HP OMEN Mainframe

Windows Central Choice Award

Gaming headphones are entering a whole new level of technology and HP is one of those leading the way. The HP OMEN Mindframe is a $199.99 premium headset that does something no one else has achieved: active ear cooling so you can enjoy hours of gaming without getting hot.

I've spent the last few days with the Mindframe and here's what you need to know.

Frosty ear cups

HP OMEN Mindframe

Bottom line: The only gaming headphones that cool down your ears.

Pros:

  • Actively keeps your ears cool.
  • Extremely comfortable for long durations.
  • Retractable mic boom.
  • Noise-cancelling, unidirectional mic.
  • Audio quality is above average.

Cons:

  • Only USB Type-A (no 3.5mm cord).
  • Do not fold for travel.
  • No EQ or advance audio settings.

HP OMEN Mindframe — Active cooling

HP OMEN Mainframe

The big selling point with the OMEN Mindframes is that they feature the "world's first ... active ear cup cooling technology". While much effort by other manufacturers has gone into using breathable materials or fancy venting, these are the first headphones that lower the temperature of the ear cup through active measures.

HP calls this technology "FrostCap," and it's no gimmick. Each ear cup features a thermoelectric device that modifies the temperature through voltage changes allowing heat to transfer from the inside of the ear cup to the outside.

It works like this: when you plug in the OMEN Mindframe's through its USB connector to a PC the charge powers the thermoelectric ear cups resulting in a temperature drop from the inner cup to the outer one.

The thermoelectric cooling in effect on the HP OMEN Mainframe.

Quite possibly the most comfortable gaming headphones on the market right now.

The result is tangible and visible using a SEEK thermal camera (see above image).

The outside of the ear cups (where the LED lighting is) hovers around 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) while the inner cup drops down to a 66 degrees F (19 degrees C) in a room where the average temperature is around 72 degrees F (22 degrees C).

Touching the inner metal of the speaker panel and you can feel a substantial cooling effect compared to the warmer outside of the ear cup where the heat was transferred to by the thermoelectric device. Those outer ear cups do get warm too akin to how smaller devices feel when being activey charged. It's not bad, just different.

HP OMEN Mindfame — Ice boxes for your ears?

HP OMEN Mainframe

Interestingly, your ears do not make contact the chilled down metal (although if you press the headphones against your head, you can force it). That means wearing the Mindframe's is not like putting a cooling pack directly on your ears. Instead, the result is more like keeping the air around the ear cooler and preventing heat buildup that is often found in other over-the-ear headphone designs.

The effect of the cooling is also dependent upon the amount of heat being generated – so it's all relative. Hotter days with a person generating more heat results in more heat transfer away from the ear, while a cool day where someone is not making much heat results in less.

For those who want more control, the HP OMEN Command Center software lets you set the cooling effect to on or off with settings for high, medium, and low chilling.

During the whole time, I used them I always left the active cooling on and set to high. The headphones never approached getting too cold.

HP OMEN Mindframe — "7.1 audio" and other features

HP OMEN Mainframe

Other features with the Mindframe include those familiar to most competitive gamers, including:

  • 7.1 virtual surround sound (positional audio and 3D spatial awareness).
  • RGB lighting effects – 18 presets with static, color shift, or audio-responsive effects.
  • Adjustable mic monitoring so you can hear your voice in real-time through the headphones.
  • Breathable, moisture-wicking fabric.
  • Volume knob built into the right-headphone cup.
  • Noise-cancelling, unidirectional microphone that mutes when folded.
  • Double-banded design for comfort.

The audio quality is slightly above average especially with the 7.1 faux surround sound. Sound is crisp and rich with suitable bass response. The flip down microphone works very well with decent sound reproduction and the auto-mute feature when folding up is a bonus (it also makes a 'boop' noise to alert you to the muting and unmuting — clever).

HP OMEN Mainframe

I'm used to headphones building the volume key inline to the cord (which is good quality and braided here), but HP put the volume knob on the right headphone towards the back. It's not bad, and the knob is metal with precision tuning. It took a few tries to get used to but overall works.

The RGB lighting is well done though not extravagant. Through the HP Command Center software users can switch between 18 different colors (red is by default) and modify brightness and hue. The LED color can remain static (default) or shift between six different color choices at varying speeds. There's also an audio-responsive mode.

HP OMEN Mindframe — Comfort is king

Just as important is the overall wearability. I have a sensitive head for headphones, especially at the apex where fatigue usually sets in after 30 minutes of usage. The OMEN Mindframes — like the OMEN 800 series that I reviewed last year — are easily the most comfortable headphones I have worn. I never felt I had to adjust the headphones even after an hour of wearing them.

HP has a knack for finding the right balance in weight (1.05lbs, or 0.48kg) and comfort using that double-band suspension design. Combined with the over-the-ear squishy ear cups and that active cooling the OMEN Mindframes are something you can wear for hours on end without any discomfort.

What's not to like about OMEN Mindframe

Ironically, when it comes to audio there are zero options in the HP OMEN Command Center software. The user must rely on the Windows system audio preferences, which can be tailored with Windows Sonic (free) or Dolby Atmos ($15) to control spatial audio.

There's no built-in EQ, nor settings to turn of the pseudo-7.1 sound.

Bass is solid with the Mindframe and presence rich, but the overall experience is not the best-in-class and betrays a bit the $199 price point, which is clearly going towards the thermoelectric technology. While I enjoyed the sound reproduction a lot other may find it lacking to other headphones in the $200 price range. Nonetheless, I'd still consider the audio here very good.

Build quality is excellent but there is a reliance on a lot of plastic too instead of just metal. The benefit, however, is the Mindframe's weight (1.05lbs, or 0.48kg), which is far from heavy despite the metal being used in the ear cups for the cooling technology.

The headphones also do not fold nor do the ear cups rotate around for travel. Likewise, there are no meta-adjustments for the size of the headphones so those with large heads may find the Mindframe's a bit tight.

Should you buy HP OMEN Mindframe?

Gaming headphones are a lot like buying a PC; you need to find the right set of features that work for you.

For me, the HP OMEN Mindframes are my new go-to PC gaming headphones for the simple reason of exceptional comfort. These are arguably the most comfortable gaming headphones on the market right now.

My only major complaint is these are only USB Type-A headphones with no 3.5mm headphone jack. That makes using these with an Xbox or any gaming console prohibitive (nothing happens if you plug them into an Xbox). Of course, that's easily explained by the fact that these need to be USB powered for the thermoelectric devices to work, but it would be cool — pardon the pun — nonetheless to use them on all platforms.

The lack of audio optimizations or higher-quality sound reproduction seems to be a tradeoff for the advanced cooling tech. In other words, these headphones lean towards extreme comfort rather than extreme sound for a feature set. That's OK so long as you know what you a getting. Others may prefer more authentic gaming audio from other other headphones but you may have to put up with some head soreness or getting hot and sweaty.

The HP OMEN Mindframe's are my new PC gaming headphones

At $199.99 the OMEN Mindframes are not cheap, but between the outstanding comfort both in the physical ergonomics and the active ear cup cooling and the solid audio quality, I feel it is worth it. For those looking to save money the OMEN 800 series at around $70 is still an excellent option that delivers similar comfort, robust audio, but lacks the more advanced cooling features of the OMEN Mindframe.

If like me, you like to game with only over-the-ear headphones but dread the ear-muff effect that causes you to get warm the OMEN Mindframe is a terrific solution to your problem.

4.5 out of 5

See at HP.com

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