HP OMEN Mindframe lets players get in the game without breaking a sweat - literally
It’s not often Android Headlines is asked to review a product designed to work exclusively with Windows but it's not often a headset releases that has active cooling, LED lighting, intuitive controls, brilliant design, and 3D spatial awareness. So when HP asked us to take a look at its HP OMEN Mindframe gaming headset, we jumped at the offer.
As already mentioned, one of the biggest issue with this device is its inability to work with Chrome OS, PlayStation, and other platforms. In fact, a quick glance through the listing on Amazon revealed the software -- used for controlling temperature, colors, and other adjustments -- only works with Windows 10. That means it won't be the best option out there for everybody but HP OMEN Mindframe is a spectacular feat of engineering nonetheless.
With Windows 10 continuing its climb in popularity and Windows itself effectively acting as the sole platform for serious PC gaming, none of those caveats are necessarily an issue. The self-cooling earcups build into this wired over-ear headset are probably its most noteworthy feature, keeping players from overheating under even the most intense circumstances. Listed at just under $200 on Amazon, there's also quite a bit more to this gadget than the relatively novel features mentioned above too.
A quick glance of the HP OMEN Mindset specifications is already enough to set it apart from the standard sub-$200 headsets sold by many companies. It certainly isn’t just a brand name that’s being paid for here.
With a sensitivity of 95db and frequency range of 15Hz to 22KHz, the 40mm neodymium drivers found in the over-ear style earpieces are engineered to deliver. The 32 Ohm impedance and a total harmonic distortion rated at below one percent ensure that powerful audio is pushed to the ears crystal clear.
7.1 virtual surround sound and 3D spatial awareness stack on the quality of the earpieces, allowing players to know exactly where an in-game sound is coming from.
Audio input from the adjustable arm’s unidirectional mic is equally impressive thanks to a sensitivity of -38dB and impedance set at 3300 Ohm. Frequency response is set at a respectable 100Hz to 10KHz.
The two pieces are linked and construction primarily consists of plastics, with PU leatherette enabling a comfortable fit while soft-touch breathable fabric on the ear enhances the premium feel further. The headpiece adjusts automatically and HP has included a volume knob on the right-side earpiece while muting is controllable by tilting the mic arm upward.
That whole headset weighs in at 1.05 lbs and attaches to a PC via a 6.56-foot braided cable ending in a standard USB 2.0 Type-A plug.
In The Box
Inclusions in the packaging with HP’s OMEN Mindframe aren’t overwhelming but there are a couple of nice surprises in store for buyers. The headset and braided cable are not detachable so that all ships as one unit. Of course, a user manual and similar documentation are included too. Those are a premium-feeling, if not environmentally-friendly, plastic material rather than paper.
HP includes a couple of premium material OMEN logo stickers matching that found on the headset in a shiny red coloration and in two sizes. So owners of the latest OMEN product can tout their purchase and the brand on their gaming computer or other gear.
Hardware & Build Quality
HP OMEN Mindframe costs just short of $200 and it is engineered to feel and look the part. In pursuit of building something truly unique and special, the manufacturer’s attention to comfort and aesthetics are exquisitely measured.
Beginning with the overall look and design of the headset, HP is offering its OMEN Mindframe in a single color, black, with deep red used for the squared off brand logo on each earpiece. The earpiece itself is round and a customizable RGB LED bar runs around the emblem and can be tweaked to show any one of over 16 million colors or to show a color animation.
On the left ear, a mic sits embedded near the end a plastic arm that can be adjusted up and down. That’s topped with a red LED indicator to show when the mic is muted (a feat accomplished either in-game via software or by moving the vertical arm completely into an upright position. The braided black connection cable runs out of the bottom on that side.
An oversized, well-textured volume knob can easily be felt out on the right-hand earpiece. That controls the system volume or the currently playing media volume in Windows once everything is properly linked together. The knob turns smoothly and in a precision-controlled manner without any hitches to speak of.
At the opposite end to the LEDs is a moisture-wicking, squishy, and extremely comfortable cushion that rests on the ear, made of soft-touch material.
Connecting the two earcups is a long plastic arm with no padding whatsoever. That’s because the headset is supported by a PU leatherette-coated self-adjusting suspension headband.
All of those aspects add up to create a look that is well-suited to hardcore gaming or just users who want a headset that’s as stylish as it is functional. Those are all fairly common in the larger gaming headset market too.
Build quality with HP’s OMEN Mindframe is above-average in other ways as well.
The company hasn’t needed to include anything by way of an IP rating thanks to its ability to prevent sweat in the first place and the construction is all plastic on the outside. The plastics themselves are much softer to the touch than those seen in cheaper headsets and none of that stops the gadget from feeling solidly made.
The support structure above the self-adjusting head strap is exceptionally flexible, making it seem somewhat flimsy at first. After accidentally sitting on the things more than once, it quickly became obvious that flexibility saved the headset from damage. That characteristic also adds to the comfort, allowing the band to adjust to different head shapes and sizes more effortlessly. Simultaneously, a perfect level of rigidity is retained and there’s no slipping at all once the earcups are fitted in place.
Every piece of hardware here exudes a sense that it’s built to last a long time but the biggest advantage of the HP OMEN Mindframe's hardware is in its functionality. Customizing lights is great but customizing the temperature is something else entirely and something HP can claim only its headset does.
Inside of the closed-back earcups, HP has inserted aluminum speaker grille plates which utilize thermoelectric cooling to keep players heads cool during intense gaming sessions. In effect, the company uses the technology -- dubbed FrostCap -- to whisk warm temperatures away from the inside of the earpiece and to the outside edge for dispersal.
The ability to temperature-control the inside of the earcups means players can keep their own temperature controlled and that there won’t be any need to wipe away sweat build-up when the action heats up. In fact, the cooling effect can be felt even with the feature turned off to a much lesser degree.
One issue we did notice with the cooling system is that the chill can easily transfer to skin or to any metal that might touch the interior speaker grille. That’s not going to be a problem for most but those with large piercings are going to notice the cold in their earrings if contact remains constant for too long.
The effect from FrostCap is cold enough to bring keep things cool but not enough to cause pain if contact is held. The sensation is more something that a wearer isn’t likely to avoid noticing than discomforting or annoying. So that caveat isn’t really that big a deal but it could still irk more sensitive consumers and is worth being aware of going in.
Contrary to the frostiness of the interior of the earcup the leading outside edge can get warm. As with the chill of the inner plate, the temperature isn't enough to be painful or really even bothersome and is a result of the way the cooling works, transferring heat outward and bringing the temperature inside down.
Of course, the most important aspect of any gaming headset is how well it performs in terms of sound quality in real-world use and that’s a story a list of specifications can only half tell. As might be expected based on the fact that there are more expensive headsets available, audio quality here isn’t perfect. Regardless, HP OMEN Mindframe is above par for the price.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the experience with this headset, owing to its wider-than-average frequency range as well as its exceptional frequency and impedance, is beyond what most wired headsets will provide. Despite having quite a bit of experience with headsets of various types, it was also well beyond our initial expectations.
Each of the supported frequencies supported rings through clearly and without delay or distortion and volume can be boosted up much further than what most would even want from their headset. There’s no lag in the active monitoring either, so users can hear themselves speak in real-time.
The one issue we noted and which isn’t at all unusual for a gaming-specific listening device is that tones across the board seem to be somewhat lower than might be expected. That won’t present a problem for the majority of gamers but it is going to be disappointing for any audiophiles hoping to use HP OMEN Mindframe for more.
Although the tuning of HP OMEN Mindframe is especially well-done for movie watching and gaming, where explosions, gunshots, and other effects are often prominent, the lower tones could be a problem with music. Strangely, the accuracy of the tones seems to increase as sounds approach the lower end of the spectrum and playback isn’t a problem with voice-overs or speech.
The issue isn’t so bad that other audio is drowned out. Highs and lows still ring through and users are going to hear plenty of audio cues and subtle noise that are programmed or recorded in but generally go unheard with the average earbuds or headphones. As mentioned above, the range is exceptional, even compared to some other devices in the same price range.
Moreover, the effect is also good in some ways for listening to music since it provides extra 'power' to most genres. At the same time, it is just off enough that it will bother a small subset of users, particularly those used to a more audiophile-centric or balanced tuning.
Audio through the mic, thanks in part to the software we’ll be discussing later on, is at least as good as output with one or two mild caveats.
A wide variety of audio sources were used to test output but our test computer wasn’t really set up for intense online multiplayer games. So we made a VoIP call and used a voice recording application to conduct the majority of the mic input portion of the test.
In terms of baseline audio, the microphone included in HP’s OMEN Mindframe headset is unbelievably good. Background noise is, for the most part, filtered out completely, being relegated to a low murmur in the background that is distinct enough to just be noticed but not so much as to cause distraction or be annoying.
Input is also loud and clear, despite only being able to swing the arm it’s attached to vertically. With that said, there was some crackle and other noise caused when moving the vertical mic arm. The cause of that seems to be the way that plastics transfer vibration -- and thus audio. That was really only noticed when specifically moving the mic to and from the upright muted position. Aside from that, the mic performs almost flawlessly.
A larger problem we noted that might bother some users is that audio from the earphones can bleed over into the mic. That’s not likely to be a dealbreaker, thanks to the above-mentioned noise canceling. The built-in noise cancellation does diminish the effect to some degree, but it is obvious at louder volumes.
Bearing that in mind, that audio doesn’t clip, cause clipping in any speech directed at the mic, or any other kind of distortions in the audio. There’s no feedback to speak of from the looping audio either. Given that there’s really going to be no need to turn up the volume so loud and we noticed it most prominently during music playback, it won’t be a problem for most users.
As with any new piece of hardware, there is also one minor problem in the software too. Namely, HP’s description of the OMEN Mindrame touts that the active monitoring is adjustable but we weren’t able to find a setting for that in the software anywhere. The software is additionally moderately limited.
It may be that the adjustable monitoring feature is built in and automated. That may be the reason noises external to the set sound muffled and why the wearer’s voice is overshadowed by any ongoing source output heard from the earpieces. The audio is all still there and well balanced, but it may be annoying to some users that the monitoring can't be adjusted on-set or in the software.
The software in question is HP’s own OMEN Command Center. That’s the same suite used to control remote gaming and other functionality on OMEN-branded hardware. A new tab is added to accommodate the HP OMEN Mindframe headset once the system recognizes that and that tab is where users will go to access fine-tuning of the headset itself.
The first page users will land on there is for cooling. There are a total of three levels of cooling available -- High, Medium, or Low -- or a toggle can be flipped to turn the feature off entirely. Adjustments seem to take quite some time to fully shift over, up to several minutes, because of how cooling here actually works.
Similarly, turning the headset off or even deactivating the FrostCap feature doesn’t completely disable cooling and the external portion of the headset still gets warm but not nearly as warm as when the feature is active.
Lighting can be personalized too in the software and there are three settings for that as well. Those include “Animation”, “Static Color”, or “Off.” The latter of those modes is relatively obvious, turning off the ring light surrounding the OMEN emblem on the earpieces. The static mode allows users to custom select any color from millions in a full range.
For animations, there are two separate modes. Color shift drops through a total of up to six colors automatically at a set rate of either fast, medium, or slow but only allows users to choose from 18 colors -- ranging from red through violet and white. Colors can be removed or added easily, maxing at out six in any given rotation.
The “Audio” animation mode drops customization entirely but the colors displayed change based on the frequency of the audio. HP notes that it's based on "intensity" of the output audio but it seems to be in time with the “beat” of a given frequency or range of given frequencies. Listening to a shredding metal song, the color changes rapidly and intensely, while a slower hip-hop jam results in slow melodic alterations in hue.
In any of the modes, the red lighting at the end of the mic arm only serves to indicate that the mic is muted and that remains red throughout.
Given the limited number of animations, colors in those modes, and other customization elements, some users are going to feel the software needs to be expanded on. Since this is a new product and HP probably won’t be dropping support it wouldn’t be surprising for more to be added via software updates later on, although the features are already comparatively extensive for the cost.
Each of those software features is already a bit over-the-top compared to what other headsets offer as well. So it probably shouldn’t stop anybody from picking this set up for their gaming sessions. This headset is still going to look and feel cool, irrespective of whether customizations are or aren't 100-percent comprehensive.
HP has used the latest addition to its OMEN-branded gaming gear to provide players with a better than average but slightly flawed -- from an audiophile perspective -- spatially-enhanced 7.1 channel listening experience as well as introducing a completely unique cooling feature. The feature isn't new to the technology market in general but serves to show that it doesn't have to be a sweaty uncomfortable situation firing up an intense solo or multiplayer PC game.
The cooling system is also slightly flawed, as are most first-generation products, but touches on bare skin aren't necessarily uncomfortable but will be distracting to some players. That's not all that likely to happen though, thanks to HP's attention to comfort and the use of super plush, thick earcup pads.
Its sturdy cable comes in at more than six feet long and the use of relatively standard USB means that HP OMEN Mindframe can accommodate just about any PC gaming setup. The one compatibility issue with that is that the headset will only apparently work with Windows 10 for the time being, although that might get fixed at some point via software. On that front, the free control software has the additional benefit of being easy to use.
A high-quality build and stylish customizations round that out in a package that’s priced at below $200, placing HP's device in the lower-segment of the midrange market, in spite of its high-end perks. Customization could be a bit more wide-ranging as well but isn't unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination.
Taken in combination, every aspect of this gaming headset is going to make it worth the cost for any number of gamers or PC users looking for a more fulfilling entertainment experience. That's before taking FrostCap into account. For those who get into the most intense games and need a way to keep cool, the HP OMEN Mindframe is a headset that really needs to be at the top of the list for consideration.