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Updated HP Omen line shows it's getting serious about gaming

The completely overhauled product line looks, feels and acts more like gaming gear.

Sarah Tew/CNET
Now playing: Watch this: HP's new gameworthy Omen PCs

When we reviewed the 2016 model of HP's Omen gaming laptop, we called it high-performance gaming minus the flashy design. For 2017 HP's dropping a rethought-out line of its Omen gaming systems updated with the flashy design, just in time for E3.

Remember the backpack VR PC prototype from last year? Now it's ready to be a real product, but redefined as the Omen X Compact Desktop. It sits in a docking station for use as a PC, but then you can pluck it out, strap it to your back with a headset and you're ready for VR.

The more conventional Omen Desktop has been completely overhauled, with a blinged-out gaming design, tool-free expansion with a bay for easily swapping hard drives.

And both PCs are optimized for overclocking both Intel Core i and AMD Ryzen processors.

Basic specs

Omen X Compact Desktop Omen Desktop
CPU Intel Core i7-7820HK (unlocked) Up to Ryzen 7 1800X, Intel Core i7-7700K (unlocked)
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (overclocked) 8GB GDDR5 Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB GDDR5X
Memory 16GB DDR4 Up to 16GB DDR4
Storage 1TB PCIe SSD Up to 512GB SSD + 2TB 7200rpm HDD, Optical drive
Ports System: 4 USB Type-A, 1 USB-C/Thunderbolt, 1 audio-out, 1 HDMI 2.0, 1 Mini DisplayPort. Dock: 5 USB Type-A, 1 Ethernet, 1 USB-C, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort 6 USB 3.0 Type-A, 2 USB 2.0 Type-A, 2 USB-C, 1 HDMI 1.4, 1 DisplayPort 1.2, 3 audio-out
Price $2,499 (Backpack Accessory $599) Starts at $899
Availability n/a Now

Its Omen 15 and 17 laptops get power upgrades, bringing the high-end configuration of the 15-inch into VR-capable territory. Their keyboards have been tuned for gaming in both the layout and the ability to better accept input from simultanous unrelated keypresses and HP's upgraded their audio, cooling and display options. On the 17-inch HP's brought back the optical drive option and added a 120Hz display choice. But while they look a little flashier than before, you're still stuck with the the red-only backlighting.

Basic specs

Omen 15 Omen 17
Screen 15.6-inch TN 60Hz, HD or 4K UHD HD 120Hz G-Sync or up to 4K UHD 60Hz FreeSync or G-Sync
CPU Intel Core i7-7700HQ Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Graphics AMD Radeon RX550 2GB GDDR5 or up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5 or up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5
Memory Up to 16GB DDR4 Up to 32GB DDR4
Storage Up to 512GB PCIe SSD + 1TB HDD, SD card reader Up to 256GB PCIe SSD + 2TB HDD, SD card reader; optional optical drive
Ports 3 USB Type-A, 1 USB-C (optional Thunderbolt), 1 HDMI 2.0, 1 Mini DisplayPort, 1 Ethernet 3 USB Type-A, 1 USB-C (optional Thunderbolt), 1 HDMI 2.0, 1 Mini DisplayPort, 1 Ethernet  
Price Starts at $999 Starts at $1,099
Availability June 2017 June 2017

And If you've already got one of HP's compatible premium, late-model laptops or all-in-ones like the Spectre x360 or Envy Curved 34, there's now a big docking station called the Omen Accelerator, which accommodates a graphics card and more storage to up your game.

You can now control much of the essential gaming settings with the new HP Control Panel software, which includes a dashboard for analyzing performance, overclocking, optimizing network traffic, lighting/backlighting controls and keyboard mapping.

HP also offered a new pair of monitors to attach to your systems, a 25-inch freesync compatible HD with a 144Hz refresh, or a 27-inch G-sync compatble Quad HD which goes up to 165Hz.

Its Omen accessories have been improved to match, with a new mechanical keyboard, mouse with removable weights to optimize the feel, and a headset redesign for more comfort and better audio quality.