HP Omen X 2S Review: A Sleek, Dual-Screen RTX Gaming Beast

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HP Omen X 2S Review: Software And Dual Screen Experience

HP has been pretty good with minimizing bloatware on its notebooks and the Omen X 2S is no different. There’s the usual HP JumpStart application that helps new users get acclimated with the notebook and Omen Command Center, which we’ll dive deeper into later. McAfee anti-virus is the only bloat we found preinstalled, but its easy to remove and revert to Windows Defender. HP does include DTS:X Ultra support, which is a nice bonus that lets you have surround support with any set of headphones – something you’ll need when gaming and the fans are running at full blast.

Omen Command Center is HP’s all-inclusive application that lets users tweak performance and RGB lighting settings for the laptop and any connected Omen gaming peripherals. We touched upon it lightly in our Omen Obelisk review earlier in the year, but the app is a big part of HP’s dual screen experience and received a few new tricks since then.

HP Omen X 2S Omen Command Center 1

The most notable second screen tweak is a small screen optimized view that minimizes the left-hand navigation panel to simple touch-friendly icons – it even automatically switches to the touch-friendly view when the Command Center is visible on the smaller screen. System vitals is the default view and shows GPU, CPU and memory utilization percentages and temperature, which we found useful when pushing the system to its limits. We didn’t find the network speed dials too useful, however.

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Since HP Omen X 2S was designed with a specific TDP target for both the CPU and GPU, HP provides three different performance modes you can select – Comfort, Default and Performance. The different settings are as you’d expect, Comfort maintains lower temperatures, Default is a balanced plan, and Performance cranks things up as far as the thermals will let it go. We benchmarked the three different performance modes in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor with the ultra-image quality preset to see if they make a difference.

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We found there was minimal performance difference between the Default and Comfort settings. The Performance mode yielded a 5-6-percent boost overall, which may not be noticeable in every game. However, that’s a good boost by simply selecting a different performance mode, and kind of reminds us of the old days of the turbo button. Our ears couldn’t tell if the Omen X 2S got any louder in Performance versus Default modes, because it is a gaming laptop that is loud under load regardless. The fan curve does seem more aggressive though, and fans spin up earlier and for longer stretches in Performance mode. 

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The last nifty trick HP gave the Omen Command Center is the ability to mirror a selected part of the main display to present on the second screen. HP claims this is useful for having a larger view of a map on a dedicated screen. Its easy to use too, you simply go to Real-time Screen Mirroring, hit start and highlight an area of an active window.

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We tried using real-time screen mirroring for a few rounds of Fortnite and didn’t find it too useful as a dedicated map display. The problem with mirroring the map is it requires enlarging the tiny little section to a 1080p screen, which results in a blurry image. There’s also the location of the second screen to consider, which requires looking down instead of a quick glimpse of the top corner of the screen. While HP deserves kudos for the effort, the real-time screen mirroring feature wasn't terribly useful during real-world gaming sessions.

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Software-aside, HP implements a few dedicated shortcut keys to make the second screen experience more pleasant. Located above the trackpad are five keys that make using the second screen nice and easy – a shortcut that launches an onscreen numpad, a on/off button for the auxiliary screen, a brightness adjustment and an app screen swap button. There is a dedicated button to launch the Omen Command Center as well, but that simply launches the app to its last known screen.

The touchscreen numpad app is thoughtful, but not too useful. The location of the second screen is the problem. We prefer the numpad in a touchpad approach that ASUS implemented on the ROG Zephyrus versus HP’s touchscreen approach. We appreciate HP giving us the option to turn the display on/off and choosing from five different levels of brightness quickly and easily, which is very useful when we wanted to watch a movie or game in the dark with minimal visual interruption.

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The app quick swap button is the most useful of HP’s shortcuts. It instantly moves the app window that’s in focus on the larger screen and full screens it to the lower screen. We found it extremely useful for using the second screen for Discord, Steam chat and YouTube. You can manually drag the window down to the second screen and maximize it, but the shortcut is a lot quicker.

While we like the second screen as a display, the overall implementation in the Omen X 2S isn't ideal for all use-cases. It’s a sharp and bright screen, but it has the same 1080p resolution as the main display. Windows simply sees the two screens as stacked, same resolution displays. This means the start menu is in the middle of the arrangement and anytime you move the mouse cursor all the way down to click Start or notifications, out of habit, it goes to the second screen instead of where you mentally want it. Unless you opt for the 4K display, this will be an annoyance you’ll have to live with unless Microsoft miraculously implements a way to take display size into consideration for multi-monitor.

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There’s also the issue of reflections – the glass panel that extends the full width of the Omen X 2S and vital to the second screen’s smooth multi-touch function reflects the primary display. Cranking up the brightness of the second screen doesn’t help minimize reflections.

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