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

Even though the secondary display is tiny, it has some killer uses for nongamers.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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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.

HP Omen X 2S

HP Omen X 2S

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.

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.

Power play

Most laptops -- gaming or not -- have a "performance" mode choice. Usually, it's a "damn the sound, full speed ahead" option which pushes the fans to the max and then jacks up the CPU and GPU speeds as far as the cooling system can take it. HP says its new Dynamic Power capability allocates the increased wattage to the two processors based on the needs of the application or game. In other words, it increases efficiency.

And what's really nice is that instead of just spinning up the fans and leaving them blasting, it doesn't go straight to maximum; if you're not stressing the system, it's not stressing the fans. So you don't have to choose between peace and quiet or power every time.

That's part of an updated cooling system that includes a switch from thermal paste to Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut liquid-metal compound to better dissipate heat off the CPU (better heat dissipation means it should be able to run longer at higher frequencies without overheating), plus improved fans and venting.

Switching the HP from its default power setting to Performance mode does boost frame rates -- about 6% to 12%, which translates to about 9 fps in the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, 11 fps in Far Cry 5 and so on -- as well as RTX ray-tracing performance at about 8%. However, for loads that are primarily CPU- or GPU-intensive, performance was the same or even a little worse.

When you take into account that the comparably configured models we've tested that performed better than the HP (at its default, balanced setting) all had 32GB RAM versus the HP's 16GB, the HP delivered quite respectable performance. Except for battery life, which is pretty meh even for a gaming laptop at about 2.3 hours.

The HP Omen X 2S' second screen is just a perk

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A soft touch

The overall design is pretty sharp and can pass as a work-by-day and play-by-night laptop. Though it's not as sleek as some other Max-Q models like Razer's black (or white) slabs, it's not adorned with lots of flashing lights. The only connection it's missing is a dedicated DisplayPort; though it has a Thunderbolt 3 connection, that doesn't support G-Sync Ultimate for an external monitor because it's not on the GPU bus.

The main display does work with G-Sync, though. It's nothing novel, just the standard narrow-bezel 144Hz FHD panel we're seeing everywhere. It's bright enough though, and since it's matte there's no problem with reflections -- except for it reflecting in the glass covering the section above the keyboard with the small display.

There are some really cute touches in the keyboard, such as it selectively backlighting relevant keys when you hit Fn, a Windows-key lock with an LED so you know whether it's locked or not and backlights on the shift functions (e.g. it lights up the "#" as well as the "3"), a personal peeve. There's no backlight for the right-side clickpad, but if the keys above it are illuminated it's not hard to find in the dark. And the keyboard itself feels really good, both for typing and for gaming, with a decent amount of travel and a perceptible actuation point (unless you don't like that feel), and nothing's in a nonstandard spot.

But if you're looking for macro keys -- or any programmable keys, for that matter -- you won't find them here. And because the screen and cooling system sit between the keyboard and the main monitor, there's no wrist rest area. It has one you can stick in front of the laptop, but it's no use if you want to put the laptop on your lap. It's also big, heavy and made of a rubbery material that attracts and clings to every piece of schmutz in the vicinity.

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 21830Lenovo Legion Y545 21528Origin PC Evo16-S 21505HP Omen X 2S 21352Acer Predator Triton 500 19851Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 19641
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 350Lenovo Legion Y545 299Origin PC Evo16-S 284Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 174Acer Predator Triton 500 141HP Omen X 2S 138
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Evo16-S 4667Acer Predator Triton 500 4642MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 4464Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 4330HP Omen X 2S 4106Lenovo Legion Y545 3066
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Far Cry 5 gaming test

Origin PC Evo16-S 98MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 96Acer Predator Triton 500 95Lenovo Legion Y545 86HP Omen X 2S 82Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 58
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test

Acer Predator Triton 500 88HP Omen X 2S 84MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 83Lenovo Legion Y545 71Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 68Origin PC Evo16-S 63
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3D Mark Port Royal ray-tracing test

Acer Predator Triton 500 4253Razer Blade (2019, OLED) 4198Origin PC Evo16-S 4112MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG 3981HP Omen X 2S 3904Lenovo Legion Y545 1471
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Acer Predator Triton 500 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; (2) 512GB SSD RAID 0
HP Omen X 2S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 1TB SSD
Lenovo Legion Y545 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1660Ti; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Origin PC Evo16-S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Razer Blade Advanced (2019, OLED) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD