The best gaming PC is the one you're with and, to continue paraphrasing that old Stills' song, if you can't build the one you love, then love the one you buy. Buying the best gaming PC is the easiest way into PC gaming, and means you can forgo the potential hassle of part-matching, tech-sourcing, and putting the whole damned thing together.
Some of us love that hassle, and some of us simply want to have a beautifully made machine that will just work out of the box and, if it doesn't, we have someone else to blame aside from ourselves. That and the cable management will be a hell of a lot better too.
A pre-built PC will sidestep the choice paralysis that can accompany building your own rig—though our gaming PC build guide can also help there, too—and it might also be the quickest way for you to bag a new Nvidia RTX 3080 or RTX 3070 graphics card right now.
System builders and manufacturers, such as Scan and Alienware, are offering RTX 30-series builds with around a 3-4 week delivery lead time. Good luck trying to find a card in that time frame to upgrade your current rig, although you might want to wait for AMD's RX 6000-series before making a decision anyways.
So long as you pick a rig from one of the best gaming PC builders then their after sales service ought to make it the most stress-free too. Sure, building a gaming PC for yourself can be immensely satisfying—we've created entire careers talking about the best ways to do it—but simply buying one as a complete system will take any and all the hassle out of the process.
Even if you're heavily into upgrading your own machines, there does come a point where the best thing you can do for yourself is pick up the best gaming PC as a new foundation for future upgrading endeavors.
A specs-sheet balance of price and performance is our top priority in a pre-built rig. Ideally, your gaming PC will have one of the best graphics cards and the best CPUs for gaming, though that's not always financially possible. But you can't skimp on one and go overboard on the other; an Nvidia RTX 3090 is only worth having if it's paired with a top-flight processor that can take advantage of its power. And, y'know, if you're into 3D creation work too.
Then there's the support. After-sale support is where a good system builder becomes a great system builder. Things like 24/7 tech support or generous warranties are often overlooked but could save a headache down the road.
To get on our list of the best gaming PCs, you need to have it all: great parts, great value, and great support.
Alienware is a household name when it comes to gaming desktops that share a, shall we say, unique aesthetic. While the extraterrestrial styling may not appeal to everyone, their performance remains undeniable. The freshly minted Aurora R11 uses the same compact design as its R9 forebear, our previous top pick, and means the new Intel 10th Gen processors have found a home in Alienware's Aurora chassis.
Alienware has also updated its range with RTX 30-series offerings, giving you an easy route into the Ampere generation of graphics cards.
There are now five different configurations of Comet Lake CPU to choose from: the Core i3 10100, Core i5 10600KF, i7 10700F, i7 10700K, and i9 10900KF (the K means it's an unlocked chip, while the F denotes no integrated GPU). They're paired with Nvidia GPUs from the GTX 1650 Super up to the unfeasibly expensive RTX 3090. That gives you a range of Alienware gaming machines from affordable 1080p gaming right up to blistering 4K workload-smashing performance, and the Alienware AIO cooling system will help keep the cozy interior of the case at a reasonable temperature too.
It does have to be said that there is an Alienware premium attached whichever components you choose. However, the higher-than-average price provides you with reliable build quality, exceptional customer service, and solid warranties. The numerous pre-fab options offered by Alienware also help eliminate much of the guesswork associated with customizing your system. Some options provide better value for the parts used, but for hassle-free PC gaming out of the box, it's tough to beat the ease of use that Alienware provides.
The unconventional design of the case exploits every inch of its limited space but does initially feel a bit awkward to tinker with. The ability to access nearly every part of the PC without tools, however, is a definite plus, and expedites upgrades and maintenance. There's an obvious priority here on providing a convenient, premium product with some potential for upgrades, and the Aurora R9 accomplishes that goal.
For all the reasons that the Alienware Aurora R11 is our top pick for its latest Intel CPU lineup, the aptly-named Ryzen Edition takes the win for those looking at the red side of the CPU divide. The AMD Ryzen processors of the latest generation are exemplary in terms of both performance and price. And with the potential for a 16-core, 32-thread chip inside your Alienware gaming PC, alongside an Nvidia RTX 3090, you're looking at something rather special.
But the lower end has something to offer too. The different configurations on offer mean that for under £1,000 you can get a six-core machine with a GTX 1650 Super inside it, that will handle 1080p gaming in that sleek Alienware chassis.
Like the other Aurora cases, it's not necessarily the easiest to upgrade, due to its bespoke design, but as a first machine the Ryzen Edition will not do you wrong. And with the upgrade-friendly AMD platform, there's a chance this base will serve you well into the next generation of Zen 3 processors too.
That leads us on to the only problem I have with this range right now: with the release of the Ryzen 5000 chips, which perform so much better in games, Zen 2 has gotten old very quickly. I would anticipate a complete refresh by the start of the year, with the potential for a decent all-red option, too.
One of our highest rated pre-built gaming PCs is back in an updated model, the Corsair One i164. It’s still the same small form factor PC, but with a revamped internal layout, and a few other slight changes. The case design still looks like something straight out of Tron. The CPU and GPU both use independent liquid cooling solutions, and all the hot air is pumped out by a single 140mm maglev fan. The PSU now sits below the motherboard, and some of the USB ports have been re-positioned on the front of the case, but that’s the extent of the non-component changes.
Like a number of the pre-built systems on this list, the Corsair One i164 isn't the only configuration the One comes in. In fact, with an Intel Core i9 9900K and an RTX 2080 Ti, the i164 is the mid-range model. Yes, you read that right, the mid-range model. The lower model comes with a Core i7 9700K and an RTX 2080, while the Corsair One Pro workstation model comes with a Core i9 9920X and an RTX 2080 Ti.
There are also now new AMD Ryzen-powered versions, with the a100 designation, offering either the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X or the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X. That's some serious core-counts in something so svelte.
There's still no word on Nvidia RTX 30-series cards yet, although we would expect that to be corrected before long. It's likely that Corsair will also have to invest in more PSU capacity for the change, too.
The price varies based on the specs, of course, so if £3,600 for the i164 is a little too rich for your blood, the i145 is £1,200 less at £2,400, which is £100 less than the a100 with a 3900X CPU. If you are in the market for a compact workstation, the i200 will zap £4,700 from your bank account. All models come with 32GB of RAM, so you won't need to worry about upgrading that aspect of the One for years to come.
Regardless of the configuration, the Corsair One is a sleek, potent little machine designed for anyone wrestling with space considerations, or for those who want a powerful PC but don't want to listen to it whine every time it's stressed with a graphically intensive game.
Hewlett Packard has been around since before the second World War, and that historical expertise is evident in the design and construction of its Omen 25L and 30L desktop PCs. The Omen 25L is highly customizable, starting with an RTX 2060 and Core i5 10400F and going up to a Core i9 and RTX 2080 Super.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Omen 25L is the price tag. Despite the high-presence of an RTX card and that rock solid CPU (as well as 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and 2TB HDD), it comes in at just £999. This is largely due to HP trimming off all the non-essential frills that tend to pad out the price of a number of similarly specced machines.
You won't find an over-elaborate liquid cooling system or a massive suite of spectacular RGB lighting; this machine is a dense black block of computing power. If you value smooth lines and compact design over the flash and spectacle of RGB, you'll appreciate the dark, slightly brooding aesthetic of the Obelisk.
You can find similar specs to this from plenty of retailers, but it comes in a much smaller frame. While on the one hand there's less space to muck around in the case if you do decide to upgrade in the future, it can slip easily into much tighter spaces than a larger case and is easier to transport. It's the epitome of function over form and available at a great price.
There's no word on RTX 30-series or AMD RX 6000-series GPUs just yet, but watch this space. Hopefully we'll see movement from HP before long.
Check out the £1,932 Scan 3XS Gamer 3080 build here.
Scan has been a mainstay of system building in the UK for years, and we've used enough of their systems to know that we're in safe hands whenever we get a gaming PC in for review. The systems are well built, using well-known components and all backed up by a brilliant three year warranty (the first year of which is on-site). That warranty really does bring peace of mind.
This 3XS Gamer 3080 is like a wishlist given physical form, boasting an RTX 3080 alongside Intel's awesome gaming CPU, the Core i7 10700F. This may not be the overclockable variant (it lacks that all-important trailing K for that), but given overclocking has little impact on gaming performance, we're cool with that. Speaking of being chill, the Cosair Hydro H100x does a good job of keeping the CPU in check.
You get a 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX kit for your money, which should see you good for years of gaming to come, and there's a healthy 1TB SSD from Intel to keep things humming along. This is all housed in the Corsair iCue 220T case, which is a good looking case offering plenty of airflow to keep your components running optimally.
You can of course configure the machine to your hearts content, with faster processors, more memory, better storage options, you name. Scan also has a few other builds to get you started, including RTX 3070 systems from £1,500, and the option of going with either Intel's Core i5 10700 or AMD's brand new Ryzen 7 5800X.
Buying advice: best gaming PC
If you prefer gaming on-the-go, you'll want to take a look at our best gaming laptop guide.
One of the most significant advantages to building your own PC is the ability to hand-pick every single component in the system. This allows you to take your time shopping around for deals and finding the perfect combination of parts to fit your budget and performance needs. The downside for most inexperienced builders is that this whole process can take some time and has the potential to cause quite a headache if something goes wrong. You only get warranties on the individual components, not your finished build, and this is where the best pre-built gaming PCs shine.
When you pay the premium to configure or purchase a pre-built PC, you are paying for more than just the parts. You are paying for warranty service, support, and peace of mind that your system was put together by professionals. These are some of the things we value highly when considering what the best gaming PC is. We also look at other unique selling points like design, upgradability, and anything you wouldn't be able to do when building it yourself.
One of the most significant factors that make PCs stand apart from the competition is the design. Pre-built systems like the Alienware Aurora R11 or Corsair One use unique in-house chassis designs you wouldn't be able to purchase when building it yourself. You can take some comfort in knowing that these systems were designed and built specially to house your configuration, though that can make upgrading more awkward later on down the line.
When we set out to choose our top choices of pre-built gaming PCs, we look at almost every major manufacturer and system integrator to find the best combination of value, reliability, customer feedback, design, and performance for various budgets and needs.