This slim 15-inch laptop has a distinctive trapezoidal profile, dressed up with a black, anodized finish and glowing red accents. The hinge of the laptop gets some unexpected visual flair with a shiny chrome hinge, and the ends of the hinge have a colored flame pattern. Across the lid is a pattern of tiny triangles imprinted into the black aluminum, with an HP logo etched into it.
Measuring 0.8 by 15.1 by 9.7 inches (HWD) and weighing just 4.7 pounds, the Omen 15 is just a little smaller than the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro (VN7-591G-75S2), but weighs quite a bit less than the 5.29-pound Acer laptop. The chassis is milled from aluminum, making it quite sturdy, but light enough to carry under an arm or in a backpack. It also keeps things cool, with two heat exhaust vents on the back edge of the chassis, expelling hot air away from the user.
Open up the laptop, and you’ll be greeted by a 15.6-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) display with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, a combination ideal for gaming laptops—some premium systems offer higher-resolution screens, but the limits of current notebook GPUs make it nearly impossible to take advantage of all those pixels for gaming. It’s also a touch screen, a feature that has previously been rare on gaming systems, but we’ve seen others, like the Lenovo Y50 Touch, that offer touch-screen capability for a fuller Windows 8 experience. In addition to the display, the Omen 15 also boasts impressive sound, thanks to two front-facing speakers and Beats Audio.
The keyboard features RGB backlighting, with multiple lighting zones (right, left, center, and WASD keys), letting you change the backlight color to any hue you want. The same color can be applied to the speakers, and you can also set the speaker lighting to throb to the beat of whatever music you’re listening to, or react to loud noises in games. The chiclet-style keyboard is similar to HP’s other laptops, but adds a row of six programmable macro buttons along the left edge of the keyboard. The Omen 15 also features an extra wide touchpad, which offers better gesture support for day-to-day use, but for gaming, you’ll still want to use a separate gaming mouse.
In order to maintain the angled edges of the trapezoidal chassis design, nearly all of the Omen 15’s ports are located on the back edge of the laptop, situated between the exhaust vents. While this does help reduce the tangle of cables snaking around the sides of the laptop, it’s also inconvenient whenever you plug in a device, be it a mouse, a flash drive, or external monitor. Despite the location, the Omen does offer a good selection of ports, with four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI-out and miniDisplayPort for connecting external monitors, and a headset combo jack. The one side-mounted feature is an SD card slot, found on the right-hand side of the laptop.
Internally, the laptop is outfitted with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The Omen 15 has no Ethernet port, but does come with a USB/Ethernet adapter for those times you need a wired connection. Above the display is a built-in webcam that captures 1,920-by-1,080 video at 30 frames per second. For storage, our system has a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), but it uses a PCI-connected drive instead of the usual SATA connection, which offers faster data transfer speeds.
Something of a surprise: The Omen 15 isn’t preloaded with much in the way of software and apps. Many mainstream companies tend to stick with their usual software loads when selling a gaming system, resulting in premium-priced machines that feel compromised with unwanted bloat. The Omen 15 doesn’t have this problem, coming with a 30-day trial of McAfee Security and a 30-day trial of Office 365, but little else. HP also includes a control dashboard for the Omen which includes keyboard customization, performance monitoring, and driver controls. HP covers the system with a one-year warranty.
The Omen 15 is outfitted with an Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, overclocked from 2.5GHz to up to 3.5GHz in Turbo mode. It’s the same quad-core processor used in the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro and the Maingear Pulse 15. With 16GB of RAM, and aforementioned PCI-connected SSD, the Omen 15 manages to squeeze better overall performance out of the same CPU, scoring 3,400 points in PCMark 8 Work Conventional, where the Acer V 15 Nitro scored only 3,160 points, and the Maingear Pulse 15 scored 3,047 points. Similar performance differences were seen in Photoshop CS6, which the Omen 15 finished in just 3 minutes 24 seconds, well ahead of most competing systems.
The real question, however, is gaming performance. With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU and 4GB of dedicated memory, the Omen offers decent gaming performance, slightly ahead of the similarly equipped Acer V 15 Nitro and the Lenovo Y50 Touch, which also feature the Nvidia GTX 860M. In 3DMark the Omen 15 scored 15,651 points (CloudGate), and 1,840 points (FireStrike). In gaming tests with basic 1,366-by-768 resolution, the Omen cranked through Heaven at 66 frames per second (fps) and Valley at 79 fps; at 1,920-by-1,080 resolution with antialiasing on, those rates dropped to 22fps in Heaven and 25fps in Valley, meaning that you can play current-generation games at full HD, but you may need to back off on the eye-candy for smooth performance. This performance is all quite respectable, but the Nvidia GTX 860M is an entry-level gaming GPU, and at this price range, you might also consider that the Maingear Pulse 15 and the Digital Storm Krypton offered slightly better gaming performance, thanks to an Nvidia 870M and 880M, respectively.