1 x USB3.1 (Type-C) with Thunderbolt, 3 x USB3.1 (Type-A), 1 x HDMI, 1 x RJ45 ethernet,
The best things in life often come in twos. Think about it. Analogues on a controller, Shift buttons on a keyboard, and of course, the Double Crunch burger from KFC (what were you thinking of, you detty boy???). This sentiment proves true for a great many things. That is, with one firm exception – as I learned a long time ago when I thought I was a genius connecting up two monitors to play Crysis – being second-screen experiences in video games.
Enter the Omen X 2S, an ultra-high-end gaming laptop from HP that sports dual screens as its big selling point over its Omen non-X smaller siblings. The main screen, and your primary means of interaction with the laptop, takes the form of a 15” 4K IPS G-Sync capable display. The second screen sits just above the keyboard, and is a smaller 5.98” 1080p touch-enabled display.
If this sounds a bit clunky and odd, yes.
Elsewhere, the Omen X 2S absolutely cements its place in the ultra-high-end class. It features a hefty Intel i9-9880H processor with 32GB of RAM overclockable to 3200MHz, and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Q-Max to complete the unholy trifecta of unlimited gaming potential. This is insane for a laptop, and allows it to comfortably play the dual role of supporting high-intensity rendering-based workloads, as well as 4K Ultra 60FPS gaming.
There is one gigantic caveat, and it should be an obvious one – this is a laptop, and HP has put an i9 inside it, so of course we expect the little guy to run a little hot, right? Well, you could cook a six-course meal using this laptop, and have heat to spare for your geyser when loadshedding hits. We’re talking CPU temperatures into the eighties when browsing the internet or doing simple file operations, going all the way to the high nineties and touching 100 degrees Celsius during 4K gaming sessions, causing the CPU to downclock aggressively.
Dropping the resolution down to 1080p did help a little, but I still didn’t feel comfortable using the laptop for longer than an hour at this temperature. Furthermore, it didn’t feel great having to kneecap performance potential. When you have a 4K IPS panel with an i9 and RTX 2080 running at a fraction of their full potential because of heat build-up then what is the point of the package, other than to look good on a product sheet?
And now we must return to the dual-screen elephants in the room that would be the most obvious reason to go for the Omen X 2S over the excellent Omen 17 series we previously reviewed and loved.
The 15” 4K screen is an IPS panel, but it felt inferior to the Omen 17 in terms of visual fidelity, colour reproduction, and HDR video support. The screen certainly had an option to enable HDR video support, but try as I might, I could not get it working. Running games at anything other than 4K caused them to look scuffed, while running games at 4K often had the effect of making things look uncomfortably small depending on the game in question.
The 5.98” 1080p screen sits above the keyboard and acts like a second display in Windows, allowing you to drag and drop windows into it. By default, it launches HP’s Omen Command Centre, which provides metrics such as CPU and GPU temps, battery and fan profiles, as well as customisation options such as clipping and zooming a part of the main screen. In practice, these customisation options were extremely finicky to get working right. Sometimes the screen simply stopped responding, or turned off. Other times, it would freak out and attempt to move active windows between screens until the application crashed. Even when I managed to get it working, I found I needed to sit uncomfortably close to the laptop in order to the tiny image of the second screen, so I would often simply ignore it and keep looking at the main screen instead.
The Omen X 2S is certainly not irredeemable as a high-end gaming laptop. It got that distinctive Omen design aesthetic – love or hate those bevels – and comes in a small, medium-weight package. You get per-key RGB-backlit tenkeyless keyboard that feels quite nice to type on. You get the Bang & Olufsen tuned speakers that aren’t half bad for a laptop. The Omen Command Centre is still an excellent piece of software, and something I’ve raved about before. If you have a larger screen to output to, the laptop is capable of running practically every modern video game at 4K Ultra 60FPS. And of course, it has a webcam for those Zoom sessions with the family. So really, there’s a lot to like about this.
It’s just tough to recommend given the astronomical asking price, and the only true benefit over its smaller Omen siblings being a second screen that sometimes doesn’t actually work the way you expect it to. And for me, that’s the real deal-breaker here. I like the Omen X 2S as a concept, it’s just that the Omen 17 already has me so flustered, and leaves me with cash to spare for video games.
The HP Omen X 2S is a novel attempt at innovating in the competitive high-end gaming laptop space. It features a mind-bogglingly impressive parts list, with per-key RGB backlighting, and two entire screens worth of real-estate, but it doesn’t do enough to bring it all together in a way that improves the gaming experience over cheaper Omen offerings.
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