wasn’t that big. It’s 2017, we have pascal cards and years of hardware design history, why is it so bloody hard to develop a good-looking portable machine with a good GPU? Shopping for a decent laptop is a pain

  15. kud13 says:

    once my trusty 7-year old 19-inch Toshiba Satellite finally draws it’s last breath, I’ll be looking for a new laptop.
    I appreciate this series for giving me a heads up on what’s out there.

  16. geldonyetich says:

    For storage on a lappy that is blazing fast, I went with one that could support some M.2 chips running in RAID0. I’m banking that chips aren’t as prone to failure like magnetic platters are, and a couple of 512GB are all you’re likely to need. At that size, those chips won’t break the bank, but they’re still expensive enough that it’s not an inconsequential purchase. But bringing up Windows 10 from a cold start in about 5 seconds is nice.

    So the question there is whether or not your lappy actually has the ability to support M.2s in RAID0. That, and a G-Sync display, will cut down the aperture of laptops worth getting considerably.

  17. HumpX says:

    Please explain to me why similarly powered laptops and PC desktops have such a price disparity?

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      Find me a customizable laptop shell. That’s part of your answer.

    • desolation0 says:

      It requires some amount of custom engineering to fit everything into the shell properly, vent the heat, and not have the product end up with terrible compromises. There’s no such thing as buying the part you need and slotting it in and having it just work in the laptop world, besides the storage and memory. Then there’s just the cost of making things that are high powered, small, and efficient. The engineering makes it hard to get all three without raising the price further.

  18. that_guy_strife says:

    Okay, I have two questions.

    One, why is Alienware still refered to as a comparison point ? They are massively overpriced for no reason – multiple other companies have the same configurations for way less.

    Two, why does the weight matter so much ? A day out on the town is a far cry from a 4 day hike, where every gram is accounted for. I’ve never had a problem lugging around a 15” gaming laptop with its brick during my 7 years of college / university.

    If an extra pound or two hurt you so much, maybe you need to shape up.

  19. Raoul Duke says:

    Hopefully you are edging closer and closer to the perfect gaming laptop, the MSI GS73VR…

  20. Scandalon says:

    The logo reminds me (“looks like” might be to strong) of the MCP from Tron.

  21. saira93jb says:

    I bought an HP Omen about two months ago.
    Well at first I didn’t face any issues with it and I loved the device.
    BUT BUT BUT about a week ago, I was working and the screen went blank out of nowhere. Just in a second, it stopped working. I could see the keyboard LEDs on, so that meant that everything was fine and the problem was just with the screen only. I was able to connect it to a monitor and copy my data.
    I took it to the place where I bought it and they told me THEY ARE GONNA FIX IT, NOT REPLACE BUT FIX. And today after a week I got their call saying the issue is with the motherboard and they will be REPLACING the motherboard……. like the hell, I bought it two months ago and it cost me more than my salary. Now it will be getting fixed within two months of purchase. HUH
    All they said is that the issue is with the motherboard and they are not gonna replace the device, all they gonna do is fix it.
    WORST EXPERIENCE EVER

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