The best gaming PCs to buy (May 2018)

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Fortnite. PUBG. League of Legends. Dota 2. World of Warcraft. Steam. The biggest and best games are on PC, waiting for you. But you don't want to just load these beautiful games up on any old potato - you want the fastest hard drive, the best graphics card, the most powerful RAM. In short, you want a great gaming PC, and that's what you'll get here.

But what is the best gaming PC for you in 2018? PCs built for gaming come in many shapes and sizes nowadays, and while you can still go for a behemoth - complete with a see-through panel and flashing lights - there are plenty of console-sized machines that aren’t going to bankrupt you and still give you the extra oomph you expect from a gaming PC. Below you'll find our comprehensive list of the best gaming desktop PCs you can buy this year (with have a separate article in case you're looking for a gaming laptop), with pros and cons spelled out in simple English. Let's dive in.

1. HP Pavilion Power

A value gaming PC that can still put a console to shame

CPU: i5-7400 | Graphics: GTX 1060 (3GB) | 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: 19.3 x 9.2 x 16.3 in

An excellent balance between value and price
Plays games at 1080p and 1440p like a champ
Not the beefiest machine
No fun bells or whistles like lighting

Our first pick is perfect for those who haven't yet invested in a 4K monitor, those who are just getting started with PC gaming, or longtime players who want a gaming PC for under $1000 /  £1000. While HP does have a dedicated gaming PC line, you can find a good deal by thinking outside the neon-lit box and going for something a bit more modest-looking. The HP Pavilion Power 580-023w (sorry it doesn't have a cool name like 'Panther Dragon') manages to squeeze a whole heck of a lot of power into a budget-friendly price, and for that it deserves your serious consideration.

It comes equipped with an Intel i5-7400 CPU, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card with 3GB of dedicated video memory, and a 1TB hard drive. None of these are top of the line components, of course. But for less than $800, it's a remarkable value - and keep in mind that you can always give it 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. And hey, it comes with mouse and keyboard, so there's another bit of savings. Get it on Amazon.

Best for... Those who don't need 4K yet and/or are on a budget

2. 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

No huge PC footprint - it’s the size of a console
Runs quietly 
You’ll pay for that form factor

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 

3. 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

Great selection of specs
Compact sleek design
Accessible for upgrades
You’ll switch out the included keyboard and mouse

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 

4. Corsair One Elite

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

That 1080 Ti graphics card makes games look better than life
SSD for your operating system means serious speed
You’re going to need a bigger bank balance
No way for users to upgrade without going through Corsair

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

5. Origin Millennium

A custom-made dream machine that delivers extreme 4K performance

CPU: i7-8700K | Graphics: 2 x GTX 1080 | RAM: 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 250GB SSD + 4TB HDD | Optical drive: BDRW | Ports: 15 x USB | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Size: 20 x 9 x 23 in

An insane level of power provides world class 4K performance
Origin offers a ridiculous amount of customisable features
Long-term investment pays off with customer care
You need to be filthy rich to afford one
Bulky, heavy, a pain to move around

An Origin Millennium gaming PC may set you back more than many entries on this list, but it's also infinitely more customizable. Everything from the rotation of your motherboard to the paint scheme (and trust us, there are some really cool ones) can be tweaked to your desires. But don't worry, we know that it's what's inside that counts. Luckily, the Origin Millennium packs a whallop there, too.

If you really want to flex your muscle - and your wallet - you can stuff two GTX 1080s, an i7-8700K CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 250GB SSD, a 4TB HDD, and a Blu-Ray burner in there. The cost of such an absurdly powerful setup will set you back nearly $5k from Origin’s US site (sadly, there’s not a UK branch), so now might be the time to start looking into that second mortgage. That being said, such a hefty price also carries three years of warranty, plus Origin's upgrade service which will help offset future costs of changing out parts. So it's a BIG investment, make no mistake, but Origin is among the best when it comes to taking care of its customers long-term.

Best for... Those with the bank balance of an oligarch who want the ultimate PC gaming experience

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

Small size makes it ideal for playing in the living room
Unlike earlier Steam Machines, it comes with Windows installed
Not as easy to upgrade as a normal PC
Switching between Steam and rival games platforms is a bit of a pain

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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