If you're serious about games, having the best gaming PC you can afford is absolutely essential. You can't beat a decent gaming PC for power, functionality, and access to the very best gaming experiences available in 2018. However, if you're new to PC gaming or you haven't upgraded your rig in years... it can be very intimidating picking the right one. After all, gaming PCs are expensive, and if you get hold of the wrong spec, or you don't set yourself up for the right kind of games, you could spend more money fixing it. Don't worry, though, as we've got a guide to the very best gaming PCs right here.
What makes the best gaming PC for you? Well, you need to consider the functionality you want from it. If you're looking to run the best PC games in 4K, and at a pretty constant 60fps, then you'll need something pretty powerful, and (very likely) with an Nvidia GeForce 1080ti graphics card. Which is expensive. Similarly, if you're looking to get set up with VR - be it an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive - you'll need a powerful PC. However, if you're content to run games at slightly lower spec (and, to be clear, you can get 4K performance from modest PC builds nowadays), then there are real bargains to be had at a lower price. They'll certainly run the best classic PC games. Do you need a PC that comes with all the kit - monitor, keyboard, mouse etc? Or are you just looking for the base unit? If you're looking to keep your PC in the living room, you'll need a smaller, more ergonomic case too, so it can fit alongside your TV. Here are the best gaming PC options - for a range of budgets - as recommended by our PC experts.
1. MSI Trident 3
An amazingly compact PC that’s well suited for VR
CPU: i5-7400 - i7-7700 | Graphics: Graphics: GTX 1050 Ti 4GB - GTX 1060 6GB | RAM: RAM: 8-32GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB HDD/120GB SSD - 2TB HDD | Optical drive: N/A | Ports: 8 x USB | Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless- AC 3168 + GigaBit LAN | Size: 13.93 x 3.84 x 9.90 in with stand
Modern PCs have been rejecting the traditional form factor for the last few years but MSI’s Trident 3 offering has one of the smallest footprints out there and is ideal if you’re still clinging onto your console for dear life. The Trident will happily sit under your TV while firing exceptional graphics via HDMI with none of those pesky limits of PS4 or Xbox gaming. It’s worth saying though that the pay-off for the small size is the cost, which is considerably higher than a traditional PC build with the same components but given that all you’ll need is your TV and a free HDMI port, it’s a great step into PC gaming.
Invest in the model with the Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card and you’ll also be VR ready which is a serious selling point if you’ve had an eye on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. These have gradually been dropping in price, making them a far less expensive addition to your full PC build. One final selling point on the Trident 3 is just how ridiculously quiet it is. MSI has invested in some seriously peaceful tech that means you don’t have to turn up your TV when things whirr into action. Peace at last.
Best for… Those looking for a console replacement
2. Alienware Aurora
There's a gaming PC in this range for every budget
CPU: i3 8100/i5 8400/i7 8400 | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX560/ GTX 1050 Ti 4GB/ GTX 1060 6GB/ GTX 1080 8GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4/16GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB - 2TB HDD | Optical drive: DVD/RW | Ports: 15 x USB | Connectivity: RJ-45 Killer Networks e2500 Gigabit Ethernet Port
Don’t go! Alienware used to just be known for flashy lights and not much else but things have definitely changed for the PC manufacturer. Now happily owned by Dell, Alienware’s range is an impressive array of excellent PCs for all kinds of gaming needs. The Alienware Aurora is a perfect example. Available in four excellent flavours, the cheapest offering contains an i3 processor with an AMD Radeon RX560 graphics card, before going all the way up to VR ready behemoths with i7 processors and GTX 1080 graphics cards.
Everything is accessible inside the sleek case if you want to upgrade and there’s impressive customisation for the RGB lighting system. You didn’t think you’d get away from neons that easily, did you? If you aren’t fussed about 4K gaming or VR, the lower specced machines deliver excellent performance. You’ll also never be in need of a USB port ever again as the case delivers every port you could possibly want on your gaming PC. Throw in an included keyboard and mouse that will start you off on your journey and as reliable gaming PCs go, the Aurora is one of the best to beat.
Best for… Finding a reliable spec and shiny case to suit your budget
- Gaming monitor - No good having a great PC without a monitor to match
- Best gaming chairs - Your butt deserves the best
- The best PC headsets - Treat your ears!
3. Acer Aspire
A value gaming PC that can still put a console to shame
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1400 | Graphics: GTX 1050 (2GB) | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD | Optical drive: DVD/RW | Ports: 5 x USB 1 x USB-C | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi + LAN 10/100/1000 | Size: 18.2 x 6.9 x 15.7 in
If you're really not sure if PC gaming is the way to go and just want to dip your toe, or if you only want the minimum specs (maybe so you can add onto it in the future, maybe to use as a streaming machine), you probably don't want to blow tons of money on your pre-built. That's where the Acer Aspire comes in - which is to say it's well below the $1000 / £1000 line.
It comes equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card with 2GB of dedicated video memory, and a 1TB hard drive. None of these are top of the line components, of course, but they'll outperform everything save for maybe an Xbox One X. And for less than $800, it's a remarkable value. Keep in mind too that you can always give your Aspire a boost down the line with more RAM, an SSD, or a more powerful GPU. In the meantime, this will run most modern games at 1080p, 60fps on high or ultra settings, and that's nothing to sneeze at.
Best for... Those who don't need 4K yet and/or are on a budget
4. Corsair One Pro
A beast of PC at a beast of a price
CPU: i7-8700K 4.7Ghz | Graphics: GTX 1080 Ti 11GB | RAM: 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB HDD + 480GB SSD | Ports: 8 x USB | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi + LAN 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet | Size: 13.2 x 11.5 x 19.2 inches
Truth be told, this uber-powerful gaming PC lies just one step away from being the world's most powerful console. The Corsair One series is incredibly small and lightweight (at least considering how much power it's packing), has an attractive form factor. Also like a console, you'll void your warranty if you pop it open; yup, if you want to upgrade the Corsair One, you need to go through Corsair. So more than likely, what you see is what you'll get (and always get).
But dang, have you seen what you get? A 1080 Ti GeForce graphics card from Nvidia will display even today's most eye-searingly gorgeous games at their optimum, while an i7-8700k Intel processor will ensure you're always running smoothly (and quite future-proofed, too). You'll never have to worry about a bottleneck with 32GB of glorious DDR4 RAM, and a beefy SSD will give you a good amount of space to store your games, make startup near instant, and cause loading bars to disappear. If you want to save a little bit, you can bump each of these components down one notch (a 1080 GeForce graphics card, an i7-7700k Intel processor, 16GB of RAM) and still have a machine to be envious of.
Best for… Those hungry for 4K (and beyond), VR, and who will probably end up sticking with original parts
MSI Aegis 3
A portable party machine with an unconventional design
CPU: i5-7400 | Graphics: GTX 1060 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD | Optical drive: DVD | Ports: 6 x USB | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Size: 17 x 6.7 x 14.8 in
MSI is known more for their components than their complete pre-built gaming PCs, but that shouldn't stop you from considering the MSI Aegis 3. It's not the most ludicrously powerful machine out there, but it's far beyond a budget PC, too. And thanks to its lightweight, portable design (it has a built-in handle!) you can always say "yes" when your friend asks if you can bring your PC over for a LAN party.
Packed in the Aegis you'll find an Intel i5-7400 processor, a GTX 1060 with 3GB of onboard video memory, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB HDD. Really, the biggest drawback is the Aegis' garish design. Okay yes, it looks kinda cool and we're getting a certain Dead Space helmet vibe from it. If you're okay with that aesthetic, this is an excellent mid-range gaming PC (which is still miles beyond even the most powerful consoles).
Best for... Those who want to take a powerful (but not worldshaking) PC over to a friend's place
6. Alienware Alpha R2
A console-shaped rig that’s been purpose-built for streamlined gaming
CPU: i5-6400T | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD | Optical drive: NA | Ports: 4 x USB | Connectivity: Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 | Size: 7.87 x 2.17 x 7.87 in
Steam Machines can be a wonderful compromise between consoles and gaming PCs. They were sized for the living room and easy to set up and use like a console, but offer the power and versatility of a desktop PC. Alienware's newest generation of Steam Machines, the Alienware Alpha R2, has all that and more.
This little gaming PC that could isn't going to crush the competition or make your friends oo and ah over its bells and whistles. But with an i5-6400T CPU, GTX 960 graphics card, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, it'll output modern games just fine (The Witcher 3, for instance, can easily run at 60fps on the Alienware Alpha R2). It's also one of the most affordable gaming PCs, with configurations starting at just $599 from Dell US (Dell UK no longer sells the Alpha).
Best for... Budget-minded gamers who want a hassle-free, console-like experience
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