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Best Gaming Computers

Updated December 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 88 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best gaming computers

    Last Updated December 2018

    Gaming computers offer far more power, upgradability, and customization than gaming consoles.

    However, they’re usually more of an investment of both time and money than their console counterparts.

    Before making that investment, you should be sure you’re getting the right gaming computer to meet your needs.

    Consider what type of games you’ll be playing, and think about your priorities.

    How important are smooth framerate and fast rendering? Do you need a machine that’s VR-ready? Do you plan to upgrade your computer regularly, or will you buy a new one in four years? What size computer works best for your battlestation? Do you want something that looks flashy and fun?

    Avoid paying for more than you need. While maxed-out, high-speed parts are “better,” that doesn’t mean you’ll use them.

    When you spend this much money on a gaming machine, there’s no need to pay for more than you need.

    A gaming PC is an investment, and there’s no such thing as the “perfect” gaming computer. Review these tips, spec considerations, and questions before you make a purchase.

    What will your setup look like? Curved monitor, dual screen, triple screen — these are all space considerations when deciding whether you want a full tower, mid-tower, small tower, or small form factor.

    What is a gaming computer?

    A few factors make gaming computers different from regular computers. These are things that most computers have (like a video card, CPU, and RAM), but in a gaming PC, you’ll find maxed-out versions.

    You can play games on a standard PC, but you just won’t reach the level of performance that most serious gamers crave. If you want to play the newest games online with your friends, a gaming computer is the only way (though most of the time, you can’t play online games with players on consoles like the Xbox One and PS4).

    Below are some of the defining features of a gaming computer.

    Cpu (central processing unit)

    This is the “processor” — the part of a computer that does the thinking and heavy lifting. The CPU attaches to the motherboard and carries out instructions and processes.

    Gpu (graphics/video card)

    This is the component that renders graphics, performs texture mapping, and maintains a smooth and high frame rate (ideally 60 fps). Graphics cards in most computers will not be able to play games on the highest settings. The main function of the GPU, beyond rendering polygons, is taking work from the CPU.

    Ram (memory)

    Distinct from internal storage (i.e., a hard drive), RAM allows for high-speed gameplay and helps your CPU handle a lot of things going on at once. You can’t run out of RAM the same way you run out of storage space — think of it as temporary storage space — but RAM capacity and speed significantly impact how much your computer can handle at once.

    Cooling systems

    Since most people use their computers primarily for web browsing, or at the very most, graphic design, they aren’t pushing their computers to the limit in terms of processing and rendering. Top-of-the-line GPUs and CPUs generate a lot of heat. Heat is the primary cause of lag (drops in frame rate) and thus should always be dealt with using an efficient, often water-based cooling system. A heatsink can also keep your CPU from slowing, especially when paired with a great cooling system.

    Storage

    Game files are big, so a big hard drive is often necessary. Your hard drive is where your computer stores information — your games, files, and operating system all live here. 512GB or 1TB is usually enough, and if you have free USB ports, external drives are always an option. But as far as performance goes, the question isn’t how much space, but what type of hard drive to get. A solid state hard drive (SSD) is the fastest choice, as it will reduce load times significantly. Traditional hard disk drives (HDD) are cheaper by the GB, but load times will be slower. This choice comes down to your price range and patience.

    EXPERT TIP

    Consider the extra cost of a monitor (or monitors), mouse, keyboard, and headphones — or look for a bundled deal that includes these parts.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Don’t overlook the importance of storage space. A big hard drive means you won’t have to make the tough decision of which games to uninstall.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    More is more when it comes to RAM, but that doesn’t mean you need to max out. 16GB is the most you’ll need for the foreseeable future, and 8GB is often sufficient.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Many people opt for a dual-RAM channel, allowing them to replace a single stick for a lower price. Quad-RAM channels are also an option.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Laptop or desktop?

    This question is as much about lifestyle as it is about your gaming style. If you travel frequently and need something to distract you on planes or in hotel rooms, you might consider a gaming laptop.

    Laptops

    A decent gaming laptop will be able to handle the latest games, albeit not always on the highest settings. But for a flexible, portable gaming experience, a laptop is ideal.

    There are two drawbacks to a laptop:

    • Battery life (a non-issue with desktops) can limit your gaming time.

    • Laptops offer limited upgradability.
       

    The compact design of laptops makes them naturally more difficult to upgrade, meaning you’re almost guaranteed a shorter life span, assuming you’re playing the latest games. There is also the risk of theft, laptops being easier targets than desktops. If you’re looking for a one-and-done purchase and aren’t worried about maxing out your games, a laptop may be right for you.

    Desktops

    A desktop will almost always outperform a laptop when it comes to power, longevity, ports, and customization.

    There are a few drawbacks to a desktop:

    • Desktops are an ongoing investment as you upgrade.

    • Display (and other accessories) is often not included and can add cost.

    • A desktop can be bulky.
       

    If upgrading your computer and staying on the cutting edge of performance are exciting ideas to you, choose a desktop. It’s often a bigger investment on the whole, but after the initial purchase, replacing your GPU and RAM won’t seem like a big deal, compared to replacing the whole machine.

    EXPERT TIP

    Does the computer you’re looking at have an operating system installed, and is it the operating system you want? You might be surprised when you plug your machine in and realize you have to pay for a license for your OS of choice.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Double check monitor compatibility. This largely comes down to the capability of your graphics card. Don’t get a 4K monitor if you don’t have a 4K graphics card, and make sure you have enough ports and the right graphic card for a dual- or triple- monitor setup.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Features to consider

    It’s nice to have options, and you don’t want to plug in your computer only to realize it’s missing a functionality you need. On the other hand, don’t pay for extra features that you’ll never use.

    Vr compatibility

    If VR is something you’re interested in, make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements of your VR system of choice. And even if it does, make sure you have a quiet cooling system that can handle the processing power required by VR. Nothing takes you out of an immersive digital experience like buzzing fans.

    On the other hand, if VR isn’t for you, don’t get a package deal that includes a VR headset. Put that extra money toward features you care about — or just save it.

    Connectivity and ports

    Most towers won’t do much moving around, so WiFi might not be a feature you’re interested in. On the other hand, make sure you’ve got enough USB ports for your accessories.

    Windows and lights

    Admiring the inside of your machine is fun, particularly if you’ve done some customization and cable management. This is a stylistic choice, and if your tower’s going under your desk, fancy visuals might not be worth the extra cost.

    Upgradability

    For future-proofing your computer, be sure it’s easy to upgrade. Check to see what tools you need to get in the case, and whether the motherboard has one, two, or four RAM slots. It’s good to have options, if you need them.

    Included accessories

    In some cases, you’ll pay for just the tower or laptop. In others, the package will include a keyboard, mouse, or monitor. Each of these items deserve as much consideration as your computer, so if they’re part of the deal, do your research. You may not like the style of the keyboard or mouse, or you might want a 4K monitor instead of a 1080p monitor.

    Solid state hard drives are fast, but expensive. If you abhor load screens, an SSD is almost a must. But you can save a good chunk of cash by going with a hard disk drive.

    FAQ

    Q. How long will my gaming computer last?
    A.
    This depends on how frequently (if at all) you upgrade parts, and whether you’re playing newly released games. You can expect your computer to handle new games for five or six years before you need to consider upgrades.

    Q. How do I know if my computer can handle certain games?
    A.
    Most games will list both minimum and recommended specifications on the manufacturer’s website. You don’t have to run every game on max settings, but if you can, go for it! Required specs will include your video card, RAM, CPU, and OS ratings.

    Q. How much should a gaming computer cost?
    A.
    Most gaming computers start around $600, with laptops running slightly cheaper. Many will be closer to $1000. This varies, based on brand, accessories, and technical specs. Don’t pay more for features you won’t need.

    The team that worked on this review
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