It's an appealing time to get into PC gaming, but also equally challenging. There's never been a better selection of games to choose from, with endless PC exclusives and quality console ports - gone are the "your mouse is just an emulated joystick" days. Yet the cryptocurrency boom has massively inflated the price for graphics cards, as electronic prospectors buy up GPUs by the thousands to "mine" for bitcoin and the like. Fortunately, you don't have to go into the market by yourself - get past the guilt from all your PC gaming friends saying "you should really build your own" and you can actually save effort and money by buying a pre-made PC. Those big companies have a lot more buying power than a single enthusiast going from retailer to retailer.
But what is the best gaming PC for you? In the seas of components, graphics cards and seemingly unconnected numbers, how are you meant to get a PC that plays your Steam library and meets your gaming needs? The good news is that gaming PCs no longer cost the earth and you’ll find that you’re no longer chained to a giant whirring case that needs fifty square feet just to be able to breathe. Gaming PCs come in many shapes and sizes and while you can still go for a behemoth - complete with RGB flashing lights - there are plenty of console-sized PCs that aren’t going to bankrupt you and still do what you want them to. We’ve broken down the best gaming PCs you can buy this year. Hold onto your CPUs. Here we go.
1. StormForce Tornado
A good value PC that can handle 4K gaming for a modest price
CPU: i5-6400 | Graphics: GTX 1070 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD | Optical drive: DVD/RW | Ports: 13 x USB | Connectivity: Realtek 10/100/1000 Wired LAN | Size: 495 x 190mm x 432 mm
4K gaming doesn’t have to cost the Earth… merely several of its continents. StormForce’s oh so sultry, UK-only Tornado rig is still a significant outlay, but when you consider that investment gets you a Windows 10 PC with a GTX 1070 and 16GB of 2133MHz Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 RAM, your money is actually going a long way. Nvidia’s stellar GPU is only outmuscled by the Green Team’s 1080 and Titan X models, and with 8GB of onboard RAM, this is graphics card can deliver the goods at 4K… with a few tweaks.
Playing games at 60fps on ultra settings is going to be off the table for more demanding titles if you hope to stay at 2160p, but dropping down to high/medium presets should net respectable framerates. At 1440p, though, the GTX 1070 is a brilliant performer, and you’ll have no problem hitting 60fps at a resolution that still offers a tangible upgrade over 1080p. Our only real gripe with this rig is the decision to build it around a slightly underpowered Intel Core i5 CPU, rather than an i7.
Best for... Those who want decent 4K results and/or excellent 2K performance
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: 353.73 x 97.56 x 251.35mm 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
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
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. Chillblast Fusion Coldheart
A beast of PC at a beast of a price
CPU: i7-7700K 4.5Ghz | Graphics: GTX 1080 Ti 11GB | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 4TB HDD + 250GB SSD | Ports: 6 x USB | Connectivity: Wireless 300MBps + LAN 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet | Size: 495 x 235 x 510mm
So you want a PC that’ll happily output in 4K, work with your Oculus Rift headset or HTC Vive, and make sure you never need to turn a single graphics setting below ultra high for the next few years. Fine. We’ve got the PC build for you. Just don’t expect it to be cheap. The Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti is the sparkling jewel in the middle of Chillblast’s surprisingly small PC package. The same price as some gaming PCs in their entirety, the 1080 Ti doesn’t suffer fools and can power dangerous levels of graphical joy way over 60fps as standard and basks in 4K.
Where the Coldheart also shines is its processor. Sitting with an Intel i7 7700K, there are no problems here when it comes to gaming and streaming at the same time. Photo and video editing are also a breeze given the 16GB of RAM so you’ll find plenty of reasons to get creative as well as mainlining pixels so dense you’re going to need a 4K monitor to appreciate them. The SSD is also a welcome addition here for Windows 10 as loading bars disappear when starting up and you can fire your favourite applications on there for faster loading too. It was released to celebrate the launch of Destiny 2 but get PUBG on there and you can’t blame your tech for the lack of Chicken Dinners.
Best for… Those hungry for VR and 4K and REALLY not on a budget
5. Origin Millennium
A custom-made dream machine that delivers extreme 4K performance
CPU: i7-6700K | Graphics: 2 x GTX 1080 | RAM: 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 480GB SSD | Optical drive: BDRW | Ports: 15 x USB | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Size: 629 x 247 544 mm
Have you recently inherited an exceedingly wealthy, long lost relative’s estate? Congratulations! Now get out there and start building a recklessly powerful PC. Origin offers a ludicrous amount of customisation options when you buy a rig from its site; everything from the interior chassis colour to the type of thermal compound used on the CPU can be tweaked. The company’s mid-tower Millennium model probably offers the best combo of looks and size, and boy can you cram all sorts of wallet-assaulting goodies into it.
If you really want to push the boat out - and the rest of the fleet - you can stuff two GTX 1080s, an i7-6700K CPU, 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a Blu-Ray burner in there. The cost of such an absurdly powerful SLI setup will set you back $3544 from (sadly, there’s not a UK branch), so now might be the time to start looking into that second mortgage. Still, you’ll be able to play pretty much game you want at 4K/60fps on ultra settings. Now, can you lend us some cash, Mr/Mrs Moneybags?
Best for... Those with the bank balance of an oligarch who want the ultimate 4K gaming experience
6. Alienware Alpha Intel Core i3
A console-shaped rig that’s been purpose-built for streamlined gaming
CPU: i3-4170T | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU with 2GB GDDR5 | RAM: 4GB DDR3 | Storage: 500GB HDD | Optical drive: NA | Ports: 4 x USB | Connectivity: AC 3160 Wi-Fi | Size: 203 x 86 x 203 mm
The first batch of Steam Machines were a great idea in practice. They were console-sized, idiot-proof next to standard PCs, and with their focus on Steam Big Picture, the discreet boxes were well suited for living room play. Trouble is, many of these systems shipped without Windows, and were limited to running Steam OS. That little omission meant you couldn’t play swathes of triple-A big hitters, like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4 or GTA 5. Thankfully, this Alienware Alpha offers a much better compromise.
For one thing, it comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, instantly opening up the whole of Steam’s vast library. You can also play Uplay and Origin games, though in somewhat fiddly fashion, the Alpha forces you to quit out of Alienware’s custom UI into desktop mode to run Ubisoft and EA’s platforms. Yet once you learn this box’s quirks, the teeny rig offers impressive, console-beating performance thanks to its Intel Core i3-4170T CPU and custom Nvidia GTX GPU that boasts 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. It’s not as flexible as a normal PC, granted. Then again, it only costs $499 from Dell US or £499 from Dell UK.
Best for... Budget-minded gamers who want a hassle-free, console-like experience
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