hardware

The Best Ryzen Laptop you can ACTUALLY BUY!


The HP Omen 15 is one of the gaming laptops that we received the most requests to check out, aside from the Lenovo Legion 5. I finally have one, they actually shipped it to me right before the holidays, so I am a bit late to the party, but I’m just going to check it out anyways. Last year was interesting for computer hardware, especially when it came to availability for AMD laptops. Thankfully stock is improving and you can actually buy this one right now, which is crazy considering it has been almost a year since AMD announced the Ryzen 4000H series processors. Now CES is usually the time when the AMD announces new laptop CPUs, and if this year follows what happened last year that means in March we will be getting more details, new design roll-outs in April or May, and availability would be sometime later in the year. Having said that, I don’t think it’s going to get any better than last year, because if you think about it AMD (and TSMC) have to manufacture Ryzen CPUs, console SOC’s, EPYC CPUs, ThreadRipper CPUs, and even Radeon GPU’s will still be fighting for TSMC’s limited 7nm capacity. This is exactly what happens when you decide to put all your eggs in one basket.

Today we are going to discuss the Omen 15, and I think this might be the perfect option from a price-performance standpoint, plus you get a few other cool features as well. However, as always there are certain things that you need to be aware of so let’s dive right in.

Price & Models

The first thing I want to get to is the price, because it’s all over the place and there is a lot of variation in terms of specs from one region to another. My sample comes with a Ryzen 7 4800H processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, GTX 1660 Ti, 1080P 144Hz display, and it’s priced at $1,300 USD. If you find it on sale you will probably save $50. Right now I think this one strikes a really good balance between performance and price, but there are ton of other options that range all the way from a Ryzen 5 4600H with 8GB of memory and GTX 1660 Ti for $1,000 USD all the way up to a 4800H with an RTX 2060 and 1TB SSD. The only problem you will probably have is finding the right model, even on HP’s official website, and others are pretty rare like the one with the Ryzen 7 4800H, 16GB of memory, and an RTX 2060. Secondary retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Costco leave out a lot of the specs information from their listings, like the type of display, which can create a lot of confusion.

Let’s take a look at some examples with the first ones being how region specific models can really mess things up. First of all, on the HP Canada site there is only a dozen Omen laptops, and a lot of those are from their previous generation. In fact, not a single one has an AMD CPU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the new Omen 15 with an AMD CPU. At first glance, this one on Amazon looks like everything we would want because it has the Ryzen 7 4800H, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. However, other than the fact that it’s used, this is a Canada specific model that according to HP’s site has a 60Hz display that covers only 65% of the sRGB color space abd it only has a max brightness of 250 nits. So buyers please pay close attention since this is happening in other countries too.

Now HP isn’t the only company guilty of this since Acer and ASUS tend to do the same thing with having a lot of variations of the exact same model, but by far this is the worst that we come across. Either way, here is a little guidance, if the model number starts with 15-EN0029 you will get the exact one that we have in this review, whereas the 15-EN0029 has the same specs but a 1TB SSD. If you see anything else please let us know the comments because again it is specific from region to region so it can get pretty confusing and we just don’t know every possible model.

Design

I think that is the longest that I spend writing about pricing and availability, but now let’s get into the design of the Omen 15 because I really like it. First and foremost, the matte grey finish on the chassis is pretty unique and it’s consistent throughout the body. It also does a really nice job resisting fingerprints, which is a bonus. The diamond shaped gradient logo on the lid is a cool touch too since most gaming laptops come with red and black accents, but this is sorta like a blue-green gradient depending on lighting conditions. I think this is the one design aspect that makes it stand out from the rest. Other than that, everything else is pretty minimal. The build quality is all right, even though from the outside it may look like it’s made out of aluminum, but in reality it isn’t. The entire chassis is made out of plastic and it’s put together pretty well, except for the fact that if you place your hands on the lid it does tend to get a flex a lot, which might freak a lot of people out but you don’t have to worry about it because from my usage it seems fine. The hinge is pretty smooth, I barely noticed any wobble, and you can open the lid with one hand.

As for size, it is 22.6mm thick and weighs around 5.5lbs, which isn’t too bad to lug around. The size of the power brick is pretty standard for a gaming laptop, it is pretty heavy but not as bad as Lenovo’s Legion series.

Keyboard & Trackpad

The interior space is nice, but you are not getting a full-size keyboard, but rather a standard one with function keys, kind of like a TKL keyboard. There are a couple of shortcut keys, like one for HP’s Gaming Hub utility and one for the calculator. The power button placement is questionable right in between the F12 and Delete key, I don’t know who thought that would be a good idea but it just doesn’t belong there. The keys themselves provide good feedback, there is an adequate amount of travel distance, and they are spaced out pretty well. They are also very stable, which is always appreciated. I really enjoyed my time typing and gaming on this laptop. It is also backlit, and the sample that I have does not feature RGB lighting, but there are some models out there that do. It is bright enough for darker environments and the lighting consistency across these keys are top notch thanks to the micro-LEDs underneath.

The trackpad is decent, but I’m not a huge fan of the texture since it is a bit too rough for my liking. That being said it gets the job done and it supports Windows gestures. Also the primary integrated left and right buttons are okay, but I do have to mention that one of them sounds different than the other, more clicky and less dampened.

Webcam & Speakers

This is the webcam test on the Omen 15 and the quality is okay. As you can see it does tend to overexpose my forehead and a bunch of other areas, so just watch out for that, but it should get you through video calls just fine. What did surprise me was the microphone quality, because it actually sounds a lot better than some of the other gaming laptops that I have looked. It cuts out a lot of the background noise, and I’m actually really impressed at how good it sounds, especially at this price point. The speakers are located at the bottom so naturally keep your expectations low. They don’t sound that great, in fact I did notice distortions and max volume with the trebles and bass is pretty much nonexistent. Honestly don’t fall for the fact that these are tuned by Bang & Olufsen because I think that it’s just a marketing gimmick.

Display

Moving on to the display, HP has equipped the Omen 15 with a 1080P 144Hz IPS panel, and I was really surprised by the colour reproduction, especially for the price. As you can see, it covers 90% sRGB, 73% Adobe RGB, and 74% DCI-P3, which is something that I did not expect for an AMD-based gaming laptop, because all the other laptops that I have looked at featuring Ryzen CPUs have cut corners on the display department, but HP didn’t. You can comfortably use this to edit photos and videos, which is awesome. Keep in mind that the screen doesn’t get too bright, it only gets to 300 nits, and that’s not great when compared to the more content creator based laptops that reach 500 nits. The 144Hz refresh rate is just an awesome feature, because when you are gaming it comes in so clutch and combined with the really good quality display you are in for a visual treat when gaming on this thing. I’m surprised that you are getting such an amazing screen for this price point. It really is awesome.

Connectivity

Port selection is well-thought-out on the Omen 15. On left-hand side you can get power-in, RJ45, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A, HDMI 2.0, audio jack, and a full-sized SD UHS-I card reader. Switching over to the right you get a couple more USB Type-A ports, a Mini DisplayPort, and a USB Type-C which also supports DisplayPort 1.4. I do want to mention that all of these USB ports are USB Gen1 5Gbps, which is unfortunate. I would prefer it to be 10Gbps, but I guess that is one area that they had to cut down for the price.

Insides & Battery Life

In terms of upgradability, the Omen 15 is really flexible. As you can see, you get instant access to the memory modules, and both the primary and secondary M.2 slots are also easily accessible. The NVMe drive speeds are really fast, I got around 3.5GB/s read and 2.9GB/s write transfer rates.

The battery life on the Omen 15’s default mode is pretty good, it is about what we have come to expect from an AMD laptop with a 71Wh battery. With a few small changes like lowering screen brightness even more and making sure that there aren’t any power hungry apps running in the background you could get a full work day of light use on a single charge. At heavier loads overall battery life suffers, but that is to be expected. While we don’t recommend the TUF A15 as an alternative. It’s actually amazing to see what happens when you pair these AMD CPUs with a much larger battery.

Software

Moving on to software side of things, and like every other gaming laptop this one includes Omen’s own take on controller software with their Gaming Hub. The My Games tab allows you to launch whatever titles are on your computer, but it’s pretty much pointless since you will still need to log in through whatever service that game requires. Light Studio is an all-in-one RGB controller for the keyboard backlighting, but you need to first download it from the Windows Store, which is really odd. Now there is something that I want to point out, which is that if you go into Light Studio and you can’t necessarily customize learning effects, you might have actually picked the model with just pure white backsliding. As mentioned previously, there are RGB and non-RGB models out there and HP don’t make it very clear on the website which one come with RGB and which one do not. I think someone needs to figure that out because it’s super confusing.

The Gallery tab has a bunch of desktop wallpapers, while the Coaching tab uses analytics AI software to evaluate your performance in online games and then spits out recommendations on areas where you can improve, which is pretty cool. The Remote Play tab is an interesting concept since it technically allows you to stream gameplay to any device over Wi-Fi, but right now it feels like an early alpha app since there is ton of lag and disconnections.

The Omen 15 tab at the bottom is where all the fun happens. If you go into the Performance Control tab this is where the Omen 15 main system functions can be accessed. These System Vitals section has information like CPU/GPU/Memory utilization and temperatures for the CPU and GPU, along with memory information and network traffic stats. The Network Booster section is something I actually wish more companies would add to their laptops, since with it you can prioritize or deprioritize which apps have the best access to your wireless network. It comes in really handy if you are working with limited bandwidth and want to make sure either a game or a download has the most resources. Finally, in Performance Control you have the option to change between Comfort, Default, and Performance modes. There is also an option to increase fan speed to 100% regardless of the mode you are in.

Fan Noise

Now you might think you have these figured out, but don’t go into thinking that Comfort mode is the same as the silent modes on other laptops. It actually focuses on giving the lowest temperatures rather than the quietest experience. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what you can expect from each mode starting with how loud they are. Like I said, Comfort isn’t actually that comfortable for your years, and I think that HP is talking about the overall comfort for the components. It’s actually just as noisy as running the fans at 100% all the time. Ask for Default and Performance they are quieter overall, but let’s see how this all translates into clock speeds and temperatures in rendering and gaming. From a CPU temperature perspective you can see exactly when the comfort setting fan profile kicks into high gear, and when it starts throttling back. Default allows temperatures to climb up to the 86°C mark before the fan speed increases, and then it brings things back in line and settles just under 80°C. The Performance mode is an interesting one since even though HP claims it could lead to higher fan speeds and temperatures it actually doesn’t. Overall though it looks like the cooling system on this laptop is really, really good.

Temperatures & Frequency

There is some interesting things going on here with clock speeds to both Performance and Default have basically the same speeds with performance hitting a constant 4.15GHz on all cores, while Default is just a bit behind 100MHz less. I should mention right now, both these speeds are the second highest w have seen from an AMD laptop with the champion still being the Eluktronics RP-15’s Beast Mode. When you switch to Comfort well it starts off pretty strong around 3.8GHz, but then mid-way through the rendering test it took the foot off the gas and eventually stabilized around 3.6GHz. But even after that point there was a lot of movement throughout its clock speeds range. Looking at power I really have to wonder why HP decided to run the Omen 15 at full fan speed every now and then in Comfort mode. In that mode it’s limited to just 25W and temperatures were super low, so there is absolutely no reason for it. And with Performance and Default modes being so close on the clock speed side, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Performance rings in at 36W while Default hits 34W.

Moving on to the GPU side of things, the GTX 1660 Ti’s temperatures are really well managed in every single mode. However, I will say it again, why even bother having the Comfort mode run so cool. This GPU is completely fine at a constant 60°C to 75°C, but instead it’s running closer to 57°C while the fans blast your ears out. All that noise doesn’t even lead to higher clock speeds with Default, Performance and Comfort all being within 50MHz of one another. That means NVIDIA’s boost algorithms are perfectly satisfied at a bit higher temperature too. NVIDIA’s specs for the GTX 1660 Ti’s laptop version have it running around 80W, and that is exactly what the Omen 15 gets in every single mode. It’s not like HP throttling the GPU in any way, especially since the core clocks here are higher than NVIDIA advertises as their boost frequency.

Now at this point I’m pretty sure you are wondering about the 100% fan speed setting that I talked about earlier. Well it actually doesn’t make any difference because the Omen 15’s cooling system is more than good enough at its regular setting, so that means that results won’t actually be limited by temperatures. In fact, the bottleneck is actually the amount of power HP is feeding into the Ryzen 7 4800H and the GTX 1660 Ti so giving it more cooling really won’t do anything. And that actually reflects in the surface temperatures because as you can see it doesn’t get that toasty, which makes sense because when the fans are at full speed it does bring those temperatures down. You could technically game on your lap if you really want to, provided you are okay with blasting out your ears with these really loud fans.

Benchmarks

I think it’s time to head into actual benchmarks with our real-world testing. As we head into these it should become obvious that even though the Omen 15 doesn’t have the highest peak clock speeds of the bunch, it consistently wins out at the end of the day. This is especially true over longer rendering tests. Moving on to GPU accelerated programs like Premiere Pro, it falls a bit behind other laptops that are rocking the RTX 2060, but it still puts up really strong results. We can say the same thing for DaVinci Resolve, which also shows pretty good overall performance.

Gaming was actually a bit of a surprise since this is the first Ryzen system we have tested with a GTX 1660 Ti. Overall it’s only between 10% to 15% slower than a standard RTX 2060, and at some point even less than that since some of the laptops in these charts aren’t running their RTX 2060s at full wattage. Meanwhile the GPU inside this Omen 15 is hitting its peak power. Now since the RTX 2060 can’t even hit playable frame rates with ray tracing on the 1660 Ti seems like an excellent alternative from a value standpoint.

Conclusion

To conclude my thoughts on the HP Omen 15 from HP we have to look back at this past year. We have taken a look at a lot of gaming laptops, specifically laptops with AMD processors, and most of them were disappointing, but there were a few exceptions like the ASUS Zephyrus G14 and the Lenovo Legion 5. Now I think I have to add the Omen 15 to that list because HP got a lot of things right with this laptop. The first thing being the design, I really liked the minimal clean aesthetic with this notebook. Also the display fantastic, I did not expect a really good quality screen for this price point. The keyboard is excellent, I love how it feels, and the lighting is also very nice and consistent. The trackpad could be a little bit better, but it is what it is. The port selection is also really well-thought-out you are getting an SD card reader, a Mini DisplayPort, and ample USB ports. Overall this laptop is honestly really, really impressive.

However, I have to mention that the model that we have over here is one of the good ones and it offers a good blend of price to performance, but it’s also a case of buyer beware because you could end up picking up the wrong model with a terrible display and also making some odd sacrifices, so really watch out for the model that you are getting. The fact that HP doesn’t clearly state which models come RGB and non-RGB keyboards is also kind of frustrating. I really hope they nail those things down. Also it’s unfortunate that there are so many variations from region to region. Keep your eyes open!



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