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

Build A PC For Your Kid

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.

Two Performance Levels

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.

  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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...
    Reply
  • 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)
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • acerace
    9534995 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:
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply