Build or pre-built?

Before we start, here is a part list that shows how much it would cost if you were to build a system yourself with similar specifications. I paid $1337.08 for my 750se. It is very hard to beat HP’s price, if possible at all. People who claim they can get the same stuff for cheaper probably have not actually written out a part list and done the math. What can be argued is how one might allocate the budget differently. Can I get a computer with GTX 980 Ti for less than $1337.08? Yes. But I’d have to give up something else.

Specifications:

HP ENVY 750se Desktop PC.
Product number: N3G97AV#ABA
HP also refers to this model as HP ENVY DESKTOP – 750-170SE CTO

The following options are chosen:

  • HP Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
  • 500W Power supply
  • HP Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 1×1 with Bluetooth M.2 NIC (Stone Peak 1)
  • 6th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6700K processor quad-core [4.0GHz, 8MB Shared Cache]
  • 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti [DL DVI-I, HDMI, DP, DP, DP]
  • 256GB 3D SSD

Also refer to the HP support page for 750-170se.
While we are on the subject, I want to note that it is a lot more difficult to find HP product specifications than Lenovo products. Lenovo has a great “Product Specification Reference” website that allows you to search for and filter products, and look up their specifications presented in a nice PDF format. The best part though is that I can easily find these information BEFORE I purchase a Lenovo product. With a simple model number e.g. “T450s” as the search term, I can find all information I need. With HP, however, very limited information can be found on “750” or “750se”. Only searching for “750-170se” will return useful details about on this system. The problem, however, was that I did not know about “-170se” suffix until I have actually placed the order.

Packaging:

Exterior:

The case appear slanted, but only because the front case feet are thicker than the rear ones. The frames are still rectangular. BTW can we have a proper case feet as opposed to just two bumps? These can easily scratch your tabletop surface.

The case uses an inverted-ATX design, which I am fine with. I find the best way to work on this computer is by putting it upside down, as you will see in my later pictures. That would make it a traditional microATX tower. The top panel is pretty sturdy so the computer has no problem resting on it.

Storage:

The 256 GB SSD is a SAMSUNG PM871. PM871 also has a 512 GB model. I wonder if that is what the 512 GB option is.
Samsung website. The specs of 256 GB PM871 are not particularly strong.

M.2 and NVMe support:

I don’t have a NVMe or M.2 drive myself. Based on this thread in HP Support Forum it appears that NVMe is indeed supported as a boot drive.

4/4/16 Update: Adding the second and third hard disk drive

The 256GB SSD is a fair $65 option, but what HP charges for a 512GB SSD is outrageous. The price for a second or third HDD is $74/$75, higher than what I am willing to pay but not terrible. The bigger issue is that you only have the option of 1 TB capacity drives. Naturally a question arises: Can I install an SSD or HDD myself?

The answer is yes. You need the following items:

  • Proper screws, 4 per drive
  • SATA data cable
  • For 2.5″ drives, a proper adapter

The 750se case is designed to house three 3.5″ drives. SATA power connectors are readily available for all three drives, but you need your own SATA data cable if you didn’t order more than one drive. The drive cage is designed to be tool-less. Install four screws on the hard drive, and then slide it into the rails. Very simple. The trick is to get the right screws. HP did not provide me with any extra. After trying some screws I have in my own inventory that did not work, I went on eBay and found a $5 pack of HP screws. It was marked for ENVY 700 series but turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

Not saying you have to buy HP screws. I am sure someone has found non-HP screws that work just fine. But they need to be sufficiently similar in terms of both shape and size, since the HP screws are very different from the typical computer screws I have seen. The advantage of using HP screws is that there will be no wiggle room between the hard drive and the cage.

I tried both a 2.5″ SSD and a 3.5″ HDD to test compatibility. No issues with either drive. The Intel 2.5″->3.5″ adapter worked flawlessly. But note that some adapters, such as the red plastic one (an eBay best-seller) in my picture, will not work. The adapter must strictly adhere to 3.5″ specification.

4/6/16 Update: The fourth hard disk drive

I was looking at the computer when I noticed this SATA power connector. Then I suddenly realized that I had forgotten about the remaining HDD bay.

IMG_2807

The 4th HDD bay sits underneath the slim optical disk drive. To access it you need to remove the front panel. It uses the same tool-less design as the main drive cage. Ideally you should use those proprietary HP screws I showed above.

The drive bay has a little cover that is easily removed and can be put back after you have installed a drive.

The 4th SATA power connector is just long enough to reach the 4th HDD bay. Cable routing is automatically taken care of. I custom build desktops too and I love the freedom. But I certainly appreciate pre-built OEM machines and this is one of the reasons why. When you can customize most parts of a computer like large system integrators such as Dell and HP, you will be able to build more integrated, compact and compatible systems.

Graphics Card:

The video card bracket/holder is just wide enough to house a reference GTX 980 Ti, which means that adding a backplate is not an option. Not that you need one.

CPU and Motherboard:

The motherboard is the HP Thimphu made by Pegatron. Main features:

  • Z170
  • 1* PCIe 3.0 x16
  • 1* PCIe 3.0 x1
  • 1* M.2. 2280.

CPU cooler uses 70 mm fan. Could not tell which OEM. Guessing Foxconn. Idling @ less than 30C with room temperature 20C. There is a pump fan header on the motherboard. But my machine is air-cooled apparently.

Keyboard and mouse:

This is one of the worst keyboard and mouse combo I have ever used. The set is actually the HP C6020 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo for those of you wondering. I hate it that HP does not make clear the model number on the configuration page, because this combo sucks. Just read the earliest review on that product page, which sums it up the best.

The keyboard and mouse share the same receiver. The keyboard is compact and light, but really is only good for casual typing. There is no zoning on this keyboard. Everything is cramped together and the layout is very different from the standard 104 keys. Blind locating the arrow keys and HOME, END, PG UP, PG DN is extremely difficult. Not a good productivity keyboard. Granted, if you spend a couple of months on it you can probably blind type just fine. I forced myself to use it for a week or so, but the learning is just not happening. Feature-wise the mouse is modern, but still the least comfortable mouse I have ever used from a major OEM. Don’t buy this set even though it’s only a $15 option.

Other Details:

The PSU is well-known at this point. Model DPS-500AB-20 A, HP P/N 746177-002. +12V max output is 470W combined. But a four-rail design on the 12V? Somebody help me make sense of this one.

In terms of cable management, this is certainly not the prettiest cable routing. But if you look closely, almost every cable is attached to some anchor point, from the thick 24pin connector to the thinnest Wi-Fi antenna wires. Even SATA data cables. There are cable management loops throughout the case and the use of cable ties is extensive. The video card support bracket is ugly but rock solid. There is nothing flashy in this case, but everything is reliable and practical. And that is I think what pre-built OEM systems are about.

This post is not be an exhaustive specification of the 750se, as mine is just one of the many possible configurations of this system. What I showed here might not apply to your system if yours is configured differently, although I do think that my component selections are popular enough that this post will help some potential buyers.

The 750se has been quite popular late 2015 and early 2016 thanks to HP’s aggressive promotions. Many customers looking to buy/upgrade their 750se want more details than what HP provides on their 750se product page. How many hard drives are supported and in what form factor? What is the 12V rail(s) configuration on the power supply? Who makes SSD? Maximum length of video card supported? What is the size of the case fan? What is the stock CPU cooler? etc. Some buyers have kindly supplied relevant information through various channels, but those information is sparse and hard to search for. Some of the pictures taken are not of the best quality. Some buyers do not make clear their system configuration when posting the information. Because the configuration of one component may depend on the selection of other components, different users sometimes provided seemingly conflicting information. Hopefully this post is useful for some.

Four Japanese websites provided some useful information for me before I placed my order. I have included them here. #1 #2 #3 #4

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