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HP Omen packs gaming-PC hardware into ultrabook shell

The HP Omen fits a lot into a little, but does the price justify this careful balance?

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    HP's 15.6" Omen notebook strikes a pricy compromise between gaming powerhouse and portable ultrabook
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Hewlett-Packard released the Omen, a $1,500 15.6-inch gaming laptop that could match offerings from Alienware, Razer and other gaming PC companies.

The news comes in light of HP’s recent commitment to split into two public companies. The decision might clearly distinguish its two markets: the corporate-oriented hardware and services operations and its consumer-oriented computer and printer business.

HP is encroaching on a weight-conscious market this time: the Omen weighs in at 4.68 pounds and measures 0.78 inches trick, which puts it squarely between the thin, light, and relatively under-powered ultrabook category (such as the MacBook Air, Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga, Asus Zenbook) and brickier laptops built for gaming performance.

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The laptop features an Intel i7 4710HQ CPU with 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and an Nvidia GeForce 860M graphics card with 2 GB of VRAM. The hardware specs and price point might make the Omen a tough sell, especially among more well-known competing brands and models in the market, such as Alienware’s 13, which retails at a base $999, and a heftier Lenovo’s Y50 laptop, at $1,050.

The Omen’s lightness, given its 15.6-inch screen size, might explain the price difference, as well as the fact that it’s a touchscreen. The display resolution, however, might disappoint some looking for a little more oomph, considering the cost.

Mike Nash, HP’s vice president of product management, tells tech news site PCWorld that "Gamers care about frame rates.” While both display and performance are important in the PC market, a few regularly chopped frames while playing a game can significantly sour the experience.

“In other words: If you really care about gaming performance, you’ll take 30-plus fps on a ‘low’ resolution over slower frame rates on a trendy 4K display,” Mr. Nash says.

The price point and branding hearkens back to VoodooPC, a luxury personal computer company that HP bought out in 2006 to expand its gaming division. Voodoo’s image had lain dormant since 2008 with intermittent collaborations with HP, such as the Blackbird 002 desktop PC, which was similar in price and style to products that Voodoo released in the past. But that model lacked the company’s signature branding, and it was almost certain the company’s presence had been lain to rest.

While HP’s Omen laptop might not have the Voodoo name behind it, its signature logo on the boot screen might be a telltale sign that HP’s resurrecting its gaming PC marketing efforts.

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