- Sleek and sexy design
- Nice LED-backlit keyboard
- Touchscreen for Windows 8.1 and 10
- Inconvenient layout of ports
- Unimpressive battery life
- Just "okay" performance for a mobile workstation
Most people familiar with business laptops would laugh out loud at the idea of an “attractive mobile workstation.” Mobile workstations are by necessity built with a focus on delivering all the ports, hardware and software compatibility needed to get serious business done … good looks are an afterthought at best. The HP OMEN Pro is determined to change that perception by delivering a versatile workstation with the premium design people expect from a high-priced consumer notebook.
Is there room in the world of business for a mobile workstation designed for a premium niche market? HP certainly thinks so. Let’s take a closer look at the Omen Pro and find out if there’s more here than just a gorgeous exterior.
Build and Design
The HP Omen Pro is the newest member of HP’s mobile workstation lineup and is a more stylish alternative to the HP ZBook 15u for those businesses looking for a thin and light mobile workstation with a premium appearance. As the name suggests, HP essentially used the same chassis as the 15-inch HP Omen gaming notebook and made a few minor external modifications and a number of internal hardware changes to meet the needs of business users. The only other differences between the Omen and the Omen Pro are the the warranty coverage and the price (starting at $2,099).
The metal chassis of the HP Omen Pro weighs in at just under five pounds and feels well built with tight tolerances and angled lines. You won’t feel any chassis flex or hear the creaking of cheap plastics here. That said, the chrome-covered display hinges don’t provide the same amount of resistance as the hinges on some of HP’s ZBook models … so you might experience some screen wobble during a bumpy flight. While the thin screen lid on the Omen Pro doesn’t provide the same amount of impact protection as the larger ZBooks (HP employees sometimes stand on the lids of ZBooks to show off the build quality) it is tougher than the screen lid on an entry-level business notebook or a cheap consumer laptop.
One negative side effect of using the same chassis as a thin gaming notebook is that the Omen Pro isn’t as easy to service as the larger ZBook 15 and ZBook 17. You won’t find a tool-free quick access panel on the bottom of the Omen Pro, so forget about hot-swapping a dead battery and there’s little hope the office IT guy can replace your busted hard drive before the end of the day. On the bright side, this makes it less likely that employees will open up the bottom of their notebook and mess with things.
Ports and Features
This is another area where the Omen Pro suffers compared to bulkier 15-inch mobile workstations … all because of that sexy design. Mobile workstations are used first and foremost for work and that often means people connect these notebooks to other devices in order to get work done. Unfortunately, since the Omen Pro inherits the slick consumer design from HP’s Omen gaming notebook, all the ports except for the SD card reader are located on the back of the notebook directly under the screen hinges.
HP could have placed at least one USB port and a headphone jack on either the left or right sides so users could quickly connect a USB flash drive or connect this mobile workstation to one of the machines on a factory assembly line. As it is now, an IT manager or one of the employees working the shop floor has to fumble with ports that are all a little too close together behind the screen.
Another potential headache for businesses is that there is no dedicated docking port to attach the docking station from HP’s ZBook line of mobile workstations. This means you’re stuck with the ports on the Omen Pro unless you want to mess with a USB docking station that you still have to reach around and plug into one of the USB ports behind the notebook. Likewise, the Omen Pro has no options for an internal optical drive or a modular expansion bay that could hold another storage drive or a second battery.
Despite these headaches, the Omen Pro still works for businesses with limited space for employees and those companies that don’t need to connect a workstation to other hardware. The rear of the Omen Pro includes four USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port (not compatible with 4K output), a mini DisplayPort 1.2 (4K compatible), a headset audio jack and the AC power adapter jack. Some enterprise clients will miss having a dedicated Ethernet jack, but you can add the Ethernet port via an included USB adapter.
Screen and Speakers
At the time of this review the HP Omen Pro is only available with a single IPS touch display panel with Full HD resolution. The 15.6-inch display combined with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels gives you a pixel density of 141 ppi; still decent for notebook users even if it means you’ll have to connect an external monitor to the mini DisplayPort if you want to view or edit 4K video at native resolution.
The viewing angles are what we’ve come to expect from any IPS panel; good viewing angles indoors at all but the most extreme angles from the left or right. HP claims the screen on the Omen Pro delivers professional quality color accuracy covering 96% of the sRGB color gamut … and we can confirm this display has excellent color and contrast.
We measured the maximum brightness of the Omen Pro’s display at 310 nits with an average brightness of just under 300 nits. That’s bright enough to make the screen “visible” outdoors in most environments as long as the sun isn’t directly striking the glossy screen surface and creating reflections. Still, 300 nits isn’t enough to make the screen “bright” during outdoor use.
A touchscreen surface is something you won’t find on most mobile workstations, but it’s a welcomed extra if you’re using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. Business users will be disappointed that the Omen Pro lacks digitizer support for active pens; meaning you won’t be using this touchscreen to replace a Wacom tablet. The previously mentioned glossy display surface is a magnet for fingerprints if you actually use the touchscreen, so keep a microfiber cloth handy for cleaning.
The speakers on the Omen Pro might have come from a gaming notebook, but they still won’t impress an audiophile. Granted, the speakers inside the Omen Pro are better than what you’ll find in most business laptops or mobile workstations, but you’ll want to connect external speakers or a headset if you’re going to use this mobile workstation to edit audio.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard tray is well centered and firm with little or no flex or bounce to the keys under heavy typing pressure. The key travel is fairly shallow compared to more traditional business laptop keyboards, but the key strokes are quiet and there is a clear central pressure point for each key.
While many business users will appreciate the premium fit and finish of the keyboard on the HP Omen Pro, this LED-backlit keyboard lacks some of the things we typically expect to find on a business laptop. Most notably, you won’t find a dedicated number pad here; so data entry on those long spreadsheets won’t be as easy. Oddly enough, the Omen Pro still has the six programmable keys to the left of the keyboard from the gaming-focused HP Omen. Our only other complaint about the keyboard is that the up and down arrow keys are small and placed too close to each other.
The LED backlighting is spread evenly across the keyboard and can be turned on or off with a function key combination. However, you can only adjust the brightness and change the color of the LEDs via the Omen Control app.
The touchpad is quite large (5.6 x 2.6 inches) and the smooth surface provides just enough resistance for quick and accurate cursor movements as well as the standard multi-touch gestures. This is a “buttonless” ClickPad with integrated mouse buttons located beneath the touchpad surface.
As with many ClickPads, users will sometimes have trouble getting the integrated mouse buttons to register a right click or a left click unless they press the extreme bottom corners. That said, since this is a multi-touch surface you can also use a two-finger tap to trigger a right click.