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HP Victus review: Top gaming value

Alun Taylor
28 Sep 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,150
inc VAT

The new Victus gaming laptop proves that bigger really is better

Pros 
Large 16.1in display
Good sound system
Excellent value
Cons 
Battery life unexceptional
Drab and inaccurate display
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It’s the name of the HP Victus that gives the game away. If I recall my Latin vocab correctly “Victus” is best translated into English as way of life or lifestyle, from the verb vivo or living.

That means what we have here is one of those lifestyle gaming laptops – a machine intended to look and feel as much at home doing regular computing stuff as playing the latest Triple-A games.

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HP Victus review: What you need to know

Sitting below the Omen series of gaming notebooks in the HP hierarchy, the Victus packs in all the important attributes of a gaming laptop but few of the fripperies. So you don’t get a modified keyboard with bolder WASD keys or a Close Encounters-esque RGB light show but you do get a high refresh rate display, a powerful GPU and the option to add more memory and storage.

Depending on where you are in the world, the Victus is – or soon will be – available with either an 11th gen Intel Core i5 or i7 or a 5000-series AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 processor. GPU options run to Nvidia’s RTX 3050Ti and RTX 3060 cards as well as AMD’s Radeon RX5500M. There are also various display choices, ranging from 1,920 x 1,080 to 2,560 x 1,440 with either 144Hz or 165Hz refresh rates. So far, HP has only confirmed two models for the UK market, both with 1,920 x 1,080, 144Hz screens.

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HP Victus review: Price and competition

Here in Blighty the Victus range starts at £1,000 for the Core i5 model with an RTX 3050Ti GPU and ends with a Ryzen 7 5800H model with an RTX 3060 GPU for £1,150.

The cheaper model is not the ideal choice for the hardcore gamer because – as I found with the MSI GL66 Pulse, which uses the same GPU – having only 4GB of VRAM is a bit of a handicap and means you will be forever turning down the graphics detail to get a decent frame rate. My review machine is the Ryzen 7 model, which packs considerably more gaming punch for the extra £150.

HP is entering a highly competitive arena with the Victus. Lenovo’s new Legion 5 offers plenty of bang for your buck with £1,299 getting you a Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, 16GB RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU and a 512GB SSD. I called it a masterclass in mid-price gaming thanks to its excellent gaming performance, great keyboard and high-quality display. I also like the way Legion machines tuck all the ports around the back. It makes for a tidy desk.

The Asus TUF Dash F15 offers excellent battery life, a great sound system and a stunning white polycarbonate body, plus the same RTX 3070 GPU as the Legion 5 but allied to an Intel Core i7 processor. The issue with this laptop, however, is getting hold of the model with both the RTX 3070 GPU and the 240Hz display. If you can't, then the RTX 3060/240Hz combo is the one to go for – It costs around £1,400 but that also gets you a capacious 1TB SSD.

MSI’s GL66 Pulse uses the same RTX 3050Ti GPU as the entry-level Victus but coupled with a powerful Intel Core-i7 11800H processor. That makes it a productivity monster but less capable of playing the latest AAA games without dialling down the graphics fidelity. The display and keyboard are both very good and the sound system is praiseworthy. Battery life is poor, but for £1,099 it’s certainly worth consideration.

If you’re after the most gaming grunt for your hard-earned then Acer’s latest Nitro 5 has a lot going for it and uses the same CPU and GPU as this review Victus. It’s incredibly powerful for a mere £1,000, has a plethora of upgrade options, including space for a 2.5in SATA3 hard disk. It feels a bit cheap, though, and is designed overtly with the purist gamer in mind. Also, the battery life is poor and the screen is inaccurate when it comes to colour representation.

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HP Victus Review: Design and build quality

The new Victus is available in either Mica Silver, Performance Blue or Ceramic White finishes. My review unit was the latter and it looks very smart, too. In fact, it looks a bit like the Asus TUF Dash 15 in this livery but that’s no bad thing since I really liked the looks of the Asus.

Continuing the similarities with the Asus, the new HP is made from plastic but still manages to feel impressively solid. According to HP, it has used recycled, ocean-bound plastic in the cover, bezel, and speaker enclosure, which sounds more believable than the “vegan leather” used in the HP Elite Folio I recently reviewed.

There’s little in the way of design flourishes but everything else is on point. The keyboard deck is rock solid, the key action firm and precise and the large, offset trackpad has no bad habits. It’s a well laid-out keyboard, too, with a full numeric pad and no idiosyncrasies. The only bespoke key is the one that launches the Omen control panel, from which you can access your games library and change the Victus’ performance profile between Quiet, Default and Performance. The single-level keyboard backlight is less well-judged. Bright white light behind a white keyboard can raise some legibility issues.

Connectivity is pretty well catered for with a drop-jaw Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 2.1, USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 and USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port on the left and two more USB-A ports of the same spec on the right. Also on the left, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack and an SD card slot. Wireless communications are handled by a Realtek RTL8852AE WiFi 6 card that also supports Bluetooth 5.2. I have read some criticism of this card but experienced no issues in terms of speed or reception while testing.

And it is possible to upgrade the internals. Remove the back panel – not the easiest job since the plastic clips are very stiff and at least one broke when I pried it off – and you can easily access the two SODIMM memory slots and two SSD bays, one of which in this case was empty, the other housing a 512GB SK hynix PCIe SSD. Upgrading to a maximum of 32GB RAM and 2TB of storage is a cinch.

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HP Victus review: Display and webcam

The most interesting thing about the design is the screen size. At 16.1 inches and 1,920 x 1,080, it sits between the more common 15.6in and 17.3in sizes and HP has done a good job of fitting in the larger screen without making the actual laptop too large to carry around.

At 370 x 260 x 23.5mm and 2.5kg, the Victus would be par for the course if it only had a 15.6in panel, so you’re not paying any real penalties for the extra 44cm2 of real estate. That may not sound like a lot extra but, trust me, you do notice it.

Technically, the display is less impressive. The maximum brightness of 280cd/m2 is fine as is the 1,163:1 contrast ratio but the Delta E colour accuracy was badly awry at 6.44 and the sRGB gamut coverage and volume were poor at 57.2% and 57.6% respectively.

Those results mean that the screen is rather drab and it limits the Victus’ suitability for some creative tasks. These results are not atypical of gaming machines in the sub-£1,500 category but the likes of Lenovo and MSI have raised their display game at this price point and HP should have done likewise. The 165Hz screen is probably better but since you can’t buy that model in the UK, the argument is academic.

Above the display, you’ll find a fairly decent 720p webcam that does a solid job even in low light. There’s no support for biometric log-in, so you’ll need to resort to a good old-fashioned PIN number for security.

Meanwhile, the Bang & Olufsen-tuned audio system sounded very impressive. While it didn’t produce quite the same amount of pounding bass as the speakers in the Asus TUF Dash 15, it was louder and a little more composed at maximum volume. Turned up to 11, the loud staccato sound of gunfire in Wolfenstein: Youngblood gave proceedings a visceral intensity that really enhanced the gaming experience.

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HP Victus Review: Performance and battery life

The Victus scored 289 in Expert Reviews’ in-house benchmark test, a result very close to those recorded by the MSI GL66 and the Lenovo Legion 5, both of which scored 284. The Acer Nitro 5 scored higher at 323, the Asus Tuf DASH 15 lower at 251, but these are small differences that will have little real-world impact.

The same goes for the results from the GeekBench 5 test, with only a hair's breadth separating the pack. All these machines have performance and capability to spare when it comes to productivity tasks.

Unsurprisingly, the Victus also performed solidly on the gaming front. The Wolfenstein: Youngblood Riverside benchmark scored 152fps with Ray Tracing off, 94fps with it on but without DLSS and 117fps with ray tracing and DLSS.

Turning to the Shadow of the Tomb Raider test, the Victus managed 61fps at high detail level with ray tracing but no DLSS. The demanding Hitman 2 test scored 47.2fps with supersampling at 2. Drop that to 1 and the frame rate jumps to nearly 80fps. Those scores all served to underline that saving a few quid by buying the RTX3050Ti version is a false economy. The Victus has the MSI GL66 Pulse well beaten in terms of gaming performance.

The SSD also performed well, recording sequential read and write scores of 3,140MB/sec and 2,685MB/sec respectively and, as with many of the best new gaming laptops in this category, the Victus never ran worryingly hot and the fan noise was never overly intrusive, even at full speed.

The most disappointing aspect of performance was Battery life was middling, Expert Reviews’ standard video rundown test draining the 70Wh battery in 7 hours 45 minutes.

That’s roughly the same as the Lenovo Legion 5 and Acer Nitro 5, much better than the MSI GL66 Pulse but not as good as the Asus TUF Dash 15. At least HP has done a good job of keeping the size and weight of the 200W DC charger in check. Its rounded 330g housing is nowhere near as brick-like as some I’ve encountered.

HP Victus Review: Verdict

HP has done a good job squeezing a 16.1in display into a 15.6in laptop body and that gives the new Victus an edge in this highly competitive market sector. The Victus is also stylish, build quality is decent and the keyboard and sound system are all excellent.

It’s a shame the display isn’t more colourful and more colour-accurate and I’d have liked to see a little more stamina from the battery. However, with the Ryzen model delivering plenty of gaming performance per pound, it’s still very easy to recommend.

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