HP’s OMEN brand has been a strong growth generator within the company, pushing them into the limelight and giving them a rather cool edge to the gaming market that they had largely ignored for years. Since the brand’s re-organisation in 2015, HP has been pushing out aggressive designs which are priced to make their competitors sweat a bit, and the industrial design has been getting more and more robust. This year, HP is pushing out a redesign of the OMEN 15 to address some design elements in the 2017 model, and they’re releasing a slew of new peripherals, in addition to a rather good-looking mechanical keyboard with a new type of switch.
The HP OMEN 15 loses a few centimetres
This year’s OMEN 15 is a slimmer, better-looking take on the 2017 model, which was an aggressive redesign that took cooling and power requirments into account. The 2018 model features a slightly shrunk keyboard, less edges on the wrist area, smaller bezels, and a more centrally placed trackpad. The hinge design also gets a major makeover, switching to a dual hinge placement towards the center of the monitor with four mounting points on both the chassis and the display. If this ever breaks, chances are you’re using your OMEN 15 to cave in a few zombie skulls as you fight your way to the pub to have a drink and wait for things to blow over. It’ll probably survive that encounter as well, thanks to the aluminium chassis and lid, so you might as well take it with you to play Fortnite as the world ends.
The redesign extends to the internals as well. HP has upgraded the hardware inside to feature the latest Intel Core i7 8th Gen processors with up to six cores and twelve threads, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with MAX-Q Design. Memory support has been extended to 32GB of DDR4-2666, the fastest speed officially supported on notebooks shipping today. The display panel changes as well, and it can optionally feature a VA 144Hz 1080p panel, a IPS 4K 60Hz panel, or an IPS 60Hz 1080p panel. NVIDIA G-Sync is supported on the 144Hz and 4K panels.
In a big departure compared to other brands, HP is also using fans with fluid bearings, in a bid to decrease fan noise and increase long-term reliability. The fans draw in air from the bottom of the chassis and vent heat through the rear exhausts. Because of the rear exhausts and the redesigned hinge, HP also took the chance to settle a long-standing pet peeve I’ve had with laptops for years, and that is not putting ports at the rear behind the hinges. With the OMEN 15, most of the ports are now located on the rear, with only a few ports found on the sides of the laptop. For lefties, this is great news. Cable mess doesn’t exist if you can’t see it, right?
The OMEN 15 is set to start retailing in the EMEA region, which includes South Africa, for a starting price of R15,999. The base model will likely include a Core i5 8th Gen processor, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB.
OMEN by HP Sequencer mechanical keyboard
HP has been selling gaming keyboards with their branding before, but this one seems very different. It’s not even a common Steelseries design, but a very custom one made by the OMEN design team. It features per-key RGB backlighting, USB pass-thru via the second cable, a gaming mode switch to turn off the Windows key, and a volume scroller bar that is textured and made of metal. In fact, almost the entire front plate is either stainless steel or aluminium, adding heft to reach a weight of 1.12kg.
The switches are of an unknown brand, and I’ve also never seen them before. They are opti-mechanical Blue switches according to HP, and they have the feedback you’d expect from a Cherry MX Blue switch as well as the tactile click that makes them so desirable, but the switch is replaced with a laser. A tiny laser gets blocked when a key is depressed, which replaces the button switch that most other manufacturers use. The response time is reportedly 0.2ms, ten times faster than a regular switch that registers a keypress before it bottoms out. The time savings might be negligible, but it’s a very neat checkbox feature for HP that sets the keyboard apart from their rivals.
Speaking of uh… savings, this level of prettiness and the laser keyswitches do not come cheap. HP says the OMEN by HP Sequencer will go on sale in the EMEA region in July 2018 for an expected R2,699.
OMEN by HP Reactor Gaming Mouse
HP’s new high-end gaming mouse takes the form of the OMEN by HP Reactor. This is a lightweight mouse that features a generously sized thumb rest and just two thumb buttons. It is otherwise bereft of any frills on the surface, but there is something special about it. The palm rest is separate from the rest of the body, supported by an adjustable spring that provides some feedback and support for your palm. The switches internally use the same kind of laser detection that the OMEN Sequencer boasts in its key switches, with the same 0.2ms response time. The sensor is made by Avago and can track at resolutions up to 16,000 DPI.
As for RGB, it’s in there. Two zones of control allow you to customise the colours of the OMEN logo and the scroll wheel. HP says the OMEN by HP Reactor mouse will begin retailing in the EMEA region starting July 2018, and has an expected price of R1,299.
OMEN by HP Mindframe
Ah, puns in a product. Gotta love ’em. HP’s Mindframe is a very unique-looking headset, and boasts that it is the first headset to feature active cooling inside the earcup. The inner earpiece is connected to a Peltier cooler that draws heat away from the earcup and ventilates it to the external chassis. I’ve always wanted something like this for controllers, but seeing someone do this for a headset is pretty rad. Like HP’s OMEN headsets from the past, the headset features an adjustable headband, big and cushy earcups, and a swivel microphone that mutes when it is pulled up.
Instead of in-line controls on the cable, the volume knob is located on the earcup itself, and both earcups feature RGB lighting, as expected. The OMEN by HP Mindframe supports USB connections and comes with a Type-A adapter to plug it into mobile phones and tablets. The headset is also Dolby DTS Headphone X compatible, and features 7:1 surround sound. HP says the OMEN by HP Mindframe will start retailing in the EMEA region in October 2018, and will go for a cool R3,000.
OMEN by HP Transceptor backpack and Mouse 400
Finally, in addition to two new mousepad sizes (200mm and 400mm, available this week for between R299 and R599 with different surfaces), HP is also announcing the new OMEN by HP Transceptor backpack. This is an all-weather backpack designed to endure some abuse, featuring water resistance for rainy conditions, a hard shell bottom, an RFID-blocking pocket (I mean, who doesn’t need a mobile Faraday cage, right?), and a compartment big enough for HP’s 17-inch laptops that is also TSA-compliant, whatever that means [Trumperica’s airport violation task force – ed]. A Fidlock buckle helps to keep everything in side from moving, but this is also adjustable. HP will sell the Transceptor backpack for R3,299.
There’s also a more budget-orientated gaming mouse with the OMEN branding. This is the OMEN by HP Mouse 400. It mimics the basic Microsoft Intellimouse style, does not feature RGB lighting, and comes with an Avago sensor, Omron mechanical switches, and a nice braided USB cable. For R599, this will probably serve most gamers quite well. The weird thing about it is the scroll wheel – it’s been replaced by an actual switch that goes up or down to mimic a scroll. Now that is interesting. HP says the Mouse 400 is available starting this week.