When Nvidia unveiled its Max-Q laptop architecture earlier this year, it told us we’d see gaming machines with the power of a desktop in the shape of a MacBook Pro — mainly in thanks to more efficient GeForce 10-series GPUs. HP’s new Omen 15 is the latest product under the Max-Q umbrella, but it’s too thick to live up to that promise. Don’t count it out though. As long as you’re not expecting some hypothetical laptop from the future, you’ll find a machine that strikes a good balance between style, power and price. 

The first Max-Q machine to hit the market was the Asus Zephyrus, but you wouldn’t think that and the Omen are cut from the same cloth. Both run 15.6-inch displays, but the Zephyrus packs a Nvidia GeForce 1080 GPU into a 17.9mm thick, five-pound frame. The Omen’s GeForce 1060 card and its 33mm-thick body can’t compete. But the Omen won’t burden you with the same financial weight as the Zephyrus: The unit we reviewed will set you back $1,700 (AU$2,900, £1,300), while the Zephyrus weighs in at $2,700 (AU$5,000, £2,800). 


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So no, don’t get too excited by the Max-Q branding the HP Omen carries. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be excited about. It’s a much better-looking laptop than last year’s blandish model, and the aforementioned GeForce 1060 is a new option for this year’s Omen. The best GPU you could get in last year’s 15-inch Omen was a 1050Ti, which was still fine for mainstream gaming, but the 1060 is much more VR-friendly.  

The 15-inch range starts at $999, for which you’ll get a machine powered by AMD Radeon RX550 graphics. You’ll net a GeForce 1050 for an extra $30, though it’ll only have 2GB of VRAM. The Max-Q version of the Omen 15 starts at $1,589, comes with a 1060 with 6GB of VRAM and a UHD panel. That’s the model we reviewed, though the extra storage on ours boosts the price up to $1,700. Every configuration runs on a 2.8GHz Intel Core-i7-7700 CPU.

For Australian gamers, the range starts out at AU$2,000 for a model with a GeForce 1050 with 4GB VRAM. In the UK you’ll get a similarly specced machine for £850, though it has an i5 processor, not an i7.


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Betwixt and between

Just because it’s not as svelte as a Razer Blade doesn’t mean the Omen isn’t nice-looking laptop. HP’s older Omen models shied away from the ostentatious laptop designs you’d see from companies like MSI and Asus, going instead for something more subtle. That’s great for those who think gaming laptops too gaudy, but the end result wasn’t particularly stylish or interesting to look at.

This year’s design strikes a good balance: It’s eye catching, and clearly a gaming laptop, but doesn’t get too out of hand. The two-tone top shell is part plastic, part carbon fibre and emblazoned with the blood-red Omen logo. One big design plus is on the bottom frame, which slopes inward under the port section — meaning it’s slimmer on the sides, where you’ll grip it when moving around.

HP Omen 2017

Price as reviewed $1,699
Display size/resolution 15-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display
PC CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design
Storage 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

It’s not just a gaming laptop from the outside. Above the keyboard, you’ll find two pentagonal hinges reminiscent of something you’d see on an Alienware laptop. The keyboard, like previous models, is lit up with red backlights. With no numberpad or freaky trackpad placement, there’s plenty of keyboard space, and for me the key depth felt just right.  

The comfortable keyboard is one of many utilities the laptop gets right. The Bang & Olufsen speakers are loud and not-too-tinny, unlike the Asus ROG G752VS. Plus, its touchpad isn’t awkwardly placed, missized or too finicky, which you can’t say about the Razer Blade Pro or the the Origin Eon15-S.



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