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The best gaming PC 2021: top desktops for playing games

Best gaming PC logo with Alienware desktop PC
(Image credit: Future / Dell)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Choosing the best gaming PC for your needs isn’t as easy as you might think. Depending on your budget and demands, you need to find that sweet spot between what you can afford and how much power you’ll need for the type of games you like to immerse in. And, although there are a lot of options out there, it’s also the well-built and designed ones that you have to focus on. Otherwise, you might end up with something that breaks down easily or isn’t future-proofed.

If you have deep pockets, then by all means buy the priciest PC for gaming you can find. But even then, it still doesn’t mean that that is the best value for your gaming needs. If you just enjoy the occasional session when you can find the time in your busy schedule, for example, it’s not really cost-effective to blow $5,000/£5,000 on one. On the other hand, just because you’re on a tight budget, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find an excellent piece of gaming kit that will deliver the smoothest experience.

That’s what we’re here for, to help you choose the most ideal gaming PC for you. From premium models like the highly-coveted Alienware to cheap kits from budget-friendly models, we put the best PCs for gaming 2021 has to offer on this list for you to peruse. 

MSI MEG Aegis Ti5 at an angle on a white background

(Image credit: MSI)

1. MSI MEG Aegis Ti5

Jaw-dropping design and specs

Specifications
CPU: Up to 10th-gen Intel Core i9
Graphics: Up to MSI GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: Up to up to 128GB
Storage: Up to 3TB HDD + 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Unbeatable performance in a unique looking chassis+Crazy specification options
Reasons to avoid
-USB ports selection could be better

Our favorite MSI MEG Aegis Ti5 config:

Intel Core i9-10900K | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
Whichever MSI MEG Aegis Ti5 model you go for, you’re guaranteed brute strength. But, if you have deep pockets, we recommend going all out with one of its highest configurations that comes with 32GB of memory.

Whether you love or hate the MSI MEG Aegis Ti5’s insane Transformer-esque chassis, you cannot deny its raw power. This bizarre-looking premium piece of kit from MSI has some breathtaking specs, its highest configuration featuring an Intel Core i9, the RTX 3080, and a whopping 128GB RAM. That means that whichever model you go for, you will be blown away by its performance. Of course, that only means that you should only invest if money isn’t an issue (or if you love that gamer aesthetic it’s playing up hard); otherwise, be prepared to burn a massive MEG Aegis Ti5-shaped hole in your pocket and scrimp with the best cheap PC games for a bit. 

Read the full review: MSI MEG Aegis Ti5

Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 from the side and from the front on a white background

(Image credit: Alienware)

2. Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

Powerful gaming for all budgets

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500 – 9 3950X
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5600 – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
RAM: 8GB – 64GB DDR4
Storage: 1TB 7200RPM SATA – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD + 2TB 7200RPM SATA
Reasons to buy
+Powerful specs+Affordable+Stunning design
Reasons to avoid
-Still very expensive at highest configurations

Our favorite Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 config:

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X | RTX 3080 | 16GB RAM
Want a gaming PC that'll handle any game with ease? Then, this is the model to get, with the sublime RTX 3080 GPU and powerful 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X CPU.

With AMD’s solid campaign to win the CPU and GPU markets, it’s no surprise that many of the best PCs are switching over Team Red’s cause. Our favorite Alienware Aurora gaming desktop PC line is among them, fitting its R10 models with AMD’s powerful yet affordable Ryzen CPUs. Not only do these deliver brute strength when it comes to gaming, but they also tout affordability, giving budget gamers to partake in what those with souped up rigs experience everyday without burning a hole in their pockets. This is the best gaming PC, bar none – especially with the next generation rocking with configurations touting the RTX 3090 for 8K resolution gaming.

Lenovo Legion Tower 5i at an angle with its RGB lighting on against a white background

(Image credit: Lenovo)

3. Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

Best for entry level PC gaming

Specifications
CPU: Up to 11-Gen Intel Core i9
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Super – RTX 3070
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4 : Up to 32GB DDR4
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Solid 1080p performance that’s great for esports+Easily upgradable when you need a power boost in the future
Reasons to avoid
-Entry level model GPU lacks ray tracing & DLSS

Our favorite Lenovo Legion Tower 5i config:

Intel Core i7-11700F | RTX 3060 | 16GB RAM
Although the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i is an ideal entry-level gaming PC, those looking for a more robust option will appreciate this mid-range model touting an i7 chip, the RTX 3060, and 16GB of memory.

Those new to PC gaming or are on a budget will appreciate the entry-level configurations that the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i comes in. It’s an affordable point of entry and is highly capable at handling the most popular esports and AAA titles available at 1080p. Though the most basic model lacks more modern GPU standards like ray tracing and DLSS, when you are ready to upgrade to the more robust specs, its black tower chassis is effortless to open and easily maneuverable for upgrades. If you’re just starting your journey through the world of PC gaming, you might be hard-pressed to find a better option than this.

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

MSI Trident 3 10th on a white background at an angle

(Image credit: MSI)

4. MSI Trident 3 10th

Best small form-factor gaming PC

Specifications
CPU: up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700
Graphics: up to MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Super
RAM: up to 64GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 1 x M.2 SSD + 1 x 2.5" HDD / SSD
Reasons to buy
+Esports-ready performance+Small form-factor+Plenty of front-facing ports
Reasons to avoid
-Entry level model runs off a hard drive-Not easily user-serviceable

Our favorite MSI Trident 3 10th config:

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3060 | 16GB RAM
The Nvidia RTX 3060 isn't the most powerful GPU, but for most people, especially those gaming at 1080p, it's an ideal choice that, as it offers excellent performance for an affordable price with most modern games.

If space is an issue, or you simply want a gaming PC set up right in your living room, then the MSI Trident 3 10th is worth considering. This isn’t just one of the smallest gaming PCs we've ever seen, not much larger than the best gaming laptops; it’s also more affordable than the competition with equivalent hardware. Without draining your wallet while touting a smaller footprint, the specs inside will be more than enough to ensure an excellent experience. And, as long as flashy RGB lighting and liquid cooling aren’t vital – and you don’t care much about upgradeability, this is the best gaming PC for you.

Read the full review: MSI Trident 3 10th

Acer Predator Orion 3000 showcasing its RGB lighting on a white background

(Image credit: Acer)

5. Acer Predator Orion 3000

Best compact gaming PC for 4K gaming

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-10700
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 500GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Smart build with lovely RGB+Great gaming performance matched with superb cooling
Reasons to avoid
-Headset grip can block front ports

Our favorite Acer Predator Orion 3000 config:

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
This model of the Acer Predator Orion 3000 strikes a perfect balance thanks to its Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU. It's not the highest-end gaming PC, but it's still a beast, especially at 1440p resolution.

The Acer Predator Orion 3000 is superbly built, with an attention to detail that’s practically unrivalled and a tidy, compact design that makes it so portable and easy to move. It’s RGB lighting is also something to behold, made even better by the FrostBlade fans and light bars on the side. It doesn’t stop on the outside. Inside, there’s plenty of power as well, with specs powerful enough to see gamers through immersive 4K and VR gaming. It doesn’t sit in the budget department, but for something that will last a few years into the future, it’s certainly a compelling purchase for gamers who care just as much about aesthetics as they do about performance. 

Read the full review: Acer Predator Orion 3000

HP OMEN 30L on a white background with its fans light on

(Image credit: HP)

6. HP Omen 30L

Simplicity meets power

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-10700K - Intel Core i9-10900K
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 - 3090
RAM: 16GB - 64GB
Storage: 512GB - 2TB SSD + 0 - 2TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Fair value+Capable performance
Reasons to avoid
-Constricted internals

Our favorite HP Omen 30L config:

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X | RTX 3060 | 8GB RAM
The HP Omen 30L comes with all kinds of spec, including a kitted out version with a powerful RTX 3090 and 32GB of RAM. For most people that will be overkill, and this model with a Ryzen 5 CPU and RTX 3060 will be much more suitable, especially when playing at 1080p.

The HP Omen 30L can come kitted out with some serious hardware, and it delivers on performance despite some tight internals that had us worried about airflow. There are other things to love as well – its few RGB zones, fair pricing, and elegant design are much appreciated as well. While the system does allow for customization, its tight confines may make it hard to do a lot of expansions, and there’s very little that can be done to add to the cooling. 

Read the full review: HP Omen 30L

Corsair Vengeance i4200 on a white background, with RGB fans

(Image credit: Corsair)

7. Corsair Vengeance i4200

Back with a vengeance

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X – Intel Core i7-10700KF
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super – 2080 Super
RAM: 16GB – 32GB DDR4-3200
Storage: 960GB NVMe SSD – 480GB NVMe SSD + 2TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Sleek tower and lighting design through iCue+Solid gaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Storage capacity is lacking

Blending its sleek mid-tower design with clever LED lighting controls and top-tier specs, the Corsair Vengeance i4200 is no slouch, even at its lower configuration (there are only two). It’s the more powerful one that you’d want to go for here – starting at $2,000, you might as well go big – with breathtaking specs like the Intel Core i7-10700KF and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super as well as up to 32GB of memory. If you’re a hardcore gamer, then this is one of the best gaming PCs for you without going completely broke. Though get ready to shell out a bit more for an external SSD, if you find the storage offerings a bit lacking.

Read the full review: Corsair Vengeance i4200

What should you look for when buying a new gaming PC?

While building a PC for gaming can be pricey or a bit of a hassle, excellent gaming PCs are more affordable than ever before. Even the Intel Comet Lake and AMD Ryzen 5000 chips, as well as the Nvidia Ampere or Big Navi GPUs, are more accessible than their predecessors, price-wise. So, don’t stress out over the cost so much. Whatever your budget, guaranteed you won’t have to compromise as much as you would think.

Whether you’re playing the best PC games or lower-budget free games, your priority should be choosing something that manages to be affordable to you without compromising on performance or scrimping on vital features like a healthy port selection and appealing RGB lighting. That could very well mean a pricey desktop PC that will see you through 4K gaming  or one of the best budget gaming PCs that will give you a smooth 1080p gaming experience. Don’t worry so much about the frills and the design unless your budget is flexible or you’ve got deep pockets.

Make sure that there’s also enough speedy RAM and fast storage. These days, an 8GB DDR4 memory is the minimum, but upgrade to 16GB if you can. Plenty of SSD storage is ideal as well, since many top titles take up a lot of space, although you can always get an additional drive later down the line.

Finally, make sure you have enough money for quality peripherals as well. After all, a gaming PC is only as good as its peripherals. Only when coupled with the best gaming monitor and the best gaming keyboards will yours be the stuff of legends. 

How we test gaming PCs

A gaming PC is a big purchase that shouldn’t be taken lightly, which is why we don’t take our testing lightly either. Testing gaming PCs is always a comprehensive undertaking for us, using it to play not only the latest or hottest games, but also older yet still demanding titles as well, noting things like performance – especially in gaming – and cooling efficiency. We also run synthetic benchmarks like PCMark 10, 3DMark and Geekbench 5.

Furthermore, we take a look at its design, things like availability of ports, expandability and upgradability, RGB lighting, and accessibility that its chassis offers. For good measure, we’ll also check how it does with daily tasks, because most of us don’t only use our gaming PCs for gaming; it serves as our everyday computer as well.

We then take everything we’ve learned about the gaming PC and compare it to its price – whether or not it’s performance and features are worth that price tag, and whether or not it offers the best value to customers.