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Does your child always want to use your PC? Is it time to build him his own? If you don't trust the tier-one vendors to sell you a well-balanced machine, you'll be happy to know that you can piece together your own entry-level box for less than $450.
Your kid nags you about wanting to use your computer, and because you read Tom's Hardware, you're probably proud to see him or her walking in your footsteps. Maybe you don't mind your child jumping into your office chair and taking the family's workstation for a spin. Then again, though, when you sit back and really think about the important information on that system's hard drive, the hassle of reformatting and reinstalling software, and the cost of the components inside, perhaps unfettered access isn't the best idea after all.
How about building your little one a starter system of his own? Of course, that's easy for us to say, right? We're not the ones paying for it! But take a quick glance around the product pages of many top-tier builders. You'll likely notice a number of poorly-balanced systems at prices that aren't particularly compelling. We can at least help you save a little money and do the job right, right? You already know about the advantages of building your own machine, and those benefits apply to an entry-level configuration as well: lower cost, better-quality components, and more flexibility for upgrades down the road. We've seen too many inexpensive branded machines lacking even basic expansion, like a PCI Express x16 slot; talk about cutting corners.
Then again, you're probably used to building enthusiast-oriented PCs. Where do you even start with a budget-minded box? Today, we're looking at the hardware that goes into a starter system for a young one, focusing on good-enough performance that won't break your bank account.
We asked a handful of friends who are tech-savvy parents how they approached technology for their kids, and ended up with some interesting feedback (including a type of build that we don’t usually cover). We’ll design our computer around two different goals: first, to handle learning- and productivity-related tasks, plus a little light gaming, and second, in a more advanced configuration armed with extras like discrete graphics to enable more demanding games. Use those upgrades as motivators to incentivise good grades or disciplined allowance savings, giving your kids the sense that they're building their own machine, piece by piece.
It's certainly possible to build both our basic and higher-end systems without breaking the bank. But, there are a lot of choices you'll need to help make in laying the foundation for respectable baseline performance that scales well with additional hardware upgrades. For example, should you build an AMD APU-based machine, or use an Intel CPU with its integrated graphics component? Tough call. We'll help with the analysis to make it easier.