HPs Omen 17 gaming laptops have a reputation with us that can be summarized in four words: solid performance. Shockingly affordable.
Thats particularly true for the Omen 17. Is it a looker? Debatable. Is it the best gaming laptop? Definitely not. But HP always manages to cram more hardware than youd expect under the hood, then sell the Omen 17 way below market rate.
Im not sure how HP pulls off this bit of wizardry, but its made the Omen 17 a hit. And the trend continues, as the 2019 model were testing (poetically monikered the 17-cb0040nr) packs in some of the latest and greatest CPUs and GPUs for hundreds of dollars less than the competition.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best gaming laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.
Okay, latest and greatest might be a bit of an overstatement. The Omen 17 we reviewed (available on Amazon) is an mid-tier gaming laptop with an Intel Core i7-9750H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 250GB NVMe SSD system drive, and a supplemental 1TB HDD.
Of note is the fact that this is a full-size RTX 2070, not the 2070 Max-Q we see in a lot of laptops. Well talk more about that later.
If you move to HP.com, the companys Omen 17 shopping page offers options for moving up or down a bit in budget. For instance, a model with the same Core i7-9750H, an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti (i.e. no ray-tracing), 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD is $1,300 from HP.com. Swap in an RTX 2080, and the price jumps to $1,930 from HP.com.
Then waaaaay up at the top is HPs kitchen sink configuration, $2,630 on HP.com. It packs in an 8-core i9-9880H, an RTX 2080 with a 240Hz 1080p display; 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB NVMe SSD. I think the 2070 is a better sweet spot for the price-to-performance balancing act, but if you need to go all out this top-end Omen 17 is a pretty great bargain. The only similarly specd machine weve seen is the Acer Predator Helios 700 (available on Acer.com), where that hardware would run $4,000.
The Omen 17 is a good-looking laptop. Its a bit aggressive for my taste, but HP has a way of bringing elegance to its game-centric designs. I admired that ability when reviewing HPs Mindframe headset(available on HP.com). While I think the Omen 17s heft works against it, there are still some alluring elements.
The centered hinge is the major one. Its the feature that caught my eye the first time I opened the Omen 17. Even now, writing this, Im still impressed by it. Other laptops have done the single centered hinge, but the Omen 17s implementation has a lightness, an airiness to it, that belies the laptops actual weight.
That weight is significant. The Omen 17 is pretty average-sized for a 17-inch gaming laptop, at 15.9 x 11.6 x 1.1 inchesmaybe even a bit slim, considering theres a full-size RTX 2070 inside. The Omen 17 is dense though, weighing in at a whopping 7.2 pounds. The power brick exacerbates the issue, measuring nearly a foot long and an inch thick, and adding another 1.6 pounds to the total package.
Call it the elephant in the room, and we'll acknowledge it right here. The Omen 17 is a great laptop, but when asked to pick two from the list of Fast, Cheap, and Portable, HP sacrificed portability.
Okay, so its a good-looking laptop as long as you admire it while its resting on a desk, where it belongs. Its mostly plastic, but HP uses brushed textures on the lid to add some character. I remain a fan of HPs minimal branding: Like most Omen products, it doesnt actually say HP anywhere on this laptop. Omen is inscribed on the hinge, and the lid has the fierce-faced Omen logo. But thats it, as far as branding.
Pop open our review model and youre treated to a 144Hz, 1080p display. Color accuracy skews a bit warm, but its a surprisingly good screen for a budget-friendly laptop. Brightness often suffers on these midrange laptops, but HPs opted for a radiant 362-nit display. The other display options are a 60Hz 1080p, a 4K IPS, and the 240Hz 1080p mentioned above.
An upgrade for 2019, the keyboard now has zone RGB backlighting instead of the flat red found on previous Omen models. Say what you will about RGB, Im always on board when it means getting away from a forced red-and-black color scheme. The new Omen 17 has four zones: left, right, center, and then the WASD keys.
HP fits a full-size keyboard onto the Omen 17, with room to spareand even a column of macro keys to the left. Its a bit cluttered, but theres a lot of functionality at your fingertips if you want it. The switches surprised me as well, with a hearty thonk to each keystroke that Ive really come to love over the last few weeks of testing. The resistance is a bit stiff, which can be exhausting after a while, but I think next to Alienware this is one of the best laptop typing experiences Ive had.
Kudos to HP for including actual buttons underneath the trackpad. Thats increasingly rare these days. Alienware, for instance, abstained. Sure, youre probably going to plug in a mouse for any serious gaming, but sometimes you simply cant, and its always best to have the button option. I find it nearly impossible to use a clickpad for on-the-go gaming, but with buttons? I can make do.
Accolades as well for putting all the ports on the side. Rear-facing ports are common on these oversized laptops, in part because it reduces cord clutter when a laptops desk-bound. Problem is, rear-facing ports are a huge annoyance when traveling. Theyre hard to access and hard to orient when working in close quarters. The Omen 17 crams in power, ethernet, HDMI-out, Mini DisplayPort, two USB-A, a USB-C, and dual 3.5mm headphones and mic jacks all on the left side. The right houses a modest SD card reader and an additional USB-A port.
The rear? All fans, the way its meant to be.
Youre probably not buying the Omen 17 for its looks, though. Also remember our review unit sports a full-size RTX 2070, not the Max-Q model weve reviewed so often this year. It makes a difference.
More on that later, though. First, lets take a look at our CPU tests. Were very familiar with the Core i7-9750H at this point, so anomalies are glaringand there are some here. We use Cinebench to test both single-core and multi-core performance. This being a short-burst test, its mostly good for gauging top-speed performance. The Omen 17 slots in right alongside its peers, albeit on the lower end.
Trouble brews during our CPU stress test, where we measure how long it takes the laptop to encode a 30GB MKV file down to the Android Tablet preset, using the free HandBrake utility. Here, the Omen 17 falls well outside the margin of error, taking nearly five minutes longer than the competition. Thats pretty shocking, considering the Omen 17 is both larger and heavier than laptops like the MSI GS65 Stealth. Youd expect the Omen 17 to have better cooling.
Does it matter for gaming? Probably not. Most games are still constrained by the GPU, not the CPU. Still, theres cause for concern. Heat dispersion is one of the biggest challenges laptops face, and the Omen 17 isnt doing a great job combating it.
Lets get into GPU performance. Here, HP does have an advantage, if only because of that full-size RTX 2070. Sure, its bulky. Sure, its hot. Check out these numbers for 3DMarks TimeSpy 1.1 benchmark though.
HPs implementation isnt quite as zippy as the one for MSIs GE65 Raider, a shortcoming we can likely put down to heat again. It handily beats out the 2070 Max-Q though, and comes damn close to matching the 2080 Max-Q as well. Lest we forget, this is a $1,600 laptop. Thats as cheap or cheaper than most 2070 Max-Q models. Not too shabby.
Gaming benchmarks tell the same story, as evidenced by the Omen 17s performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider andMiddle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Again, its not the best 2070-equipped laptop weve laid hands on, and the gap here is narrower than it was in 3DMark FireStrike, but it still slightly outperforms the 2070 Max-Q in both cases.
If the Omen 17 has a major shortcoming, its battery life. Our battery rundown test involves looping a 4K video file with the laptop display set at 250 nits brightness, headphones plugged in, and the volume set to 50 percent. Under those conditions the Omen 17 lasted just a hair over two hours, a pitiful showing matched only by Lenovos budget-friendly Legion line.
Still, for the money? Its hard to knock the HP Omen 17. Thats been our verdict for a few years running now, and it suffices for 2019 as well. Its neither the lightest laptop nor the fastest, but HPs made smart choices when it comes to kitting out this bargain build. A better battery, proper RGB lighting, and a reduced size would be welcome revisionsbut then it wouldnt be the Omen 17, and it doubtless wouldnt come in so cheap.
Sometimes its better to appreciate what you have, by which I mean: a damn fine laptop, and a couple hundred dollars in savings.