Whether you’re looking for a lightning fast rig or just a strong base to upgrade from, we’ve got you covered
There are several things to consider when you’re looking to buy the best gaming PC. Before you even begin: do you want a solid foundation to start building the ideal PC for yourself? Or a ready-made powerhouse that removes the hassle from the equation? It might also be important for you that it’s not too noisy; that the size of the case suits your future plans for upgrading; or simply that the gaming PC you buy looks great on/beneath your desk.
We’ve taken all of these things into consideration and come up with a well-rounded list that will suit the needs of any gamer. You can always add or remove different components to suit your preferences, whether that’s more hard drive space, a more powerful graphics card, or a more flashy case with LEDs to suit the rest of your gaming setup.
Either way, our list has something for everyone.
A note: For the PC Specialist PCs, we were sent ready-built editions that may not be available anymore, but if you click the link you can construct the same or similar PC with the parts listed at the bottom of each review.
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How to choose the best gaming PC for you
A PC is effectively the sum of its parts – and for the smoothest gaming experience, you need a computer that’s built from high-performance components. The most important parts are the CPU and graphics card, and these are also the ones that will have the biggest impact on the price. Don’t be tempted to pinch pennies, though: if you buy a gaming PC that can only just handle today’s games, it may quickly start to feel underpowered as newer titles emerge that are designed for newer, more powerful hardware.
What sort of CPU should I look for?
Both AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s Core and Pentium processors are more than capable of running modern games with high-resolution, high-detail graphics. Normally, the key thing to look for is clock speed: the faster the chip, the more smoothly it’ll be able to process the kind of complex instructions used to create and control the worlds and game mechanics of a modern game. Some gaming PCs come with overclocked processors to ensure peak performance, along with advanced cooling systems to keep them stable. These aren’t a necessity, but they’ll help you run the latest games with all the options turned on now, and could help future-proof your system for tomorrow’s titles.
Large core counts aren’t a must-have as most games are relatively linear, though some new and upcoming games are making more use of multiple cores. Right now you’re often better off spending your money on a fast quad-core or six-core processor than an eight-core CPU with slower cores, but that’s a rule of thumb rather than a cast-iron promise, though: if you want to get the best from specific games, do a little research to find out exactly what they demand of a CPU.
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What sort of graphics card should I look for?
The best advice is to buy the most powerful graphics card you can afford. It’s the technical capabilities of the GPU that determine whether you’ll be able to play games smoothly in glorious 4K, with all the shadows, atmospheric lighting and other visual effects the creators intended – or whether you’ll have to dial down the settings to achieve a frame rate that doesn’t jerk along. You can get away with a more modest GPU to run games at the more common 1920 x 1080 resolution, but it often makes sense to spend more now so that you don’t have to spend more later.
There’s a good choice of cards on offer, from AMD’s Radeon RX and Vega ranges to Nvidia’s GeForce family. The highest-performing cards can cost exorbitant amounts of cash, but if you want the very best visual experience this is the one component you shouldn’t skimp on.
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What about memory and storage?
Gaming enthusiasts will tell you that high-speed RAM and a superfast SSD help your PC render graphics more quickly, and play more smoothly. But don’t get carried away: even today’s most demanding games will run smoothly on 8GB of old-fashioned DDR3, and moving up to 32GB of top-of-the-line DDR4 will only speed things up by a few percentage points. A good sweet spot is 16GB of regular-speed 2400MHz DDR4, which should serve you happily for years to come.
It’s a similar story with SSDs. Even the cheapest SATA SSD will all but eliminate the stuttering associated with mechanical disks; you can pay more for a high-end NVMe SSD that’s four or five times as fast, but in practice you’re unlikely to notice much difference outside of a few seconds on loading times. If you’re concerned about future-proofing, choose a system with an M.2 slot so you can install a faster SSD down the line, should it become necessary – prices keep falling, so when you want to upgrade it shouldn’t be too expensive.
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What other components should I look out for?
A lot of PCs use motherboards specifically designed for gamers. These will be based on Intel and AMD’s latest high-performance chipsets and will support the fastest RAM.
Many will even have multiple PCI-E x16 slots so you can combine two or more graphics cards for a performance boost. Gaming motherboards will also often come with “cool” decorations and coloured LEDs. None of this is strictly necessary: if you’re building a gaming PC on a tight budget you can certainly get by with a normal desktop motherboard based on a mainstream Intel or AMD chipset. But if you want to make a bit more of a statement, and perhaps buy yourself a bit of future-proofing, there are plenty of eye-catching options to choose from.
Similarly, dedicated gaming cases add nothing performance-wise, but they look more flashy than ordinary cases, and may be designed for easy access to the internal components. This is particularly handy for enthusiasts who regularly tinker with and upgrade their systems.
The best gaming PCs you can buy
1. HP Omen 25L: The best-looking gaming PC
Price: From £1,100 | Buy now from HP
The Omen 25L is a stylish and well-designed desktop computer. It has a GTX 3060 card which excels at 1440p gaming. It manages an average of 89fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 220fps in F1 2020, 63fps in Metro Exodus and 112fps in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, all with DLSS and ray tracing if available. The brushed steel case with its glass sides looks sleek and all the ports have been labelled, which is a nice touch.
The CPU is an 11th gen Core i5-11400F, and the 500W power supply is good enough to support newer upgrades should you wish. It only carries a single m.2 slot, but comes with a 2TB hard drive and a 256GB SSD which should last you for quite a few games. It’s got a single stick of 16GB memory, available to upgrade easily enough.
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-11400; Graphics: 12GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 Super; RAM: 16GB DDR4; Supplied storage: 2TB HDD, 256GB SSD; Dimensions (WDH): N/A; Warranty: 3yr labour including 1yr parts
2. PC Specialist Vortex Elite: The best mid-range gaming PC
Price: From £948 | Buy now from PC Specialist
The Vortex Elite R is a well-balanced gaming PC that remains stealthy whilst completing missions.
When it comes to graphics, the Vortex carries a 6GB GTX 1660 Super, a card that handles 1080p gaming excellently. In tests, it delivered an average of 82 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 73 fps in Hitman 2. Combine that with PC Specialist’s chunky cooler and 120mm fan, and you’ve got a system that can handle most tasks without costing an arm and a leg, staying cool even during long and intense gaming sessions.
You won’t be able to use ray tracing with this one, but our testing showed you could get an average of 122fps in Wolfenstein, and for many gamers today, frames matter most for smooth gameplay.
The CPU is an 11th-generation Intel, with six cores that can boost up to 4.4Ghz for shorter periods, and for storage, it has a speedy 512GB M.2 SSD, with two more M.2 slots available and mounting plates for SSDs on the inside. It’s got 16GB of memory which is a decent amount, but if you wanted to upgrade, another stick in the available slot could boost your memory up to 32GB and make your multitasking even smoother.
All in all, the Vortex is a misleadingly chaotic name for a gaming PC that looks minimally sleek, produces very little noise and delivers great performance for your money.
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-11400; Graphics: 6GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1660 Super; RAM: 16GB DDR4; Supplied storage: 512 GB M.2 SSD; Dimensions (WDH): 210 x 428 x 460mm; Warranty: 3yr labour including 1yr parts
3. PC Specialist Opal R: The fastest gaming PC for under £1,700
Price: from £1,652 | Buy now from PC Specialist
This powerhouse carries the excellent GeForce RTX 3070 which is capable of delivering high fps gaming at all resolutions.
In tests, we achieved a near 60fps average at 4k in Metro Exodus. With DLSS turned on, we got an average of 86fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 79fps on average in Hitman 2 and a whopping 129fps with DLSS and RTX enabled in Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
All this is helped by the powerful and speedy Ryzen 7 5800X processor, which with its eight cores is great at video editing, too.
The case features a cool design with lights at the front, complimenting any RGB you might already have on keyboards and mice.
It’s currently got 16GB of RAM, but with two more slots available you can easily upgrade.
On the cooling front, it comes with five RGB fans pre-installed which somewhat counterintuitively help it stay quiet. That’s because when you increase the load on your system, no single fan has to do all the hard work, distributing the burden evenly and creating an even airflow throughout the case to keep your rig cool.
The case is quite big, which means easy access for installing more SSDs and hard drives on the side. The power supply is strong enough to manage upgrades, and the motherboard comes with a Wi-Fi card attached, which is helpful if you live somewhere you can’t easily stretch an ethernet cable.
Key specs – Processor: Ryzen 7 5800X; Graphics: 8GB Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070; RAM: 16GB DDR4; Supplied storage: 1 TB M.2 SSD; Dimensions: 410 x 475mm; Warranty: 3yr labour including 1yr parts
4. Chillblast Fusion Frigate: The best water-cooled gaming PC
Price: From £1,150 | Buy now from Chillblast
The Fusion Frigate employs a Core i5-11600K chip. As you might know, the K in the name means you can overclock the CPU, and the integrated water cooling system means you can stress your system without the risk of it running hot. Water cooling also means a quieter machine, and is barely audible when idling.
Its GTX 1650 is most comfortable at 1080p, but does so excellently. The Fusion Frigate is able to deliver up to 71fps in Hitman 2 at high settings, available to adjust if you prefer higher frames. Shadow of the Tomb Raider saw similar performance with an average of 58fps at 1080p.
If you can get your hands on an RTX graphics card, the 650W power supply is strong enough to handle it. Should you also want to upgrade the memory, the DIMM socket is easily accessible inside the case. There is also another m.2 slot beneath the graphics card slot, if you want more quick space. It already comes with a 500gb ssd, which is enough for a few of your favourite games, but you might want to upgrade eventually.
This is an excellent mid-range system with the potential to grow into a gaming powerhouse, and a very speedy machine for the money.
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-11600K; Graphics: 4GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1650 Super; RAM: 16GB DDR4; Supplied storage: 512 GB M.2 SSD; Dimensions (WDH): 210 x 428 x 460mm;
5. PC Specialist Aurora R: The best gaming PC base
Price: From £661 | Buy now from PC Specialist
This is an extremely lightweight desktop computer that’s intentionally been left without a GPU, so that you can supply your own. That’s not to say it doesn’t pull its weight, however. It comes with the 11th gen Intel i5-11400, a CPU that does very well in tests, and which will serve you well for any kind of task you might throw at it – be it gaming (together with a graphics card), video editing, streaming or multitasking.
The Aurora R remains quiet during general use, and although it doesn’t currently come with a graphics card, with PC specialist’s part picker, you could easily add one. There’s also plenty of room here for other upgrades – it comes with a strong base 512GB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM with space for a second M.2 drive, one 3.5in HDD, two 2.5in SSDs and three sticks of RAM.
With its integrated graphics that come with the CPU, you could still do some lightweight gaming. Our tests showed that Minecraft ran smoothly, for instance, as long as you’re okay playing at medium settings.
This is a great gaming PC to buy if you’re looking for a workhorse, you’re fine with getting upgrades later, or if you’ve already got a graphics card lying around.
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-11400; Graphics: N/A; RAM: 8GB DDR4; Supplied storage: 512 GB M.2 SSD; Dimensions (WDH): N/A