While the traditional computer desktop has started taking a backseat to tablets and notebooks for web browsing and checking your email, the ever increasing popularity of PC gaming assures us that these ultra powerful beasts aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. HP have asked us to take a featured look at their Omen X desktop range of computers, which are designed to offer gamers and power users a pre-configured and ready to use system out of the box.
So, why would you purchase a pre-built system? There’s certainly an excitement of building your own computer, but also it requires time, knowledge and tinkering. A number of our reader’s and viewers routinely ask us which pre-built system is right for their gaming needs. So, if you just want to jump right into gaming and don’t have the time for building and configuring the system, or aren’t as technically savvy (or likes the idea of a warranty if anything goes wrong), there’s a lot to be said buying a pre-configured gaming-focused desktop such as the Omen X by HP.
The performance of the Omen X will naturally vary based on your choice of components – the machine we were sent for example, rips through games at up to 4K thanks to the inclusion of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 (we’ll discuss performance further down the article). But HP also present you with a plethora of buying options – including just the bare chassis and ITX motherboard, to other systems which are pre-configured with SLI GeForce GTX 1080’s, an Intel Kaby Lake I7 and 32GB RAM and large Solid State Drives.
The Case, Noise and Aesthetics:
Looks are of course, subjective – but it’s hard to deny that the Omen X case looks impressive. I’ve had several friends witness the computer (who didn’t know I was taking a look at it), and the first thing they asked me was “What the hell is that, it looks cool!?”
The Omen X desktop sits on a 45 degree angle, immediately separating it from the majority of traditional desktops. And while this might seem an odd decision at first, it makes a great deal of sense when you actually open up the unit or come to work on it (even down to plugging in USB cables). HP have designed the unit to easily be upgraded, so if in 3 months time you decided to add in a second GTX 1080, a third hard drive (almost all units come with an NVMe SSD and a traditional HDD for storage) or more RAM, then you’ll be thankful of the angle.
It makes seeing inside the unit easy and simple. For a test, we decided to take out the GPU and RAM (a pretty typical working scenario) and then place them back into the machine. It was a doddle, with the angling making seeing inside the case a lot easier. Hard Drives are even simpler still, you open up the drive bay at the front (the machine comes with a tool kit tucked inside an access panel) and you simply pull open the protector, plop in the drive…. and that’s about it.
The case is designed in a tri-chamber design, this means that the PSU, HDDs and the main board ‘live’ in separate areas of the case. Each of these has their own cooling, and the cable management is routed through the case easily. For those concerned about not being able to say, upgrade the PSU, don’t be. Each ‘zone’ is easily accessible through simply opening up a panel and changing what you need.
Cracking the case open, a single NVMe is installed in our system, along with a single GTX 1080 (as we’ve mentioned earlier). Cables are neatly routed throughout the case, and it’s pretty clear what everything does (if you’re technically inclined). Our system could easily be upgraded with another set of RAM (HP wisely opted to go for 2 sticks of 16GB DDR4, rather than the cheaper and less flexible 4x4GB configuration), or another GTX 1080 – if you don’t feel one is sufficient. Speaking of graphics cards, the machine is amply spacious to for high end GPU’s and their larger coolers – comforting to know that you’re in no worries if the end of the GPU will be snuggled up against the HDD bay as you can find in smaller cases.
All of the internals are pretty much industry standard, including case fan sizes, AIO mounts, PSU connectors… so there’ll be no nasty surprises if you do want to make a few changes in a year or two. Even the motherboards various fan headers are clearly labelled, and the cables are beautifully routed throughout the casing. This is one of those “little things” which isn’t appreciated until you need to remove a cable as you want to change something (and also, obviously better airflow isn’t a negative anyway).
The case itself illuminates at the front, with light strips around the 4 cube like features at the front, and of course the Omen X logo similarly lit. Even in a darkened room, we don’t find it garish, and won’t look out of place in a living room or your game room.
Fortunately, the machine isn’t noisy either, we tested it on desktop, either at idle or simply browsing the web – in these tasks (as you’d expect) the Omen X is whisper quiet. The bigger test, as usual – is under load, playing games such as BattleField 1 and Witcher 3 at 4K (because why not?) or running Prime95. The all in one watercooler and numerous fans rev up (the majority of noise thanks to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 founders eiditon) slightly, but not enough above room noise to not blend into the background of the room noise. It’s a testament to the materials and building design of the case, and probably another reason HP opted for a tri-chamber design, to help further dampen accustics.
The machine also comes with the usual plethora of connection options, including USB 3.1, card readers and headphone ports at the front. The rear of the Omen X also bares the usual USB, HDMI, audio and, depending upon your graphics card selection, the typical outputs associated with that graphics card vendor.
Setting up the Omen X
Well, setup is a bit of a strong term – it’s more a case of plugging in the power, HDMI (to our dedicated capture system for performance investigation), keyboard, mouse and… well that was about it. WiFi is built into the system, not a big deal – but nice to know. You’ve also got an ethernet port for those of you who prefer to hardwire in their connection (particularly helpful if the WiFi signal in your house is less than ideal and you game online), and of course the usual smattering of different USB and audio ports.
After that, you simply turn on the machine and follow any on screen prompts and you’ll be on the desktop in no time. There isn’t any drivers to worry about (aside by chance Nvidia or AMD have released a new GPU driver… in which case, their software will dutifully inform you that there’s an update to download and will handle that for you).
So – what about actually getting to install games? If you’ve been a PC gamer for any length of time, you’ll know the drill by now; point your browser to to the relevant websites and download Steam, Uplay and Origin (and maybe a few of the games you’ve purchased from GOG).
If you’re new to the world of PC gaming, then you’ll just need to download one (or more) of the above clients (if you’re totally new, start with Steam as its got the widest selection of games) and install it. Buy a game or 20… (pro tip, set money aside for Steam sales… trust me, it’s very hard to pass up saving up to 75 percent on a pretty new release) download the game, fire it up by clicking “play”– and there you go.
Despite some believing PC gaming can be tricky, really – for 99 percent of games, especially on industry standard parts such has HP selected, there’s very rarely any issues with crashes. The game will typically take a moment to finish installing any relevant files, and that’s… pretty much it other than setting the graphics options (both Nvidia and AMD’s drivers can actually handle setting the graphics settings for you if you prefer, and they’ll do this based on your system configuration).
There’s really not much ‘work’ to it, and it’s the beauty of a pre-configured system. Other than setting up your Windows 10 login details and downloading Steam, setup time is minimal. Within 30 minutes of having our Omen X plugged in, we had Steam and Origin installed and we were playing games. Though we did cheat a little, by copying over our Steam folder to the machine using a USB hard drive just to save download time.
Performance of the Omen X
Of course, performance does depend upon your system configuration – so if you opted to go for an I7 rig with SLI GTX 1080’s, then naturally your frame rates will be higher than a single GTX 1070 – for instance.
But with that said, our testing unit was loaded with a single GeForce GTX 1080 Pascal, an Intel I7 6700K Skylake (side note, HP are now offering Kaby Lake CPU’s which sport higher clocks than Skylake) and 16GB DDR4 RAM. We loaded up a variety of games, including Doom, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ashes of the Singularity, Far Cry Primal, BattleField One, Resident Evil 7 and Hitman (2016). As of the time I’m writing this, they’re some of the most popular games available on the PC – and we tested the resolution at 1080P (which frankly, was so easy on the machine we did it purely for completeness), 1440P and finally 4K.
There’s a certain perverse pleasure when you load up a game such as Resident Evil 7 or BattleField 1, crank the resolution up to 4K and set all the graphics options to max without a second thought, and then watch the frame rate be still higher than what the next generation consoles can muster, while looking a hell of a lot nicer too.
Doom 4K with everything maxed out; 55 – 70 FPS when ripping and tearing through hordes of demons. Hitman, more your thing? At 4K you’ll be obtaining 50 – 60 FPS during the built in benchmark, and at 1440P, between 70 and 100FPS. Rise of the Tomb Raider, over 80FPS at 1440P, and up to 60FPS in Resident Evil 7 with everything maxed up at 4K. This is without the GTX 1080 being tweaked, or overclocked at all (which you’re of course free to do).
For folks who’re playing at 1440P, this configuration will dominate the games you’re playing for the foreseeable future. But since 4K requires the graphics card to push 4x the number of pixels over 1080P, even the mighty GTX 1080 might struggle (unless you decide to go for two of them, of course!).
Ultimately, if you’re plugging the Omen X into your living room television, then the resolutions are likely to be either 1080P or 4K… and a single GTX 1080 will likely suffice in 4K for the rest of this year (depending on your desire for 60FPS). For 1080P, then an RX 480 or a GTX 1070 are perfect – with the 1070 being faster.
For folks who’re buying the Omen X for usage in a gaming room, especially if you’re buying the monitor at the same time, 1440P is often the perfect compromise between 1080P and 4K. You get the benefit of a significant number of additional pixels over 1080P, but a single 1070 or 1080 can dominate games quite happily and will likely do so for some time to come. Plus, there’s a wider number of screens available at decent prices (though HP do offer a selection if you prefer to get a bundle).
The other ‘thing’ with 1440P is that you still get the ability to do ‘downsampling’ or Dynamic Super Resolution. This means that you can natively render the game at a higher resolution (say 4K) and have it be scaled down to fit the monitor. This increases the levels of detail, improves textures, and reduces aliasing (the ‘jaggies’ around geometry), but if you are running a very demanding online game, and need the frame rate for the competitive edge, it’ll still look great as you’re able to run at 1440P and with the graphics settings maxed out.
For those wondering about storage speed, you will likely be aware that SSD manufacturers have struggled to move past the limitations imposed on them by SATA 3 for a number of years now. It isn’t the fault of Crucial and Samsung (for example), but rather that the SATA 3 interface just cannot handle the ever increasing speeds of the super fast storage memory in these drives. We discussed this in-depth during our Crucial MX 300 750GB SATA3 review if you want to know more. Therefore, the Omen X wisely embraces NVMe, a new interface and industry standard designed for SSD devices.
We will focus on Samsung NVMe drive in our particular showcase model we tested using a few different applications, including the ever popular Crystal Disk Mark. For Seq Q32T1 read speeds, we got a raw figure of 2,253MB/s, with write reaching an impressive 1,250. For Seq. Read 1,789 MB/s and Write 1,244 MB/s. To put that into perspective, the Samsung 840 Evo 1TB SSD (which is SATA 3) achieves figures which are about a third the speed.
It goes without saying that SSD storage space per GB is more expensive than a traditional HDD, but HP do offer fairly generous storage options for the higher end Omen X SKUs, and if you really do want to install Overwatch, Witcher 3, Fallout and a few dozen other games to an SSD you can always buy a SATA 3 SSD in the future. We find that in most game testing, a SATA SSD generally performs well enough, and a huge leap over a standard mechnical hard drive too.
Omen X Desktop – Conclusion
HP have created an interesting product line to suit a wide number of budgets. Yes, it is cheaper to build your own computer – but then you also need to have time to research the parts, built it, install Windows, stability test it (and fault test anything that goes wrong), install the relevant drivers and so on. With a pre-built system, it’s just plug in and go – and with a warranty.
The Omen X series is perfect for those newer to PC gaming, less technically able – or plain just do not have the time. It might surprise you the number of messages and comments I receive (from friends and viewers alike) who ask whether a particular pre-built system is okay and if they’d need to change anything. When enquiring as to why not built their own, it usually comes down to them not being either confident (with no access to a techy friend), or even more common – they do not have the time or desire to bug fix something if it goes wrong. They like the idea of just letting someone else take care of the heavy lifting, and then for them to focus their limited leisure time on the latest and greatest games.
If you fall into those categories, the Omen X desktop is a great option – it’s pre-configured yes, and designed to a specific set of hardware. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot be upgraded, or changed around in a year or two. The motherboard, the graphics card, the PSU, the HDD… everything is industry standard. HP even provides you the tools to open the machine to boot. So in short, if you want to buy a computer now, and then to switch to a new processor in a few years, you’ll have absolutely no problem plonking in a new motherboard, providing you a nice and flexible upgrade path.
Performance wise, the Omen X is right on point – trading blows with a Skylake I7-6700K and GeForce GTX 1080 system we happen to have built ourselves on the channel with different tasks. Not surprising, given they’re largely the same components (despite different motherboard and RAM vendors) – but important to remember. What you’re getting here is a system that an enthusiast could build for you, but with the all important warranty, pre-configured and obviously backed by HP – who’re a company you know will be around in 6 months time and won’t have closed up shop (something which has happened to a few friends before).
If you’re looking for a pre-built system that looks unusual and cool (but also for reasons of functionality, rather than being purely a talking point), high performance and jump into PC gaming, then we do recommend you take a look at the Omen X desktop. While this is a sponsored article and video, we wouldn’t lend our name to anything we didn’t genuinely enjoy using (there’s a reason we ignore the vast majority of sponsored content requests).