HP Omnibook X hands-on: Vintage branding in the new era of AI

To hell with confusing names! The company is embracing the AI era with a more streamlined system.

Hayato Huseman for Engadget

All over the PC industry today, we’re learning of new systems and products launching in conjunction with Microsoft’s Copilot+ push. But HP isn’t just showing off new Snapdragon-powered laptops as part of the program. The company up and decided to nuke its entire product portfolio altogether and unify most of its sub-series.

While HP was never the worst offender in the world of awful product names — I’m looking at you, Sony, LG and Lenovo — being able to quickly identify the make and model of a device is crucial when you’re deciding what to buy. HP’s vice president of consumer PC products Pierre-Antoine Robineau admits as much, saying “to be fair, we don’t make things easy with our portfolio.” He referred to the company’s brands like Spectre, Pavilion and Envy, saying that if you ask ChatGPT what they are, the answers you’d get might refer to a ghost or a gazebo.

To simplify things, HP is getting rid of all those names on its consumer product portfolio and unifying everything under the Omni label. It’ll use Omnibook to refer to laptops, Omnidesk for desktops and Omnistudio for all-in-ones. For each category, it’ll add a label saying “3,” “5,” “7,” “X” or “Ultra” to indicate how premium or high-end the model is. That means the Omnibook Ultra is the highest-tier laptop, while the Omnidesk 3 might be the most basic or entry-level desktop system. That sort of numbering echoes Sony’s recent streamlined nomenclature of its home theater and personal audio offerings.

If Omnibook sounds familiar, that’s because HP actually had a product with that name, and it was available from 1993 to about 2002. The Omni moniker makes sense now in the 2020s, HP says, because these are devices that can do just about anything and act as multiple things at once. (As long as they don’t claim to be omniscient, omnipresent or omnipotent, I’ll let this slide.)

The company is also cleaning things up on the commercial side of its business, where the word “Elitebook” has traditionally been the most recognized label. It’s keeping that name, adopting the same Elitebook, Elitedesk and Elitestudio distinctions across categories and using the same “Ultra” and “X” labels to denote each model’s tier. However, instead of “3,” “5” or “7” here, HP is using even numbers (2, 4, 6 or 8), in part because it has used even series numbers like “1040” and “1060” in the Elitebook line before. Keeping similar numbers around can help IT managers with the shift in names, HP said.

The first new laptops under this new naming system are the Omnibook X and the Elitebook Ultra. They share very similar specs, with the Elitebook offering software that make them easier for IT managers to deploy to employees. Both of these come with 14-inch 2.2K touchscreens that were, at least in my brief time with them during a recent hands-on, bright and colorful.

I didn’t get to explore much of the new Windows 11, since the units available either ran existing software or were locked. I presume, though, that these would have other Copilot+ PC goodies that Microsoft announced earlier today.

What I can tell you is that I prefer the aesthetic of HP’s older Spectre models. The company’s machines turned heads and caught eyes thanks to their shiny edges and uniquely cut-off corners. I’m a sucker for razor sharp edges and gold or silver finishes, so that line of laptops really called to me.

In contrast, the HP Omnibook X seems plain. It comes in white or silver (the Elitebook is available in blue) and has a uniform thickness along its edges. It’s still thin and light, at 14mm (or about 0.55 inches) and 1.33 kilograms (or 2.93 pounds). But it’s certainly lost a little flavor, and I crave some spice in a device.

That’s not to say the Omnibook is hideous. It’s fine! I actually like the color accents on the keyboard deck. The power button is a different shade of blue depending on the version you get, while the row of function keys is a light shade of gray or blue. Typing on the demo units felt comfortable, too, though I miss the clicky feedback on older Elitebooks and would like a tad more travel on the keyboard.

You might also need to invest in a dongle for a card reader or if you have lots of accessories, but the two USB-C sockets and one USB-A might be enough in a pinch. Thankfully, there’s a headphone jack, too. Like every other Copilot+ PC announced today, the Omnibook and Elitebook are both powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite processor and promise 26 hours of battery life when playing local video. HP says its “next-gen AI PCs” have dedicated NPUs that are “capable of 45 trillion operations per second (TOPS),” which is slightly more than the 40 TOPS Microsoft is claiming for its Copilot+ PCs.

The company is also distinguishing its own AI PCs by adorning them with a logo that’s the letters “A” and “I” twisted into a sort of DNA helix. You’ll find it on the keyboard deck and the spine of the machine. It’s not big enough to be annoying, though you’ll certainly see it.

If you're already a fan of the HP Omnibook X or Elitebook Ultra, you can pre-order them today. The Omnibook X will start at $1,200 and come with 1 TB of storage, while the Elitebook Ultra starts at $1,700. Both systems will begin shipping on June 18.

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

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