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.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review: Portability in a sleek package

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 ticks all the boxes for a nice laptop: It’s smart looking, it’s lightweight and it’s nicely spec’ed (available in both Intel and AMD CPU configurations and 13.5 and 15-inch variants). 

The review model I was provided was powered by a custom “Microsoft Surface edition” eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 [running at 2Ghz], 16Gb of DDR 4 memory, 512Gb SSD storage, and a 15-inch screen (2496 x 1664 with a 3:2 aspect ratio) and after using it for a bit, I reckon it’s perfect for creative types and productivity.  

So that’s what I used it for, mainly: I wrote this review on it, I tweaked Word documents on it, I browsed websites on it, and I could see it as the ideal replacement for a tired work laptop that needs replacing with something that looks classy and performs better than your current one.

The moment I took the Surface Laptop 4 out of its box I could see this was a premium product, with a smart black metal chassis punctuated by a silver Windows logo smack bang in the middle of the lid. It’ll set you back $NZ1749 for the13.5-inch model and $NZ2499 for the 15-inch model, that I reviewed.

The Surface Laptop 4 just looks classy, and tipping the scales at 1.3kg, it won’t add much weight to your backpack or satchel if you e-scoot or cycle to the office or university or wherever. You can hoist it with one hand without breaking a sweat.

It’s incredibly thin, too: amazingly thin, actually, with great build quality. It felt rigid and sturdy with no creaks or flexing. 

That thinness does come with a downside, though, depending on your view of how much connectivity a laptop should have. The Surface Laptop 4 doesn’t have a lot of ports, with the left-hand side housing USB Type A and USB Type C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack while the right hand side has the proprietary charge portt – and that’s it. If you want ports to connect more things, you’ll need to get a dongle or something but for most people it should do the job.

It has a 10-point multi touch PixelSense screen that looks sharp, displaying text and documents clearly and crisply, although with a 3:2 aspect ratio, the bezels were a little thick for my liking .  

Talking of text and documents that brings me to the keyboard which is extremely comfortable to type on. As someone who’s been able to touch type for almost 30 years, I found the keyboard on the Surface Laptop 4 just a dream to use, with nice travel from the keys. It really does make for a pleasant typing experience.  

The nice sized touch pad is super sensitive, too, which means it’ll pick up the most minute of digit movements as you slide your fingers across its surface.   

Microsoft claims the Surface Laptop 4 has a battery life of up to 17.5 hours and while it has great battery life, I suggest it was more like 12 to 13 hours of standard use, which is still fantastic and means you won’t need to live near a power point when you’re working on that important document.

Performance-wise, I’ve never used a laptop with a Ryzen CPU but the Surface Laptop 4 seemed zippy enough, handling everything I threw at it: Word processoring, video streaming, web browsering and the like, and while it’s not a gaming machine, it did manage to run easy games like the excellent-but-old BladeRunner (off GOG.com). Have no illusions, though, this isn’t a gaming laptop so don’t load up Cyberpunk 2077 or Call of Duty and expect it to run like a PC with a discrete graphics card because it won’t. This isn’t a gaming machine.

In an attempt to make myself feel like a real tech reviewer, I benchmarked the Laptop 4 with Cinebench and Geekbench 5, returning scores of 4862, and 533 (single core) and 4138 (multi-core) respectively but if I’m being honest, I really don’t know what those numbers mean.  

After using the Surface Laptop 4 for a few weeks, I’m sold on its credentials as a solid, productivity device that would be just the ticket for the home office (or office, office) or a creative type who wants something light and portable to finish writing their first novella on.  

Many thanks to Acumen Republic PR in New Zealand for providing the review unit.