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HP Omen 17 (2017) review: You get a lot of gaming laptop for the money

When we reviewed HP’s 17-inch Omen gaming laptop last year, we found it to be a little boring, but packed with a ton of powerful hardware at a very attractive price. HP’s back this year with a new Omen design, but that general description still holds true. This is not the fanciest high-end gaming laptop we’ve seen. Nor is it the absolute fastest. Nonetheless, other brands charge hundreds more for the same basic specs, often with little or no performance advantage. I hesitate to call the $2,000+ Omen 17 a “bargain,” but you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck.

The new design

HP has improved upon the pedestrian design of last year’s Omen with a look that brings to mind the shape of a modern Lamborghini. It’s all angled air vents and carbon fiber-like texturing (no, it’s not actually carbon fiber).

hp omen overhead IDG/Jason Cross

The new Omen is still very plastic, but it at least looks kind of like a carbon-fiber exotic car.

The new design allows for better cooling and increases maximum potential airflow by about 20 percent, but it doesn’t come free. At 33mm, it’s still thinner than a lot of other 17-inch gaming laptops, but the base weight without the power brick creeps up to 8 pounds, 3 ounces—a full pound heavier than last year’s version.

hp omen vents IDG/Jason Cross

No, it’s not a Lamborghini Aventador, but the angled vents try to project that sort of image.

The new Omen 17 is packed with ports, most of them on the left. You get Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, ethernet, USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type A, USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type C, headset, microphone, and an SD card reader. Good news! That Type-C port also supports Thunderbolt 3, a feature sorely missing from the 2016 model.

hp omen ports left IDG/Jason Cross

HP finally added a Type-C connector with Thunderbolt 3 support.

Not enough USB for you? The right side has another pair of Type-A connectors, supporting USB 3.1 (Gen 1), along with the power plug (a standard barrel connector).

hp omen ports right IDG/Jason Cross

Without an abundance of USB ports, how are you going to plug in that VR rig?

We made special note of the 2016 Omen’s poor serviceability relative to other big gaming laptops. There was only one small door giving you access to the RAM, and any other upgrades (like a new hard drive) would require more intensive disassembly. HP has moved backward in the 2017 design. You can’t get inside at all without removing at least 10 screws and pulling off the whole bottom.

hp omen bottom IDG/Jason Cross

If you want to make upgrades, you’re going to have to remove a bunch of screws.

The full-size keyboard is the same as last year’s, complete with red LED backlighting, a full ten-key keypad, and a row of macro keys on the left. The touchpad hasn’t changed, either: It works well enough, but falls far short of the best Windows touchpads like those on the Surface Book or Surface Laptop.

hp omen lights IDG/Jason Cross

You can pick any keyboard color you want, as long as it’s red.

Bang for the buck

The 17-inch Omen we reviewed last year was notable for giving you lots of high-end hardware at a very reasonable price. That still holds true, and it’s still the greatest strength of HP’s gaming notebook line.

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