entry-level gaming desktop HP pavilion

2020 was a year of adapting new circumstances and making time for activities that aren’t work. Building an entry-level gaming desktop was not part of the plan till my group of friends who are into all forms of video games (from making them to playing them and analyzing every aspect of gameplay) started discussing strategies for AoE II. While I’m not a big gamer because it’s a singular activity (and I’m not that great at it either), our interests overlapped on Age of Empires II1. I’ve had a Surface Pro 2016 as my personal laptop since, well, 2016 and I tried to run AOE II on it. I instantly started having fun but the game play was just bad with the trackpad, so I bought the wireless Razer Basilisk.

$600 was my arbitrary budget for the entry-level gaming desktop. I already had the monitor, keyboard and mouse

 

The Basilisk made the gameplay better but playing ranked multiplayer was expectedly terrible. To get the Ranked Score to 1000, I had to really reduce every setting under the graphics tab to its least (including resolution). And thus started my search to have a gaming desktop in the $600-$700 range, that was my arbitrary spending capacity on this machine. My friends were extremely helpful and I learned a lot of the GPU and CPU market, very quickly, thanks to them. I was more than happy to build the PC by myself but the current situation of the GPU market just wouldn’t get me a decent GPU at an affordable price.

A customized HP Pavilion quickly became a front-runner with its flexible configurations and cheaper than other vendors pricing for similar specs. It was still touching the $900 price range with a GTX 1660 Ti / 1660 Super. Then came along Lenovo Legion 5i, a $1200 machine, that had everything I wanted:

  1. A future-proof (3-4 year timeline) GPU: GTX 1660 Super
  2. A current-industry baseline CPU: Intel i7
  3. Decent RAM and storage: 16 GB, 256 SSD + 1 TB HDD
  4. A lit CPU case

The $1200 with tax price made it extremely difficult for me to even impulse buy this thing. The search continued… till my brother shared a Walmart link to the HP Pavilion with a 1650 S for $600. I was sold on the spec, price and the best part — Walmart was going to deliver it in 3 days. I bought it. Here’s the spec:

  1. Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3500
  2. Memory: 8 GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM (1 x 8 GB)
  3. Internal Storage: 256 GB SSD
  4. Graphics: GeForce GTX 1650 S with 4 GB GDDR6
  5. Windows 10 Home

So far, I’m enjoying the machine. I already had the following accessories that I was able to connect to the CPU and within 20 minutes, I was downloading Steam.

  1. Spectre 1920 x 1080 monitor (with built-in speakers) $150
  2. Logitech G703 $90
  3. Refurb Logitech wireless keyboard $30
  4. HDMI switcher $12 (to switch between work and fun)
  5. Skullcandy earphones $16

Here’s an overview of the specs and benchmarks:

  • UserBenchmarks: Game 55%, Desk 89%, Work 49%
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500 – 87.1%
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650S (Super) – 60.7%
  • SSD: SK hynix BC511 HFM256GDJTNI-82A0A 256GB – 172.7%
  • RAM: Samsung M378A1K43CB2-CTD 1x8GB – 51.1%
  • MBD: HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop TG01-0xxx

I ended up getting the HP extended warranty for 3 years, with a few discounts I got their Accidental Damage and Onsite support for $100. I also replaced the Razer Basilix for the G703 since the Razer was just terrible. (It kept losing connection in the middle of the game.)

 

Nothing has really changed about the PC buying experience in the last 20 years

 

A few things I learned through this process:

  1. PC Part Picker is a fun website
  2. Userbenchmark is a very helpful site and they have really great Google SEO for fantastic CPU/GPU comparison / benchmarking user experience (search on Google for GPU v GPU, and they’re the first result with GPU variations as toggle options)
  3. The GPU market has significant supply and demand issues
  4. AMD’s Ryzen series has reliable products
  5. Nvidia still has the best GPUs (GTX 1650 S, 1660 S, 2060, 30xx series are all solid choices — next time you feel like you’re behind on the GPU market, look for an “s” or “Ti” in Nvidia. S means Super and Ti is Titanium. Anything with an S / Ti is a better card, almost as good as the entry level of the next range: 1650 S = 1660, 1660 S/Ti = 2060… so on)
  6. HP is more flexible in customizing your configurations
  7. Dell and Lenovo have some amazing gaming desktop options (at a reasonable premium)
  8. Building your own PC has become a lot more complex with variations in specs of RAM, CPU coolers, Power Units, bootloader configurations etc., doesn’t come with Windows (so additional costs)
  9. Omen and Asus are expensive and not flexible in configurations, I struggle to understand their purpose
  10. Owning a decent machine is still at least a $1000 expense, and if it isn’t for someone who’d like to build it themselves, choose the OEM option (don’t have to worry about Windows either, can’t be using the XP key anymore)
  11. Best Buy, Walmart etc., have some good OEM pre-built systems that are worth considering if you’re in the market since these systems come with the GPUs you might want
  12. Nothing has really changed about the PC buying experience in the last 20 years

Here’s a comparison of the AoE II DE Ranked scores with the configurations:

Nvidia GTX 1650 Super AoE 2

Nvidia GTX 1650 Super Age of Empires II Graphics

Surface Pro 2016 for comparison:

entry-level gaming desktop HP pavilion
entry-level gaming desktop HP pavilion

The desktop in all its glory:

entry-level gaming desktop HP pavilion

My gaming social handles:

  1. AoE 2, SimCity, NFS series, and Fifa series are my favorites.