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HP Omen 16 review: An affordable all-AMD gaming laptop

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,139
inc VAT

AMD's new entry-level gaming GPU goes head to head with Nvidia’s RTX3060

Pros 
Quality 165Hz, 1440p display
Good performance for the money
Decent sound system
Cons 
No DLSS upscaling
No numeric keypad
Mediocre battery life
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Gaming laptops are looking less and less like gaming laptops. Granted, some machines like Acer’s Nitro and Asus ROG Strix ranges still proclaim their gaming heritage loudly, but an increasing number of others, including Lenovo’s Legion and Asus’ TUF machines, look rather more sober. The latest HP Omen 16 adds to that list. It’s part of a new Omen range of laptops that not only look less “gamey” than its predecessors but also that come kitted out with a 16.1in screen.

The end result is a laptop that has enough power to run triple-A games at high frame rates, chew through demanding productivity tasks with alacrity and a display and speakers that make it an excellent media playback device.

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HP Omen 16 review: What you need to know

Such is Nvidia’s dominance of the discrete GPU market you could be forgiven for thinking that it is the only game in town. But you’d be wrong: AMD has a decent little sideline in its RX-series GPUs. The latest addition to the lineup is the AMD Radeon RX 6600M, a mid-range GPU designed to bring reliable 1080p gaming to laptops that don’t cost an arm and a leg. In other words, a GPU to compete directly with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060.

That’s a tough gig, because the latest GeForce GPUs have redefined the sort of performance you can expect from the GPU inside a gaming laptop in the £1,000-£1,500 price range and are already present in a host of reasonably priced laptops from all the major manufacturers. AMD, then, is rather late to the party.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best gaming laptops you can buy

HP Omen 16 review: Price and competition

HP’s new Omen comes in three flavours. The entry-level machine that I have on my desk (16-c0006na) costs £1,040, has an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, AMD Radeon RX 6600M GPU and 512GB SSD. The mid-spec model (16-c0009na) uses a Ryzen 9 chip, the same GPU, 1TB of storage and costs £1,499.

Top of the pile is the £1,799 Ryzen 9 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 model (16-c0008na), which comes with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. It should be noted that the current price of the cheapest model includes a £359 discount.

The strongest competition for the Omen comes from within the HP’s own stable in the form of the 16.1in HP Victus. Performance is good thanks to a Ryzen 7 processor and Nvidia RTX3060 GPU and the sound system is very impressive. The Full HD display is rather drab, however, and battery life was nothing to write home about. For just under £1,200 it’s decent value.

Lenovo’s Legion 5 offers plenty of bang for your buck, with £1,199 getting you a Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU and a 512GB SSD. I called it a masterclass in mid-price gaming thanks to its excellent gaming performance, great keyboard and high-quality display. I also like that the Legion 5 tucks all its ports around the back.

The Asus TUF Dash F15 has excellent battery life, a great sound system and an attractive white polycarbonate body, plus the same RTX 3070 GPU as the Lenovo Legion 5 but allied to an Intel Core i7 processor. Getting hold of the model with both the RTX 3070 GPU and the 240Hz display can be an issue. If you can’t, then the RTX 3060/240Hz combo is the one to go for. It costs £1,299 but has a capacious 1TB SSD.

If money is tight then Acer’s latest Nitro 5 has a lot going for it thanks to its AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU and £900 price tag. It has a plethora of upgrade options, including space for a 2.5in SATA3 hard disk and a 144Hz Full HD display. However, it feels a bit cheap, battery life is poor and the screen is inaccurate when it comes to colour representation.

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HP Omen 16 review: Design and build quality

Like Lenovo’s Legion 5, the Omen 16 is a gaming laptop designed for adults rather than juveniles. It’s all very sober, black and grown up, although some will interpret that as meaning it’s also just a little dull. The four-zone RGB keyboard backlight aside (you don’t get per-key backlighting at this price), the Omen 16 could pass as a regular laptop, which is a plus if you want a machine for work as much as play.

The Omen is a largely plastic affair but it feels solid enough, and the aluminium keyboard deck lends an aura of cool quality to proceedings. The hinge design is wholly conventional and the lid has a reassuringly small amount of flex to it but shows fingerprints rather badly.

There are two plastic supports on each side of the keyboard, parallel to the third throw of keys, designed to prevent the screen from flexing towards the keyboard, but these look a little vulnerable to me as they’re not particularly thick.

HP has been generous with the connectors, scattering a trio of 5Gbits/sec USB Type-A ports, a single 10Gbits/sec Type-C port, Mini DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 video feeds plus a drop-jaw RJ-45 Gigabit LAN port across the two sides. There’s also an SD memory card reader and, of course, a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s a pretty decent selection. Wireless traffic is handled by a Realtek card that supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

Removing the bottom of the Omen 16 is straightforward and gives easy access to the two M.2 2280 SSD mounts, one of which is free, and two SO-DIMM RAM slots (both occupied). HP has even posted a handy video that shows you how to remove and reinstall all the major internal components. At 2.3kg the Omen is par for the course when it comes to weight, and at 369 x 248 x 23mm it’s neither remarkably big nor small.

READ NEXT: The best budget gaming laptops to buy

HP Omen 16 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

The Scrabble-tile keyboard looks and feels a lot like the Victus’ keyboard. It’s solid, quiet and responsive and has just the right amount of travel. There is one major difference, however: the Victus has a numeric keypad where the Omen doesn’t.

In the Omen’s favour, the four cursor keys are larger than those on the Victus and more obviously separated from the rest of the keyboard in the lower right corner. The one-piece touchpad is an expansive 125 x 80mm affair with a plastic covering. The click action is a little on the shallow side for my liking, but that’s my only gripe.

Above the screen sits a rank average 720p webcam, which looks grainy and dull no matter what the prevailing lighting conditions. In the absence of any biometrics, you’re reduced to using a PIN to log in quickly.

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HP Omen 16 review: Display and audio

For a budget gamer, the Omen has a rather good IPS display. The competition generally makes do with 15.6in, 1080p and 144Hz, so to get 16.1in of real estate, a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and a max refresh rate of 165Hz is a welcome bonus. At 311cd/m² it isn’t the brightest display in the world, but it’s certainly colourful, reproducing 100.9% of the sRGB colour space. It’s also reasonably colour-accurate, with an average Delta E variance of just 1.74, while the contrast ratio is a healthy 1,184:1.

Those numbers combine to deliver an immersive, sharp, colourful and blur-free gaming experience. And if you plan on spending a lot of time watching movies on your laptop then the Omen 16’s vibrant colour representation makes it even easier to recommend. Its only limitation is that low maximum brightness, which means it isn’t the best laptop to use outside.

On the other hand, the Bang and Olufsen-branded sound system doesn’t let the side down. It produces a clear and punchy soundscape with abundant volume – an average of 75dB measured at 1m distance – and a healthy side-order of bass.

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HP Omen 16 review: Performance and battery life

Underpinning the Omen 16 on test here (the 16-c0006na) is an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H octa-core processor with a maximum boost clock of 4.4GHz. Paired with that is an AMD RX 6600M GPU with 8GB of video RAM and a TDP of 100W. System memory consists of 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM arranged in two banks of 8GB. That specification suggests the Omen 16 should have performance to spare for both gaming and non-gaming workloads.

The most noticeable absence when using an AMD GPU is Nvidia’s much-lauded but proprietary DLSS or Deep Learning Super Sampling upscaling voodoo. AMD has a broadly equivalent open-source equivalent called FidelityX Super Resolution (FSR for short), but it isn’t yet supported by as many games as DLSS (there’s a full list here). Ray tracing is less of an issue; after all, RTX is just a name Nvidia gives to the same Microsoft DirectX 12 ray-tracing API that everyone uses.

To kick off I started with Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, a game that requires a ray-tracing-capable GPU to run. At 1080p the Omen 16 managed a solid average of 55fps and, at 1440p, 37fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider returned an average 53fps at 1080p and 36fps at 1440p with ray tracing enabled. Without ray tracing, those numbers jumped to 103fps and 72fps.

Next, I moved on to Wolfenstein: Youngblood, our usual test to measure the impact of upscaling and ray tracing on frame rates, but the option to enable ray tracing was missing. Running without ray tracing the Omen 16 managed 134fps at 1080p and 84fps at 1440p. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is one of only two major titles that I stumbled across that did not support ray tracing on AMD’s GPUs thanks to them using proprietary Nvidia APIs, the other being Quake II RTX, which as the name suggests is published by Nvidia.

To get an idea of how effective FSR can be, I ran Anno 1800. At 1440p it ran at an average of 58fps without FSR but that improved to 81fps with FSR on and set at 150%. Clearly, then, FSR upscaling is necessary if you want to get the best from ray-tracing titles running at the display’s native resolution. Without FSR, you’re better off sticking to 1080p.

Rounding off with the demanding Hitman 2, the Omen 16 managed 45fps at 1080p and 26fps at 1440p. Knocking the supersampling down from 2 to 1 saw those numbers jump to 101fps and 85fps respectively. That’s in line with what you would get from an RTX 3060-based system.

Moving on from gaming, the HP Omen 16 scored 322 in the Expert Reviews in-house 4K media productivity test, a good result for a machine costing this much. The Geekbench 5 benchmark told a very similar story, while the SPECviewperf 3dsmax rendering test returned 66fps at 1080p, again a solid result for a laptop in this price range.

What does all this tell us? For gaming, the AMD RX 6600M performs much the same as the Nvidia RTX 3060 and has a small advantage in productivity tasks, thanks to its extra 2GB of vRAM. The Omen 16 is clearly happier running games at 1080p than at 1440p unless the game in question supports FSR, so it’s probably best to use that extra definition for watching 4K movies.

Rounding off the benchmarks is a 512GB PCI-E Gen3 Western Digital SN730 SSD, which recorded decent but unexceptional sequential read and write speeds of 2,389MB/sec and 2,436MB/sec respectively.

Battery life is similarly unexceptional, the Omen 16 lasting 7hrs 11mins in our video rundown test. That’s again in line with most of the competition apart from the Asus Tuf Dash 15, which continues to be the benchmark in this category. I expected better given that the Omen has a six-cell, 83Wh battery.

HP Omen 16 review: Verdict

Putting the AMD GPU to one side for a moment, the entry-level HP Omen 16 is a thoroughly recommendable machine. The 16.1in display is undoubtedly the star of the show but the sound system deserves a mention in dispatches, too. The Omen is also a well-made and stylish machine that’s easy to upgrade, and the price is most certainly right.

The AMD graphics card will be a definite bonus if your favourite games support AMD’s FSR upscaling that will make the most of the 1440p display resolution, but having to play graphically demanding DLSS-only games at 1080p is hardly a sacrifice on a laptop costing this little.

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