HP’s Omen X 2S (starts at $ 1,899; $ 2,499 as tested) is a high-end player that, thanks to the addition of a second built-in screen, is unambiguously unique among gaming laptops. Like on the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, the second screen is located just forward of the keyboard. While it’s too small to replicate a traditional dual-monitor setup (it’s just 6 inches), it adds usefulness and—shocker!—doesn’t inflate the HP’s price beyond what the competition charges for similar hardware. Tally up all the expected refinements for a gaming notebook in this price class (a metal build, RGB lighting), and the Omen X 2S comes out as one of our top picks for an elite 15.6-inch gamer. This special laptop earns our Editors’ Choice award.
The Omen Goes Sleek & Unique
Our preconfigured review model (its exact SKU is 15-dg0024nr) has an Intel Core i7-9750H hexa-core CPU, an 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of solid-state storage. I priced a Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model at $ 2,999 with similar hardware but just half the storage (512GB), although it does include a 240Hz display at that price, compared to the 144Hz panel on our Omen X 2S. (HP does offer a 240Hz display as an option.) I also priced an Alienware m15 R2 (2019) at $ 2,829, it too including a 240Hz display. Given the hardware, the Omen X 2S is reasonably priced, or at much as a notebook can claim to be in this luxury tier. Even the least-expensive Omen X 2S configuration has a respectable loadout for modern gaming, thanks to its 8GB GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. Customized models offer upticks to a Core i9-9880H octa-core CPU, 32GB of RAM, and 2TB of SSD storage.
One glance at the Omen X 2S is all it takes to realize that this isn’t just another 15.6-inch gaming notebook. The nearer-shifted keyboard design is the first feature that stands out…
It’s an uncommon arrangement, although it’s been done before. (See the Acer Predator Triton 700, or the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 from 2017.) What hasn’t been done before, at least in a production gaming notebook, is the addition of a secondary screen. Centered in that big gloss-black strip above the keyboard is a 6-inch display…
It almost looks like an embedded smartphone screen up there. I’ll save a practical analysis of it for later in this review. For now, I do want to mention the Omen X 2S isn’t entirely without a palm rest; HP includes a rubber one that lines up perfectly with the front edge of the notebook. I wish it had another inch of depth, but it gets the job done.
The near-edge location of the keyboard means you’ll be sitting slightly further back from the screen than you would on a normal notebook, giving you a more commanding position…
The keys have a good feel, even if the key travel is on the shallow side. The touchpad’s location to the right of the keyboard, though, takes more acclimation…
As a right-handed mouse user, I found it was almost like reaching for an external mouse. Left-handed mouse users, on the literal other hand, may feel like it’s a step backward. I didn’t find that its vertical orientation posed any real problem. Its two buttons have excellent tactile feedback and quiet clicking action.
The Omen X 2S has a trim figure for a 15.6-incher. Despite the second screen, its size and weight, at 0.8 by 14.3 by 10.3 inches (HWD) and 5.3 pounds, are nearly identical to those of HP’s own Omen 15 gaming notebook, which is based on the same chassis. The Razer Blade 15 (2019) is smaller and lighter (0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches, and 4.6 pounds), but the HP isn’t wholly unportable by comparison. It would probably be hard to tell the difference between the two in a backpack.
The all-metal design of the Omen X 2S chassis gives it a rigid feel. It doesn’t creak, flex, or bend, even when gripped badly or torqued in ways it should not be. The chassis isn’t a single piece, but the metal halves fit together seamlessly. The impressive attention to detail is evident everywhere, especially in the lid backing. It’s one sheet, but it has both smooth and dimpled patterns in the metal.
Notably, the HP Omen logo at its center is independently backlit, as opposed to the less-expensive route of relying on the notebook’s screen for passive backlighting. Its color and lighting patterns are controllable in the preinstalled Omen Command Center app…
The app also allows control of the per-key RGB backlit keyboard. It’s easy to use, but there are no advanced controls for creating your own patterns or layered effects, and it lacks a macro editor. The app has other features for switching power profiles, minimizing fan noise, and prioritizing network traffic, and the system resource monitor can be informative. The latter looks especially neat when the app is docked in the Omen X 2S’s secondary display.
Two Is Better Than One: The Second Screen
The Omen X 2S sent to us for review has the standard 15.6-inch panel with a full-HD native resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) and a 144Hz refresh rate. HP offers a same-resolution panel with a higher 240Hz refresh rate as a pricey upgrade. Even the top GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU option is unlikely to reach the frame rates that can be displayed by the 144Hz panel in most games (144 frames per second), so it’s hard to recommend that extra stretch for anyone but the most dedicated esports hounds. For gaming purposes, it’s also hard to argue for the optional UHD/4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) panel, as even the desktop RTX 2080 can struggle at that resolution without lowering the detail settings. The HP’s Max-Q version is much less powerful.
Back to the display. The in-plane switching (IPS) panel on our review unit has wide viewing angles, vivid color, and an anti-glare surface to keep reflections down. Its 144Hz refresh rate and support for Nvidia G-Sync make for very smooth gaming. Many gaming notebooks forego G-Sync, but to my eyes, its complete elimination of visual tearing (the “banding” that can occur if the frame rate from the GPU doesn’t match the monitor’s refresh rate) makes it worth the trade-off in battery life. (For it to work, the dedicated Nvidia GPU must remain active at all times, so the Omen X 2S isn’t destined to win any awards for long battery life.)
That brings us to the second screen. It indeed looks like a smartphone has been embedded above the keyboard…
Bright and colorful, it has a full-HD/1080p resolution and supports touch input. The display is recognized in Windows 10 as a second display, just like in a desktop setup. Its small size makes it of limited use for apps that would traditionally require a full screen, like editing an office document. However, it’s more than usable for chat windows, media players, and mobile versions of web pages. HP supplies a Mobile View extension for the Microsoft Edge browser to make web surfing easier. The Omen Command Center app also provides a screen-mirroring feature that lets you “snip” a part of an app and mirror it on the second display. This can be especially useful in a game. For example, you can snip the in-game map or chat box and have it show on the second screen.
In addition, the Omen X 2S has four dedicated keys that enhance the usefulness of the second screen, all of them located above the touchpad. There’s a button to turn the second screen into a number pad; one to turn it off; another to cycle through five levels of brightness; and last, an app-switcher button that takes the app you’re using and instantly puts it on the second screen, or vice versa.
I’m a supporter of what the second display does for this notebook. Just like a traditional dual-monitor setup, how much utility it adds depends on your workflow or gameplay style. My only real complaint is that I wish it were bigger. It looks a little small and lonely in the black strip above the keyboard. In fact, it looks like two of those screens could fit up there.
Omen Roamin’: Solid Connectivity
The Omen X 2S has a concise port selection. Arrayed on the sides of the notebook are an HDMI video-out connector, Thunderbolt 3 (piggybacking on USB Type-C), three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, an audio combo jack (headphone/microphone), and Ethernet. A flash-card reader is missing.
For wireless, this notebook has an Intel 9560AC card that supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), but that isn’t a deal breaker at this time. The standard just got ratified, and it’ll be some time before supporting hardware is common (and reasonably priced).
The webcam on this Omen is one of the better ones I’ve seen on a gaming notebook. It supports a full-HD (1080p) resolution, as opposed to the more common 720p, and it produces a relatively clear image when used under good lighting. The cam doesn’t support Windows Hello for facial logins, though. Like many gaming notebooks, the Omen X 2S doesn’t have any built-in biometric features. At least it has a decent set of speakers; the Bang and Olufsen-tuned pair sitting under the palm rest pump out crystal-clear sound.
Testing: Class-Leading Performance
I put our Omen X 2S through its paces in our performance test suite, then used the results for comparison to these gaming laptops…
All are thin-and-light 15.6-inchers. The MSI GS65 Stealth (2019) is the least powerful of this bunch, at least in our as-reviewed configuration with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU. (You can get it with much more potent loadouts.) The other units pack more powerful GPUs, starting with the GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q in the Alienware 15 R2, and moving up to the RTX 2080 Max-Q in the Acer Predator Triton 500 and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (2019) to match our Omen X 2S. The six-core, 12-thread Intel Core i7 CPUs in these notebooks should all perform similarly. It should be a tight-scoring group overall.
Productivity, Storage & Media Tests
We’ll start with PCMark 10 and 8 for general system assessments. PCMark 10 measures real-world productivity, including content creation, office-centric tasks, web browsing, and video streaming, while we use the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to grade the performance of the primary system drive.
PCMark 10 predictably wasn’t a problem for any of these PCs, where the Omen X 2S took top honors. (We like to see at least 4,000 points.) I’ve seen higher scores in that test for similar hardware as of late, indicating that Windows 10 and software drivers may have been improved to eke out extra performance in the time since we tested the other notebooks. Meanwhile, the PCMark 8 scores all straddled the 5,000-point mark as they should for systems equipped with PCI Express SSDs, as these are.
Next, we’ll use Cinebench R15 to gauge CPU performance. This benchmark uses all available cores and threads on the processor to render a complex image.
The results are more of a roller coaster than they should be. The Omen X 2S’s 1,145-point score from its Core i7-9750H CPU isn’t chart-topping but it falls within the expected range for that chip. The Acer and the Razer both underperformed, which may have been due to power or thermal throttling.
Moving on, we have our Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. We use an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of the software to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a JPEG test image, adding up the execution times for each. This test is CPU-heavy but also involves the storage subsystem and RAM, and can take advantage of the GPU.
Now we have more or less a dead heat. Given the similar hardware between these notebooks, it’s an expected result and shows they’re all performing on point. Let’s move on.
Our first synthetic benchmarks are from UL’s 3DMark. We run two subtests, both of which simulate highly detailed DirectX 11-driven 3D scenes. Fire Strike is more demanding and suited for analyzing gaming computers like these, while Sky Diver is useful to gauge performance from lighter-powered PCs.
Focusing on Fire Strike, the MSI’s GTX 1660 Ti GPU isn’t nearly as fast as the GPUs in the others, and it finished at the back. No surprise there. The results are a bit of a mix-and-match for the others. The good news is that the Omen X 2S fought for the top spot with the Razer Blade 15 Advanced. On the flip side, neither is that far ahead of the Alienware 15 R2 and its GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q, a GPU that’s much less expensive. Our primer on Nvidia Max-Q is worth a read, but in a nutshell: Max-Q caps the power limit of the GPU so it can operate in a thinner notebook design, mainly for thermal reasons. As the numbers above demonstrate, the GeForce RTX 2080 in the Omen X 2S is so restricted by Max-Q that it can’t do much better than the RTX 2070 Max-Q.
The last synthetic test we’ll run is Superposition from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene to measure performance. This benchmark uses a different engine than 3DMark to put a different load on the GPU. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets.
The results here aren’t unlike those we saw from 3DMark Fire Strike, although the Omen X 2S lagged in the 1080p high test. But let’s try some real-world games before making a conclusion.
Real-World Gaming Tests
The two real-world games we use for benchmarking are Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Both are AAA-level titles with built-in benchmarks to predict in-game performance. These are run on both the moderate and maximum graphics quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at 1080p resolution to judge performance for a given system. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do for the benchmark.
With numbers approaching or exceeding triple digits at even the most demanding in-game presets, it’s a good thing HP sends the Omen X 2S with a 144Hz screen. As in the previous 3D tests, though, it doesn’t score much differently from the Acer, Alienware, and Razer units. It’s also hard to ignore the MSI’s excellent numbers, which are well above the fluid 60fps mark. Its GTX-class card is much less expensive, but it lacks the ray tracing and DLSS features of the RTX GPUs in the other units. (None of our current benchmarks makes use of those technologies, so their advantages aren’t factored in here.)
Video Playback Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in Airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation’s short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
Support for Nvidia G-Sync nixed the HP’s chances of getting long battery life, as I projected it would, but a sub-3-hour time is a poor show even for a gaming notebook. The Acer suffered the same fate, being the only other G-Sync-equipped notebook here. The Alienware and Razer units partly owe their long runtimes to power-saving OLED screens, while the MSI outdoes both with its even better stamina. Being able to shift off that GeForce GPU when not gaming makes a big difference.
Heat & Noise: Handled Well
A complex array of heatpipes inside the Omen X 2S leads to fans on either rear corner of the chassis. The fans always seemed to be running while I used this notebook, but they weren’t noticeable outside of stress-test benchmarking and gaming. They’re audible in such situations, though quieter than I expected given the thinness of the chassis. The noise at full tilt shouldn’t be a bother outside of situations where silence is required.
After playing through the demanding AAA game Shadow of the Tomb Raider for 30 minutes, I put the Omen X 2S under our FLIR One Pro thermal imaging camera…
The very top of the chassis gets hot (115 degrees F), but it’s not a place you’d normally put your hands while gaming. The keyboard deck and touchpad weren’t far above room temperature.
Inside, the GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU topped out at a relatively cool 67 degrees C. Its core clock averaged 1,464MHz, which is good for the Max-Q version of this GPU. The Core i7-9750H CPU hovered well within its limits in the upper-70-to-lower-80-degree C range. It’s likely that HP left some thermal headroom in this build for the Core i9-9880H CPU option, which will undoubtedly run hotter with its two extra cores. Overall, the Omen X 2S has a respectable cooling system.
A Two-for-One Deal
The Omen X 2S is a pioneer among elite 15.6-inch gaming notebooks. It has all the required jazz to justify its price point: an impeccable metal build, a per-key-RGB backlit keyboard, a trim chassis and, of course, very good gaming performance. It falters in battery life, but the upside of that is it includes Nvidia G-Sync support for extra-smooth gaming.
Those are just the highlights that let the Omen X 2S stack up to its competition. Its built-in second screen is what sets it apart, making it a unicorn among gaming notebooks. The screen is on the small side, but HP includes plenty of software controls to give it practical value.
It might be expected that a second screen would add a hefty premium, but that’s the kicker: It doesn’t. The price of our as-reviewed model was up to several hundred dollars less than the competition for otherwise equivalent hardware.
Look to our high-end-gaming Editors’ Choice winner, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, for something a little thinner and lighter and with better battery stamina. The Omen X 2S otherwise matches or bests it, especially when it comes to features and overall value. Getting two screens for the price you’d normally pay for one can only be a win. It earns its own Editors’ Choice award for its unique twin-screen design that, we suspect, is just a harbinger of clever gaming things to come in 2020 and beyond.