Consoles are nice and all, but if you want to play gorgeous-looking titles like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II 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. If you're looking for a great gaming PC under $800, the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme VR is our top budget pick.
No matter how you game, here are our favorite gaming PCs for every type of player.
Latest News and Updates (Jan. 2018)
- At CES 2018, Digital Storm revealed Project Spark, one of the smallest gaming desktop PCs we've ever seen, which is smaller than a shoe box and manages to fit up to an 8th Gen Core i7 and up to a GTX 1080 GPU.
- Maingear's F131 desktop gaming PC is a rig with up to two GPUs (with the option for the Nvidia Titan V) and the brand-new Apex water-cooling system created just for this system.
- The HP Omen X Compact Desktop joins our list as our favorite VR desktop, thanks to its unique ability to delivered an untethered virtual reality experience.
- Zotac announced a new version of its Mek, upgrading it to an 8th-Gen Intel Core CPU, with options for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU and USB Type-C ports.
- Looking to put your new rig to the test? Check out our recently updated roundup of the best PC games to play right now.
How We Test Gaming PCs
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 Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman and Grand Theft Auto V at 1920 x 1080 with graphics maxed out, as well as at 2560 x 1440 and 4K if a system allows for it. On top of that, we simply play tons of graphics-intensive games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Injustice 2 and Forza Motorsport 7 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.
What Gaming PCs Cost
The price of gaming PCs varies wildly, depending on what specs you're after. You can find a decent rig for as low as $600, though you'll be settling for entry-level processors and graphics cards at that range. You'll need to pay between $800 and $1,000 to start getting into VR-ready territory, at at least $1,500 for something that can reasonably handle 4K gaming.
If money isn't an issue, there are plenty of boutique manufacturers such as OriginPC and Maingear that allow you to build the exorbitant, custom-painted PC of your dreams for anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000.
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.
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