Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Basic Gaming PC for Kids

After a summer full of "OMG, why is it lagging so much!!!" being shouted out at seven in the morning (compounded by how we're all been sheltered at home due to covid-19), I realized that to preserve my sanity that I must give in and build the kids new PCs.

As a PC for the kids, my specifications are quite different than a machine that my livelihood relies upon:
  1. It must be able to run their commonly played games (primarily games like Minecraft and Roblox) at good frame rates and speed.
  2. Relatively inexpensive.
  3. Allow future expansion (defer as much cost to the future as possible).
Less important are small form-factor and ultra-quiet although there is some consideration giving that we have to put it somewhere and don't want it so loud that they would complain about it later.  I don't intend to do any type of over-clocking (they have to figure that out themselves if they really want that but I don't expect that for awhile).  Fortunately, the kids aren't into RGB lighting and other stuff to make their rigs "cool looking" but who knows what will tickle their fancy in the future.

The final configuration was:
The Ryzen 3 3200G is a 4-core/4-threads 3.6GHz CPU with integrated Radeon Vega 8 (noted by the "G" in the name).  Since gaming aren't core-intensive types of applications there isn't a reason to aim for high core count.  The Ryzen's integrated graphics are powerful enough for my kids' gaming so I can avoid getting a discrete graphics card initially.  AMD's stock CPU cooler is also generally considered to be good quality so there isn't a need to buy another CPU cooler especially (as opposed to Intel CPUs where it's usually recommended to get another CPU cooler and not use what it comes with).  At $100 it was also relatively inexpensive.  With this CPU, I can defer spending money on a graphics card, CPU cooler and additional case fans since I don't expect it to really generate high heat.  

The $70 ASRock  B450M-HDV R4.0 micro-atx motherboard is a basic, modern and has a good reputation motherboard.  It might not have the most cutting edge (usb type-c) or advanced features (dual 10gbits LAN) but it has all the modern features that are commonly needed (DDR4, PCIe, SATA3, M.2, USB3.1, gigabit LAN, HDMI, integrated audio).  On the opposite end of modern it also has DVI-D and D-Sub (VGA) connectors.  The board does NOT have built-in WIFI or Bluetooth though, but neither are used by my kids on the PC.

For the case, I went with the ThermalTake S100, a mid-tower micro-atx case.  It wasn't the cheapest case at $70 but also not a $90-$300 case either.  It is a basic but quality-built case.  I also chose it because micro-atx board are more abundant and cheaper, it being a "bigger" case means more space for components inside for either expansion or air flow.  Basically, I figured I didn't have to fill it up with cooling at the beginning since I'm not even putting in a discrete graphics card or worry about top-notch cable management.

For the PSU, I got the EVGA 600BA which I guess just came out right as I was shopping so there was inventory.  It's $70 and since I didn't know much about power supplies I went with a reputable brand and this price seemed reasonable.

For storage, I felt a 250GB SSD is sufficient and at $45 it was inexpensive.  For Steam gaming, they kids already had a external hard drive that they store an less played games on and when moving between computers it is just easier to bring the external drive. 

For memory, I got 16GB which is overkill for a gaming PC of this type (seems like 8GB is the sweet spot) but it was a little bit of future proofing since if I got 2x4 GB memory that means that future expansion would require replacement rather then addition.  16GB was $70 so one can save ~ $35 when going just with 8GB.

I didn't have to spend additional money on Windows 10 since I transferred it from their old computer so the final cost of the build was:

CPU:    $ 100
MB:     $  70
Case:   $  70
PSU:    $  70
SSD:    $  45
Memory: $  70
Total:  $ 425

I'm sure the values will fluctuate, but I'm not someone who is keeping track of component pricing.  I shopped from what was available at the time I decided to buy.  I guess covid-19 has lead to increase in price of a lot of components although I think I avoided some of those (graphics card, popular gaming cases of YouTubers)

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