Build It: Picking Parts For Your Kid's Entry-Level Gaming PC

Cooling On A Low-End Budget

Bundled Thermal Solutions Don’t Cut It

Neither Intel’s nor AMD’s included CPU coolers are quiet or efficient. And both can run into major trouble if your ambient room temperature is too high, making it a hazard to open your windows in the summer. Consequently, we looked for CPU coolers that would operate a lot more effectively, while respecting our low-budget aspirations. We ended up choosing two Cooler Master-based solutions for testing.

Cheap or affordable? You don't always have to call in the big gunsCheap or affordable? You don't always have to call in the big guns

These two models cost about $18 and $35, respectively. AMD's A8-3850 is most likely to run into trouble with a smaller heat sink, since it runs warmer than the other three CPUs. So, first, let's see if the larger cooler is necessary, or if we can get away with the smaller one.

Temperature and Noise Benchmarks

Surprisingly (and pleasantly, the smaller heat sink manages to cool all four processors adequately. It did reach its limits, though, so if you want to really emphasize conservative acoustics or turn your thermostat up to save money on the electricity bill, the larger cooler might be advisable.

Blowing up(ward): This is a common problem with tower coolers and Socket AM2/3 systemsBlowing up(ward): This is a common problem with tower coolers and Socket AM2/3 systems

Of course, while the thermal benchmarks are important, it's also critical that your heat sink of choice fits into the case you want to use. This can be a problem for AMD-based systems. If the original bracket is used to mount the CPU cooler on the motherboard, heated air is often blown toward the top of the case instead of the back. If you have a graphics card installed underneath and there's no ventilation up top, the resulting cooling setup will probably turn out to be sub-par.

You can use a bigger heat sink, but it won't help muchYou can use a bigger heat sink, but it won't help much

CPU/APU
Cooler Master Hyper TX 3 (Evo)
Cooler Master 212 Evo
AMD A8-3850
Adequate
Good
AMD A6-3650
Good
Good
      Intel Pentium G620       Good
Very Good
Intel Celeron G530
Good
Very Good
Price
$18
$35


Bottom Line

The cheaper heat sink/fan combination manages to cool all four tested systems, including AMD’s 100 W-TDP APUs in a closed case. However, the larger, more expensive model buys you more headroom for higher temperatures and less noise. We’re calling this one a draw and recommending that you make your choice based on personal preference.

Now, for a look at system memory.

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    Top Comments
  • velocityg4
    Interesting, but I'm assuming most parents that build there own computers, game and read toms hardware would be better suited just giving their kids their old gaming PC's. Since many this enthusiastic will already be replacing them every couple of years. Now they have another excuse to replace them and their kids get computers made from former high end and quality parts that are still very fast and more than capable of playing any kids games and edutacational/edutainment software.

    Although I say just give them an Apple IIe so they can learn on what we learned on in school.
    26
  • s3anister
    velocityg4Interesting, but I'm assuming most parents that build there own computers, game and read toms hardware would be better suited just giving their kids their old gaming PC's.

    I see the reasoning in this, however, for someone like myself I found this an interesting article; as I'm actually about to build a computer for my nieces and they do not need a fully featured gaming rig. It doesn't make sense to give them a machine that doesn't suit their needs and I'm sure many other parents/uncles/aunts are in the same boat.
    23
  • bliq00
    why didn't the author post the stock cooling solution temps. Personally I've always found that the stock intel cooling was both quiet and sufficient, even in mini itx cases. I'm curious how big the difference is. if the diff is just 10-15%, I don't think it's worth spending extra on a 3rd party cooler for a kids computer.
    22
  • Other Comments
  • velocityg4
    Interesting, but I'm assuming most parents that build there own computers, game and read toms hardware would be better suited just giving their kids their old gaming PC's. Since many this enthusiastic will already be replacing them every couple of years. Now they have another excuse to replace them and their kids get computers made from former high end and quality parts that are still very fast and more than capable of playing any kids games and edutacational/edutainment software.

    Although I say just give them an Apple IIe so they can learn on what we learned on in school.
    26
  • s3anister
    velocityg4Interesting, but I'm assuming most parents that build there own computers, game and read toms hardware would be better suited just giving their kids their old gaming PC's.

    I see the reasoning in this, however, for someone like myself I found this an interesting article; as I'm actually about to build a computer for my nieces and they do not need a fully featured gaming rig. It doesn't make sense to give them a machine that doesn't suit their needs and I'm sure many other parents/uncles/aunts are in the same boat.
    23
  • JOSHSKORN
    or at that age, you could just buy an Android tablet or an overpriced iCraplet. Both probably support AngryBirds or other games and you can take them along to trips, dinners, church and other events to shut them up.
    -22
  • belardo
    JOSHSKORNor at that age, you could just buy an Android tablet or an overpriced iCraplet. Both probably support AngryBirds or other games and you can take them along to trips, dinners, church and other events to shut them up.
    So show me a top of the line Android tablet that costs less than the "overpriced" iPad...
    -22
  • Maximus_Delta
    iCrap (something for the fashion victims & super creative types to show off whilst sipping their skinny lattes in starbucks whilst facebooking their friends about the fact that are in starbucks, having lattes, and got a new iPad / macbook)
    17
  • belardo
    What *YOU* do is hand your kid the OLD computer when you upgrade. But yeah, since about the age of 1 and a half, my son has had his own PC... keeps if off ours. He did damage his CRT monitor with paint - which was somewhat cleaned up. Fine. His first was a client's out-dated Pentium III-1Ghz which he paid $2500 when it was NEW. Then he got a compaq handme down from mom.

    Today, age 7: AMD X4 CPU, 4GB RAM, ATI 4670 card I built from various parts. I use it for background work since its so powerful. He does his educational and game software on it.

    When I was age 7, the Apple II was just released and most people didn't know what one was. It wasn't until 1980 that we started seeing these $1200~3000 computers... usually in the school library with 1 or 2 units. My 1985 PC: 1-2Mhz 128k RAM, 360k floppy drive system with a monitor was $900+. I still have it and it works. I forgot how to use it.

    Suggestions when building a PC for 3~8 year olds: buy a logitech notebook mouse ($15~20) as these are smaller but perfect for little hands. Use a cheap keyboard as kids tend to be messy and destroy them. if they are real young (1~3yrs old) try to get your hands on a CRT. Harder to knock over, costs $0~5 if you can find one.

    Also, a $200~250 netbook makes a good "notebook" for young kids (4~9 years old). Or give your kid your old notebook. My kid was given a 17" notebook a friend gave away when he upgraded.
    13
  • acerace
    Anonymous said:
    So show me a top of the line Android tablet that costs less than the "overpriced" iPad...


    You're feeding the troll, genius. :heink:
    14
  • JohnnyLucky
    Leave out the bling and dedicated video card for a basic pc for grandma and grandpa! I've already built a couple for senior citizens who are not gamers.

    BTW - there is an option to dedicate some of the memory to the integrated graphics. I installed inexpensive 8GB memory and dedicated 2GB to the graphics. What I don't know is if it makes a real difference. Would that help gamers?
    2
  • amdfangirl
    JohnnyLuckyLeave out the bling and dedicated video card for a basic pc for grandma and grandpa! I've already built a couple for senior citizens who are not gamers. BTW - there is an option to dedicate some of the memory to the integrated graphics. I installed inexpensive 8GB memory and dedicated 2GB to the graphics. What I don't know is if it makes a real difference. Would that help gamers?

    More or less dependant on the speed of the RAM.
    1
  • Proximon
    After all that build up a cheap PSU is used based entirely on claims written on the box. No reviews exist and apparently Cooler Master knows it's junk because they haven't bothered to get it certified by 80plus.
    2
  • bliq00
    why didn't the author post the stock cooling solution temps. Personally I've always found that the stock intel cooling was both quiet and sufficient, even in mini itx cases. I'm curious how big the difference is. if the diff is just 10-15%, I don't think it's worth spending extra on a 3rd party cooler for a kids computer.
    22
  • amdfangirl
    Anonymous said:
    After all that build up a cheap PSU is used based entirely on claims written on the box. No reviews exist and apparently Cooler Master knows it's junk because they haven't bothered to get it certified by 80plus.


    I'd just go with the Antec Earthwatts series.
    4
  • killeeeeer
    Its funny how its PC for kids and they benchmarked Gta IV, the 3850 seems the way to go better than buying and i3 or g someing and buying like GT520 as the 3850 beats the 520 in benchmarks
    3
  • FormatC
    The GT 520 is slower than A8-3850. Take a look at the Charts 2011 :)
    0
  • killeeeeer
    FormatCThe GT 520 is slower than A8-3850. Take a look at the Charts 2011
    "as the 3850 beats the 520 in benchmarks " read carefully
    4
  • FormatC
    At first: sorry
    English is for me nothing more than one foreign language and if I read over this posts quickly once...

    I found GTA (Vice City, San Andreas and/or GTA IV / EFLC) on each childs computer (boys, 10 years and older) and this old game is a good example for benchmarks, not more. Other older games are running on each toaster, if you oc'ed him from 110 to 230 Volt :D
    -7
  • de5_Roy
    nice read. :)
    interesting choice, benching gta iv for a kid's pc...lol i know it was to test platform strength.. i hope it wasn't in the pc when it was handed to him. 7750 was a very good choice.
    some people might argue why the amd apus were not overclocked so that they could outperform pentiums for gaming and the apus' higher performance in 3d rendering and pov ray tracing.. :D
    i am a bit skeptical about cm gx psu... overall good performance for money from both intel and amd builds.
    3
  • emad_ramlawi
    This is Cooler Master advertisement ...

    Tough Times huh Tom ...
    -5
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    This is Cooler Master advertisement ...
    Tough Times huh Tom ...


    No, this is what I had on matching components in my lab here, because we have recently tested these parts. This is a so-called recycling :D
    9
  • daglesj
    Once finished building your 'kids' PC I'd recommend cloning the finished build to another HDD and putting it away on a shelf......for a week or two later when they have messed it all up.
    8