HP Victus Gaming Laptop Review

The new HP Victus line of gaming laptops enters the market as a more budget…

The new HP Victus line of gaming laptops enters the market as a more budget friendly alternative to the renown Omen line. With many configurations available for under $1,000, it’s sure to be on the list of many prospective buyers. Let’s check it out and see how it stacks up.

We received an HP Victus equipped with an Intel Core i5-11400H CPU, RTX 3050 Ti laptop GPU (4 GB), 8 GB DDR4 (2 X 4 GB), 256 GB NVMe M.2 SSD and 70 Watt-Hour battery. This configuration will set you back around $930 depending on sale prices. All Victus laptops currently share the same 16-inch chassis and they mostly differ in internal configuration. The display is a 16.1″ IPS FHD panel that comes in a 60Hz or 144Hz options (a mere $20 upgrade for the faster refresh rate).

Design and Features

The laptop comes with a plastic, matte gray finish. It’s a basic design all around with the only major accent being an inset glossy “V” on the rear of the 16.1 inch display. The laptop measures 14.5 x 10.2 x 0.93 inches and weighs in at 5.4lbs. This puts it on the heavier side of laptops in its class since many competitors come in closer to 5lbs. Below the screen hinge, we can see the rear exhaust ports for the two internal cooling fans.

The left edge of the Victus houses most of the I/O. Starting from the top we have the charging port, a fold-out RJ45 jack, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 Type A port, a USB 3.0 Type C port, a headset combo jack, and an SD card reader.

Except for the power jack, this is a fine assortment. I especially like those dedicated Ethernet ports and wish more laptops kept them. Back to the power though, I really wish this was a USB-C port instead. It’s nearly 2022 and bulky proprietary laptop charging bricks need to go.

Continuing our tour around the laptop, we find a mostly empty right edge aside for two USB 3.0 ports. The screen measures 0.3″ which is a bit thicker than other laptops in this price range, but isn’t something I’d worry about too much. I do appreciate the slight recess around the edge of the screen to give a nice grip when opening the laptop.

The matte gray finish continues over the rest of the laptop as well. Screen bezels are nice and narrow around three of the edges. The bulk of the circuitry is housed at the bottom of the display. This has become fairly standard and the bottom bezel on the Victus measures slightly over an inch. At the top of the keyboard, just below the hinge, is a wide strip of mesh that covers the stereo speakers. I like the subtle “V” pattern here. It’s much less pronounced on the actual unit compared to the picture.

I was reasonably impressed with the Bang and Olufsen speakers on the Victus. They get loud and have good stereo imaging, but as with all built-in laptop audio systems, they are almost completely lacking in bass. The EQ is tuned to slightly lower the highs which helps them sound less tinny, but this also causes them to get quite muddy in the low to mid range. The webcam on top is only 720p and becomes grainy in low light. I’d say it’s fine for most web calls during the day, but quality noticeably drops at night. It’s crazy how modern phones can pack their outstanding cameras in such a small form factor, but laptop webcams haven’t advanced much in a decade.

The Hardware

Let’s talk some more about mechanical design. The trackpad is nice and large, but feels rather flimsy. The top edge is attached to the laptop body while bottom surface is free floating. This results in the whole keyboard shaking and rattling around when tapping to click. If I didn’t know I had a brand new unit from the factory, I might have thought there was a loose screw inside. It’s a cheap feeling and I would have expected much more from a laptop that costs nearly $1,000.

Next, onto the keyboard. The keys feel very sturdy and have a nice actuation. They keyboard is internally braced quite well such that there isn’t a lot of flex for even the heaviest of typists. Another feature of more and more laptops that I appreciate is the increased resistance on the power button. It takes noticeably more force to press than the other keys around it and also has a slight actuation delay so you don’t accidentally turn off the laptop. The soft white backlight works really well, too. It’s uniform and hits all the marked areas without leaving any area over or under-illuminated.

Taking a step back to talk about keyboard layout, this is another area where I think HP could have done much better. While it’s very nice to have the full-sized numpad, I don’t like the removal of the page up/down and home/end keys. Why did HP not put page up/down in the open gaps above the arrow keys? Why does the keyboard have dedicated “HP Omen Gaming Hub” and calculator buttons? Home and End keys would have been much more useful there.

Opening up the bottom cover to get a look inside is very difficult in the Victus. I’ve opened tons of laptops over the years and this one took me at least 10 minutes of prying. The 8 screws around the edge were easy to remove, but then you’re still stuck with a bunch of those internal plastic retention clips every few inches. Even with a proper plastic spudger kit I managed to break off a few of these in the struggle. It shouldn’t be that hard to get into a laptop.

HP did make up for this in my opinion by posting a wonderful teardown and repair guide. It’s a 25 minute long official instructional video that walks the user through removing and replacing basically every component on the laptop. Huge credit to HP for this and I wish other brands would do the same. Many of the parts inside even list what screw sizes they use and product numbers for their replacement. Both M.2 and RAM sockets are easily accessible for upgrades.

While we can see the guts inside, let’s go over thermal performance. Overall I’d say the two heatpipes and blowers do a decently nice job of keeping Victus cool. I did notice the CPU start to throttle down from 2.7GHz to between 2.2GHz – 2.4GHz after about 5 minutes of full load.

I tested thermal performance in two locations: on a flat surface with limited airflow such as a carpet, and then on a more open surface like your leg or a laptop stand with better airflow. The CPU and GPU stabilized at 82C and 79C respectively in the first scenario with limited airflow. This is quite warm, but isn’t a very common use case since the laptop will most likely be used in a place with better airflow. Letting the fans breathe more lowered CPU temps to 68C and GPU temps to 66C. Those numbers are much better.

The fan noise is definitely noticeable when the system is heavily loaded, but it isn’t obnoxious. The acoustics make them sound more like a low drone than a high pitched whine. I found the fan curves to be tuned very nicely. The fan gradually ramps up over several minutes when heavy usage starts and then is quick to quiet down once the load stops. Definitely easy on the ears that way.

Keyboard comfort during heavy load is about as expected for a gaming laptop. The middle of the keyboard gets uncomfortably hot during prolonged gaming sessions, but the outer edges and touchpad stay cool enough to rest your hands on. This makes perfect sense since the two hot components are in the middle and the fans are near the edge.

Configurations

Our review unit arrived with basic specs including a Core i5-11400H and discrete RTX 3050 Ti laptop graphics. HP offers the Victus with up to an i7-11800H CPU, RTX 3060 GPU, 32GB of RAM, 144Hz display, and 1TB SSD. My configuration retails for $990 ($930 when on sale) and maxing it out will cost $1,600. There’s also more basic configurations on the same chassis that start at $799.99 with the same i5-11400H and a GTX 1650 laptop GPU.

We won’t be explicitly covering benchmarks for the HP Victus since we’ve reviewed the same components in detail before. Here are our reviews of the i5-11400H CPU and RTX 3050 Ti Laptop GPU. We like the CPU a lot and in our testing it ranks among the best mobile chips Intel has produced in quite some time for this segment. As for the 3050 Ti, it’s far from a standout. Performance is average and is often limited by the 4GB of VRAM. However, because the Victus 16 only has a 1080p display, it won’t be as big of an issue compared to 1440p configurations.

Looking at the rest of the system, I just don’t think 256GB of storage is adequate anymore on a gaming laptop. Modern games can easily reach into the 50-100GB range which means you’ll only be able to fit a few on the drive once you account for Windows. The base model should start with at least 512GB. The Victus is available from the factory with a larger drive, but you’d be better off just buying your own and installing it into the spare M.2 slot.

Display Performance

The display is a 16.1″ 1920×1080 IPS display running at 60Hz. There is no option to upgrade to 1440p, but for an extra $20 you can upgrade to a 144Hz refresh rate. For the price, I think the higher refresh rate is a no-brainer. The screen gets bright enough for most indoor use, but I wish it went a few levels higher. Outdoor viewing will be tricky since the screen maxes out at 250nits and you may also have viewing issues in sunny rooms.

I tested color accuracy using Calman by Portrait Displays along with an X-Rite i1Display Pro meter. Initial measurements of the display showed average DeltaE values of 4.7 and a max value of 8.7. That’s poor and is obviously well above the 1.0 range for being considered “accurate”.

After running through the Calman calibration session, the average DeltaE value dropped to 1.6. I’d call this acceptable, but not amazing. If you own this laptop and want to apply the same calibration to your display, we’ve uploaded the profile here.

Software Experience

Where to start… the included Windows 10 installation is one of the worst I’ve ever seen on a laptop. It includes a McAfee anti-virus trial that bombards you with popups to purchase the full version. Express VPN that warns you “Your IP Address is Public”, a Booking.com app, Lastpass, Wild Tangent Games (often categorized by antivirus programs as a Potentially Unwanted Program), and at least 11 different HP utilities.

It’s honestly embarrassing for HP that they think it’s OK to include this much bloatware on a system. If it bothers you like it bothers me, it should take about 30 minutes to wipe all the junk off the system. The only saving grace would be if HP was using the commissions they earn from these software vendors to offset the cost of the laptop.

Even with all that software pre-installed, the system boots up from zero in 12 seconds. I’m quite happy with that value and never felt like I was waiting on the laptop to load.

As for battery life, I got about 60 minutes while gaming (Civilization VI) at medium settings with medium brightness. It’s hard to quantify gaming battery performance exactly since every game is different and it heavily depends on brightness. Lowering the settings should give between 70-80 minutes while cranking them to max will deplete the battery in 40-50 minutes. The 70 Wh battery achieved 6 hours and 15 minutes of runtime during standard use with 1080p video playback, and 10 hours and 49 minutes of idle screen on time at 50{1ecc11bb1501b786f489293ac2ac25fb54683d686574816a94d14a51901cfb17} brightness. These are pretty decent numbers and nothing spectacular. I would have liked to have seen a 75-80 Watt-Hour battery, but at least it’s better than the 51 Watt-Hour batteries found on many other laptops of this class.

Bottom Line

Overall, the HP Victus is a decent laptop, but nothing stands out as especially wonderful. It looks great aesthetically and packs some decent hardware inside, but build quality and other shortcomings fail to set it apart.

Looking at the competition, Acer offers the Nitro 5 with the same CPU/GPU combo, but adds 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for the same price. The Gigabyte G5 is also slightly less expensive than the Victus with the same configuration as the Nitro 5. On the downside to the Gigabyte, its battery is significantly smaller, but that does reduce the weight considerably.

To HP’s credit, the Victus looks much more professional and less “gamery” than the Gigabyte and Acer in my opinion.

Besides the Windows bloatware which is salvageable, and the average trackpad, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the Victus. The kicker is that HP is marketing the Victus as a more budget oriented line of gaming laptops and while you do get some nice hardware for the cost, you may still be able to find a better deal elsewhere.

With supply chain issues plaguing the electronics industry though, you never know when systems will go out of stock. If you can look past the bloatware and slightly flimsy construction, the Victus will get the job done on a budget.

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