Best Gaming Desktops 2016

Gaming is evolving rapidly, and if you want to play gorgeous-looking titles like Doom, The Witcher 3 and Forza Horizon 3 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.

There are plenty of great choices aimed at specific types of gamers. For example, the inviting Alienware Alpha is ideal for those making the transition from consoles, while the super-premium Maingear Rush 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.

Getting VR-Ready

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.

You can use Valve's SteamVR Performance Test to ensure your PC is Vive-ready; Oculus offers a similar tool on the Rift's pre-order page.  

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.

Related Buying Guides:
Best PC Games
Best Gaming Mice
Best Gaming Keyboards
Best Game Controllers
Best Gaming Headsets
Create a new thread in the Off-Topic / General Discussion forum about this subject
    Your comment
  • bballbm
    Funny how you click the link for the Maingear Shift SuperStock and the $2199 price you quote in the article now STARTS at $2499 - I guess your recommendation gave them the opportunity to jack up the price. Guess I will be purchasing a Digital Storm after all - can't stand companies that pull this type of crap.
  • Troy46
    The Alienware system you show for under a grand can't be configured at their site that low. It does start at 699 but with a considerably older video card and with an i3 processor, not i5.
  • Tewlman
    I bought the Acer Predator G6 on your recommendation...playing fallout 4 and it runs 0ver 130 degrees F on normal no over-clocking. What can I do to cool this machine down. I put the fans on maximum and they are annoying even with noise cancelling headphones. I would not tell a friend to buy ths PC.
  • MikeAndronico
    @tewlman sorry to hear that! What config of the G6 did you buy and what settings are you playing Fallout on?
  • hardrockr1979
    Anyone have any comments on Lenovo Y700 with i7 processor?
  • asauterChicago
    Geez pre-builts are expensive. For $2000.00 you could easily configure a PC with two 980 ti's running in SLI. The $2,000 computer here only has a single GTX 970, a non-ssd hard drive, and only 8gb of ram.

    I thought I overspent at $1,500, and I have a water-cooled i7-6700, a 512gb SSD, and a Zotak 980 ti Amp Extreme, and 16gb of ram. So for the same price as the pre-built one listed, I could add a second 980ti, run them in SLI and still come out under the price listed as the pre-built and have like 10 times the power. I guess don't regret the frustration that came with building my own. A few hours of troubleshooting was worth it by a wide margin.
  • BrunoFunny
    Of course these are very good choices considering the cost/benefit but, still very overpriced comparing if you build your own setup. And nowadays you don't need to be a genius to build a PC. But you always have people who really don't want to spend time thinking and doesn't care spend more even if it's getting less. Even Terry Crews that is a not a tech area guy built his own PC.