The HP Omen 25 is bringing solid competition to the gaming monitor market with the new Omen 25, a budget friendly 144Hz gaming monitor with Freesync, a 1 ms response time, 1080p resolution TN panel, and a wide variety of inputs. This is my review.
Starting with the basics, the Omen 25 is actually a 24.5″ monitor. It features two HDMI inputs, 1 Displayport input and a USB 3 port that acts as a hub with two USB 3 outputs. The display itself has a matte anti-reflective coating and is wrapped in a moderately thick matte bezel. The stand is non-adjustable but does have an included cable management clip and a flat sections that doubles as a headphone stand, located behind the display. Input adjustments and menus are handled by a series of hidden buttons that sit just behind the display, and a small red power indicator is located on the bottom right of the monitor. It weighs about 10 lbs, and retails for $280.
The image quality on the Omen 25 is a bit of a mixed bag. It has pretty standard and unremarkable contrast at 1000:1, as will most high refresh rate TN panels. While the black levels are fairly unimpressive, they do certainly get the job done, creating a realist impressive of darkness in games and movies that never really stood out as impressive or distracting. By stark contrast (har har) the brightness levels are fairly impressive at 400 cd/m2. The colors are also quite loud yet mostly accurate. When combined, the nearly eye melting maximum brightness and vivid colors do a great job of offsetting the modest black levels, resulting in what appears to be richer darks than actually exist. Playing darker games like Batman Arkham Origins, I found that lights glowing at the ends of dark halls cut through the black, glaring appropriately from the illuminated corners of the Gotham. Shadows, gradients and details were all convincing with smooth transitions, and the display rendered a solid amount of detail in dark corners, even if the black levels never came across as particularly inky. With a little adjustment on the custom preset, I was able to dial in the colors, producing realistic skin tones and vivid yet accurate reds, blues and greens, without them appearing blown out or over done. Overall, the image ends up looking quite good and games really pop off the screen, even if the overall picture isn’t going to win any awards.
This is where the Omen 25 really shines. The fast 1 ms response time and 144Hz display results in a moving image that’s absolutely crisp and free of blurring, jutter or unsightly artifacts. Even when playing fast moving first person shooters and high speed racing games, everything stays sharp and easy to distinguish. The pixels respond quickly to change with no perceptible signs of ghosting, so blazing down the track at maximum speed in Dirt Rally always produced sharp, clear motion all the way to the edges of the screen, making items swishing by alongside the track far easier to pick out. Fast paced shooters greatly benefit from the 144Hz refresh rate, with quick pans and sharp 180 degree turns never juddering or smearing across the screen, meaning a sneaking soldier or moving target can be easily made while checking corners or pivoting around. Motion as a whole, especially when paired with the Freesync setting (a preset on this set) is impressively smooth and easy on the eyes, generating a moving image that looks more like the natural motion. When the frame rates drop, the fairly wide Freesync range of 48-144hz soaks up the changes and still manages to produce a smooth, consistent image well below 60 FPS. The response times are also impressive, never once producing an noticeable lag or delay, even at 60 FPS locked games. The performance, overall, is wholly impressive and left me little to complain about. I would have preferred to see a slightly wider Freesync range reaching down into the 30’s for those particularly poor PC ports, but so far this hasn’t been an issue.
I like the muted and understated design of the monitor as a whole, but I do have a few issues with it. I find the thick lower bezel and side trims to look a bulky, which isn’t what I would expect from a gaming monitor in 2017. The plastics look fine and do a solid job of avoiding fingerprints, for the most part. I do appreciate that there are no visible buttons or ports, and the subtle red LED light is appreciably dim. During dark gaming sessions, it’s never overly bright or distracting. Thankfully, tt can be disabled if you’re particularly sensitive to these things. The stand looks a bit on the odd side, easily standing out from the rest of the design with it’s tiny base and angled foot, but over time I got used to it and have grown to appreciate it. The monitor, overall, looks nice when paired with a fairly modern desk.
The controls are hit and miss. Mine didn’t come with a paper manual, and I couldn’t use the included DVD as I don’t have a disc drive, so I was left to my own devices to figure out how to adjust and calibrate the display. It was frustrating at first, but once I figured out what buttons did what, it’s logical enough. Pressing any button pulls up a menu, and pressing the corresponding button hidden behind the on screen prompt drops you into that menu. From here, you have essentially up down back and enter buttons, and everything is smooth sailing. Where it falls flat is the use of obtuse icons that make no logical sense when trying to decipher them. They’re simple arbitrary shapes with no text pairing to describe what they do. Once they are sorted out, you essentially have four buttons, including one for presets, and one for input selection. The rest change based on context. It often make little to no sense, and the only way to enable Freesync is hidden within presets, accessed via these buttons. There is where I noted that Freesync can only be accessed via a predetermined preset, tied with other settings like brightness and contrast. It is not with the other image settings (this took me a while to figure out). It’s fine once you learn it, and hopefully they’ll post a manual online (not as of writing this), but the learning curve is a bit steep. Still, the on board presets are nice (including a low blue light mode that I really enjoy for browsing the internet), and they’re fast enough to activate thanks to the nimble, responsive buttons. It gets the job done.
All of the inputs, including headphones and USB inputs are on the back of the monitor. If I need to access USB ports, I’d much rather at least one of these be on the side of the monitor so I can actually access it. Unless you’re committing to leaving your headphones or USB devices plugged in at all times (there is a hidden headphone mount on the back stand), the ports are a bit useless. This is, of course, unless you don’t mind dragging your monitor around to get to them. Other than that, the menu buttons are easy to reach, and the fact that pressing any button brings up the same menu, so you don’t actually need to be able to see them, helps. Not bad, but could use some improvements here.
Build quality is fine, with the stand feeling strong, but the plastic trim feeling a bit mediocre. The stand overall is a bit wobbly as it’s a tiny square base under a large heavy display, but it’s not tipped over fallen in my brute force testing of shoving my desk with my chair and hips. The ports are strong, hold well and all the buttons have a satisfying and reliable feeling to them. Overall, it feels reliable but otherwise not terribly impressive either with it’s predominately plastic design.
I’m hard on monitors. I expect a lot out of them as I’ll be staring at mine for hours at a time basically every day of the week. Despite the Omen 25 having a small list of complaints, it’s performance and price point really do make it a stand out display, for those on a budget. It produces a bright, sharp, smooth image that had an accurate enough color profile for a gamer’s use, and the build quality is good enough that I feel like it’s going to last years of service. At $280, it’s one of the best deals on a Freesync 1080p monitor with a 1440Hz refresh rate, especially considering the 1 ms response time. It’s missing HDR and the resolution is the aging standard of 1920×1080, but for the cost of admission, those are features I’ll happily sacrifice in return for the fast, fluid motion. It looks great, plays great and has a nice list of features, making it easy to recommend.
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