A dual-screen gaming notebook sounds like a smart idea at first — who wouldn't want another display to keep an eye on Twitch streams and Discord chats? But is worth taking a gamble on unproven tech? That's what I've been asking myself as I've tested out HP's Omen X 2S, the company's first notebook with two screens. It certainly looks intriguing at first, but it's clear HP still has plenty of work left to do to make the extra display worth it.
Gallery: HP Omen X 2S | 12 Photos
Gallery: HP Omen X 2S | 12 Photos
- Second screen is useful for basic multitasking
- Powerful hardware
- 144Hz G-SYNC display is gorgeous to behold
- Refined design
- Second screen could be larger
- HP’s dual display software is still pretty basic
- Heavier than other modern gaming notebooks
Now let's be clear, I'm not putting down the idea of dual-screen laptops in general. At Computex this year, we saw the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo and Intel's concept gaming notebooks, which looked unlike anything we've seen before. But those devices all feature large secondary screens, which make them far more useful for multi-tasking. The Omen X 2S has a relatively small 6-inch touchscreen display nestled above its keyboard. That really limits how much you can do with it — it's more reminiscent of ASUS's touchscreen Touchpad from last year.
What's surprising is that the Omen X 2S looks like it actually has a decent-sized secondary screen at first. There's a large glass panel right below the main 15.6-inch display, as if HP were planning to include a much wider screen but had to settle for something smaller. The result isn't as futuristic as I'd like. Plus it's not the first gaming laptop to include a second display; Razer shoved one into its first Blade notebook in 2011.
That tiny display is exactly what it sounds like: It's just another screen in Windows, so you can drag over anything from the main display. It's ideal for throwing up a Youtube video, or keeping an eye on a group chat, as you work. A button above the touchpad lets you quickly move windows back and forth between the displays, and you can also turn the smaller one into a simple number pad. There aren't any built-in apps like ASUS's ScreenPad, aside from a simple touchscreen calculator, but the simplicity makes it far easier to use.
You can also have the small screen mirror portions of the main display in real-time, which could be useful for strategy games and slower-paced titles. It doesn't really help much in an FPS like Overwatch, though. Most developers spend a lot of time optimizing exactly how their game interfaces are laid out, so that you don't have to take your eyes off the action. Looking down at a completely different screen ended up hurting my performance in Overwatch, even though it was sort of nice to have a zoomed in view of my cooldown timers.
The Omen X 2S's tiny screen was more useful for basic multi-tasking than it was for actual gameplay. I appreciated being able to have a Twitch stream playing in the background while I jumped into a long Destiny or Overwatch session. You can interact with the small touchscreen while you're playing a game, but only if you're playing in some sort of windowed mode. If you go fullscreen, the laptop shuts off the touch controls.
The thing is, nothing about the Omen X 2s's small screen feels essential, especially when your phone can do most of the same things. Sure, you can't easily drag over windows, but it's a better interface for navigating through Twitch, Youtube and Discord channels. And if you're annoyed by using a smaller phone display for multitasking, you could just as easily pick up a tablet. Actually, that would be a much smarter investment.