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HP Omen (17-inch) review: High-performance gaming minus the flashy design

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For the most part, gaming laptops are made to look aggressive, with angular bodies, multicolored lights on the lid and keyboard and big stylized fan vents. You might also find extra buttons or other controls on the keyboard deck, making these systems appear more like a mobile command center than a laptop.

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7.8

HP Omen (17-inch)

The Good

The 17-inch HP Omen is available in several configurations depending on your needs and budget. Reasonably priced even with its top-end, VR-ready version. Low-key design and good battery life compared to other gaming systems. Nice ultra HD-resolution screen.

The Bad

Lacks the flashy design or macro/shortcut keys found on other gaming laptops. Can get hot and loud under load. No USB-C ports. No touchscreen.

The Bottom Line

The 17-inch HP Omen might not look aggressive, but you'll have no problems taking down the competition with this fully loaded gaming laptop.

HP, however, took more of an "iron fist in a velvet glove" approach with the 17-inch Omen. If it weren't for the old VoodooPC logo on the lid and glowing red keyboard, it could easily pass for a regular, if somewhat husky, desktop replacement. For the Omen, it's mainly the components on the inside that make it a gaming system.

The $1,800 system I tested, for example, was a top-of-line-configuration which had a VR-ready Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card paired with a sixth-gen Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor. Combined with 16GB of memory and 256GB solid state drive and 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive, it had performance to spare even when playing at its full 3,840x2,160-pixel resolution. A similar configuration in Australia will set you back AU$3,699, while in the UK it'll run you £1,899.

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The GTX 1070 GPU can handle the Omen's UHD display.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can also opt to scale back on storage and get the price down to $1,600. (Note: The configuration I reviewed is currently out of stock, but expected to return.) If that's still too high for you, HP offers a lot of configurations with other 10-series cards as well as older GeForce GTX 965M cards with prices starting at a little over $1,000. But again, if you're looking for bells and whistles or typical gaming system design features, you won't find them here.

HP Omen (17-inch)

HP Omen (17-inch)
Price as reviewed $1,800
Display size/resolution 17-inch 3,840x2,160 display
PC CPU 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR4SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
Storage 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD (7,200rpm)
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2, Ethernet
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

That thing's huge

Everyone who saw me using the Omen 17 was shocked by its size. There's no doubt it's big, but by 17-inch gaming laptop standards it's not jaw-dropping big (although gaming laptops of all stripes are getting slimmer and lighter). In fact because of its rounded edges and subtle cooling vents, it doesn't look nearly as bulky as others this size. Make no mistake, though, this notebook is big and traveling with something this large is a literal pain.

After working day-in and day-out on a 13.3-inch system, having the extra space a 17.3-inch laptop provides is fantastic, and for gaming it lets you sink into the experience that much more. The matte ultra HD-resolution display is sharp with excellent color performance. The GTX 1070 card had no trouble keeping Battlefield 1 at playable frame rates and full resolution, either.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The full-size keyboard is comfortable with enough travel even for people who hammer on the keys. Its red backlight gets reasonably bright, but it's either on or off, so if you want it dimmer you're out of luck. The clickpad works well, too, and I didn't experience any cursor jumping despite constantly dragging my right palm on it while typing.

Still, for gaming, you'll probably want to hook up an external keyboard or at least a mouse when you can. The Omen has three USB 3.0 ports with one on the left and two on the right. Also on the left are separate mic and headphone jacks joined on the right by an SD card reader, Ethernet jack and HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs.

Rounding out the feature set is a decent webcam above the screen joined by an Intel RealSense 3D camera with Windows Hello support for using facial recognition to unlock the computer. It can also be used for games with gesture controls. The Bang & Olufsen-branded sound system includes front-firing speakers and another set above the keyboard. They lack bass, but get loud enough to clearly drown out the system's fans.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Ready for take off

Within seconds of starting up any demanding game, the fans kick on and stay on at full speed. They're loud and hearing dialogue over their whir requires cranking the audio or putting on headphones. Given the narrow rear vents, I'm surprised they don't have to spin harder than they do and frankly maybe they should, considering the rear of the system gets uncomfortably hot under heavy load.

The heat didn't seem to slow this laptop down at all, though, and this top-end configuration is worth the investment for gaming. Also, while my review system used a sixth-gen Core i7 processor, HP does offer seventh-gen options. However, we haven't seen great differences in performance between the two. And again, HP offers this system in a variety of configurations to match your needs and bank account. For gaming, your GPU choice is going to have a bigger impact that the CPU.

Battery life came in at 4.5 hours on our video streaming test. That's actually better than average with a 17.3-inch high-resolution display. Doing anything more demanding will certainly cut into that time, so I wouldn't plan on being away from an outlet for too long, and most gaming laptops can run maybe an hour or so at most with the GPU engaged.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

It's all about what's on the inside

At less than $2,000 (roughly converted to £1,600 or AU$2600), our configuration of the 17-inch HP Omen is a reasonably good deal for what you're getting. That's assuming you don't want a lot of bells and whistles and don't care about it looking more like a "gaming laptop" or being more portable. Even if it doesn't look like it can, you'll have no problems taking down your competition with this fully loaded laptop.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Origin PC Eon-17X 131Razer Blade Pro 176HP Omen (17-inch) 184Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 195Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 200
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Origin PC Eon-17X 18961Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 13708HP Omen (17-inch) 13362Razer Blade Pro 13313Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 13093
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

HP Omen (17-inch) 270Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 245Razer Blade Pro 229Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 226Origin PC Eon-17X 121
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Eon-17X 4919Razer Blade Pro 4456HP Omen (17-inch) 3816Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 2609Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 1822
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Origin PC Eon-17X 214Razer Blade Pro 161.31HP Omen (17-inch) 137.56Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) 116.69Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 89.35
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System Configurations

System Configurations
HP Omen (17-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Origin PC Eon-17X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD
Alienware 13 R3 (OLED) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 512GB SSD
Asus ROG Strix GL753VE-DS74 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Razer Blade Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Home; (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; (2) 256GB SSD RAID 0
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7.8

HP Omen (17-inch)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Battery 8Support 0