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The best gaming PCs in 2021

Best gaming PC
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best gaming PCs are the most powerful tool at your disposal for playing the most demanding games and a lot more. Blasting through hordes of foes at rapid frame rates and high resolutions is fun, but you can just as easily use a gaming rig for graphic design, animation or simply streaming movies and TV in beautiful 4K.

While the PS5 and Xbox Series X deliver plenty of power, they're still no match for one of the best gaming PCs. If you want fast-loading SSDs, gorgeous ray tracing, massive quantities of RAM, 4K resolution and 60+ fps frame rate, you don't have to wait until the consoles come back in stock; you can have the the best gaming PCs right now. And, unlike a console, you can upgrade PCs as better components becomes available.

We test new gaming PCs regularly to see if they pass muster for this list, and update the page as systems become available. Read on, and we'll help you find your next great gaming machine.

What are the best gaming PCs right now?

The best gaming PC right now is the the Alienware Aurora R11, thanks to its sleek, stylish design, blistering gaming performance and painless upgradability. If you want to be able to swap in newer graphics cards over time and don't want to deal with a bunch of screws and tools, the Aurora is for you.

If you're looking for the best cheap gaming PC, the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme VR is our top budget pick. One of our favorite mid-range options is the Dell G5 5090, which starts at a reasonable entry level, price, has an attractive design, and, like its bigger Alienware brother, is fairly easy to upgrade.

The Corsair One Pro i200 is a good choice for folks seeking a hybrid gaming machine for both graphic design work and play. There's also the MSI MEG Trident X, which boasts a gorgeous design and is small enough to fit into almost any gaming setup.

The best gaming PCs you can buy

Alienware Aurora R11 reviewTop Pick

(Image credit: Alienware)

1. Alienware Aurora R11

Best gaming PC overall

VR Ready: Yes | Processor: Up to Intel Core i9-10900F | RAM: Up to 128 GB | Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 | Storage: Up to 2 TB SSD + 2 TB HDD | Accessories: Dell Multimedia Keyboard, Dell Optical Mouse MS116AW

Powerful hardware
Distinctive design
Plentiful customization options
Runs hot and loud
Software needs work

The Alienware Aurora R11 is currently one of the best gaming PCs you can buy, whether you go for a modest model that costs $1,000, or a mighty behemoth that costs $5,000. This gorgeous, highly customizable device features a slick chassis with a striking oval faceplate, as well as hardware up to an Intel Core i9-10900F CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU.

The system can get pretty pricey, and the built-in Alienware software can be tetchy at times. But generally speaking, the Aurora R11 is built from the ground-up to run the latest and greatest games at peak settings, with frame rates exceeding 60 fps at 4K resolution, and 300 fps at 1080p resolution. It's also relatively easy to upgrade, thanks to a tool-free back plate and a fair amount of space inside for additional RAM and storage.

Read our full Alienware Aurora R11 review.

CyberPowerPC Gamer Extreme VR

(Image credit: CyberPowerPC)

2. CyberPowerPC Gamer Extreme VR

Best gaming PC value

VR Ready: Yes | Processor: Intel Core i5-8400 | RAM: 8GB | Graphics Card: Nvidia GTX 1660 | Storage: 1TB hard drive | Accessories: Cyberpower

Great performance for price
Upgradable
Included accessories
Bulky design

The CyberPower Gamer Xtreme VR is one of the best gaming PCs for folks who want to spend $800 without sacrificing much in the way of power. Packing a Core i5 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1660 graphics card, this desktop can run mainstream games at high settings and even handle virtual reality without much of a sweat. Better yet, the Gamer Xtreme VR is very easy to open up, making it a great starting point for gamers who eventually want to upgrade to more powerful parts. 

The Gamer Xtreme VR has long been a favorite at top online retailers, and for good reason. On top of its strong performance and low starting price, this machine has a fairly sleek and flashy design, complete with custom RGB lighting both on the fans and within the case. You also get a CyberPower keyboard and mouse right out of the box, so you can spend less time fetching extra accessories and more time fragging your friends online. 

MSI MEG Trident X review

(Image credit: MSI)

3. MSI MEG Trident X

Best gaming PC design

VR Ready: Yes | Processor: Up to Intel Core i9-10900K, 3.7-5.3 GHz | RAM: Up to 64 GB | Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti | Storage: Up to 1 TB SSD + 1 TB HDD | Accessories: MSI Clutch GM11 Mouse, MSI Vigor GK30 Keyboard

Powerful performance
Quiet cooling
Smart, compact design
Expensive
Subpar peripherals

The first thing you'll notice about the MSI MEG Trident X is that it's absolutely gorgeous. This small, angular machine fits easily into just about any gaming nook, and is ideal for either desktop or living room setups. The second thing you'll notice is that it runs games absolutely beautifully, whether you want to experience them at full HD, QHD or UHD settings. With a variety of processor, GPU and RAM options from which to choose, you'll be able to customize a machine that works for your games, and for your monitor.

Just be aware that no matter how you design the MEG Trident X, it's going to be expensive. Furthermore, the accessories it comes with — the MSI Clutch GM11 Mouse and MSI Vigor GK30 Keyboard — are mediocre at best, and disappointing at worst. Still, in terms of both physical design and raw performance, the MEG Trident X is one of the most gorgeous and functional gaming PCs on the market today.

Read our full MSI MEG Trident X review.

Corsair One Pro i200 review

(Image credit: Corsair)

4. Corsair One Pro i200

Best gaming PC hybrid

VR Ready: Yes | Processor: Intel Core i9-10940X | RAM: 64 GB | Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti | Storage: 2 TB SSD | Accessories: None

Gorgeous, compact design
Powerful hardware
Runs quietly
Incredibly expensive
Outdated GPU

The Corsair One Pro i200 is arguably the best gaming PC if you need a device for both work and play. This powerful machine packs an Intel Core i9-10940X CPU and an Nvidia GeFore RTX 2080 Ti GPU. That's admittedly not the newest gear, but it's still more than capable of running the latest games at high settings, or churning through massive amounts of graphic design or video projects.

The real selling point of the Corsair One Pro i200, though, might just be its chassis. This PC is about as small and light as pre-built gaming desktops come, at only 15 x 8 x 7 inches and 23 pounds. Furthermore, the device is absolutely gorgeous, with a tasteful gunmetal color scheme, and two programamble LED lights. You might need a few more USB ports than this system offers for heavy-duty creative work, but if you can afford the One Pro i200, it'll serve you well both professionally and for fun.

Read our full Corsair One Pro i200 review.

Dell G5 5090

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Dell G5 Gaming Desktop 5090

Best gaming PC for beginners

VR Ready: Yes | Processor: Up to 9th Gen Intel Core i7 9700 | RAM: Up to 64GB | Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia RTX 2080 | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD + 2TB hard drive | Accessories: Dell optical mouse and multimedia keyboard

Good productivity and gaming performance
Reasonably priced
Great chassis
Preinstalled software can be a pain
Not ideal for QHD/UHD gaming

The Dell G5 5090 is one of the best gaming PCs for folks who want a solid entry level machine that's very easy to upgrade. This fairy affordable desktop starts with a modest Core i3 processor and Nvidia GTX 1650 card, but can be outfitted with up to a Core i7 CPU and RTX 2080 GPU for more intensive gaming.

One of the G5's biggest selling points is its sleek, foolproof chassis, which is incredibly easy to open up should you want to swap out components over time. We found Dell's desktop to be reliable for playing AAA games at 1080p and 60 frames per second, and like that the machine comes mostly free of bloatware. Overall, if you need a good, affordable desktop that you can make more powerful over time, the Dell G5 5090 is a great choice.

Read our full Dell G5 5090 review

How to choose the best gaming PC for you

Price: If affordability is your concern, most decent gaming PCs start around $700 to $1,000. For that price, you're looking at specs such as Intel Core i3 and Core i5 processors, Nvidia 1660 and 1660 Ti GPUs and 8GB to 16GB of RAM.

Performance: Think about the type of gaming experience you're after. If its solid 1080p/60fps gaming you want, a machine with a decent Core i5 processor and GeForce 2060 or AMD Radeon RX 5600 GPU will get you there. Cards such as the Radeon RX 5700 and GeForce 2080 hit a nice sweet spot for dependable 1440p gaming. Going 4K? You'll want to spring for hardware such as an RTX 3080 or AMD RX 6800.

Upgradability: Gaming PC components are always evolving, and the best gaming PCs can be easily upgraded with new parts over time. Machines such as the Alienware Aurora and Dell G5 are easy to open up and tinker with, even for the less tech-savvy. Compact machines, such as the Corsair One, can be a bit harder to open up. So if you plan on upgrading your investment over time, keep this in mind.

VR-readiness: Want to game in VR? Requirements for headsets such as the Oculus Rift S and HTC Vive start at an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 GPU, an Intel Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a DisplayPort 1.2 or mini DisplayPort. Make sure your machine meets this requirements before you plunk down cash for one. 

How we test the best gaming PCs

In our search to find the best gaming PC, we run every model we review through a standardized gauntlet of real-world and benchmark tests, in order to measure how each desktop 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 Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry: New Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2 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 play tons of graphics-intensive games in order to give you a sense of how these gaming desktops hold up anecdotally.

In terms of synthetic tests, we run a gamut of benchmarks that include 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra (for graphics) and Geekbench 4 and 5 (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.

Check out all of our desktop computer coverage:

Best computers | Best all-in-one computers | Best mini PCs | best gaming keyboards | best gaming desks | best gaming monitors |

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2196090/gaming-desktops-2015.html
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • MikeAndronico
    @tewlman sorry to hear that! What config of the G6 did you buy and what settings are you playing Fallout on?
    Reply
  • hardrockr1979
    Anyone have any comments on Lenovo Y700 with i7 processor?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • BlakePE
    wow doesn't really answer the question though
    Reply
  • meme_lord
    how the hell is alienware area 51 not here? it has 64 GB of ram
    Reply