Gaming is evolving rapidly, and if you want to play gorgeous, expansive titles like Fallout 4 and Metal Gear Solid V at their maximum graphical potential, you'll want a gaming desktop.
We've tested more than a dozen 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 Digital Storm Bolt 3, thanks to its impressive design, strong performance and flexible pricing options.
There are plenty of great choices aimed at specific types of gamers. For example, the inviting Alienware X51 is ideal for those making the transition from consoles, while the superpremium Maingear Shift will satisfy those looking for insane power and tons of customization options.
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 Maingear Drift ($1,119 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 970 or AMD 290 graphics card, an Intel i5-4590 processor, 8GB of RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.3 port and Windows 7 or newer. The Vive requires similar specs, but demands less RAM at a minimum 4GB, and just requires a single USB 2.0 port. You will need HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer, however.
To make your choice easier, Oculus has given select PCs its Rift-ready seal of approval, and you can get some of them bundled with a Rift at a discount. HTC is planning to release bundles for the Vive as well.
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 Rainbow Six: Siege and Metro: Last Light on Ultra settings at 1080p, 2560 x 1600, and, when the hardware allows for it, 3840 x 2160 (more commonly known as 4K). We also simply play a ton of games, such as Grand Theft Auto V, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Metal Gear Solid V, at various graphic and resolution settings in order to give you a more anecdotal report on what gaming on these PCs feels like.
To better put each system's performance in perspective, we run a gamut of 3DMark graphics tests, including Fire Strike and Fire Strike Ultra. To test the CPU's muscle, we run Geekbench 3, as well as a spreadsheet macro test that measures how fast a system can match 20,000 names to their addresses. To test the hard drive, we measure how fast each PC can copy 4.97GB worth of multimedia files.
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