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

Benchmark Results: Without Discrete Graphics

We know from personal experience and stories we've published in the past that AMD's APU generally offer passable 3D graphics. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the HD Graphics engine in Intel's Pentium and Celeron processors, which is even slower than the Core i3’s HD Graphics 2000. Naturally, we wonder how the Intel-based builds will fare in our gaming benchmarks. We have to use DirectX 9-based tests because Intel's graphics hardware is not DirectX 11-capable.

Integrated Graphics Benchmarks

We’re looking at several game-based metrics to get a general idea of what we can expect from our entry-level builds. In Crysis 2, the machine hosting an AMD A8-3850 is almost able to deliver playable performance. However, it slows down appreciably in large battles. The game is simply unplayable on the other three builds.

We used two different maps for our StarCraft II benchmark. As long as the scenario isn't CPU-limited, meaning it has fewer units on-screen, integrated graphics are our bottleneck. As soon as there are a lot of units on the map, the CPU holds up performance. Interestingly, this effect is much more pronounced on AMD's APUs, indicating that Intel’s Pentiums and Celerons are better able to cope with StarCraft II, but constrained by their anemic graphics (something we've seen many times in the past).

The performance story will get even more interesting, we suspect, when we start looking at the results with a discrete card installed.

For now, StarCraft II is playable on the AMD-based builds when there aren't too many units on the map. It's barely tolerable on the Intel-based configurations.

We witnessed a few glitches from the systems with Intel's Pentium and Celeron processors in DiRT 3 (transparent textures, for example). Other than that, the game ran on our Sandy Bridge-based setups. That doesn't mean they were playable, though. One again, AMD's two APUs did quite a bit better.

Last, we went back to a DirectX 9-based classic: Grand Theft Auto IV. Despite its reputation as a processor-limited title, AMD’s A8-3850 is the only contender able to generate playable frame rates.

Bottom Line

AMD’s A8-3850 makes it possible to play certain games at up to 1280x720. The other three candidates fall short.

Even though Intel’s graphics drivers have come a long way to improve image quality, stability, and game compatibility, the company's entry-level hardware (especially) just isn't good enough for gaming. So, if you're looking for a basic build with even some 3D potential, Intel's Pentium and Celeron processors on their own are simply insufficient. In fact, even AMD's A6 is a little light on gaming performance. Instead, the A8-3850 is the way to go.

Maybe Intel's offerings will fare better complemented by discrete graphics, since HD Graphics seem to be the design's weakest attribute (as we saw in StarCraft II).

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  • 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