OMEN Accelerator Review – HP’s External GPU Voodoo Doll

OMEN Accelerator by HP and OMEN X OMEN Accelerator eGPU enclosure next to OMEN X desktop

 

Introduction

External graphics solutions have been around for almost a decade. Yet they’re a foreign concept for the majority of computer users. Some say it’s the high cost. Others blame it on the performance loss. This struggle is not unique to external GPU. We’ve seen this time and time again with new and developing technologies.

One major indicator of mainstream adoption is key player participation. With Apple’s official support of external GPU in macOS High Sierra and HP’s entry to the Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosure market, we believe it’s primetime for eGPU. Let’s take a look at the OMEN Accelerator by HP.

 

Hardware Specifics

Similar to the OMEN X desktop, the tilted angle design causes this box to take up more space than it should. According to the specifications on the OMEN by HP GA1-1000 Accelerator Shell product page, the dimensions are 15.75 x 7.87 x 7.87 in (400 x 200 x 200 mm). We decided to measure the tallest point to the bottom of the feet and side to side. In real-world use, the dimensions are 15.75 x 10.5 x 10.75 in (400 x 267 x 273 mm). Therefore, the OMEN Accelerator currently holds the title for the largest Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure footprint. For more pictures and unboxing, check out this post.

HP claims this 45º-tilted design helps with cooling. We took the enclosure completely apart. Between the inner metal cage and outer plastic shell, there’s not a whole lot of airflow through these vents. Seen from the outside, cutouts on the plastic shell give an illusion of sufficient cool air intake. Vent holes on the inner metal cage significantly reduce the opening surface for airflow.

The main Thunderbolt 3 board is well-sorted and contains all expansion ports. The rear I/O are 4x standard USB ports, 1x USB-C port and 1x Ethernet port. Inside the enclosure HP has a neat solution for connecting the SATA drive by using a single flex cable to handle both data and power. This cable is rather fragile so take special care when mounting/unmounting the SATA drive so not to damage it. On this main board, we spotted the familiar components of a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure: TI83 USB-C controller, DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller, and Winbond chipset.

Components per dollar, this OMEN Accelerator wins hands-down. It’s confusing though because if HP’s aim was to provide an affordable eGPU enclosure, it could have kept the design simpler and used many fewer parts. In return HP could sell the OMEN Accelerator for an even lower price. Taking this enclosure apart, we counted a total of 49 Phillips screws and 15 individual components.

As an example, this eGPU enclosure can be used with just its skeleton, sitting on one side to take up less space. Such arrangement provides a lot more airflow and much easier access to internal components. The plastic shell and legs add no value other than extending the current OMEN design language. Another strike against the plastic shell is the way the top cover operates. It wobbles during opening and closing. The lever is flimsy, and the cover lacks the substantial weight to fully sit in alignment with the bottom shell when closing. You always have to give it an extra push to secure.

The Achilles’ heel of this OMEN Accelerator is its power supply. It’s the only Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure to use a standard-size ATX PSU. It’s massive compared to SFX and custom mATX power supplies in other enclosures we’ve reviewed. While we agree the ATX form factor makes swapping the PSU a breeze, the selling point of this eGPU enclosure is that it’s the most affordable, ready-to-go solution on the market.

The 500W power supply is rated for 80 Plus Bronze efficiency, and the 12V is carried through multi-rails and capped at 420W. We wish the budget spent on the extra “show” pieces had been allocated to the “go” bits. The enclosure front cooling fan is an ADDA 120mm unit. It exhausts hot air through the front fascia. In a menacing way, it seems the Voodoo face breathes hot air when you put this thing through its paces. It can get loud too. The noise level as observed is more noticeable out the rear end than the front (mid 60s dB vs. low 50s dB).

Usability-wise, the power supply is placed in such a position that makes access to the PCIe slot cumbersome. For such a large enclosure, there’s very little space for an average adult’s hands to reach inside this enclosure to mount and unmount a graphics card. The mood light LED module is another showy component that’s not very user-friendly. It obstructs the travel path of the graphics card. Even though there’s enough room to install a longer card, you can’t physically get it through unless you remove this lump. The two mounting screws for this LED module are behind the front fascia. Last but not least, the secure screw for the graphics card can only be accessed through a small red hole labeled GFX SCREW. You’ll need a long thin screw driver to secure and unsecure the graphics card.

 

Testing & Benchmarks

HP Marketing and Support states this eGPU enclosure is for the HP line of Thunderbolt 3 laptops. Worry not because the main board components mean full compatibility with macOS and Windows. If your computer has Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, you’ll most likely be able to use this OMEN Accelerator Shell. The same goes for older Thunderbolt I and Thunderbolt II computers. The Apple USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt adapter is the only extra part needed.

Power Delivery at 60W is suitable for many ultrabooks. While requiring 87W, the 2016 15″ MacBook Pro was still able to retain its full charge while using the OMEN Accelerator. The Thunderbolt firmware version on this OMEN Accelerator is 25.25. We observed no H2D issues. HP did its homework and packed this enclosure with many features and the latest Thunderbolt eGPU firmware version.

In macOS the expansion ports work well via direct Thunderbolt 3 connection. They also work on older Thunderbolt Macs. If your Mac is currently running High Sierra, we recommend pairing this enclosure with AMD GPUs (list of supported cards). Nvidia users should stay with macOS Sierra to retain external graphics functionality. There’s no confirmed workaround for Nvidia eGPU in 10.13.

In Windows the overall experience is plug-and-play. The OMEN Accelerator software is a nice touch. It allows you to monitor network speed through the expansion Ethernet port and manually switch between eGPU and dGPU (if the host computer has one). Keep in mind Boot Camp mode for a Mac to run Windows has several challenges. The first challenge is that Apple’s firmware tends to deactivate the Mac’s iGPU. The second issue is resource allocation for eGPU that causes error 12. We detailed a step-by-step Boot Camp eGPU setup guide for Thunderbolt 3 MacBook Pro if you need help. Last but not least, the expansion ports may not have full compatibility through the Apple USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt adapter for older Macs.

We paired the OMEN Accelerator with an AMD Radeon R9 Fury then ran benchmarks with three Thunderbolt 3 laptops in external display mode. These hosts represent the majority of eGPU-capable ultrabooks available today. The results provide an overview of the performance differences in quad-core vs. dual-core processors. Two primary performance hindrances in many ultrabooks including the Lenovo Yoga 720 we tested are x2 PCIe lanes over Thunderbolt connection and low power OPI GT2 mode. As seen in the Yoga 720’s AIDA64 results, Memory Read and Write are half bandwidth compared to the other hosts.

  • Late 2016 15″ Apple MacBook Pro | iGPU & dGPU| 6th gen Intel quad-core i7-6700HQ | x4 PCIe 3.0 Thunderbolt 3 to CPU
  • Mid 2017 13″ Razer Blade Stealth | iGPU only | 7th gen Intel dual-core i7-7500U | x4 PCIe 3.0 Thunderbolt 3 to PCH | OPI GT4
  • Late 2017 13″ Lenovo Yoga 720 | iGPU only | 8th gen Intel quad-core i5-8250U | x2 PCIe 3.0 Thunderbolt 3 to PCH | OPI GT2
OMEN Accelerator + R9 Fury2016 15" MacBook Pro2017 13" Blade Stealth2017 13" Yoga 720
Unigine Valley65.7 FPS65.0 FPS53.6 FPS
Unigine Heaven57.3 FPS55.3 FPS53.0 FPS
Unigine Superposition65.6 FPS64.9 FPS64.7 FPS
3DMark Time Spy29.7 FPS28.8 FPS29.8 FPS
3DMark Fire Strike34.8 FPS34.2 FPS35.3 FPS
Tomb Raider 201382.1 FPS81.6 FPS82.3 FPS
Shadow of Mordor80.9 FPS82.9 FPS70.9 FPS
Dirt Rally66.3 FPS64.2 FPS52.0 FPS
Hitman72.6 FPS61.7 FPS42.8 FPS

 

Conclusion

Retailing at $299, the OMEN Accelerator is the most affordable full-feature Thunderbolt 3 external graphics enclosure as of Fall 2017. It’s compatible with both macOS and Windows. At first glance, the design is polarizing and the footprint too big. There are also usability concerns with component placement inside the enclosure. Nevertheless the features provided by this all-in-one docking eGPU solution make it a great value.

With Intel pushing Thunderbolt 3 technology aggressively by dropping licensing fees and making ULV quad-core available in ultrabooks, participation by HP in the developing eGPU enclosure market is certainly a good omen. We sincerely hope HP can work its magic through this eGPU voodoo doll to accelerate mainstream adoption of external graphics.

 

 

 

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18 Comments on "OMEN Accelerator Review – HP’s External GPU Voodoo Doll"

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Sky11
Member

Your assessment of the included power supply is very polite 🙂
On a positive side, since it is a standard ATX power supply, upgrading it to something decent will be so much easier – there are many decent PSUs below $100 and with power rating 600W and higher

adamtoday
Guest

I would like to know how SATA SSD storage usage can affect the GPU performance. What is Frame rate drop at mentioned games when SSD is idle compared to when SSD is fully busy? How about when no SSD is added to eGPU?

Also, what is maximum SSD Read/write speed? Is SSD mounted as external USB device or it is pure SATA connection?

Can you put the system with eGPU to sleep and wake it up later without need of restart? ( while eGPU is being used by some programs).

Thanks!

voljumet
Guest

I’m curious about the difference in frame rate drop when gaming on an ssd in the egpu, or from the internal drive in the laptop.
looking forward to replies 🙂

4chip4
Member
Posted by: Also, what is maximum SSD Read/write speed? Is SSD mounted as external USB device or it is pure SATA connection? Can you put the system with eGPU to sleep and wake it up later without need of restart? ( while eGPU is being used by some programs) The SATA port is mounted via UAS (USB-Attached-SCSI) via one of the USB3 controllers. Not sure what you count as pure SATA (as at some point it does have to be encapsulated either on the USB or the Thunderbolt level). Keep in mind that Thunderbolt is not an endless bucket –… Read more »
adamtoday
Guest
4chip4 Thank you for comments. It is good to know that sleep and wakeup are supported with eGPU. If the SSD storage is connected as UAS (USB-Attached-SCSI), then it is same as adding an SSD with a USB enclosure from any other available USB3 port at the back of other eGPU boxes. So eGPU with internal SATA port won’t be that special. I was expecting SSD inside eGPU is connected as native eSATA connection. This is important because it allows upgrading SSD firmware. it also can provide much better 4k read/write. ( both are not supported with UAS (USB-Attached-SCSI) ).… Read more »
Moritz Fl
Guest
This is the first appealing box with IO in Europe. Yes – the Mantiz can be ordered and shipped to Europe as well but warranty handling overseas and import tax make it terribly unattractive (resulting in about 450€ with unclear/complicated handling in case of hardware failure compared to the Omens 300€ with everything being handled through local resellers). Other alternatives like the one from Asus just cost too much. I would still like to see something like an DIY egpu through an ITX compatible “Mainboard” that provides some IO and a thunderbolt-Interface for connecting to your laptop (Personally I would… Read more »
Voljumett
Member
Posted by: I would like to know how SATA SSD storage usage can affect the GPU performance. What is Frame rate drop at mentioned games when SSD is idle compared to when SSD is fully busy? How about when no SSD is added to eGPU? Also, what is maximum SSD Read/write speed? Is SSD mounted as external USB device or it is pure SATA connection? Can you put the system with eGPU to sleep and wake it up later without need of restart? ( while eGPU is being used by some programs). Thanks! I’ve now tried the Omen accelerator with… Read more »
NeynaSz
Member

Excuse me.
I want to know about “OMEN Accelerator by HP”
“Series GA1-1002l ” that sell in Thailand can use with apple thunderbolt adapter for tranform thunderbolt3 to thunderbolt2 for using with Macbook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015) ? or it can’t ?

4chip4
Member

There is no reason why the enclosure itself wouldn’t work in such a setup, performance notwithstanding – the bigger challenge is setting things up on the Mac side. Note that the official instructions and setup are all for NVidia GPUs and Windows, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the guides (and limitations) on this forum as that’s pretty much all the info you’ll have for Mac setups. 

Gainiac
Member

Got the Omen Accelerator for around 240€ with a student discount which is a very impressive price. Currently running with my Dell XPS 13 with i5 8250U.
Despite the fact that the XPS has “only” 2 TB Lanes, it runs as smooth as my old Desktop with the i5 2500k.
Definitely the best decision I’ve made!

4chip4
Member
Posted by: adamtoday 4chip4 Thank you for comments. It is good to know that sleep and wakeup are supported with eGPU. If the SSD storage is connected as UAS (USB-Attached-SCSI), then it is same as adding an SSD with a USB enclosure from any other available USB3 port at the back of other eGPU boxes. So eGPU with internal SATA port won’t be that special. I was expecting SSD inside eGPU is connected as native eSATA connection. This is important because it allows upgrading SSD firmware. it also can provide much better 4k read/write. ( both are not supported with… Read more »
roaldseth
Member

i got a Hp Omen 17-w280no 17.3 and im wondering since its the same producent, if i buy a accelerator with Nvidia GTx 1060, 6 GB.
would i be able to run SLI?
Specs;
Nvidia GTX 1060, 6 GB
Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU
16 GB DDR4 RAM, 512 GB SSD
: )

nando4
Admin

@roaldseth, your system specs do not indicate the prescence of a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. Without which you cannot have Thunderbolt eGPU connectivity. The other limitation is Nvidia drivers check for a x8 electrically linked video card to be able to be used for SLI. Thunderbolt connectivity is at x4.

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