This month both HP and Alienware launched new gaming notebooks (Razor was out with their Blade earlier in the year), and the good news for gamers is that PC gaming does appear to be gaining momentum. The move to 4K resolutions and the ability of the various gaming engines to make use of this new resolution are creating some amazing games. Unfortunately, the 4K TVs coming to market this year are mostly crap and many of the monitors aren’t a lot better. So if you are going with a gaming laptop this year, getting high resolution is critical, and this is where the HP lets you down.
Before we start talking about the laptops let’s talk about where the Omen name came from because it is a well storied brand. This was the brand carried by the desktop line of computers from a company out of California called Voodoo Computers. They were a small shop of avid gamers who built incredibly unique hardware.
Dell bought Alienware and showcased what was then a new acquisition process for both them and the technology industry. They pretty much left the company alone and optimized common services like accounting, ordering, supply chain, marketing, PR and Finance. How the company designed their products, ran their business, and worked with the gaming community were largely left untouched.
Alienware became so successful as a result that Dell uses a very similar “leave the core stuff alone” strategy when making all of their acquisitions. I point this out because HP clearly missed that meeting.
HP’s Todd Bradley decided HP needed a gaming group as well and bought Voodoo Computers. They then shut down Voodoo’s shop, gave their founders impressive titles, and attempted to do what Dell had done so well. And they instead killed the company and its products by largely not listening to the folks they brought on board with the firm. I doubt there is anyone in HP that worked at Voodoo anymore but I can recall the last Omen desktop. It was a $6K to $20K monster with a small monitor built into its face, it was actually rather impressive to see. I think they may have sold a couple to folks with more money than sense who likely never bought from HP again because they were far smarter and poorer as a result. It was more Rolls Royce than Ferrari.
HP learned from this, and when Bradley bought Palm a few years later he destroyed it in a fraction of the time. Apparently, the lesson he learned was he was too slow in destroying the value of a purchased company.
So it was with some interest I saw that HP was launching a new gaming laptop using the Omen name, unfortunately it is a bad Omen for HP.
The Competitive Difference
It comes down to the display. Right now the big thing in TVs and monitors is Quad HD or 4K resolutions. With the right content, and current generation games are one of the few things that support these massive resolutions, you get an amazing image. But the reasonably priced displays and TVs are mostly using an old HDMI specification, which limits the refresh rate to 60Hz, which is just OK for TV and too low for gaming (typically you’d want 120 to 240Hz). In addition, these are notebook computers so you’ll likely be playing using the built in display.
Both the Razor Blade (which I have) and the Alienware 13 have built in Quad HD displays available to them (and they look amazing). The Alienware goes one step farther with an optional dock that will take a full sized desktop NVIDIA graphics card, allowing it to replace a desktop gaming computer at home. So with Alienware and Razor you get Quad HD and with HP you don’t and I think that takes the Omen out of the game.
All else aside if you tell your friends you paid over $1.5K for a gaming laptop from Alienware or Razor you’d likely be thought of as smart, paying that for an HP would likely get a very different reaction because the firm doesn’t have the same brand image with gamers the other two enjoy.
Wrapping Up: HP Missed a Meeting
The Omen was a legendary high performing desktop computer and it is kind of sad that HP put that name on their new laptop. Voodoo’s laptops used to be branded “Envy” and folks did truly Envy gamers that could afford them in Voodoo’s prime, HP effectively killed that brand several years ago with another badly configured product. Today, the only Envy going on would be from an HP Omen buyer when they see what they missed in either the Alienware or Razor offerings. At the heart of the problem is when HP got rid of all of the Voodoo folks they lost any connection to gaming, which is why they screwed up their Omen so badly. It is pretty sad to see all that is left of what was an amazing little gaming company is a misbranded expensive laptop.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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