Update: A new hotness in the Origin Millennium has kicked Acer's Preadtor G3-605 off the list. See why below.
PC gaming is currently in better shape than it has been for years. Software sales are up, developers now take both the platform and players more seriously and innovative form-factors like the HP Omen X make the hardware just as charming – if not more – than consoles.
The fantastic simplicity of services like Steam makes buying PC games easy as pie, and the PC's open nature gives you a great choice of hardware. Graphics cards, storage, processors and memory are interchangeable on the PC in a way that no other platform can compete with. And, with a PC that has a really high specification, the visuals and resolutions it can manage are far superior to even the Xbox One and PS4.
A great gaming computer doesn't come cheap though. You'll have to dig deep into your pocket for a PC that has the most powerful graphics card, a top-end "Haswell" or "Skylake" processor which has been overclocked by the PC vendor, and an ultra fast SSD. But, if you love gaming, the considerable expense is absolutely worth it.
The single most important piece of advice for anyone shopping for a gaming PC is to get a powerful graphics card. The graphics processor affects a game's frame rate and visual detail more than any other component. But, of course, you'll also want to make sure the rest of the computer cuts the mustard as well.
Or, you could just buy one of the 10 stellar gaming PCs that we recommend below. Your call.
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A beefy LAN-friendly PC with a tasty design
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (3,866MHz) | Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD; 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD | Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet; Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi | Power supply: SuperFlower 1000W | Ports: 4 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio
The latest Overclockers machine is one of the best-designed gaming PCs we've ever seen, with bespoke water-cooling, a great color scheme and keen attention to detail. It pairs its great design with class-leading performance in games and applications, and it's never hot or loud. It's expensive and niche, however, with limited upgrade potential. If you're looking for an attractive (and unique) LAN-friendly gaming PC that can handle anything from 4K gaming to VR, The Asteroid is an out-of-this-world machine with a price tag that will bring you back down to earth.
Read the full review: Overclockers Asteroid
A gaming PC that constantly runs in top gear
CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti (8GB GDDR5) | RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 400GB Intel SSD (PCIe, NVMe Gen-3), 4TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (7,200 rpm) | Connectivity: 2X RJ-45 Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth radio adaptors | Ports: 12 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x SPDIF-Out, Mic, Line-In and Line-Out ports
The Maingear Shift is the very definition of a luxury gaming PC. It's practically guaranteed to handle 4K and VR gaming with ease thanks to the Nvidia GTX 980Ti graphics card inside, which packs a huge 8GB of virtual memory. Despite a few nagging component issues, this build is a visually stunning 'flagship gaming PC.' It costs a bomb, though, so be prepared to empty your wallet for one - and then some.
Read the full review: Maingear Shift
Lenovo Ideacentre Y900
A forward-looking gaming desktop for PC enthusiasts
CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core, up to 4.2GHz, 8MB cache) | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4GB GDDR5 RAM) | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133 MHz) | Storage: 2TB + 8GB SSHD with 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, DVI, 7.1 analog audio out, optical audio out, headphone jack, microphone jack, PS/2 combo, 7-in-1 card reader
This gaming desktop might come in a designer case wrapping, but it's much more accessible and easy to upgrade than your average pre-built system short of a boutique. The arrival of the Y900, among a few other machines on this very list, herald a eureka moment in the major vendors' approach to PC gaming: give the people exactly what they want. A tool-less internal design will help soften the blow of some less-than-optimal cable management, meanwhile the device has plenty of room for expansions and upgrades. If you want the lowest friction possible getting into PC gaming, this is fine place to start.
Read the full review: Lenovo Ideacentre Y900
Alienware Area 51
A beautiful looking and well-designed gaming machine
CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K (overclocked to 3.8GHz) | Graphics: AMD Radeon R370 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB 7200rpm hard drive | Features: Custom Alienware Chassis, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless
Looking at some of the gaming PCs in this article, it's clear that some manufacturers go to considerable lengths to present great looking custom chassis designs – but we think the Area 51, from Dell subsidiary Alienware, beats them all by a wide margin. A pentagon when viewed from the side, with a soft blue glow, the components are angled for easier access, and the entire design is incredibly funky. With the entry-level model, you get a liquid cooled overclocked processor and AMD graphics, but configurations with dual Nvidia GeForce cards are an option, although you'll need to dig quite deep into your pocket to purchase them.
Read our hands-on review: Alienware Area 51
Alienware Aurora R5
Alienware's iconic gaming PC returns as a mini powerhouse
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD, 2TB HDD | Features: 850W PSU, uniquely futuristic chassis
One of the few PCs on this list to earn a perfect score, the Alienware Aurora R5 combines design elements traditional to Dell's famed luxury gaming brand with a handful of contemporary twists. The nigh-mini ITX computer bears resemblance to, say, the Area 51, but with a case that feels strikingly more native to our home planet. Of course, it simultaneously boasts top-of-the-line specs; an overclockable K-series Intel Core i7 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1080 and a massively capable 850W power supply are just a few of the Aurora R5's redeeming qualities. Plus, even with the small chassis, there's plenty of room for an unparalleled SLI configuration.
Read the full review: Alienware Aurora R5
Two times 1080 equals 4K at 60fps
CPU: Intel Core i7-6950X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB Samsung 950 Pro (NVMe M.2), 1TB HDD | Features: Six-bay hard drive cage, variable mounting support, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless
Sure, for the price of an Origin Millennium PC, you could buy a halfway decent car. But why would you want to leave the house when you can game at a 4K resolution complemented by a buttery smooth 60fps? That's the question Origin hopes you'll ask when you talk to your spouse about dropping six grand on a new gaming rig. Between its pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition twins and the new Intel Broadwell-E Core i7-6950X processor, there is nothing the Origin Millennium can't handle – and on the best of the best displays at that. Of course, it's expensive; it's like ten years worth of future-proof.
Read the full review: Origin Millennium
HP Envy Phoenix
HP has a good performer here, but the SSD is stingy
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 380 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Bang & Olufsen Audio, 802.11ac wireless
HP never comes up with a bad looking design, even for a standard-sized PC tower. The Phoenix looks great, with a bright red light running vertically down the front, which also benefits from a metallic finish. The AMD Radeon 380 in this configuration can deliver great gaming performance to match Nvidia's GeForce graphics cards. And there's a Haswell Core i7-4970k chip on board as well, which is a great gaming CPU. There's everything else you need for a good modern gaming experience too: an SSD and a hard disk plus 16GB of memory. There's no Skylake chip to be seen here, but we expect HP will follow with a new configuration soon.
MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix
This compact PC offers solid no-frills performance
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 2TB HDD | Features: Micro-ATX case, red lighting
We've had large PC cases, PC cases with a wacky design, and PC cases that fit both those descriptions. How about small PC cases? The MSI Nightblade comes in a MicroATX chassis, which adds a degree of portability, useful if you regularly take your PC to LAN parties. It looks pretty good too with red illumination underneath the front. Although beefier configurations are available, this one only comes with a GeForce GTX 960. Intel's venerable 4.4GHz Core i7-4790k is used as the processor and this machine still offers a lot of gaming performance in a small box.
Ultra HD that won't make your wallet cry
CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core-i5 6400 | Graphics: KFA2 GeForce GTX 1070 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz) | Storage: 1TB SATA | Power supply: 500w | Ports: 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports (front), 1 x USB 2.0 port (front), 2 x USB 2.0 ports (rear), 4 x USB 3.1 ports (rear), 4 x USB 3.1 ports (rear), 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x LAN (RJ45), 3 x audio jacks |
Interested in Ultra HD gaming without spending a fortune? Enter the StormForce Tornado, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070-equipped rig with the appearance of a spaceship and five drive bays for near-limitless internal storage potential. If you don't mind the extensive wait times of a hard drive (as opposed to a PCIe or M.2 SSD), the StormForce Tornado is a no-brainer. Starting at a mere £899 (about $1,180/AUS$1,540), the StormForce Tornado makes 1440p gaming (and even some 4K) affordable, and who doesn't want that?
Read the full review: StormForce Tornado
Scan 3XS Vengeance
A very speedy PC which can cope with demanding gaming
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCI-E SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, Be quiet! Dark Rock 3 CPU cooler, Corsair Obsidian 450D chassis, 750W PSU
Scan's 3XS Vengeance gaming computer very closely matches that of Chillblast's Fusion Master, with an overclocked Skylake processor for the fastest possible gaming performance and a powerful GeForce GTX 980 graphics card. This sort of setup will cope with any game up to 1440p resolution in maximum detail. The gap in price between the two systems can be attributed to small differences – a slightly smaller Samsung M.2 PCI Express SSD and less memory in Scan's default configuration. Whatever, the combination of Skylake and a GeForce GTX 980 will result in a very fast gaming PC.
Overclockers Titan Virtual Force
Virtual reality made easy
CPU: 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Connectivity: Ethernet | Ports: (Rear) 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0; (Top) 2 x USB 3.0, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, HDMI, microphone and headphone jack
Like many pre-built gaming desktops, the Titan Virtual Force is not tastefully designed nor is it particularly subtle. But very rarely when we buy gaming hardware are we as concerned about style over power – and holy hell is the Titan Virtual Force powerful. But it certainly needs to be seeing as the Titan Virtual Force is a gaming PC designed for use with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.
For $1,820, of course you could build your own PC with equivalent specs for cheaper, but buying pre-built is all about convenience which is clearly on the table here. Taking a ride on the VR bandwagon with the Titan Virtual Force doesn't require knowing how to mount a motherboard or install a CPU cooler, but it does demand a hefty chunk of change.
So long as you're happy with a GTX 980Ti paired with an Intel 6600K but only 8GB of RAM at the entry level, the Titan Virtual Force serves as an excellent shortcut too buttery smooth VR gaming on the high end.
Read the full review: Overclockers Titan Virtual Force
Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ
A powerful PC with a smart looking case and customisable lights
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | RAM: 12GB DDR3 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Features: 802.11ac wireless, six-core CPU, customisable lighting effects
If you want a tower PC that looks like it means business, the Republic Of Gamers G20AJ looks like it could be the best choice. Not only does it carry the Republic Of Gamers branding, reserved only for the top-end gaming products from Asus – all of which boast this signature red and black design – it also has a specification to match. We're talking a high-end GeForce graphics card, fast Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and both an SSD and hard disk, with built-in 802.11ac wireless. And call us immature, but we always love coloured lights on a gaming rig. Asus also used IFA 2015 to show off special edition of the machine that can squeeze in a Titan X for massive power.
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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article