HP Omen X review: Turns major HP PC games into PC games alongside them

HP’s Omen X desktop is one of the boldest PC designs of the year, taking a nice cube shape but not quite as groundbreaking and standing on one edge for a sharp, angular look.

The first thing everyone does when they see an Omen X is extend their hand and give it a constant shake. Although it floats precariously on one edge, the stand is actually solid, and there is no danger of it tipping over.

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Sarah Teo / CNET

Why is this desktop computer balanced on one edge? It’s actually a very cool idea that makes it very easy to access the ports, drive slots, and even the interior of the system. With standard desktops, you usually have to (carefully) lie on its side, or crawl alongside it on the floor. This makes removing the side panel tricky at first, and making working inside the case, swapping hard drives and graphics cards, daunting.

On the Omen X, you just take out the side cover, and everything is at a comfortable 45-degree angle and easy to reach. It’s easier on a desk or table, but works well on the floor, too.

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Sarah Teo / CNET

Three ways to reach the omen

The configuration reviewed here is very basic, with an Nvidia 1080 card, an Intel Core i7 CPU, a 256GB SSD, and a 2TB HDD array storage. It’s $2,499 on HP’s website right now, and a similar configuration sells for £2,499 or AU$4,499 in Australia. It comes with quite a few CPU, GPU, and storage options.

But that’s not the only way to get the Omen X experience. With a large, ventilated case sure to appeal to DIY-style makers, HP is offering the same case, minus any components, for $599 or £549. It’s not currently available in Australia, but that price turns out to be around A$800. To address the elephant in the room right away: That’s a crazy price for a PC case, even if it’s as nice-looking and full of features as the Omen X. It’s hard to imagine spending over $200 on an empty case, even on the high end.

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Sarah Teo / CNET

If you want something truly high-end with proprietary components, extreme overclocking and a custom paint job, HP will take you to a highly respected PC builder called Maingear. They’ll take a base Omen X case and build you the expensive gaming desktop of your dreams, starting at $2,999 – around £2,365 or AU$4,025.

HP Omen X

Price as reviewed $2,499
PC CPU Intel Core i7-6700K Processor 4GHz
computer memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM @ 2400MHz
Graphics 8 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
storage 256 GB SSD + 2 TB HDD
Networks Wireless 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.?
Operating System Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Enter the cube

There’s plenty of room for two graphics cards and even liquid cooling in the main compartment, because this cube is divided into separate quadrants. The power supply is tucked away in its own area, and all the hard drives are in a separate area – making cooling and cable management a lot easier.

I loved the four hot-swappable drive bays, which are easily accessible on the outside, and each has a cloth loop to pull the drive cage out. Most of the ports and connections are on the back panel, but a few, including a few USB 3.0 and USB-C, are on the side, and they’re easy to reach because they point toward you at a 45-degree angle.

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Sarah Teo / CNET

The headlights can be customized in different colors, or to show CPU usage through a simple built-in app. It’s not nearly as customizable or flexible as the case lighting apps from Alienware or Razer, but you can still use it to set up some great color combinations.

As with any large gaming desktop computer, performance will largely depend on the specific components you invest in. The Nvidia 1080 and Core i7 6700K GPU is more than enough for today’s games at high detail settings and even resolutions up to 4K. Mafia III, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and other games played smoothly in the hands-on test.

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Sarah Teo / CNET

In benchmark tests, the system performed well, which HP credits with tuning the system and focusing the case design on keeping temperatures low. It wasn’t quite as fast as the insanely $6000 boutique desktop overclocking the Origin PC, but it was as good or better than other desktops in its price range.

VR also works well here, plus it helps to have enough USB ports for a VR headset as well as accessories. I’m doing my initial test bed for the new Oculus Rift Touch controllers, which require an additional USB port for the second sensor that comes packaged with them.

Thinking outside the box

Some visitors to CNET’s PC test lab thought the Omen X was too big, and questioned the unusual design. I liked it very much, and especially appreciated the minimalist modern look (no side-lit glass panels or extra-terrestrial build), but the point is that the Falcon Northwest Fragbox or the Origin PC Chronos could offer similar high-end performance in a much smaller package.

But I also found the Omen X incredibly easy to use, considering I always plug and unplug accessories and often need access to the inside of the case. There’s a premium to pay, but once you’ve spent $2,500 or more on a gaming desktop, you might not be looking for the least expensive option at every turn.

However, if anyone catches me paying $599 for an empty computer case, please confiscate my credit card immediately.

Multitasking Multimedia Test 3.0

Origin PC Millennium (OC) 79HP Omen X 133Alienware Aurora R5 152Acer Predator G1710 157HP Omen (17 inch) 184

Noticeable: Shorter bars indicate better performance (seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-core)

Origin PC Millennium (OC) 40631HP Omen X 17434Alienware Aurora R5 16904Acer Predator G1710 14465HP Omen (17 inch) 13362

Noticeable: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Millennium (OC) 10384Alienware Aurora R5 4973Acer Predator G1710 4936HP Omen X 4295HP Omen (17 inch) 3816

Noticeable: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Origin PC Millennium (OC) 309Alienware Aurora R5 232HP Omen X 206.13Acer Predator G1710 192.09HP Omen (17 inch) 137.56

Noticeable: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System Configurations

HP Omen X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); Intel Core i7-6700K processor at 4 GHz; 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 256 GB SSD + 2 TB HDD
HP Omen (17 inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
Original PC Millennium Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) Intel Core i7-6950X processor at 4.4 GHz; 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (oc) (2) 8 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Alienware Aurora R5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); Intel Core i7-6700K processor at 4 GHz; 16 GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8 GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 256 GB SSD + 2 TB HDD
Acer Predator G1710 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7-6700; 30 GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8 GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD

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