Up until now, HP's gaming mice have either been disappointingly bland or too inventive for their own good. The HP Omen Photon ($130), however, seems to have finally struck a happy medium between innovation and comfort.
This wireless mouse features a customizable design and good in-game performance, while incorporating wireless charging and charging less money than some of its competitors. The software is a little flimsy, and the grip could use some work, but I can't find any major faults with the Omen Photon — a first for an HP gaming mouse.
To be fair, $130 is a lot of money for a mouse, even one with wireless connectivity and Qi charging capabilities. And for that price, I think there are better-designed, more-comfortable options. However, the Omen Photon is a solid choice for gamers who are investing in a new HP rig, and it may even be worth a look from those who aren't.
Like with the Logitech G903 or the Razer Basilisk, you can adjust the Omen Photon's physical layout. In its default configuration, the Omen Photon has a narrow body, four thumb buttons and two "wings" on either side where you can rest your thumb and outer fingers.
However, if you find this design too cumbersome (as I did), all you have to do is swap out a few magnetic pieces. Both thumb rests are removable, and you can replace one set of thumb buttons with a plain plastic panel. (You can't do this for both sets of thumb buttons, unfortunately, as the mouse comes with only one panel.)
I commend the Omen Photon for its customization options, but they don't fully cover up for an uncomfortable core design. The mouse's body is extremely narrow, so it's hard to find a comfortable grip, even if you attach both wings.
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Additionally, the wings are curved in an odd way, meaning that neither my thumb nor my pinkie ever rested on the wings comfortably. I didn't have any trouble using the mouse for a few hours at a time, but it always felt like it was at odds with my anatomy.
In any case, the button layout is fairly sensible, regardless of what you do with the two to four thumb buttons. You'll find a right button, a left button, a three-way clickable scroll wheel and two DPI buttons, which are just beneath the wheel. It's worth pointing out that the mouse is fully ambidextrous, depending on your configuration, and you can even specify whether you're using a right- or left-handed grip in the Omen Command Center software.
Beyond that, the Omen Photon comes with one USB cable to extend the dongle's reach and another one to charge the mouse, although you may not need it. The Omen Photon is the first HP gaming mouse to support the Qi wireless charging protocol. This means you can charge the mouse on any Qi-enabled surface, such as the HP Omen mouse pad, which costs a whopping $100.
If you shell out for the mouse pad, the wireless charging feature is useful, since you can charge while you play. Otherwise, it's actually less convenient to charge the mouse with Qi than to simply connect a USB cord and continue playing while you charge.
The physical customization and Qi wireless charging are the defining features of the Omen Photon, but it also has some software backing it up. The Omen Command Center (which you can acquire only through the justly derided Microsoft Store app) serves as a game-launcher, a streaming platform (from one PC to another) and a control center for HP Omen peripherals. The game-launching and streaming capabilities are largely needless, since existing programs already handle these functions much better.
Controlling the mouse works pretty well, though. You can customize a few lighting options, program buttons, create macros, adjust how frequently the mouse communicates with your PC and so forth. However, the Omen Command Center makes you jump through an obnoxious hoop. Rather than simply assigning a keystroke to a button, you have to create a custom macro first, then assign the macro. This is a tedious way of doing things, and it all but ensures that your macro menu will get cluttered and inefficient over time.
Provided that you can find a comfortable grip, the Omen Photon performs admirably in game. I ran the mouse through Overwatch, StarCraft: Remastered, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales and Final Fantasy XIV to see how the peripheral handled different genres, and I found no weak points. Moving and shooting in Overwatch were effortless; selecting the perfect cards to defeat my opponents in Thronebreaker was just as simple.
It may be worth pointing out that the Omen Photon doesn't favor any one specific genre. It's very much an all-purpose mouse, so gamers looking to go deep into MMOs or esports will probably want to hunt down a more specialized device.
I approached the Omen Photon with a fair amount of skepticism. After all, HP mice in the past seemed to cap out around "mediocre," with very few clever ideas to distinguish them from the rest of the pack. However, I came away from the Omen Photon feeling pretty pleased. It's not a great mouse, but it's a pretty good one. And considering that premium wireless mice like the Logitech G502 Lightspeed can run up to $150, asking $130 for the Omen Photon hardly seems unfair.
I still think that with its superior software and better button placement, the G502 is well worth the extra $20. Or you could go the other route and snag the Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless for only $50. But if you dig what HP is doing lately with its comprehensive Omen line of PCs and accessories, you should like this pretty good addition to the lineup.