HP Omen 16 gaming laptop: Gaming power

HP’s Omen gaming laptops have always been solid performers when it comes to gaming hardware.

I’ve always been a fan of its gaming line-up and after spending time with its Omen 16 laptop, I’m even more of a fan of the hardware.

The review model I had was packed with an Intel 11th Gen i7-11800H (@2.3FHz) CPU, 32Gb of RAM, an nVidia GeForce RTX3070 laptop GPU (8Gb memory), a 1Tb SSD, a 16-inch 144Hz 1080p panel, Bang & Olufsen speakers and is running Windows 11.

The Omen 16 has a chonky 200w charger that ensures enough power to the innards and the Omen 16 really does look smart, with a great build quality and an appearance that doesn’t outlandishly scream: “I’M A GAMING MACHINE, EVERYONE.” It’s subtle in its design.

Connection-wise, on the the left side we have the power socket, a hinged ethernet port, USB-A 3.0, HDMI, USB-C with thunderbolt, a mini display port, the headphone jack and an SD card reader. The right hand side has two USB 3.0 ports.

Primarily aimed at the gaming market, the Omen 16 has a huge mesh grill on the underside of the chassis, letting you catch a glimpse of the substantial cooling system. Raised rubber feet mean the cooling fans have plenty of airflow and ventilation to keep things cool. It’s hefty in the hand but passes the backpack test.

HP is known for cramming it’s laptops with bloatware – and sadly, there’s a fair bit of it here in the Omen 16. I counted no less than eight HP programs (not including the HP specific Gaming Hub software) plus perennial bloatware antivirus McAfee and a trial for ExpressVPN. McAfee was the most annoying of the bloatware with it’s constant nagging but thankfully its reminders can be disabled. Frankly, the amount of bloatware is too much, HP.

System boot up from cold to the load screen was 14 seconds thanks to the SSD with Intel’s Opthane software and showcasing its gaming credentials HP’s Gaming Hub software lets you tweak the hardware to eek as much performance out as you can or change the lighting under the keys.

For example, you can under volt the system – where you reduce the CPUs core voltage without reducing the CPU’s performance) – meaning less power consumption and heat. There’s also balanced or performance modes, and an in-build graphics switcher so you can flick between the integrated graphics and the discrete RTX3070 GPU to ensure you’re getting the best graphical power when you need it the most.

Right, onto the bench marking. Let’s play some games on this thing.

I tested the Omen 16 with bench marking tools Cinebench, Catzilla, Heaven and 3D Mark (Timespy & Firestrike) and using the in-built benchmark tools in Batman Arkham Knight, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I also played God of War and RDR 2 a fair bit because, well, I just like those two games a lot.

As you can see, 3D Mark’s Firestrike demo returned a score of 18.063 and Timespy a score of 1112, and Tomb Raider returned an average frame rate of 123 frames per second with nVidia’s DLSS set to Quality mode and using DirectX 12. Unfortunately, I don’t have my bench mark images for RDR 2 or God of War as I, ahem, accidentally deleted them from a USB stick when I was clearing out unwanted data – and I’ve already sent the laptop back.

Suffice to say, it performed nicely with Red Dead Redemption with a mix of quality settings, same for God of War, although I noticed periodic slow down in the latter sections of the game, especially when there were a lot of enemies on screen. It didn’t last long but it was noticeable.

I also felt that performance dipped a little when on battery power (the system seems throttles a little to conserve battery life) but that’s to be expected. As I do with all laptops that are desktop replacements, I’d recommend to keep it plugged into mains power when you are gaming. This isn’t one for extended gaming sessions at the cafe if you’ve left your charger at home!

Look, HP’s Omen 16 does what it says on the box – and it does it very, very well. In fact, it’s probably the best performing gaming laptop I’ve reviewed on this blog.

It’s well built, has good battery life, has a good screen and performances extremely well with any game I threw its way. HP also tells me that the Omen 16 uses recycled plastic for the key caps, recycled metal and ocean-bound plastic for the speaker enclosure.

That said, it’s not cheap but decent gaming laptops never seem to be, right? The Omen 16 starts from $NZ4,699, depending on whether you go for an Intel CPU or AMD processor, and the review configuration – if I’ve read things correctly – would set you back about $NZ5499. That’s a fair chunk of change.

However, if I was looking for a more portable gaming machine to replace my desktop PC – which I partially rebuilt last year with a new motherboard and Intel 11th Gen i5 CPU – I wouldn’t hesitate to put the HP Omen 16 at the top of my list.

Interview: NZ Retro Magazine’ s Karl “After” Burnett

Former NZ TV actor Karl Burnett has long had a love of retro video games – he was introduced to Invaders on the Fountain Force 2 machine when he was a child – so he decided to publish New Zealand’s only print magazine dedicated to retro video gaming. The first issue was printed this month and I caught up with Karl “After” Burnett to talk about the process of creating a print magazine and what he thinks is the greatest retro game of all time.

Tell me about your video game background. You mentioned you were an avid reader of Computer and Video Games magazine back in the day (as an owner of a ZX Spectrum I pored over Crash! Magazine) but what was the console/games machine that sparked the video game interest for you? Was there a specific video game that just blew your mind?

It was when I got home one day, possibly from school or kindy, when I heard blips and beeps coming from the lounge. The door was shut and dad led the way, saying “do you know what that is?” I replied “video games”. To this day I don’t know how I knew that as Invaders, the game that my sister was playing on that brand new Fountain Force 2, was the first game I’d ever seen.

How did that interest develop over the years? Have you always had a fondness for “retro” games specifically or have you delved into modern games but always been drawn back to the old-skool gaming experience?

I always kept up with modern gaming. Until the Xbox360 I had owned every console of every generation. I wasn’t blown away by that generation as developers were taking far fewer risks with creativity. There were very few games that I wanted to play. I did love Grand Theft Auto V.

After that I got an Xbox One and again, there’s not a heap of stuff I like playing. I picked up GT7 recently for the PS4 Pro and I’m enjoying that (apart from the weird mobile game aspects etc) but I also picked up Elden Ring and it’s just too complicated for my old brain. I’m not a fan of crafting or messing about in inventories – leveling up and that sort of thing. I know it’s an RPG but those elements have all snuck into action games these days. I just prefer the purity and simplicity of retro games – I mean, gathering crap to make a spear that’s just going to break isn’t fun in my book. Tomb Raider really annoyed me with all that stuff. Even Transformers Devastation, as good as it was, had weapon crafting. Why!?!

What was the catalyst to create NZ Retro magazine? What was the light bulb moment that prompted you to go “Yeah, I want to publish a magazine about retro video games”?

I was writing for the UK magazine Sega Powered and I really enjoyed it. I’d toyed with the idea of creating a magazine a couple of times in the past. One was a new car magazine named The Wheel Deal, which I thankfully decided to put online instead, and the other was a retro gaming magazine that just never happened. So I decided to finally give it a go.

Walk me through the process. You’ve got a background in writing but was producing the magazine a more monumental task than you anticipated? Did you ever get to the point of asking yourself “What the hell am I doing?” and go back to whatever it was you were doing before?

I had a pretty good idea what to expect, from working full time in magazine publishing in the past. I’d done plenty of design work as a game developer, so I knew I could make it look semi decent too. There were some hurdles on the last day caused by my lack of knowledge on the printing side but nothing major until after I’d shipped issue one and the printer closed its doors.

When did you decide Kickstarter was the way to go to fund the magazine? Were you surprised at the support you received or did you think there was enough love for retro games that it was a sure thing?

I’d actually funded the first couple of issues myself. The Kickstarter was to help with the next couple of issues – I hadn’t done a great job of selling advertising! I was blown away by the amount of support. I thought there’s be enough people to sustain it but it was good to know I was right!

Launching a new magazine in the current climate was a big risk for you (I see printer Ovato has closed due to paper shortages etc). Was that at the forefront of your mind during the whole process? 

I didn’t actually see it as much of a risk, more a last chance. I’d pulled out of university as I realised halfway through my degree that programming computers is only fun if it’s done for fun. I decided I didn’t want to be a coder and I’d quit a great job to go and study. There were no suitable jobs around and I really wanted to be writing again, so I thought I might as well give it a go. I knew  that niche magazines were taking off around the world – especially retro gaming ones – and there were none in New Zealand so I filled the void. A lot of people in various Facebook retro groups I belong to voiced that they wanted it, too.

What are you most happy about with the magazine? The foreword by Julian “Jaz” RIgnall? The poster art by Trevor “Smila” Storey? The fact that you actually got the magazine out and to supporters?

Jaz was pretty much the biggest influence on my writing and I doubt I’d be doing this if it wasn’t for his work back in the day. So yeah, having him in the mag was awesome. Trevor’s art is great too – he’ll be doing plenty more for NZ Retro. But the be great thing was the magazine itself. It turned out really well. There are a few small things I’ve changed since but over all I’m really proud of it.

What does the future hold for NZ Retro magazine? Are we likely to see any love in future issues for classics like Westworld’s Blade Runner or Lucasarts masterpieces like like Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle?

I LOVE point and click adventures. They were the story driven games of their time. I suppose some did have crafting, though! And inventories! How ironic. I’ll definitely cover them as I get better and faster at making the magazine as those types of games take a lot of time to play for review.

What is the greatest retro game of all time?

Tempest 2000 on Atari Jaguar or Need For Speed on 3DO. The greatest game ever made in my opinion is GTAV.

Disclaimer: I was a backer of the first issue of NZ Retro and it’s a bloody fine magazine. If you’d like to find out more about NZ Retro, you can visit its webstore at http://www.nzretro.com or subscribe to future issues via Patreon: patreon.com/nzretro

Devolver Digital’s Double Doozy

There was not one but two announcements from publisher Devolver Digital this week, with one of them being a new game in one of point-and-click adventure gaming’s most famous franchises.

The announcement of Return to Monkey Island, the long-awaited follow-up to the legendary Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge by Ron Gilbert’s Terrible Toybox in collaboration with Devolver Digital and Lucasfilm Games, was somewhat of a surprise to most of us, especially those of us of thrived on Lucasfilm’s excellent point-and-click adventure games. Here’s hoping there’s a return to insult sword fighting! “You fight like a dairy farmer!”

Details are light on the ground for Return to Monkey Island and the trailer doesn’t reveal any game play but Gilbert, who was behind the Kickstartered point-and-click game Thimbleweed Park, tweeted about it on April 5:

Anywho, here’s a link to the short announcement trailer

The second announcement from Devolver this week was another game play trailer for Trek to Yomi, the Japanese samurai inspired game that I previewed on this site a couple of weeks ago.

The trailer is long – it’s 15 minutes – but gives you a good taste of what to expect from the game when it’s available from May 5.