buying guide: Best gaming PC: 10 of the top rigs you can buy in 2016


Update: We’ve introduced a new addition to our buying guide, the Overclockers Titan Virtual Force! Read on to see why it should be one of your first stops in your search for VR-ready gaming hardware.


Update: We’ve introduced a new addition to our buying guide, the Overclockers Titan Virtual Force! Read on to see why it should be one of your first stops in your search for VR-ready gaming hardware.

PC gaming is currently in better shape than it has been for years. Software sales are up, and developers now take both the platform and players more seriously.

The fantastic simplicity of services like Steam makes buying PC games a cinch, and the PC’s open nature gives you a great choice of hardware. Graphics cards, storage, processors and memory are interchangeable on the PC in a way that no other platform can compete with. And, with a PC that has a really high specification, the visuals and resolutions it can manage are far superior to even the Xbox One and PS4.

A great gaming computer doesn’t come cheap though. You’ll have to dig deep into your pocket for a PC that has the most powerful graphics card, a top-end “Haswell” or “Skylake” processor which has been overclocked by the PC vendor, and an ultra fast SSD. But, if you love gaming, the considerable expense is absolutely worth it.

The single most important piece of advice for anyone shopping for a gaming PC is to get a powerful graphics card. The graphics processor affects a game’s frame rate and visual detail more than any other component. But, of course, you’ll also want to make sure the rest of the computer cuts the mustard as well.

Or, you could just buy one of the 10 stellar gaming PCs that we recommend below. Your call.

Also check out: 23 best PC games

Overclockers Asteroid

A beefy LAN-friendly PC with a tasty design

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (3,866MHz) | Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD; 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD | Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet; Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi | Power supply: SuperFlower 1000W | Ports: 4 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio

See more Overclockers Asteroid deals

Insanely powerful
Compact design
Lacks M.2 storage

The latest Overclockers machine is one of the best-designed gaming PCs we’ve ever seen, with bespoke water-cooling, a great color scheme and keen attention to detail. It pairs its great design with class-leading performance in games and applications, and it’s never hot or loud. It’s expensive and niche, however, with limited upgrade potential. If you’re looking for an attractive (and unique) LAN-friendly gaming PC that can handle anything from 4K gaming to VR, The Asteroid is an out-of-this-world machine with a price tag that will bring you back down to earth.

Read the full review: Overclockers Asteroid

Maingear Shift

A gaming PC that constantly runs in top gear

CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti (8GB GDDR5) | RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 400GB Intel SSD (PCIe, NVMe Gen-3), 4TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (7,200 rpm) | Connectivity: 2X RJ-45 Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth radio adaptors | Ports: 12 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x SPDIF-Out, Mic, Line-In and Line-Out ports

See more Maingear Shift deals

Clever chassis design
Near-infinite expansion
Hardware issues
Crazy expensive

The Maingear Shift is the very definition of a luxury gaming PC. It’s practically guaranteed to handle 4K and VR gaming with ease thanks to the Nvidia GTX 980Ti graphics card inside, which packs a huge 8GB of virtual memory. Despite a few nagging component issues, this build is a visually stunning ‘flagship gaming PC.’ It costs a bomb, though, so be prepared to empty your wallet for one – and then some.

Read the full review: Maingear Shift

Lenovo Ideacentre Y900

A forward-looking gaming desktop for PC enthusiasts

CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core, up to 4.2GHz, 8MB cache) | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4GB GDDR5 RAM) | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133 MHz) | Storage: 2TB + 8GB SSHD with 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, DVI, 7.1 analog audio out, optical audio out, headphone jack, microphone jack, PS/2 combo, 7-in-1 card reader

See more Lenovo Ideacentre Y900 deals

Tool-less design
Inaccessible cabling
A tad pricey

This gaming desktop might come in a designer case wrapping, but it’s much more accessible and easy to upgrade than your average pre-built system short of a boutique. The arrival of the Y900, among a few other machines on this very list, herald a eureka moment in the major vendors’ approach to PC gaming: give the people exactly what they want. A tool-less internal design will help soften the blow of some less-than-optimal cable management, meanwhile the device has plenty of room for expansions and upgrades. If you want the lowest friction possible getting into PC gaming, this is fine place to start.

Read the full review: Lenovo Ideacentre Y900

Alienware Area 51

A beautiful looking and well-designed gaming machine

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K (overclocked to 3.8GHz) |
 Graphics: AMD Radeon R370 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | 
Storage: 2TB 7200rpm hard drive | Features: Custom Alienware Chassis, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless

See more Alienware Area 51 deals

Great-looking case
Liquid cooled/overclocked
High-end config very expensive
No SSD in entry-level model

Looking at some of the gaming PCs in this article, it’s clear that some manufacturers go to considerable lengths to present great looking custom chassis designs – but we think the Area 51, from Dell subsidiary Alienware, beats them all by a wide margin. A pentagon when viewed from the side, with a soft blue glow, the components are angled for easier access, and the entire design is incredibly funky. With the entry-level model, you get a liquid cooled overclocked processor and AMD graphics, but configurations with dual Nvidia GeForce cards are an option, although you’ll need to dig quite deep into your pocket to purchase them.

Read our hands-on review: Alienware Area 51

Lenovo Erazer X510 Gaming Desktop

A juggernaut PC with plenty of power

CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K |
 Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 290 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 2TB SSHD | Features: 625W PSU, smart looking chassis

See more Lenovo Erazer X510 Gaming Desktop deals

High-end AMD graphics
Fast CPU performance
Slightly older technology
SSHD not as good as an SSD

Although it’s a bit older than some of the other PCs in this list, the Lenovo Erazer X510 carries a great specification that will handle modern gaming with ease. Compared with some systems, it’s not the best value for money, but it’s certain to be capable of 1080p gaming, and the chassis has a certain allure, with a look that resembles nothing less than a giant juggernaut of steel.

Acer Predator G3-605

A less powerful but more affordable gaming tower

CPU: Intel Core i5-4460T 
| Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 255 
| RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 1TB HDD
| Features: Integrated speakers, card reader

See more Acer Predator G3-605 deals

Good gaming performance
Only a mid-range specification
Soon to be upgraded with newer tech

The Acer Predator G6 is right around the corner, with all the latest bells and whistles, including Intel’s new Skylake processors. But this older model, the G3, can still be found for a very reasonable price. It packs less power than some high-end gaming PCs, but it’s still perfectly capable of running all games, and with this specification you should be able to enjoy 1080p gaming with details set to medium or high, and still get decent frame rates.

HP Envy Phoenix

HP has a good performer here, but the SSD is stingy

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 380 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Bang & Olufsen Audio, 802.11ac wireless

See more HP Envy Phoenix deals

Stylish metallic case
Powerful graphics card
No Skylake technology
Small SSD

HP never comes up with a bad looking design, even for a standard-sized PC tower. The Phoenix looks great, with a bright red light running vertically down the front, which also benefits from a metallic finish. The AMD Radeon 380 in this configuration can deliver great gaming performance to match Nvidia’s GeForce graphics cards. And there’s a Haswell Core i7-4970k chip on board as well, which is a great gaming CPU. There’s everything else you need for a good modern gaming experience too: an SSD and a hard disk plus 16GB of memory. There’s no Skylake chip to be seen here, but we expect HP will follow with a new configuration soon.

MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix

This compact PC offers solid no-frills performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 2TB HDD | Features: Micro-ATX case, red lighting

See more MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix deals

Small size
Reasonable value
You might want more power

No overclock

We’ve had large PC cases, PC cases with a wacky design, and PC cases that fit both those descriptions. How about small PC cases? The MSI Nightblade comes in a MicroATX chassis, which adds a degree of portability, useful if you regularly take your PC to LAN parties. It looks pretty good too with red illumination underneath the front. Although beefier configurations are available, this one only comes with a GeForce GTX 960. Intel’s venerable 4.4GHz Core i7-4790k is used as the processor and this machine still offers a lot of gaming performance in a small box.

Cyberpower Trinity 300

A holy Trinity of cool design, graphics grunt and processing performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 250GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Funky chassis design, Cooler Master liquid cooling

See more Cyberpower Trinity 300 deals

Six-core processor
High-end graphics card
Need to manually add 20% overclock

Case design not for everyone

If you’ve looked at some of the other machines in this article, you may like the idea of having top-end gaming performance with a six-core Haswell E processor for non-gaming tasks as well. What if you really like the look of the custom chassis designs here too? The Cyberpower Trinity 300 gives you all three. The chassis, a DeepCool Tristellar Gaming Case, places the components into a three-winged chassis with a striking appearance. And there’s a lot of performance on offer too, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 video card alongside an Intel Core i7-5820K processor. Oddly, the standard configuration on Cyberpower’s website doesn’t seem to offer an overclocked processor, but this can be added to the overall build for a small additional outlay.

Scan 3XS Vengeance

A very speedy PC which can cope with demanding gaming

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCI-E SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, Be quiet! Dark Rock 3 CPU cooler, Corsair Obsidian 450D chassis, 750W PSU

See more Scan 3XS Vengeance deals

Fast overclocked Skylake CPU

High-end graphics card
Not a cheap machine
Skylake not a huge boost

Scan’s 3XS Vengeance gaming computer very closely matches that of Chillblast’s Fusion Master, with an overclocked Skylake processor for the fastest possible gaming performance and a powerful GeForce GTX 980 graphics card. This sort of setup will cope with any game up to 1440p resolution in maximum detail. The gap in price between the two systems can be attributed to small differences – a slightly smaller Samsung M.2 PCI Express SSD and less memory in Scan’s default configuration. Whatever, the combination of Skylake and a GeForce GTX 980 will result in a very fast gaming PC.

Overclockers Titan Virtual Force

Virtual reality made easy

CPU: 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Connectivity: Ethernet | Ports: (Rear) 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0; (Top) 2 x USB 3.0, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, HDMI, microphone and headphone jack

See more Overclockers Titan Virtual Force deals

Good value
Handily-located ports
Uninspired case

Like many pre-built gaming desktops, the Titan Virtual Force is not tastefully designed nor is it particularly subtle. But very rarely when we buy gaming hardware are we as concerned about style over power – and holy hell is the Titan Virtual Force powerful. But it certainly needs to be seeing as the Titan Virtual Force is a gaming PC designed for use with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.

For $1,820, of course you could build your own PC with equivalent specs for cheaper, but buying pre-built is all about convenience which is clearly on the table here. Taking a ride on the VR bandwagon with the Titan Virtual Force doesn’t require knowing how to mount a motherboard or install a CPU cooler, but it does demand a hefty chunk of change.

So long as you’re happy with a GTX 980Ti paired with an Intel 6600K but only 8GB of RAM at the entry level, the Titan Virtual Force serves as an excellent shortcut too buttery smooth VR gaming on the high end.

Read the full review: Overclockers Titan Virtual Force

Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ

A powerful PC with a smart looking case and customisable lights

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | RAM: 12GB DDR3 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Features: 802.11ac wireless, six-core CPU, customisable lighting effects

See more Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ deals

Great-looking red and black chassis
Powerful graphics card
Less memory than similar priced PCs

Small SSD

If you want a tower PC that looks like it means business, the Republic Of Gamers G20AJ looks like it could be the best choice. Not only does it carry the Republic Of Gamers branding, reserved only for the top-end gaming products from Asus – all of which boast this signature red and black design – it also has a specification to match. We’re talking a high-end GeForce graphics card, fast Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and both an SSD and hard disk, with built-in 802.11ac wireless. And call us immature, but we always love coloured lights on a gaming rig. Asus also used IFA 2015 to show off special edition of the machine that can squeeze in a Titan X for massive power.

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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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