Gaming laptops, for the most part, are still a matter of compromise. But what happens when just under $3000 gets you just about all the performance you'd want?
Just before heading off to Gamescom, I had the chance to spend some time with the king of the Omen 15" laptop line. There's a wide range of configurations from $1798 to just under $3500, but I tested the top-of-the-line version with the 4K 60Hz G-Sync screen.
Here's the full rundown of the specs as tested:
CPU: i7-8750H 6c/12t CPU (2.2Ghz base)
GPU: GTX 1070 Max-Q Design
RAM: 32GB DDR4 2666Mhz
Display: 15.6" 4K 60Hz IPS screen, G-Sync enabled, 72% colour gamut
Storage: 500GB Toshiba PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, 1TB Hitachi 7200 RPM SATA
Network: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Other: Webcame, SD Card reader, 3x USB 2.0, 1x USB-C, 1x HDMI
For reference, all tests were run with Nvidia's 398.82 drivers (released August 1, 2018). Note that if you get the lower-end 1080p models, you'll still be getting a screen that hits 72% of the colour gamut. Configurations with the GTX 1060 and 1070 can also ship with G-Sync support.
Mind you, the Omen held up surprisingly well at 4K. You'll have to turn the presets down to medium or lower, but if you wanted to play at those higher resolutions, you could do so (in slightly older games). Given what the GTX 1070 is generally capable of - and allowing for the slight downgrade that you get with the Max-Q version, because of the chassis and cooling restrictions - playing at 1080p, maybe even downsampling from 1440p, will deliver the best results.
I didn't have the time to run Ghost Recon: Wildlands, although given that Shadow of War's full asset pack is nearly a 100GB download, our internal IT is probably happy that I've passed up on that for the Omen. But you'll recognise some other staples, Ashes: Escalation and Total Warhammer 2. Coupled with the Fire Strike results, it offers a nice cross-section of what you can expect from the Omen at the top end.
It also illustrates why I think the 144Hz 1080p screen for $3000 is the best buy here. The 4K model doesn't have a more accurate screen as far as the colour gamut is concerned. Hitting around the 80-100 FPS mark also means you'll be getting value out of the higher refresh rate than if you were stuck with a basic 60Hz screen.
So for $3000 (or $3400), the Omen 15 should have no qualms handling this year's crop of blockbuster games, provided you're happy to maybe play at medium or high presets if you want to make full use of the 144Hz panel. It'll obviously have no problem crushing less intensive games like Overwatch, Dota 2 or CS:GO, but laptops of this calibre are capable of more demanding titles than those. (Note that the $3000 model only ships with 16GB RAM, instead of 32GB.)
It's worth noting that the keyboard on the Omen 15 was nice to use as well, being mechanical. That said, laptops like this usually will be sitting off to the side of a table, with people plugging separate keyboards, mice and monitors into them. That's still the most comfortable method: if you were to use the Omen 15's keyboard for long periods, the thickness of the chassis means your left wrist will be at a slightly awkward angle, which isn't great for long gaming sessions.
Another huge bonus that doesn't crop up in benchmarks is the positioning of the ports. Instead of having the main connectors on the sides, like laptops have done since time immemorial, most of the main connectors are on the rear of the chassis. This is actually a massive quality of life upgrade: nothing's more annoying than swinging your mouse hand only to bump into the cord that's coming out of the USB port. It's a little thing that gamers (particularly if you're playing a twitch-based FPS) will absolutely notice, so props to HP for the smart design there.
You can find the full suite of latest HP Omen laptops over at JB Hi-Fi, as well as pricing on the 17" models if you're interested in the bulkier versions. The entry level model costs $1898 and comes with a GTX 1050, 16GB RAM and a 1TB SATA secondary drive, which isn't bad for that price range.