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HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review: A budget gamer with lots of style but less substance

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 899
(inc VAT)

A good-looking and cheap RTX 4050 gaming laptop but with a few compromises

Pros

  • Stylish and well made
  • Good keyboard
  • Reasonable battery life

Cons

  • No second SSD connector
  • Drab 15.6in display
  • No MUX or G-Sync

When HP launched its Victus range of affordable gaming laptops in late 2021 I was full of praise for them. They were great machines for anyone who wanted a decent gaming laptop for around £1,000. 

The first Victus laptops were a tasty combination of performance and up-to-the-minute style. They looked superb, especially in the white colourway, and they were among the first affordable laptops to offer a 16.1in 16:10 display. They were also easy to upgrade.

I anticipated greater things for this new affordable range designed to compete with Acer’s Nitro and Asus’ TUF Gaming laptops. Then HP seemed to forget all about the Victus lineup and let it wither on the vine, merely introducing 15.6in versions that just weren’t as attractive.

HP Victus review: What you need to know

The 2023 entry-level Victus machines may look like their forebears, but some important differences exist. First, you now have to make do with a 15.6in rather than a 16.1in display, though basic panel specifications stay the same. They’re still Full HD screens with a 144Hz refresh rate.

Second, the 15.6in models have lost one of the USB-A ports and can no longer accommodate a second SSD; both features are now restricted to the more expensive 16.1in models. The GPU in this base version has been throttled, too, down to a maximum TGP of just 75W.

The 2023 Victus is still a good-looking laptop, but sadly it has become a case of style over substance, and that’s a shame. HP seems to agree because, since its release, the Victus has tumbled in price from £1,049 to £999 and at the time of writing you can buy it for £899, which makes it among the cheapest thoroughbred gaming laptops.

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HP Victus review: Price and competition

Configuration tested – AN17-51: Intel Core i5-12500H CPU, Nvidia RTX4050 (75W) GPU, 16GB RAM, 6GB vRAM, 512GB SSD, 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS non-touchscreen; Price when reviewed: £899

Trying to work out which Victus machines running on GeForce RTX 40-series GPUs are available in the UK is not as easy as it should be. As well as the cheapest Core i5 / RTX 4050 model on test, there are Core i7 and Ryzen 5 machines, some with the RTX 4060 GPU. Prices seem to be fluid, so hunt around carefully.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

The Asus TUF A15 impressed us when it was released, and subsequent price drops have only made it more attractive. At the time of writing, you can pick up the RTX 4050 / Core i7-12700H model for just £900, which is outstanding value.

Acer’s Nitro line has long been a stalwart of the affordable gaming laptop world, and the new Nitro 17 is another excellent machine. It uses the same RTX 4050 GPU as the Victus, but runs at the full-bore 140W TGP. It may be £450 more expensive, but you get a larger screen and a much more powerful CPU.

Medion’s new Erazer Crawler E40 has all the hallmarks of a genuine gaming laptop – an Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU and a pretty decent 144Hz display – and regularly drops to £800; even at its regular £999 price, though, it’s a good buy.

HP Victus review: Design and build quality

HP’s Victus machines have always been some of the best budget gaming laptops for aesthetics, and the latest incarnation continues that trend. The all-black design may not look stereotypically “gamey”, like the Asus TUF and Acer Nitro alternatives, but it’s arguably smarter and looks more upmarket.

The new Victus has a decent selection of ports, though it’s less impressive than the original model. On the left, you’ll find the DC-in, 3.5mm audio jack, SD card reader and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 data port, while on the right side is another USB-A and a USB-C port, both 3.2 Gen 1. The USB-C port supports charging and DisplayPort video output. Also on the right is a gigabit Ethernet port and an HDMI 2.1 video output.

 

That’s all well and good, but the original Victus machines had a third USB-A port. Granted, cropping the number of USB ports isn’t the end of the world, but I generally expect laptops to get more features over time, not fewer. It’s not even as if HP has bumped up the speed of the remaining USB ports.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

At 358 x 255 x 23.5mm (WDH) and 2.31kg the new Victus is a little less wide and deep than the old model but the same thickness. It’s also fractionally lighter. But moving from a 16:10 to a 16:9 display means the thick bezel below the screen is now thicker to the tune of a whopping 30mm. It’s quite an eyesore.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

Removing the plastic base plate is not the most straightforward job because, in typical HP style, the plastic clips are tough to undo. Once accomplished, disappointment awaits because there’s no mount for a second SSD. There’s space for one alongside the installed SSD, and the locking screw thread and motherboard contact strips are there. It even has “SSD 2” printed on the board. But the connector is missing.

Adding a second SSD is almost essential for a gaming laptop, given the size of modern games. I forgave the Medion Crawler E40 for this same failing, but it’s a cheaper laptop (when you can get it at £800). HP has rather spoiled the Victus for want of a cheap SSD connector.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

The SSD inside the Victus is a Western Digital model that recorded reasonable if unexceptional sequential read and write speeds of 3,940MB/sec and 2,201MB/sec respectively. That’s faster than the Asus TUF A15 but not as fast as the Acer Nitro 17.

Finally, wireless communications are handled by Intel’s ubiquitous and ever-reliable AX211 card, which brings 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 to the table.

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HP Victus review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

Thankfully, HP has not messed with the Victus keyboard. It’s still expansive and well organised – aside from the minor issue of the power button being placed between the F12 and Delete keys – and it uses the same bold stylised graphics on the keycaps that the original model used.

It’s solid, too, with only a slight amount of give in the central area, while the keys move with a fluid and well-damped action. There aren’t a lot of gaming enhancements beyond the dedicated key to launch the Omen control panel, and the backlight is a simple white on-or-off affair.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

The one-piece trackpad is reasonably big at 125 x 80mm and is smooth to the touch. HP doesn’t say if it’s plastic or glass, but I would guess the former. The corner click-action is perfectly weighted, precise and quiet.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

The webcam, on the other hand, is a lowlight, as it often is on gaming laptops. It’s a run-of-the-mill 720p affair that does a just-about-adequate job in good lighting but otherwise is best avoided. The camera array doesn’t support Windows Hello IR facial recognition, nor is there any fingerprint scanner, so your only security options are password or PIN.

HP Victus review: Display and audio

When the Victus range launched in 2021 it used a 16.1in, 16:10 aspect ratio display, but that was quickly joined by traditional (presumably cheaper) 15.6in, 16:9 panels, and that is what we have here.

It’s a pretty low-rent IPS affair made by Chi Mei, reasonably bright at 302cd/m2 and has a decent contrast ratio of 1,478:1. Colour-wise, however, it’s pretty dull, with gamut volumes of just 60.9% sRGB, 41.9% Adobe RGB and 43.1% DCI-P3. Colour accuracy is poor, too, with an average Delta E score of 4.44 vs the sRGB profile. It’s worth remembering that the 16.1in display on the 2021 Victus was also less than great, but at least it was bigger.

HP Victus (RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) review

Motion handling is mediocre, with lots of ghosting manifesting in the Blur Busters UFO test, as you might expect from a panel with a quoted GtG (grey to grey) response time of 9ms. There’s no support for AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync either, nor is there a multiplexer switch to connect the panel directly to the Nvidia GPU. The display on the Asus TUF A15 is better in every measurable way than that on the Victus.

The B&O-branded speakers make a better case for themselves, pumping out a generous 77dBA maximum volume measured against a pink noise source at 1m and creating a spacious, detailed soundscape with a decent wedge of bass underpinning everything.

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HP Victus review: Performance and battery life

At this sort of price you often have to forgo the latest silicon, so the Victus uses a 12th gen Alder Lake Core i5-12500H chip, a 12-core component with four performance cores and a maximum turbo clock of 4.5GHz. RAM comes in the form of 16GB of dual-channel DDR4.

In our standard 4K multimedia benchmark, the Victus scored 241 points, a relatively low score reflecting the relatively low-performance CPU, but still high enough to prove that the Victus can easily chew through day-to-day tasks.

HP_Victus_(RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) 4k media benchmarksThe Victus does better when it comes to gaming thanks to its Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, returning 42fps in the Returnal test and 30fps in Metro Exodus at the highest detail settings with DLSS off and Ray Tracing on. Switch on Nvidia’s upscaling tech, and those numbers jump appreciably, Returnal hitting 60fps thanks to its support for DLSS 3 and the DLSS 2 Metro reaching 42fps.

Less demanding games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Wolfenstein: Youngblood ran at 61fps and 96fps respectively, without the aid of DLSS but again with Ray Tracing on.

Across all the gaming tests, the 2023 Victus gave a few frames away to the Acer Nitro 17 because its RTX 4050 GPU only has a maximum TGP of 75W compared to 140W in the Nitro. The same small differential can be seen in the SPECviewperf 3dsmax  3D-modelling test, which ran at 66.4fps on the Victus and 72.6fps on the Nitro 17.

Given the relatively low-power components inside the Victus I didn’t anticipate any thermal issues, and so it proved with the draft of air coming out of the vent above the keyboard never getting above 32°C. The fans are quiet, too, even when running at full speed.

HP_Victus_(RTX 4050 15-fa1007na) battery lifeHowever, if you were hoping that would contribute to good battery life, prepare to be disappointed. The battery in the Victus only has a capacity of 70Wh, which is small for a gaming laptop, and our standard battery run-down test lasted for one minute more than seven hours. That’s not terrible, but it lags behind the bigger Acer Nitro 17 and Asus TUF A15.

HP Victus review: Verdict

The new Victus isn’t a bad laptop but neither does it stand out from the crowd, which is a shame given how good the original was. Given the sub-£1,000 price, a less-than-stellar display is no great surprise, but omitting a cheap connector block for a second SSD and specifying a low-TGP GPU is disappointing. 

Those are not choices made to hit a price point. They are choices made to make the Victus not as good as it could be. All of which is a shame, because the Victus looks the part, has a good keyboard and speakers, and the price is right for a machine with an RTX 4050 inside.

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