For the longest time, I have looked at gaming laptops as non-traditional notebooks aimed at a niche set of users. But during Covid-19, the gaming laptop market has emerged as a promising category with many brands launching gaming notebooks at different price points so as to appeal to a wider user base. HP’s latest Omen 16 falls in the same bracket and comes with a Ryzen 7 5800H processor, an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage at a price tag of Rs 109,999. But does the AMD version of the Omen 16 impress with a set of specs under the hood? Here is my review of the HP Omen 16.
HP Omen 16 review: Design
Gaming laptops have a certain aesthetic but that seems to be slowly fading away. I see more and more gaming notebooks have an uncluttered look and the Omen 16 shows that the industry is headed in that direction. Its all-grey chassis reminded me of a business laptop while the sturdy aluminum keyboard, squared-off edges, and small reflective square on the lid only added to that feeling. Although the rest of the notebook is made of plastic, the Omen 16 is well-crafted and feels remarkably solid. At 2.32kg, the Omen 16 won’t break any record for the thinnest gaming laptop on the market but it is a light notebook when you consider how powerful the device is. I wouldn’t mind taking this laptop to a cafe, or on a short trip to Almora. In fact, it comfortably fits in my old Samsonite backpack which I have been using for a few years now.
The Omen 16 is well-crafted and feels remarkably solid. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
The port selection is generous, too. You get three USB-A 3.0 ports, one USB-C, an Ethernet connector, DisplayPort, an SD slot, and an HDMI 2.1 port for up to 4K output at 120Hz on supported displays. However, the USB-C port does not support Thunderbolt. After all, it is an AMD-powered notebook. The notebook also comes with a headphone jack, Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6.
HP Omen 16 review: Display and audio
The display looks incredible and is suitable to be used both indoors and outdoors. It’s a 16.1-inch 1080p IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate display. On paper, HP rates the display’s peak brightness at 300 nits, which is just average for a gaming laptop. In my daily usage, however, movies and TV shows looked life-like and the text was pin sharp. A taller display would have allowed for a smaller bottom bezel and an extra screen real estate. For now, HP is sticking with a 16:9 ratio on this notebook. The display lacks support for frame-rate-smoothing technologies such as G-Sync or FreeSync, but these are mostly seen on high-end gaming notebooks.
A taller display would have allowed for a smaller bottom bezel and an extra screen real estate. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
That brings us to the webcam on this machine. Front-facing cameras on smartphones and tablets have been far superior for some time now. By that comparison, the 720p webcam just doesn’t measure up. It’s an okay (ish) camera that gets the job done. The Bang & Olufsen speakers are loud enough for YouTube videos or to listen to music or attend calls, but they don’t deliver enough depth or bass.
HP Omen 16 review: Keyboard and touchpad
The chiclet keyboard with membrane keys is great. You will get an RGB keyboard, but the per-key backlighting cannot be customised. Instead, you get four zones that can be customised independently. No matter how you see it, this is a good keyboard. But I didn’t like the touchpad. Yes, the size is generous for a gaming laptop but the touchpad feels off to me. And that annoyed me a lot while testing the notebook.
No matter how you see it, this is a good keyboard. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
HP Omen 16 review: Performance and battery
At the heart of the Omen 16 is an eight-core, 16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor. My review unit includes 16GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory, a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD and an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip with Windows 11 pre-installed. Although the SSD does not run at PCIe 4.0, it should still be fast for most people.
Anyway, the Ryzen 7 5800H is a fast processor but not the fastest. Whatever you want to get done, be it video editing, writing a feature piece using Google Docs or editing images, the Omen 16 will handle it with no dip in performance when on battery. As I said, it’s a fast laptop but not as fast for creators and video editors who want to run projects. For that, Intel laptops are still the option to go. In terms of gaming, Rise of Tomb Raider averages 30 frames when playing the game running at its Medium preset. Play it at a 1080p resolution high settings, you will get around 19 fps. Don’t expect demanding games reaching 60 fps on this machine, but older games should be able to display at a very high frame rate.
To be clear, all of the tests I performed are using the base model. Obviously, this model won’t perform at the same level as one featuring the Ryzen 9-5900H — that model costs Rs 144,999.
In terms of gaming, Rise of Tomb Raider averages 30 frames when playing the game running at its Medium preset. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
The laptop runs completely silently most of the time. Only when playing games with graphics settings cranked up to maximum could I hear the roar of fans.
Despite being an AMD-powered machine, battery life was a mixed bag, lasting under four hours with light work consisting of email, browsing, writing and photo editing. Push the machine really hard by playing games or doing extensive tasks, the battery life dips further.
Port selection on this notebook is generous. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)
HP Omen 16 review: Should you buy it?
The HP Omen 16’s performance is in line with the price. I see the Omen 16 as a good general-purpose computer that also happens to be a gaming machine. Yes, it won’t blow you away in terms of gaming performance but it’s a fast and quiet laptop. The fact that this is a legit gaming notebook that you can close and stuff in your backpack is appealing for a lot of casual users. It’s not cheap, but that’s okay. Gaming laptops cost a little more – and don’t start comparing it with the M1 MacBook Air. For the pro-gaming crowd, look elsewhere. There are better options available in the market.