How to buy a computer for a child?

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Buying a computer is no fun. That’s where I said it. There are so many options, configurations, jargon and a constant stream of promotions. The shopping dynamic gets even more confusing when you’re looking for a computer for a child who may or may not have a specific task in mind.

For example, my daughter would like a computer for her schoolwork. Both of my sons are gamers who also strive to stream to Twitch for a living. Two completely different use cases with two completely different requirements.

Below I have summarized some of the most common requests from children and why they would need a computer, e.g. B. for gaming, for school or to become the next big YouTuber. I’ve also included several different options for different budgets.

Likewise: The 4 best desktop PC deals right now

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Your child wants to play video games

My anecdotal experience, courtesy of my own children, is that one of the most sought-after types of computers has to be a gaming PC. That means a computer powerful enough to play anything from Fall Guys or Minecraft to Fortnite and Call of Duty.

What makes a gaming computer a gaming computer? It plays a lot into it, but the gist is that ideally you want some sort of dedicated graphics card (GPU). A dedicated GPU gives gaming computers better graphics and performance. The downside to adding a dedicated GPU to a computer also increases the price – graphics cards don’t come cheap.

If your kid wants a gaming PC, but doesn’t play resource-intensive games (like Call of Duty or Red Dead Redemption 2), you can get by with a computer with integrated graphics (a graphics processor built into the CPU). Heck, I’ve had some success playing Fortnite on a PC I’ve built that used the integrated GPU that was built into AMD’s very affordable Ryzen 3 3200G processor.

Where to look: As well as graphics, you’ll also want to make sure a gaming PC has ample storage – 512GB is a good starting point – and at least 8GB of RAM, but preferably 16GB. Below are some recommendations for a gaming PC.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5/AMD Ryzen 3 5300G or newer.
  • Memory: At least 8 GB, but better 16 GB.
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650/AMD Radeon RX 5500 for low resolution gaming. Nvidia RTX 30 series/AMD Radeon RX 6800 for high-resolution gaming.
  • Storage: At least 512GB SSD. 1TB SSD or more is preferred.

Our game tips for children

budget option

That HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop starts at $639 for a system equipped with an AMD Ryzen 3 5300G processor and an AMD Radeon RX 5500 GPU, both of which are more than enough for 1080p gameplay in big titles. HP took a few shortcuts to bring the price below $650, namely that the Pavilion comes with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. That choice was originally an HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop, which cost $599 but was limited to just 256GB of storage. The current choice has recently dropped in price and is a better deal at just $40 more. Not bad. Not that bad.

mid-range option

Aegis RS 11TC-405US Gaming Desktop: MSI’s Aegis line of desktop gaming PCs look great and offer a lot of performance for the price. This particular option gets you a well-rounded build that includes Intel’s 11th Gen i5 11400F processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of SSD storage. Even better? It comes with all the RGB lighting that makes a gaming computer look so cool.

High-quality possibility

Streaming Pro BLD Kit: The best thing about a gaming PC is that you’re not stuck with what was in it the day you bought it. Assuming compatibility isn’t an issue, you can always upgrade the CPU, GPU, RAM, or add more memory. To learn which parts go where, it’s a good idea to build your first gaming PC. But rather than sourcing the parts yourself, a convenient and fun way to get hold of something like the NZXT Streaming Pro BLD Kit is.

You get a slight discount compared to a pre-built gaming PC, a toolkit, and step-by-step instructions to walk you through the build. The Streaming Pro build is the most expensive and powerful of the three gaming PCs featured here. It is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080Ti GPU, 32GB of memory and 1TB of storage. (There are more affordable BLD kits if that’s what you want but don’t want a high-end system. Try these here.)

Your child only has to do schoolwork

For basic everyday computing tasks, such as B. Schoolwork, you have a wider choice of options and operating systems. A Chromebook, for example, is more than capable of giving a student the ability to complete class work, whether on a dedicated school website or by typing a report into Google Docs. Of course, Windows PCs and Macs also come in a wide variety of configurations and models (this is truer of Windows than Mac).

Where to look: For a Mac or Windows system, try to find something within your specific budget with at least 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. You get by with 128 GB and the combination of a cloud storage service such as iCloud Drive, Google Drive or One Drive. With a Chromebook, you can still have a good experience with 4GB of storage. The amount of storage doesn’t matter as much as the speed of storage on a Chromebook due to the Google Drive integration. You should try to avoid anything with eMMC storage as it is slower than an SSD and you will notice performance impact.

  • Processor: Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 3 or newer
  • Memory: 8GB or more
  • GPU: N / A
  • Storage: 256GB or more

Our homework picks for kids

budget option

Lenovo Chromebook Duet: A Chromebook is a reliable and easy way to start a child’s computing journey. They’re relatively affordable, receive routine software updates, and have a strong track record when it comes to security. And they’re widely used in educational institutions, so whatever apps or websites kids use for lessons will work on a Chromebook. You also get access to Google’s suite of Docs, Spreadsheets, and Slides. The Lenovo Chromebook Duet has long been one of my favorite Chromebooks because it’s a 2-in-1 that comes with a detachable keyboard for under $300. And since everything on a Chromebook is stored in your Google Drive account, you don’t need a lot of storage space.

mid-range option

Surface Pro 8 with keyboard bundle: Microsoft is currently running a back-to-school promotion for the Surface Pro 8, giving you the base model Pro 8 with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of storage, and a 128GB SSD. That’s over $300 less than the typical price for this combo. All of Microsoft’s Surface options are worthy choices, and a Surface Pro 8 at this price point is no exception.

High end option

MacBook Air: Apple recently announced and released a completely redesigned MacBook Air. It’s the first major redesign in many years, combining an impressively thin chassis with a larger 13.6-inch display and Apple’s latest M2 processor. The M2 in the base model MacBook Air has an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU with 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage. The MacBook Air with the power of an M2 processor is overkill for basic schoolwork, but your child may grow from it for years to come. It’s even a good choice for someone who does light photo and video editing.

Your child wants to be a YouTuber

I haven’t met a kid over 5 who doesn’t want to be a YouTube personality. Whether it’s someone unpacking and playing with toys, filming animation, or playing video games, YouTube is life for most kids. However, to be a YouTuber, you need a computer powerful enough to edit hours and hours of videos.

Where to look: There’s a lot of overlap between a gaming PC and a computer designed for efficient video editing. If you’re using a Windows PC, you’ll actually want something with a dedicated GPU to speed up the editing process. But unlike a gaming PC, editing videos gives you the flexibility to choose Windows or Mac. Apple’s line of Macs are widely used for video editing, with the latest Apple Silicon processors having enough processing and graphics power to get the job done.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5/AMD Ryzen 3 5300G or newer.
  • Memory: At least 8GB but preferably 16GB or even 32GB for video editing.
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650/AMD Radeon RX 5500 or newer.
  • Storage: At least 512GB SSD. 1TB SSD or more is preferred.

Our children’s YouTuber tips

budget option

That AcerNitro5 makes it a respectable entry-level gaming laptop, meaning it handles video and photo editing with equal enthusiasm. This sub-$800 build gets you a 15.6-inch display, an Intel Core i5 processor, an Nvidia RTX 3050, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. It’s a basic build that’s good enough to get someone started with video editing while maybe playing a game or three in their free time.

mid-range option

That 13 inch MacBook Pro was recently updated with Apple’s M2 Apple Silicon processor. This new processor gives the 13-inch MacBook Pro faster performance while the laptop’s exterior has remained the same. The standard configuration of the 13-inch MacBook Pro has an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. I would suggest upgrading the storage of this build to 16GB and maybe doubling the storage to 512GB for enough space to store and edit footage. However, you can always use an external SSD to balance the storage space.

High end option

apples 14 inch MacBook Pro was the first Mac with the company’s refreshed design, with a larger display and a notch at the top. The MacBook Pro also has an SD card reader, three Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a MagSafe 3 port for charging. In addition to a new design, the 14-inch MacBook Pro features Apple’s M1 Pro Apple Silicon processor that lives up to its name for performance. For those interested in specs, the base model offers an 8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 16GB of storage, and a 512GB SSD.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of overlap between the options

Just because a computer is listed as an option for gaming or editing videos for your budding YouTube star doesn’t mean it can’t perform other tasks as well.

For example, all gaming PCs would be fully capable of editing videos. For parents with a child learning 3D or CAD design for video games or 3D printing, you really have multiple options – both Windows and Mac. Each of the MacBooks will get the job done, as will the gaming computers.

Macs are becoming more powerful and developers are starting to take notice, but they’re still not real gaming options. That’s really the only scenario where you’re limited to a specific operating system.

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