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.
But there are tons of great options in between, from compact console-sized computers for the living room to exorbitant boutique beasts with RGB lights and multiple graphics cards. No matter your needs, here are the best gaming desktops to buy right now.
Latest News and Updates (Jan. 2019)
- The Asus ROG Mothership aims to split the difference between a gaming laptop and a gaming desktop, with a novel detachable design.
- Nvidia announced its new GeForce RTX 2060 card, which will offer ray-tracing capabilities at a relatively affordable $349.
- iBuyPower is working on a PC build with four gorgeous LED panels and a rotating chassis. The only downside is that it could cost up to $11,000.
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, Grand Theft Auto V and Middle-earth: Shadow of War 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 Horizon 4 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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