The exponential surge of interest in esports over the past few years and ever-developing portable computing tech has no doubt been a large contributor to the countless entries of gamer-targeted laptops currently flooding the market. With last year’s range of OMEN by HP gaming laptops, the well-known company entered the fray with vigor, and while a serviceable entry, last year’s 15 and 17 didn’t quite set itself apart amidst other, affordable setups.

Fast-forward to mid-2017, we now have the huge launch of the new OMEN range, HP fully confident they’ve found their answer, the Gyarados to last year’s Magikarp.

Recently after attending the launch at this year’s OWWC Sydney Group stages (video above), HP were kind enough to send us at Gamers Classified one of their spanking new 17” 120Hz laptops. Over two weeks, we got intimate with the official OWWC PC’s beastly, portable cousin – and with its floor-up redesign, gargantuan specs and all around fantastic gamer experience; suffice it to say, we were not disappointed.

Beauty on the outside.

Superficially, the 17” OMEN Laptop is quite a sight to behold: a jet-fighter-inspired, sharp, powerful design, with demonic, dragon-red logo and accents popping from its shadow-black brushed and patterned surfaces. Materials are mostly dense plastic, with a brushed aluminium keyboard dock, the entire chassis solid and sturdy with no inkling of flex to moderate pressure.

On the bottom, there is a very simple single-access service panel that can be completely removed in one with a Philips’ Head, where you can tuck into its SSD, RAM, harddrive and more. It’s also worth noting that the laptop, minus its huge power brick, weighs in at 3.78kg, making it around half a kilo heavier than its predecessor, a weighty load in the long run but definitely not the heaviest gaming laptop out there.

The new port distribution is practically perfect now, and the I/O comprehensive. There are minimal input/outputs on the right side of the laptop (sorry lefties), with the DC port and two of three USBs. The left side is reserved for most of the action: an SD card slot, combo mic jack, another USB, HDMI and mini-display ports, Ethernet, and the option of a $20 Thunderbolt upgrade.

The screen hinge is strong and rigid, and can be opened with one hand on a desk surface, which is always a plus. The small, centred hinge is aesthetically pleasing, but may worry some people, as torsion/twisting could hypothetically occur, although this would mostly occur out of negligence; it would be assumed you’d have it closed during mobile stints with a laptop…

A further look.

When cracking open the device, HP’s work on the keyboard base was instantly noticeable. With its thematic black and crimson palette, the keyboard is eye-catching and its layout traditional. The feel is bouncy, with satisfying, clicky feedback, complemented by its awesome key-rollover and anti-ghosting design. The functionality itself also holds a wealth of additions and improvements, such as the enunciated, red WASD pad, the 6 customizable macro keys and full-size arrow keys – the latter an omission from last year. The entire keyboard is backlit by bright-red, punctuating LEDs, white for the WASD pad, a continuation of OMEN’s thematic flourishes.

Source: HP

The large, yet elegant fans on either side of the screen also point to HP’s attention to their laptops’ cooling system. An increase in fan speed and improvement of thermal output led us to find that the device never gets uncomfortable on the lap, even during heavy gameplay or multitasking stretches, and experienced no noticeable throttling of any kind. The idle fan noise can be surprisingly noisy in quiet environments but, when in use, it’s a very quiet gaming laptop.

The trackpad is responsive, with new, dual-dedicated click button, combined with a matte finish on the pad. The laptop’s sound is a very pleasant surprise; Bang & Olufsen’s dual speakers and the discrete amp really go a long way to making movies, TV, Youtube, or otherwise, completely worth listening to without headphones.

While the 17.3” screen also sports 4K upgrade, our anti-glare 120Hz screen is absolutely dazzling, perfectly ideal for those thrilling esports titles where 100+ frames per second is key. The high contrast, wide RGB coverage make colours pop with unparalleled vibrancy, and the option for Nvidia G-sync is also there for those who want to push it even further with the refresh rates.

The entire outer shell is a testament to HPs ability to change with the times and needs of gamers, but like a finely bottled gin, what’s inside is what really matters and on that front, you’d be hard pressed to fault what OMEN has in store.

The good stuff.

It’d be a tad too bold of a claim to say that if you’re a desktop gamer, the OMEN may challenge, even eclipse your own rig’s specs, so we’ll just go ahead and gush the juicy stuff, and you can see for yourself.

Starting with the processor, the 17” is equipped with an Intel Quad-Core i7 Processor, that comes at an ample default of 2.8GHz, but upgradeable to whopping 3.8. Personally, the Nvidia GeForce 1050 GTX Graphics Card represents some of the best price vs. quality in the market. We got the 1060, again more than enough to blow our socks off. Again, HP provides the swanky options for the 17”, allowing the choice of the 1060, 1070, or even the AMD RX580.

The OMEN 17’s lightning-fast 128GB SSD gets those boot times cracking like a whip, and the RAM – fully upgradable to 32GB – on our model, came with 16GB worth of RAM over two slots. The lack of optical drive is completely excusable insofar as a gaming laptop is concerned, and the same goes doubly for the battery, while bigger, holds the same 4-5 hour longevity and around 90 minutes for an intensive game or content creation.

Though, to put all this beef to use with some stunning games, although less theoretical, is the crux of HP’s promised experience, and despite how much specs and hardware tell you, there’s only one way you can be shown – in practice, where OMEN’s laptop truly shone.

From the Triple AAA titles we’ve had access to, most have easily ran at 60 frames per second on high settings. It’s assumed based on a bit more research that almost all triple AAA titles would exceed 60 fps, though extremely tasking titles such as Battlefield 1 and PUBG get around 57 on ultra, and 47 on high, respectively.

Up close and personal.

As the main reviewer of the device, I chose three primary games to judge my core experience as a gamer. It’s worth noting, although I’m familiar and versed in PC gaming, I’ve personally grown up a console kid at heart, so these are not only in my belief good tests, but also three of my favourite games on console (yes, the graphical differences are making me cry inside):

The Witcher 3. Even 2 years on, CD Projekt Red’s masterpiece, with all its graphical updates, provides a brilliant platform to test what your rig can do. The character animations are still some of the best around, turning on Nvidia HairWorks boasts some of the best texture animation I’ve ever seen in a game, and pumping the ultra settings still nets you a steadily smooth framerate, with no graphical compromise.

Sunset over Novigrad has never looked more sumptuous.

Overwatch. Because of course! The OMEN PC is, as mentioned, the official PC of the 2017 Overwatch World Cup, and HP has evidently targeted the budding and pro esport community with the entire range.

The 120Hz display is a dream, especially considering its breakneck refresh rate and Blizzard’s penchant for vibrant colours. Overwatch has a setting above Ultra called Epic that I just had to pump the game to, still enabling it to run at a silky 110 fps, give or take of course. Overwatch was also where keyboard truly shone, those macro keys just a pinkie-click away.

Ori and the Blind Forest. One of my favourite games, my opportunity to try the PC version, and what I hoped to be a good contrasting experience to the console version, Ori sadly does not have any substantial graphics settings, making it more of a marker on the display – however, this was a great opportunity to test the speakers, and as mentioned, the sweeping score and full-bodied sound effects that I grew to know and love years back were done justice… With laptop speakers.

 A promise fulfilled.

In its arsenal of flaunted tech, from the gorgeous casing to the wonderful keyboard to the manifold, formidable specs, HP’s dragon-red promise to gamers seems completely fulfilled. In its design, HP has completely and successfully geared their laptop range, with pinpoint precision, to the very serious gamers out there.

Source: HP

Our model, the 120Hz 17, is the very best and all-rounded rig for its price. If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop, at $2999, the OMEN 17 represents some of the best gear this mid-level price range offers, and one of the most recommendable models of the OMEN laptop bunch, though plenty of affordable – or lavish – options are also available.

As a gamer, the OMEN 17 really opened my eyes to how far gaming laptops have come these past few years. I was floored on almost every level: the lustrous refresh rates on esports-oriented titles, demanding triple-A games never struggling in every way a gaming laptop potentially could, and being able to trace back HP’s service to gamers in every design and tech choice that went into the 17.

Personally, I’m just sad to see it go back on Monday, but colour me extremely thankful to HP for the experience all the same!