Twin eagles: building matching Ryzen systems for teens

A wise man once said, "Fish, you idiot, Ryzen is almost here! You should have waited." It took a while, but all the way back in mid-June I finally got my hands on a Ryzen system—two of them, in fact. With the school year wrapped up, and an entire summer looming with kids in need of entertainment, two of my coworkers asked for my help replacing their sons' PCs.

Last time I built computers for these guys, it was four years ago, and the budget was much smaller. Back then, all those kids were doing on their PCs was playing Minecraft and Team Fortress 2, and two-core, two-thread Haswell Pentium G3220s and GeForce GTX 750 Tis were plenty good enough for their needs. Times have changed, though, and these now-teenagers use their PCs for a wide variety of tasks, including video editing, music creation, 3D modeling, live streaming, and much more demanding gaming. "What's a computer?" indeed...

Anyway, back to building these kids' new PCs. I said yeah, I'll build them, but on two conditions: one, that everyone participates in the process and two, that the kids document everything on their phones to produce a video I can share on TR after it's done. It took two and a half months, but they eventually got around to it. Amusingly, and in a fashion befitting teenagers since time immemorial, the video was haphazardly slapped together, rendered out on one of the new systems, and delivered  long after it was originally expected. Before we share that treat with you, though, let's take a look at the TR-staff-approved specs.

Given the current market, June is still looking like it was a good time to build.

Originally, the identical PCs were going to be Intel Core i5-8400 and GeForce GTX 1060-based builds. However, the first decent video card deal of the summer got the entire budget bumped up to a level that seemed like a better fit for a CPU with a bit more oomph (especially since the boys aren't strictly gaming on them). The builds went smoothly enough, and I had no major complaints about any of the components. It was odd to have to install motherboard standoffs, though. I haven't done that for a while. Oh, and if you ever build in a Focus G, hook up the front-panel audio connector before you install the PSU, because it can't fit through the gap otherwise.

Once the PCs got to their new home, our intrepid builders found that their chunky HDMI cables collided with the slots on the back of the case, preventing them from plugging in all the way. Many of you have probably seen that before. I suggested a DisplayPort adapter they could pick up locally, and that saved their first weekend of playing with the new systems. It was pretty much radio silence from them after that.

Now, brace yourselves for the video that was decidedly not crafted carefully during all that summer free-time (and got rejected by TR staff three times before they let me embed it).

I know it's not The Verge-level content, but if you can't stomach the whole thing, at least skip to here.

That, my friends, is an entire afternoon of education and explanation as seen by the mind of a 14-year old. You can almost hear the Charlie Brown adult-voice over the bass line. I'd like to think that some of the finer points of PC building sunk in, but I'm happy just having the kids participate in building their own rigs and getting introduced to the basics.

    Fast forward to today. Since we now have the perspective afforded by an entire summer of use, I'm happy to report that there have been no problems with either system. I was a bit nervous given the stock cooling and purported high temperatures of the attic-adjacent gaming room the PCs and their Xbox One cousins reside in. It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, because the boys asked for help installing Gigabytes's RGB Fusion software pretty early on and it wasn't much longer after that before they wanted to tweak other things, including fan-speed profiles. I guess that makes RGB LEDs the gateway component. Doesn't that just warm the heart?

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