HP Omen 15 Gaming Notebook Review, A Bit Of Mojo And Voodoo

Design and User Experience

For a laptop that features so many angles, the HP Omen 15 has a decidedly soft, slick look to it. The dark, metal chassis has beveled edges that are so deep, the notebook appears to hover over the desk. And the beveled edges of display also give the sense that the screen is floating.

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Gaming notebooks in this price range tend to be thin, but the Omen is one of the slimmer gamers I’ve seen, with a depth of 0.78 inches. It’s also light (for a gaming notebook) at 4.68 pounds. In going so light, HP seems to have sacrificed a certain amount of sturdiness. The Omen isn’t flimsy by any stretch, but it doesn’t feel quite as solid as the 17-inch Lenovo Y70 I recently took for a test drive, for example. More importantly, the display wobbles just a little when moved. I found myself grabbing the display after I adjusted it to stop the wobbling, thought it eventually stops on its own. This is more of a minor annoyance than any real issue.

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The HP Omen 15's display has a resolution of 1920x1080, which is full HD, but doesn't offer the knock-out clarity that 3K mobile displays are capable of. Then again, those displays are typically found on notebooks with much higher price points. Still, 1920x1080 is a typical resolution for a gaming notebook in this category and the HP Omen 15's display is plenty bright. It's also an IPS display, so the panel provides a clear, crisp view even when you're aren't sitting right in front of the machine.

The back of the display has a subtle, dimpled look that gives the Omen a little extra attitude. The impressions are in the shape of triangles, which appears to be a nod to the Omen’s VoodooPC roots. The triangle finish extends to the bottom of the notebook, as well, where triangle cutouts form vents to cool the Omen’s guts. Speaking of the notebook’s underside, the Omen has unusual feet. Instead of the typical nubs, the Omen’s anti-skid materials are long strips of rubber that made for a solid grip on every surface I tried.

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The top of the HP Omen 15 has a great texture that looks sharp.

If anything about the Omen screams “gamer,” it’s the keyboard and trackpad. HP gave the notebook and extra wide trackpad to give users more room for navigation. I still prefer the HP Omen Mouse X9000 that comes as a $69.99 optional accessory – or any mouse, over a trackpad, for that matter. But if you’re going to try and game on the trackpad, the extra space can’t hurt.

The other gamer-friendly feature on the back-lit keyboard is the six programmable “P” keys on the left side of the keyboard. It took me a day or so to get used to the QWERTY layout being a little to the right of where I expected it, but a sizeable gap between the P keys and the rest of the keyboard helped. The keyboard has seven lighting zones so you can customize it to your play style, including the WASD key area that can be dialed in separately for easy recognition for FPS gamers. Even if you don’t need color-coded keys for gaming, the Omen’s backlighting system is a fun, stylish feature.

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There are also lights in the two speaker grills, which sit near the front of the Omen. They’re powered by Beats Audio, the audio company founded by Dr. Dre and recently acquired by Apple.

The machine's sharply beveled edges mean that the only place for ports on the Omen is its back edge. (The exception is the SD card slot on the right side underneath.) That’s part of the reason the Omen looks so clean, but I found myself wishing that the Omen had at least one USB port on the side when I went to plug in an external drive. The mic port is also at the back, whereas many notebooks have it up front.

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Here's the back of the Omen from one side, so you can get a look at the power and USB ports...

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And here's the back from the other side, so you can better see the HDMI, Mini DP, and headphone/mic ports.

Having all the ports at the back would be annoying in most notebooks, but it’s much less of an issue for the Omen, thanks to those beveled edges. If you plug in, say, headphones, you can route the cord under the bottom edge of the laptop to keep it off the keyboard, for example.

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