In 2016, we relaunched our desktop PC reviews section with a new test suite that includes 11 games and a plethora of hardware-intensive benchmarks. Since then, we've tested several gaming desktops of varying performance levels, form factor, and pricing. As it's harder to give awards based on value when it comes to custom-shop PCs, this article includes most of our award winners, plus some that may not have brought home honors, but still impressed us nonetheless.
Best Gaming Desktop PCs
When shopping for a new gaming PC, it's important to have a goal in mind. If you need your system to provide excellent framerates in AAA games at 1920 x 1080, you won't need the absolute best (and most expensive) GPU on the market to accomplish this. If you intend to run games with multiple displays or at higher resolutions, that's when you go for the big rigs with multi-card setups. CPU horsepower is also similarly tied to gaming acumen, but branching out into anything over a quad-core processor will primarily see performance gains in multi-threaded workloads such as video processing, rendering, and encoding.
Storage and memory capacity is also a prime buy factor that can push the price of a PC fairy high rather quickly. Solid-state storage devices (SSDs) will obviously garner more performance than a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), but they also cost more for less capacity. If you are a gamer, having a moderate-sized SSD as a primary partition (512GB or so) with a sizable HDD (one or two terabytes) is enough to start a respectable game library.
Similarly, memory capacity may not improve performance, but faster speeds can see gains in RAM-intensive workloads. Gamer's won't likely need much more than 16GB of memory (and speed usually doesn't play a major role in game framerates), but if you have professional-grade applications in store for your new system, a higher memory capacity and speed could worth the extra spend.
Power is also a prime consideration when choosing a PC. Does the PSU offer enough juice to cover the hardware inside? (In most cases, the answer is yes, but there are some exceptions, particularly if you intend to overclock.) Can the power supply be upgraded? Is there enough available power to upgrade in the future? The ability to upgrade is another important factor, and case size and expansion options vary drastically between our picks.
Aesthetic value and form factor are also contributing factors to a purchase. If you want your case to shine as bright as the sun or to fit in your living room entertainment center, there are assuredly options out there for either scenario (or both). Most custom shops offer overclocking services to get the most out of your hardware, and if you aren't versed in the art of overclocking and want every drop of performance from your new gaming rig, these services are ideal. Ultimately, budget plays perhaps the biggest role in a buying decision, and the beauty of a custom-built PC is that you can adjust the configuration until it suits your needs and price.
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