With the new Omen gaming laptops announced Tuesday, HP is throwing down its gauntlet in the brutally competitive PC gaming market. Again, that is--after buying and eventually laying to rest the Voodoo gaming PC brand a few years ago. (Though the Omen name does refer to Voodoo's erstwhile high-end tower.)
HP will have to lure users from established brands, including Alienware, MSI, and Razer. But it's not fooling around: The Omen bristles with game-ready features that the company hopes will speak for themselves.
And what do those features say? Intel Core i7 4710HQ CPU, running at 2.5GHz and boostable to 3.5GHz. Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M GPU. SSD all the way, including PCIe in higher-end SKUs. There's a roomy, 15.6-inch, 1080p touchscreen. HP says the Omen weighs 4.68 pounds and can last up to four hours and 45 minutes on its 4-cell, 58WHr lithium ion battery.
"We know that 60 percent of the people who use PCs game regularly," said Mike Nash of HP in a briefing with PCWorld. Nash described HP's challenges in developing the Omen for this very picky audience. "We've got to get the performance right, specifically frame rates. We've got to get the portability right. And we have to create a unique gaming experience."
Going with SSD obviously promotes fast boot times. While the entry-level Omen ($1500) will have an 8GB SATA SSD, higher-end units will use PCIe for even faster performance.
Nash said the 15.6-inch display's rather pedestrian 1080p resolution was a deliberate decision. "Gamers care about frame rates. They prefer 30-plus fps at 1080p," Nash explained. In other words: If you really care about gaming performance, you'll take 30-plus fps on a "low" resolution over slower frame rates on a trendy 4K display. Sticking to 1080p also keeps heat and battery life under control.
Nash readily concedes that the Omen's specs closely resemble those of other high-end competition. The Omen's advantage, per Nash, is its cooling system. "Getting [the CPU and GPU] to run at their full potential is hard," said Nash. "We got our thermals right."
The anodized aluminum chassis includes a fully vented bottom panel. Two rubber feet run almost all the way around the bottom, save for openings at the front and back. Dual intake fans pull in cool air from the front, and hot air exhausts out the back of the unit, underneath the hinge. The Omen's display is actually raised a little bit to keep it farther away from the hot exhaust.
But there's one kind of heat the Omen wishes to embrace. The chrome-plated hinge of the Omen is tinted blue at both ends, just as a car's exhaust tips would be after intense driving. HP hopes you'll think "speed" as you see that effect.
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