HP updates its OMEN gaming PC lineup

By now you’ve probably heard of RUSH, NAG’s new esports gaming event for the middle of the year in collaboration with HP OMEN gaming, a branch of HP run by the OMEN group that used to produce kick-ass custom desktop chassis. We heard from them last year about their products targeted at gamers, and they have a new round of updates for every gamer looking to add some style to their desktops. Hit the jump for more.

Starting off with the notebook updates, HP OMEN has new options for gaming notebooks in the form of the OMEN 15 and the OMEN 17. Baseline specifications are quite similar – both ship with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake mobile processors, with up to a Core i7-7700HQ on offer, along with crazy amounts of RAM (up to 32GB DDR4 if your wallet is heavy enough), and a selection of PCIe NVMe SSD, SATA SSD, and mechanical hard drive configurations. If you look closer at the second slide, the OMEN 15 has a user-accessible M.2 slot for a NVMe drive, but the OMEN 17’s slot is hidden, presumably located under the keyboard. You can have both a SSD and hard drive for extra storage, but RAID SSDs will require some manual juggling with SATA-based drives.

HP makes use of two radial fans to cool down the notebook, with the GPU and CPU cooled down by a mass of copper heatpipes and fins that exhaust heat out the back, near the chassis corners. The bottom half of the notebook is all battery. Only the OMEN 17 is capable of fitting in an optical drive at the same time, but I think more people would be likely to use a drive bay caddy to increase their storage rather than use optical media.

GPU options are quite good, with your choice of an AMD Radeon RX 550 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 on the OMEN 15, or an AMD Radeon RX 580 or GeForce GTX 1070 on the OMEN 17. If that’s not enough, there are also IPS display options ranging from a regular 1080p 60Hz display, to models with a UHD 4K 60Hz display, or a 1080p 120Hz display. The former is AMD FreeSync compatible, while the latter two display options are G-Sync capable. I’m not sure why the RX 580 doesn’t get a 4K display option, given that it’s perfectly capable of gaming at 4K without much trouble.

Rounding the other features up, there’s a fully backlit keyboard that has a row of macro keys, Dolby DTS Headphone X support for high-end headsets, speakers by HP’s longtime partner Bang & Olufsen, and a dedicated amp for the headphone jack to power expensive headphones or professional sound equipment. All models are also certified for use with VR headsets.

Moving to the desktop, OMEN has gone through another design change, settling on something that reminds me a bit of the Alienware machines of old, but with a matte black paint finish, a plexiglass window, and carbon fibre detailing on the front of the chassis. Using bog standard components that can be upgraded at the user’s whim, this machine will probably last you through several upgrades until the next OMEN desktop pops out that appeals to you. For the first time in years, HP is offering users a choice of Intel or AMD processors with this run. If you pick the blue team, you get up to an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 Kaby Lake K-series processor, along with NVIDIA GeForce graphics up to a dual GTX 1080 Ti setup, or dual AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB graphics cards.

AMD fans get a Ryzen-based system with a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 processor, up to the Ryzen 7 1800X and either GeForce or Radeon graphics cards. In both configurations, there’s options for PCIe NVMe SSD storage, as well as SATA-based SSD or hard drive setups, as well as up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM. There’s Intel Optane support if you want it on the Kaby Lake platfrom, but since it really only acts as a drive cache, I expect most people won’t be aiming for that. Overclocking, if it wasn’t clear before, is allowed on supporting processors, and can be done through the OMEN Command Centre app. The OMEN gaming desktops are also all VR certified.

HP dabbles a bit in peripherals as well, and Steelseries continues to be their main OEM manufacturer for their branded peripherals. HP now sells a fully backlit mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches and an all-aluminium chassis. If the OMEN 1100 is not sexy enough for you, there’s also a Steelseries Rival-based gaming mouse, the Mouse 600, which uses a 12,000 DPI sensor from Avago, mechnical buttons by Omron, and adjustable weights. There’s a nice selection of accompanying mouse mats to choose from. Both are non-slip mats and are available as a medium-sized mat, or a full-coverage desk mat for your keyboard as welll.

There’s also the new OMEN Headset 800. Based on the Steelseries Siberia family, the Headset 800 offers gamers massive 53mm neodynium drivers in each earcup, which is supported on your head (not your ears) by leatherette cushions. The microphone is fully adjustable and retracts into the headset, and comes with a braided cable with in-line volume and microphone controls. I still own my Siberia V2, and it’s a quality piece of kit.

Moving to displays, HP now has the OMEN 27 and the OMEN 25. As the name implies, these are high-end 27-inch and 25-inch displays, both suited to different products depending on the graphics card. The OMEN 27 is a 1440p TN display boasting a screaming 165Hz refresh rate with NVIDIA G-Sync support. Typically high refresh rates in G-Sync monitors like this one mean that there isn’t support for Lightboost, which is a feature that strobes the backlight to eliminate ghosting, but perhaps it is enabled in the OMEN 27 if you stick to 120 or 144Hz refresh rates. There’s a handy headphone hook on the rear, which is a nice touch. Ambient lighting features as well, though it isn’t RGB.

The OMEN 25 is a 25-inch TN display with a 144Hz refresh rate at 1080p, with AMD FreeSync compatibility. This is still FreeSync version one, so it can work over HDMI as well as Displayport, but the display lacks HDR capability. As you’ll see later, the prices HP is asking for the OMEN 25 and 27 are actually pretty standard, and in line with other monitor vendors. I’ll admit, I usually expect to see some sort of brand “tax” on products like these, but HP seems to be more interested in brand strength and adoption than making big profits off the OMEN brand.

HP has two new products for some new hardware categories that have popped up recently. The first one is the OMEN Accelerator, an external graphics dock for Thunderbolt 3 certified desktops, laptops, and small-form-factor computers. Unlike some other docking options out there, HP’s Accelerator is a barebones chassis with a 500W power supply, one gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 Type-A ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. The Thunderbolt port is also using a Type-C connector, and will charge devices up to 60W. External graphics boxes like these are intended for use as proper docks, so it would be easy to have one of these at home or work, while keeping your laptop’s charger in the bag (that is, of course, only if your laptop charges using a Type-C connector).

HP also unveiled the OMEN Compact Desktop. This is a slim form-factor desktop with an Intel Core i7 Kaby Lake processor, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics. Both have some minor overclocking headroom available, and there’s PCIe NVMe storage as well as four USB Type-A ports, Type-C with Thunderbolt, and curiously a 12v port for powering an HTC Vive. There’s a dock for it too, with a host of connectivity for all your peripherals.

So why does it need a dock? Well, HP sells an additional backpack accessory, which this fits onto. You clip the Compact Desktop onto its clasps on the backpack, hook up the two additional battery packs which are hot-swappable, and now your PC, which was on your desktop a few minutes ago, is now on your back. HP says that it envisioned VR and AR use cases for this kind of product, but there’s also a host of other useful things a desktop on your back could be used for, such as live streaming events or data analysis with peripherals, like mapping rooms or buildings and porting them into CAD applications.

Finally, a slide on pricing to end this off. The OMEN notebooks start at $999 and $1099 for the OMEN 15 and 17 respectively. The OMEN desktops, with their AMD Ryzen or Intel Kaby Lake options as well as GeForce or Radeon graphics starts at $899. The peripherals are cheaper than expected as well, with reasonable prices for the Keyboard 1100, the Mouse 600, and the Headset 800.

As for the monitors, the OMEN 25 is priced at just $279, while the OMEN 27 is $799. Most gamers will probably opt for the OMEN 25 because 144Hz and 1080p is easier to achieve on weaker hardware, and FreeSync is becoming a more popular option with budget-minded gamers. The OMEN Accelerator is $299 when empty, but you can order builds with graphics cards and hard drives if you desire.

And lastly, the Compact Desktop that turns into a backpack PC is $2499 in the cheapest configuration, and that’s also without the backpack included. It’s odd to think of how varied the PC market is today, and it’s good to see that HP is paying special attention to a growing industry catering to gaming.