PC gaming is increasingly popular, but it remains difficult to shop for a dedicated gaming PC due to a combination of technical jargon, persistent product shortages, and an overwhelming selection. As the cost of individual components continues to rise due to the worldwide shortage of processors, many gamers are turning to ready-made systems rather than attempting to build their own.
Most PC gamers can get by just fine with a pre-built gaming PC, which eliminates the hassle of shopping for and putting together individual parts. PC buyers also have more options than ever before, including both high-end and more affordable machines.
We’ve compiled a list of the top pre-built gaming PC brands based on our own personal and professional experiences, as well as data we’ve gathered about stock availability and the optimal configurations for various price points. To help you make the best possible purchase, we then detail what to look for in a gaming PC and define some commonly used terms in a glossary. Visit our best PC controller, best gaming mouse, best gaming laptop, and best gaming headset guides for additional recommendations on computer hardware.
Disadvantages: High cost compared to making one at home
This Corsair setup is twice as expensive as our other suggestions, but it includes some of the best components and features available, such as liquid CPU cooling, for a lower price than some of the competitors we have found.
The Corsair Vengeance has the power to run any game at 4K resolution and ultra settings thanks to its Intel i9 12900k processor and Nvidia RTX 3090 graphics card. The 32 GB of lightning-fast DDR5-4800 random-access memory (RAM) should be more than enough for any game.
The HP Victus 15L has a mid-range graphics card from a few generations ago and a modern processor, making it capable of running most PC games at 1080p on high or medium settings.
The solid state drive will provide impressive speeds and load times, but an upgrade from the 256GB base storage will likely be required if you plan to play games like “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” that require more than 100GB.
Even though the HP Victus isn’t as powerful as the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, it’s a great entry-level desktop for gamers because it can be upgraded with better components in the future.
Benefits: Can easily handle 1080p gaming at maximum settings, and offers a wide variety of personalization options
The cost of upgrading to a new graphics card is high.
The HP Omen series gives you a wide range of configuration options, including the latest processors and graphics cards from AMD and Intel. There is a less expensive HP Omen model with an AMD RX 5500 graphics card, but the HP Victus is the better buy.
This PC is more than up to the task of running the latest games in their native 1080p or 1440p resolutions at ultra settings, but may struggle at 4K. You’ll need to shell out more dough to achieve such a high standard of visual realism.
Although you can build an Omen for much more than $1,500, we’ve found that the configurations HP sells at this price point provide more bang for the buck than those at competitors like Alienware and Lenovo. A comparable Alienware R10 would, for instance, not have a solid-state drive and would instead have a slower hard drive. The Legion Towers from Lenovo offer the least amount of personalization out of the three brands, and they still cost more than the HP Omen.
The AMD options are nice to have, but the Nvidia RTX 3080 can run most games at ultra settings and 1440p resolution, and it can increase frame rates (at lower settings and resolutions) for monitors with high or variable refresh rates. Even at the highest settings, you can play in full 4K resolution, though the frame rate may drop below 60 fps.
Methods for evaluating and studying gaming PCs
The recommendations we have made are based on our combined 16 years of experience with PC gaming hardware and the results of numerous benchmark performance tests conducted by respected publications like Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry and Tom’s Hardware.
Our suggested brands, makes, models, and configurations have also been thoroughly researched for pricing and value. We will look into the possibility of purchasing a specific PC configuration from one manufacturer at a lower price than from others.
However, due to the individualized nature of gaming PCs, a review of a single build may not be indicative of the quality of all available options.
Common Questions About Gaming Computers
What to look for when purchasing a personal computer for gaming.
Pre-built gaming PCs come in a variety of configurations, letting players customize their machines to their specific needs. The graphics card and the storage space it provides are the primary concerns for playing games.
Read on for a breakdown of common gaming PC features and what to look out for within each category, complete with a glossary of terms for quick reference.
What should be the minimum and maximum requirements for a gaming computer?
The specifications you require are ultimately determined by the games you want to play and the visual quality you demand. Figure out what kind of adventure you want to have and how much money you have to spend.
For instance, you can spend over $3,000 on a pre-built PC capable of running any game at 4K quality, while for less than $1,000 you can get a gaming PC with the same processing power as a PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X.
The manufacturers of your computer’s processor and graphics card are the ones you should focus on first when assembling your system. Leading computer processor manufacturers include Intel and AMD, while leading graphics card manufacturers include AMD and Nvidia. Games have different requirements for hardware like hard drive space and random access memory (RAM), but 16 GB of RAM is becoming the norm for pre-built gaming PCs and is more than enough for most players.
For a quick reference on what hardware is required to play PC games at three of the most popular resolutions, check out this handy chart.
Should I buy or build a gaming computer?
If you can track down all the necessary components, building a PC will still be less expensive than purchasing one already assembled; however, you will need to budget for additional expenses, such as a license for Microsoft Windows.
The whole machine may be covered by a service warranty on some pre-built gaming PCs. If a component fails and needs to be replaced or if you just need some assistance, you won’t have to deal with multiple businesses.
Depending on your dedication to PC gaming as a hobby, neither choice is superior at this time. I learned a lot about the components inside of my PlayStation and Xbox consoles when I built my first custom PC over a decade ago.
Pre-built gaming PCs are customizable enough that you don’t have to worry about getting sold short if you don’t have the time to handle your own repairs and just want to game instead of starting a hardware hobby.
The lifespan of a PC built for gaming.
Since desktop components are readily available for upgrade, gaming PCs have a long lifespan. It’s recommended to upgrade your CPU and GPU every five years to stay current with the latest games.
Since newly released processors and memory sticks occasionally change design and configuration compatibility for new features, most gaming PCs will need to be replaced when the motherboard becomes too old to work with new parts.
Since 2011, I’ve built three different gaming PCs for myself, with an average upgrade cycle of five years. However, many of the components I upgraded from were still functional, so I sold or gave them to friends for use in their own construction projects.
The central processing unit (CPU) is the “brain” of your gaming PC, responsible for carrying out all the intricate instructions needed to run the system. Strong central processing units (CPUs) are essential for gaming PCs because they process massive amounts of data during gameplay. If your CPU has an integrated graphics processor, you can play some games without a separate graphics processing unit (GPU).
While Digital Foundry benchmark tests have shown that AMD processors are more cost- and power-efficient in general, the latest Intel 12th series processors will outperform AMD in some games. In the end, it comes down to price and personal preference, as both brands produce excellent central processing units.
A computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) is the mechanical equivalent of the central processing unit (CPU). While you play, your graphics processing unit (GPU) is hard at work processing the countless calculations required to render the game’s images. Both graphically demanding games and higher video resolutions are hard on the GPU, just as they are on the CPU.
Graphics processing units (GPUs), which can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,800, are the limiting factor in a gaming PC’s graphical performance. Nvidia’s 30 series GPUs are my top pick due to their extensive software compatibility, but AMD GPUs are cheaper and, when paired with an AMD CPU, can deliver significant performance gains.
RAM, or random-access memory, is a computer component crucial for multitasking, especially in intensive applications like video gaming. The complex worlds in games like Grand Theft Auto require at least 8GB of RAM, and games that use even more RAM (16GB to 32GB) tend to load faster.
The refresh rate of a display is the number of times per second that the image on the screen is updated. If your gaming PC is capable of producing frame rates of 60 frames per second or higher, you’ll notice that the animation looks even smoother on a monitor with a higher refresh rate.
Storage (HD, SSD, M.2): Storage, in the most literal sense, refers to the amount of space available on your PC and the type of drive that space will be occupied by. You can choose from hard disk drives, solid state drives, or M.2 drives for your data storage needs.
Hard disk drives (HDDs) are slower than newer storage options because they store data on a spinning disk surrounded by a magnetic material. Unlike hard disk drives (HDD), solid state drives (SSD) don’t require any moving parts to store data.
The newest SSD formats, M.2 and NVMe, offer even faster speeds and smaller sizes than their predecessors but are currently priced at a premium over traditional SSDs and hard disk drives (HDDs).
Wi-Fi stands for “wireless fidelity,” and it is a radio-based networking standard for wirelessly linking mobile devices to the web. Wi-Fi 6, the most recent version, was approved in February 2021 after being numbered by the organization that owns the Wi-Fi trademark beginning in 2018. In order to ensure maximum compatibility, all of the PCs I suggest feature Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
Bluetooth is a short-range wireless standard for making local connections. To reflect the enhancements made to the signal, the most up-to-date devices are certified as Bluetooth 5.0 compatible, but new devices are still compatible with older versions of Bluetooth. Input devices like mice, keyboards, and headphones typically employ this type of wireless connection.
New York City-based game journalist Kevin Webb works for Insider Inc. Before joining Business Insider in 2018, he worked as an Assistant Editor for the Darien Times and on the content team for Shoryuken, both of which he gained experience with during his time at Morehouse College. Since 2007, Kevin has been actively competing as a Street Fighter player, and he continues to accept all challenges. Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here. Learn more about how we test tech and electronics.
I’m a passionate individual with a diverse range of interests encompassing reading, writing, blogging, technology, and games. 📚✍️🌐🎮 With a penchant for exploration and a constant hunger for knowledge, I immerse myself in these fields to continuously expand my horizons and hone my skills.