HP Omen X 2S review: HP's gaming laptop sold me on the second screen

The Good The HP Omen X 2S doesn't just rest on the laurels of its small but useful second screen. It offers very good performance for its class without always being the loudest fan in the room, a stylish but functional design and an excellent keyboard.

The Bad No dedicated DisplayPort connection means no G-Sync on an external monitor and the lack of an area to rest your wrists makes working anywhere but on a table awkward. Plus, the battery won't last a long commute.

The Bottom Line You'll definitely find a use for the small second screen on the HP Omen X 2S, a fast, well-designed enthusiast gaming laptop.

The Omen X 2S has three primary distinguishing features: a 6-inch 1080p touchscreen above the keyboard and a new Performance mode option that optimizes power allocation to the CPU and GPU based on the demands of the game (or whatever software you're running). The third? It's just an all-around likable enthusiast gaming laptop.

And you've got to like it to lug it. It's not an anchor, but at about 5.2 pounds (2.4 kg) and 0.8 inch (20mm) thick, it's less compact than a lot of the svelter models in its class, like the Acer Predator Triton 500. For what it's worth, at least it has one of the nicer power bricks, modeled after HP's consumer laptops. But that's the tradeoff for that extra screen.

The configuration we tested is pricey at $2,900, but that's typical for the configuration and this does have the secondary display. It's not yet available in the UK (listed as "coming soon") or Australia, but the US price of our test model directly converts to roughly £2,400 and AU$4,275.

I tossed in benchmarks for the Lenovo Legion Y545 to show what you give up if you want to save $1,500. Options include a Core i7-9880H (eight cores, compared with the 9750's six cores), GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q, more or less storage and a 4K or 240Hz 1,920x1,080-pixel display.

The only upgrade from it I think would be generally beneficial is some extra memory. I think it's still a relatively small number of people who hit frame rates north of 240Hz on games where artifacts like tearing and jitter would be obvious on this system's 144Hz screen, at least with the components inside this laptop. I hit over 200fps in Doom without any visual hitches. And if you're going to go 4K, think about OLED instead -- which isn't an option for this model.

If you want to save money, though, you can drop to an RTX 2070 Max-Q for $700 less. Otherwise, there isn't much you can cut except storage, and that tends to be a pretty inelastic need.

HP Omen X 2S

Price as reviewed $2,899
Display size, resolution, refresh rate 15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080, 144Hz
PC CPU Intel Core i7-9750H
PC Memory 16GB 2,666Hz DDR4
Graphics Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
Storage 1TB SSD
Ports 1x USB-C/Thunderbolt port, 3x USB-A 3.1, 1x HDMI 2.0, headphone
Networking Gigabit Ethernet and WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows Home (64-bit)
Weight 5.2 pounds (2.4 kg)

Display duality

HP pitches the second display at gamers who've typically been using phones for watching a stream, chatting, listening to music, killing time waiting for a match or monitoring your system stats via the command center. To Windows it looks just like a second monitor, which means you can drag any window down to it and display any type of content.

HP Omen X 2S

That second screen is small but mighty.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I stick by my initial thoughts about the small secondary display. It's not hugely better than using a phone for that stuff. You can also mirror a section of the main display on it, which doesn't really seem to be that convenient. And it's useful for monitoring system stats, but I really wanted to be able to flip between lighting profiles down there and you can't while the command center is on that screen (only the animated profiles have shortcut keys, not the static ones).

The other day, though, I was monitoring a video meeting while working on something else, and had an "A-ha!" moment. That little screen, with the ability to toggle back and forth to the main screen, is perfect for situations where something only requires a third of your brain (or less), or when you need to take notes on something you're viewing. Yes, I just admitted that I have meeting-inattention syndrome.

Sometimes, I kind of even prefer it to putting it on a second big display because it's less distracting; glance down, read the slide and go back to work. Something important appears? Just hit the toggle button to move it up to the big screen.

I still think the Asus ZenBook Duo's second screen, which is in the same location but lifted to a slight angle by the hinge, seems a little better ergonomically.

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