As we’ve covered a few times here, it’s a real thing now! We know, we’re still adjusting to this future, too. Professional gaming has exploded into a huge business that resembles pro sports in every meaningful way — organized leagues, rabid fans, cheating scandals, expensive sponsorship deals, and yes, even university esports scholarships. We’ve seen an enormous surge of gaming hardware to feed that growing need, a surge that increasingly includes mainstream PC makers. HP created the Omen line for this purpose last year, and since then we’ve seen some solid gaming laptops and some high-powered desktop rigs. Today at Gamescom in Germany, HP is filling the last gap with the Omen X Laptop, which comes in as their high-end gaming laptop.
By high-end, we mean hardware. It’s hard to surprise with hardware, but HP has managed to pull it off with a 7th generation Intel Core i7 HK series CPU (with up to 32 GB of DD4 2800 MHz RAM) and up to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU. It’s the CPU that’s surprising — we don’t see the HK series too often. Those are the overclock-ready line of laptop-friendly quad-core CPUs, as opposed to the dual-core CPUs we usually see in laptops. Intel has announced both 8th generation chips and more powerful X series CPUs, but we’ll see neither here — Intel has only shipped low-power U series CPUs from the 8th generation and the X series are humongous and only for desktops and would make laptops catch fire probably.
Speaking of staying cool, that won’t be easy for this laptop, either. The GPU will be factory overclocked, and it’s possible to overclock the CPU using HP’s software dashboard (which can be called up with a dedicated key on the keyboard). HP says they’ve got the thermal overhead to make this work — they’re using both fans and a vapor chamber attached to 3.5 mm heat pipes, which ferries heat to four radiators on the back. Even with that, expect this thing to get really hot, and probably don’t touch the back of it while in use! HP didn’t really talk about battery life, which is fine. Suffice it to say if a gamer wants to use this for an appreciable amount of time, they’re going to need to leave it plugged in.
It’s pointless to have this kind of hardware if you aren’t gaming in 4K, so sure enough, HP has made that an option here. The Omen X Laptop comes standard with a 17″ 120 Hz 1080p display, but there’s a 4K option for a little extra cash. It’s not quite a no-brainer upgrade, though — the faster refresh rate of the 1080p display might be better for fast-paced games like first-person shooters or racing sims. Both displays have Nvidia G-Sync tech, which keeps the frame rate tied to GPU performance to prevent ugly graphics mishaps like tearing. There’s no HDR, but the laptop can push HDR information to external displays.
Rounding out the hardware is a whole slate of storage options, from an SSD/HDD combo to a high-end 1 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD. That’s as fast as it gets for memory, but it’s also super expensive! Fortunately, you don’t have to be stuck with what you choose — HP has added an easy access port that allows you to swap out the storage drive and RAM.
The last piece of the high-end gaming puzzle is the keyboard. HP has used a gloriously clacky mechanical keyboard here, with 2.5 mm of key travel. Interestingly, HP says the switches they’ve used are similar to blue switches — those are more optimized for typing than gaming, and while they’re not bad for gaming, it does seem like an odd design choice. Anyway, as a blue switch user, I can confirm that those suckers are going to be loud. HP has also added a set of keys for macros, but custom macros can be created with any other keys, too. There’s RGB LED lighting on the keys, as is custom for gaming laptops, with options to create multiple profiles and set the color of each key individually. The keyboard rest and frame are made of aluminum — HP went all out.
The port situation looks good — there are USB ports ranging from 3.0 Type-A to Type-C Thunderbolt 3. There’s a Mini DisplayPort and an HDMI 2.0a port (that’s the one that supports HDR out), which allows for three displays to be used at once. There’s also an ethernet port, a multi-card reader, and separate audio ports for headphones and a mic. HP has used DTS Headphone:X processing with those ports while going with B&O audio processing for the laptop’s dual speakers, which are powered by a discrete amp.
Basically, there are three takeaways — this thing is really powerful, really heavy (10.69 pounds!), and really expensive. The HP Omen X Laptop starts at $2,000, but ramps up to a brutal $3,700 if you want all the bells and whistles. That’s obviously a ton for a laptop, even for one that can be upgraded (kind of — you still can’t replace the CPU or GPU easily). You can build an awfully good desktop gaming PC for that price, so we’re seeing this as a laptop meant for the pro or aspiring pro gamer who needs a trustworthy mobile rig that they can take on the road. It’s a tough life for those pro gamers.