Given the continuing shortage of discrete GPUs, it is much harder and more frustrating to build your own desktop PC from parts than it normally is. Because of this, I thought I would join the ranks of people who are buying prebuilt desktop systems as one way around this issue. If you know where to look, you can find some nice bargains. As it turns out, this Walmart gaming PC is a good deal!
In future posts, I am going to investigate and review this machine to see what is inside and how it performs out of the box. You will get all of the gory details, good and bad. Then, I will try some simple upgrades to see if they will work and how they impact performance.
Update: I have a YouTube video about this machine here:
What is Wrong With Prebuilt Desktop Systems?
There are two main sources for new prebuilt desktop gaming systems. The first is large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc. The second is system integrators (SIs) like Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, Digital Storm, etc.
OEM systems are more widely distributed and easier to buy at places like Walmart and Best Buy. They are also typically more affordable than SI-built systems. Unfortunately, OEM systems often use proprietary components that are not easily replaceable. For example, it is common to see non-standard power supplies and power supply connectors. The component quality in OEM systems is usually considerably lower than equivalent parts that you can buy at retail.
The OEMs also like to cut corners with component choices. A very common tactic is using only one memory DIMM in a motherboard than can hold two or four DIMMs. This puts you in single-channel memory mode, which can hurt performance quite a bit, especially for gaming.
A final issue with OEM systems is that they usually have very limited BIOS options. The sort of choices you get in a typical motherboard that you would buy for a DIY system won’t be there in an OEM system.
System integrators usually buy the same parts that you could at retail, and use them to assemble a custom system. They often let you choose from a range of components for each particular part. So for example, you might be able to choose from several different power supplies, several different CPUs, different GPUs, etc.
This lets you get much closer to a system that you might build yourself in terms of component choices. They assemble and configure the system, and they back it with some sort of warranty. In exchange for this service, you typically pay quite a bit more than you would if you bought the parts yourself.
Of course with the current GPU shortage in the retail sector, buying from an SI or OEM can actually end up being a very good deal. It also may be your only choice in many cases.
Did You Actually Buy a Walmart Gaming PC?
Well, no. Walmart has tried their hand at selling SI-built systems that they slapped their name on, with pretty mixed results. What I actually bought at Walmart is an HP Pavilion Gaming R5 1650 Super, 8GB/256GB Gaming Desktop Tower. HP calls it the HP Pavilion Gaming – TG01-0023w.
Here are some of the highlights from their documentation:
- AMD Ryzen 5 3500 processor (6C/6T)
- 8GB RAM (one 8GB DDR4-2666)
- NVIDIA GTX 1650 Super video card
- 256GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD
- 400W 80+ Platinum power supply
- Realtek 802.11ac (WiFi 5) 1×1 and Bluetooth 4.2
The full specifications are here. It is not terrible looking for an OEM system, and it has a a lot of USB connectivity on the front of the case. This includes one 5Gbps USB Type-C and four 5Gbps USB Type-A ports. There is also a full-sized SD card reader.
This is an HP OEM system that Walmart sells in their retail stores and online. The reason why this Walmart gaming PC is a good deal is that it is only $599.99. This is true as long as you buy it in a physical Walmart store. For some reason, Walmart.com lets 3rd Party sellers list and sell systems on their site. Right now, the prices from these sellers range from $783.89 to $899.99. At those prices, this system is not a great deal!
You need to buy this system at a brick and mortar Walmart store to get the $599.99 price. You can use their website to see if they have any in stock before you take a trip.
What Can You Upgrade on This System?
HP touts this system as being “powerful and upgradeable” mainly because of its 400W power supply. We will see about that. The motherboard on this system has two RAM slots, with only one being occupied with an 8GB DIMM. That means that you can easily add another 8GB DIMM, which will double your RAM and get you in dual-channel memory mode. Another option would be getting two larger capacity, higher specification DIMMs, so you could have two 16GB or even two 32GB DIMMs.
You can also upgrade the video card to something like a GTX 1660 Super, RTX 2060 or RTX 3060. There is one eight-pin PCIe power connector. One thing to be careful of is how small the case is. This will limit your GPU choices to models that are pretty short, which usually means just having one fan. This system has a pretty small form factor, the exact dimensions are 13.28 in x 6.12 in x 12.09 in or 33.74 cm x 15.54 cm x 30.7 cm (W x D x H).
Another upgrade possibility is adding more storage. You can add two 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA drives. Another upgrade option is replacing the stock 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD with something larger and faster. Finally, you could replace the stock Ryzen 5 3500 with something like a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Ryzen 7 3700X. Officially, Ryzen 3000 series CPUs with a TDP of 65W or lower are supported. I suspect you could also use a 95W TDP CPU like a Ryzen 5 3600X.
I have unboxed this system, and done an initial round of testing to get some baseline results. Happily, it booted and worked just fine right out of the box. This may sound unremarkable, but it is actually fairly common for prebuilt systems to have some issues when you first try to use them.
In the next post, I will cover the baseline testing results and I what I think of the stock system. I will also start to investigate how easy (or even possible) some upgrade choices may be. From what I have seen so far, this Walmart gaming PC is a good deal! This system is quite a bargain during the current GPU shortage, and it holds its own compared to what I recommended in this build guide.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I am @GlennAlanBerry. Thank you for reading!