Gaming is evolving rapidly, and if you want to play gorgeous-looking titles like Battlefield 1, Forza Horizon 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda at their maximum graphical potential, you'll want a gaming desktop.
We've tested dozens of the most popular gaming PCs available, running our rigorous suite of benchmarks and playing several demanding games on each system. Our current overall favorite is the Alienware Aurora, thanks to its eye-catching design, easy upgradability and a variety of pricing options for both budget shoppers and VR enthusiasts.
No matter how you game, here are our favorite gaming PCs for every type of player.
What to Look For
Gaming PCs come in a near-endless variety of sizes, shapes and configurations, so you'll need to consider what type of player you are before you splurge for one.
If you want to reap the benefits of PC gaming while still being able to kick back with your couch and big-screen TV, machines such as the Alienware Alpha ($499 starting) and the MSI Trident ($899 starting) are sleek and compact enough to slip into your entertainment center.
Those who prefer customization, power and eye-catching designs should consider desktops such as the Origin Millennium ($1,731 starting) and Maingear Shift ($2,278 starting). If you have the space for them, these massive machines can be configured with the highest-end parts out there, and are easy to pop open if you want to add new components yourself.
If you plan on gaming in VR, pay close attention to specs. At the minimum, the Oculus Rift requires an Nvidia GTX 960 or AMD equivalent graphics card, an Intel Core i3-6100 or AMD FX4350 processor, 8GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.3 port and Windows 8 or newer. However, Oculus recommends at least a GTX 970 and Core i5 processor for the best experience.
For the Vive, HTC recommends a Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 CPU, an Nvidia GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 480 GPU, 4GB of RAM, an HDMI 1.4 port or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer, 1 USB 2.0 port and Windows 7 or newer.
How We Test
Every gaming desktop we review endures a standardized gauntlet of real-world and benchmark tests, in order to measure how each PC stacks up as both a gaming machine and as an everyday computer.
As far as hard numbers go, we currently run the framerate benchmark utilities for games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman and Metro: Last Light at 1920 x 1080 with graphics maxed out, as well as at 2560 x 1440 and 4K if a system allows for it. We also run a custom Grand Theft Auto V test at the same settings. On top of that, we simply play tons of graphics-intensive games such as Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4 and Doom in order to give you a sense of how these gaming desktops hold up in the real world.
In terms of synthetic tests, we run a gamut of benchmarks that include 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra (for graphics) and Geekbench 4 (for processor performance). We also run the SteamVR Performance Test on all of our machines to evaluate how ready they are for virtual reality. To test a system's hard drive, we measure how fast each PC can copy 4.97GB worth of multimedia files.
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