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HP Omen Review: Voodoo DNA brings grace and style to gaming laptops

Gordon Mah Ung | Dec. 11, 2014
This fast, stylish laptop carries Voodoo's legacy into a new generation of gaming laptops, HP's first since it dissolved the boutique builder several years ago.

More good news: There's no sign of GPU or CPU throttling from either the HP Omen or Razer Blade Pro. 

Why 4GB of video card RAM?
The beefy 4GB on the graphics card is probably questionable for most of today's games, as it doesn't give you much actual performance advantage. Generally video card RAM helps only at higher resolutions or with crazy amounts of anti-aliasing.

And that's an issue for the HP Omen. The GeForce GTX 860M is probably best running at 1080p resolution with most games at high, or slightly lower depending on your threshold for sub-60-fps rates. If the laptop actually had a higher-resolution screen where you might need the larger frame buffer, you couldn't drive the game at acceptable frame rates with this GPU.

When I set BioShock: Infinite and Tomb Raider to maximum image quality, the frame rates on both laptops dropped to the mid-40s. That's not bad, but the general rule for gamers is to play at 60 fps or higher for the best immersion. The one caveat on RAM in a GPU is the expectation that with consoles' large frame buffers, PC games may also start to use more graphics memory.

This made me wish HP had some how stuffed the next-level GPU into the Omen: An Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M. Afterall, that's the GPU Razer was able to shoehorn into it's incredibly thin (17.8 mm) Razer Blade notebook. Performance tests I've seen put that GPU about 20 to 30 percent faster than the GTX 860M.

The only problem with that wish is the 870M's architecture-- still the older Kepler, not the newer Maxwell architecture. Such a change would come at the expense of heat and battery life. I haven't tested a Razer Blade, but considering the thermals on the larger Razer Blade Pro, I'd bet it's great in winter.

Not bad gaming battery life
Gaming and battery life don't mix well, but Haswell helps. I ran a standard PC Mark 8 Home Conventional run down test and saw the Razer Blade Pro 14 actually fare a little better than the Omen, with a score of 9345 vs. the Omen's 8376. But here's the shocker: The Razer Blade Pro 2014's battery is 78Wh versus the Omen's 58Wh. Both screens were set at 130 nits.

Because both are likely to be bought as primarily gaming notebooks, I performed a gaming run-down test versus PC Mark 8's mix of video chat, browsing, photo editing and casual gaming. I decided to loop Heaven 4.0 set to the basic mode.

The Razer Blade Pro 2014 ran out of gas just after an hour. Not great. The Omen, however, continued to run another 45 minutes. That basically means the HP Omen should be good for a solid flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles or a commuter train trip, but you'll need external power for a transcontinental flight. Overall it's not bad gaming run time for the size and weight.

 

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