Gaming laptops can serve as a space-saving alternative to a gaming desktop PC, but really they're designed to travel. The HP Omen's generous hard drive lets you cart most of your games library halfway around the world and back, and play them wherever you choose, but how does it hold up in the wild? We took our HP Omen for a test drive.
The great outdoors
The HP Omen is sleek piece of kit, but the delicate angular shape makes for a surprisingly resilient package. It's proof that high-powered technology needn't be fragile. The case stayed cool and performance remained rock solid in the glare of the sun on our carefully selected grassy knoll. It's easy to forget that there's a powerful i7 CPU humming away inside the HP Omen's slender frame, and a state of the art Nvidia GTX 860M GPU—until you log into Steam and start playing. If you want to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun deposing Sauron in Shadow of Mordor, then the HP Omen is a stylish way to do just that. The Beats Audio speakers deliver great sound, too—clear and precise, even in a blustery wind.
The coffee shop
Away from the glare of the sun the crystal clear display comes into its own. The beautiful and introspective Dear Esther managed to be completely absorbing even in the noisy environment of a busy local coffee shop. The HP Omen is in its element here. The ample array of USB ports lets you charge your devices and plug in a travel mouse at the same time. The responsive touch screen makes browsing and Windows navigation breezy and the wireless adapter downloaded Dear Esther out of thin air in fifteen minutes. We enjoyed flawless performance at maximum graphics settings, and the battery life meant we could've finished the game in one sitting, if we'd been so inclined. The SSD slashes in-game loading times and makes booting and closing the laptop refreshingly quick—ideal if you have to close up and dash off to catch a train.
The HP Omen's slim build makes it easy to transport, and easy to unfold and set up in cramped environments like train carriages. It's light on the lap and—thanks to some sensible vent placement and the heat-dissipating case—doesn't toast the thighs like some gaming laptops. Customisable key backlighting mean that you can always see what you're doing, even if you pass through a long, dark tunnel. Six programmable keys to the left of the keyboard can be customised to help you control your games faster, and it also puts more control at your fingertips in cramped conditions should someone occupy the seat next to you on on a journey. You can create up to 30 combinations of key functions, so you can execute relatively complex build orders in StarCraft 2 with a single button press.
The HP Omen returned from its adventure unblemished after impressing at every stage. Gaming laptops can be quite embarrassing things to unfold in public—huge, noisy, with garish neon lights. By comparison the HP Omen is understated and fashionable, while being undeniably powerful. The dark, brushed metal finish suits professional environments and outdoor areas alike, making this an extremely flexible and capable piece of kit. We're used to being able to enjoy games on the go on mobile and tablet devices, but it's novel to be able to walk into a field and play a cutting-edge PC game while having a picnic. Once you've done it, it's hard to go back.