I recently bought a HP Pavilion Gaming – TG01-0023w at Walmart to investigate and test, as I discussed here. If you can find one of these HP Pavilion Gaming R5 1650 Super, 8GB/256GB Gaming Desktop Tower machines at a brick and mortar Walmart location, you will be able to get it for $599.99, which is actually a great deal. In this post, I am going to cover benchmarking and modding the Walmart gaming PC.
Looking at all of the parts in this system, I estimate that they would cost about $450-$500 without the GPU. After adding in the GPU, the total parts cost would be between $700-850. Be careful who you buy it from though. Third party sellers are selling it for $800-$900 on Walmart’s web site.
Update: I have a YouTube video about this machine here:
Is This Machine Any Good For Gaming?
Depending on the resolution and graphics quality settings that you use, most games are bottlenecked by the performance of the GPU in the system. The CPU is much less important, unless it is extremely slow by modern standards.
This machine is a good match for 1080P gaming, since it has an NVIDIA GTX 1650 Super GPU. That GPU cost about $160 when it was introduced, but currently sells for more than double that price. That is if/when you can find one. The GTX 1650 Super is a big step up from a regular GTX 1650. A 1650 Super can play most games quite well at 1080P.
This system also has a 400W 80+ Platinum power supply with one eight-pin PCIe power connector for the video card. That means that you have enough power to upgrade to something like a GTX 1660 Super, GTX 1660 Ti, or even an RTX 2060 or RTX 3060. You will need to pay special attention to the physical size of any potential replacement GPU because of the small size of the case.
The CPU is a 7nm Zen2 6C/6T Ryzen 5 3500. That is right, there is no Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT) on this SKU. This is a special OEM SKU that you typically cannot buy separately. Six physical cores is enough for most games, and this processor has enough performance so that it is not going to be a bottleneck for gaming. It performs comparably to a 4C/8T Intel Core i7-7700K in most benchmarks. Lets start benchmarking and modding the Walmart gaming PC!
If that is not enough CPU for you, you can swap it out at a later date for several other Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs. The documentation suggests a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Ryzen 7 3700X, which are both 65W TDP SKUs. I put a 95W TDP Ryzen 5 3600X in my system and it worked just fine.
What About RAM?
The OEM motherboard only has two memory slots. It comes populated with one stick of DDR4-3200 CL22 RAM, so it is running in single-channel mode. Surprisingly, it was running at XMP speed from the factory. This is despite there not being any BIOS options regarding memory settings.
Being in single-channel mode certainly hurts your memory bandwidth performance in AIDA64. It also hurts performance in some games. But it does not matter as much (or at all) in many applications.
Having “only” 8GB of RAM can be problematic in some games and for daily usage though. Adding a second 8GB stick with identical speed and timings would be my first upgrade. Using identical RAM should let the system stay in XMP mode.
What is the Storage Situation?
Despite what storage vendors try to tell you, storage performance is usually not a big issue for a gaming system. As long as you have at least a decent SATA NAND SSD, you won’t be bottlenecked by your storage performance. Drive space is usually more of a problem for most gamers.
My machine came equpped with a 256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD. Specifically, it is a Kioxia XG6 (KXG60ZNV256G) which is a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3 drive. This sounded promising, but there is a fairly significant issue as revealed by CrystalDiskInfo. Do you see it?
The problem is shown in the Transfer Mode. It is only PCIe 3.0 x2 instead of PCIe 3.0 x4. This means you only have two PCIe 3.0 lanes instead of four lanes, which cuts your storage bandwidth in half. Having this lower throughput limit can be a big deal for some workloads (such as a database server).
This is not the fault of the Kioxia XG6 SSD, which is PCIe 3.0 x4. HP has done something at the system level to limit the bandwidth to PCIe 3.0 x2. There is no exposed BIOS setting related to this. Believe me, I looked!
It won’t really matter very much for this system though. That is because there is only one available M.2 slot, which is occupied by this drive. There is also only one PCIe 3.0 slot, occupied by the GPU. You do have two SATA 3 ports that could have SATA NAND SSDs in them. Finally, you have a 1Gbps Ethernet port and a 802.11ac WiFi radio. What all of this means is that there is nothing else in the system, from an I/O perspective that will be limited by only having about 1,800 MB/sec of sequential throughput.
Getting back to practical matters, a 256GB SSD is just too small for a gaming system with many games on it. It acceptable for a boot drive (although a larger capacity drive will perform a little better). Luckily, you can easily add one or two 2.5″ SATA NAND SSDs as storage drives. There are two SATA power connectors and one SATA data cable preinstalled.
You could also replace the stock M.2 drive with a larger capacity, perhaps higher performance M.2 drive. You will still be limited to PCIe 3.0 x2 thoughput.
The Cinebench R20 score beats a Core i7-7700K by about 8%, which is similar to the margin in CPU-Z multi-thread.
Having the memory in single-channel mode hurts the GB Multi-Core score quite a bit.
Here is the Geekbench CUDA score with the stock system.
What Do I Think of the Stock System?
The stock system is a good value for the money. You are getting $800-$900 worth of components in an entry-level gaming system for only $600.00. You should be able to do 1080P gaming at acceptable quality settings and decent frame rates in most games with the stock system. This system has a nice array of USB ports on the front panel and it has 802.11ac (WiFi 5) built in.
You also have a pretty good upgrade path for an OEM system. The very first thing I would do would be to add a second 8GB stick of RAM. This will put you in dual-channel mode and get you up to 16GB, which is the sweet spot for many games. You could stop there if you only play one or two games.
If you start running low on disk space, I would grab a low cost, high capacity 2.5″ SATA SSD to store more games on. There is no reason to get a high-end Samsung 860 PRO for a storage drive. Most people can stop here and be quite happy.
If you do find yourself limited by low FPS rates in some games, upgrading to a better GPU would be the next step. Of course this assumes that GPU prices ever come back down to normal. The 400W 80+ Platinum power supply with a standard eight-pin PCIe power connector gives you much more flexibility than most OEM systems.
Finally, you could upgrade the CPU to a higher core count Ryzen 3000 series model. The motherboard has an AMD B550A OEM chipset which should technically support a Ryzen 5000 series CPU, but you would need a newer AGESA version from HP, which is not very likely.
To be honest, a faster CPU (such as a Ryzen 5 3600 or Ryzen 7 3700X) is not going to make much difference for most games. The GPU is your main bottleneck for gaming.
Benchmarking and Modding the Walmart Gaming PC
Just for testing purposes, I tried to upgrade everything I possibly could, just to see if it would work and how much difference it made for performance. I only used parts that I had on hand.
The first thing was RAM. I replaced the stock RAM with two 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws V DDR4-3200 CL16 (F4-3200C16D-16GVKB), giving me 16GB of RAM in dual-channel mode. This worked, but the memory speed fell back to the standard JEDEC speed rather than the XMP speed that it used with the higher latency CL22 stock memory. Even so, the memory read speed went up from 22,642 MB/s to 31,475 MB/s, which was a 39% improvement.
The RAM upgrade increased the Geekbench 5 Multi-core score from 3,998 to 5,399, which was a 35% improvement.
I installed a 500GB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 drive and installed a fresh copy of Windows 10 20H2 on it from a USB 3.0 flash drive. For a storage drive, I put in a 2.5″ 512GB Samsung 950 PRO SATA SSD that I had on hand. Both of these worked just fine with no issues.
The 970 EVO gives marginally better performance than the stock Kioxia drive, but it is still limited by the x2 mode from the system. HP probably did this to conserve PCIe 3.0 lanes. The main reason for any storage upgrades in this system is just to have more available space to store installed games. The small differences in benchmark performance between entry-level drives and high-end drives don’t really matter here.
I had a GTX 1660 Ti card on hand, so I installed it. You need to be very careful about the physical size of a replacement GPU since the system case is quite small. The height of the card is more critical, but the length of the card can also be an issue. The 400W power supply only has one eight-pin PCIe power connector, so you won’t be able to use a card that needs more than that.
The Geekbench CUDA score went from 57,575 to 70,186 with the GPU upgrade, which is about a 22% improvement. According to this review from TechPowerUp, you should see about a 27% increase in 1080P gaming going from a 1650 Super to a 1660 Ti.
Finally, I installed an AMD Ryzen 5 3600X CPU. This is a 95W TDP 6C/12T CPU with a base clock of 3.8 GHz, a boost clock of 4.4 GHz, and a 32MB L3 cache. Micro Center is currently selling this CPU for $249.99. I don’t actually recommend this CPU over the less expensive Ryzen 5 3600. If I was upgrading the CPU in real life, I would go to the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3700X, which Micro Center is selling for $279.99.
Going from a 6C/6T Ryzen 5 3500 to a 6C/12T Ryzen 5 3600X only gives you a 2.4% ST increase in CPU-Z. You are not going to notice that difference in real life. The MT score goes up by 42.3%, which will be quite noticeable in productivity applications.
Geekbench had a larger ST improvement after the CPU upgrade to the Ryzen 5 3600X. The Single-Core score went from 1,180 to 1,264 which is an 7.1% improvement. The Multi-Core score went from 5,399 to 6,848, which is an 26.8% improvement.
Surprisingly, the stock CPU cooler has a pretty large and heavy heatsink. It is more like an AMD Wraith Spire CPU cooler rather than the tiny AMD Wraith Stealth. The motherboard has non-standard CPU cooler mounting holes, so you are stuck with the stock cooler.
Just for kicks, I installed Folding@Home in my fully modified system to see how it ran and how hot it would get. I would NOT recommend you do this on this system! Running Folding@Home pushed the system power consumption from 42 watts at idle to 237 watts. That is no problem for that 400W 80+ Platinum power supply.
The real problem is the temperatures I saw in GPU-Z. The CPU temperature went up to 90C, which is much too hot for my liking. There was definitely thermal throttling going on.
Keep in mind, I was using a 95W TDP CPU (which exceeds the design specifications of the system). The stock CPU cooler cannot handle this thermal load, especially in this small system case. The case only has one 92mm exhaust fan at the rear and a large group (4.5″ x 6″) of inlet ventilation holes on the right side. This is fine for normal usage, but not for Folding.
The BIOS does not expose any fan curve or speed controls. You could get a PWM fan splitter and then rig a 120mm case fan to push air into those inlet holes, but it would have to be on the outside of the case. Another cooling improvement would be to use Silverstone AEROSLOT PCIe slot covers to improve the exhaust flow out the back of the case.
So what is the final verdict? Well, I still think this is a nice entry-level gaming system, even completely stock. If all you want to do is 1080P gaming, it will work quite well with no upgrades. If you want more performance and flexibility, here are the next steps, in order.
- Get a second 8GB stick of RAM
- This should cost $40-$50
- Get an inexpensive 1TB 2.5″ SATA SSD for a storage drive
- This should cost $80-$100
- Most people can stop here
- Upgrade to a better GPU
- Anything small that can run on an eight-pin PCIe power cable
- Upgrade to an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
- This won’t help for gaming
- It would give you a lot more compute capacity for productivity tasks.
I had a lot of fun Benchmarking and Modding the Walmart Gaming PC!
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!