The 6 Best Gaming PCs of 2021

From high-powered custom rigs to entry-level PCs

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Attempting to build your own PC can be a daunting task, so your best bet for playing the latest titles on high settings is to invest in one of the best gaming PCs. While building your own PC or upgrading specific parts can be more cost-effective, opting for a pre-built machine saves time and a lot of hassle.

Our collection of the best gaming PCs makes it possible for you to plug and play with minimal effort on your part, while still letting you pick and choose components that embody a gamer aesthetic.

When looking for the right gaming PC, there are some things to consider besides just general componentry. If you're looking for a deep-dive on what makes a top-notch gaming rig, be sure to check out our beginner's guide to PC gaming.

Otherwise, read on to check out our picks for the best gaming PCs currently available.

The Rundown
Our reviewer Erika Rawes praised the Aurora R11 for its mature-looking design and the vast options it provides.
Best Budget Custom-Built:
NZXT BLD PC at Letsbld.com
NZXT starts each custom build by having you choose from a selection of major titles and what kind of performance you're looking for.
If you want the ultimate gaming PC and don’t mind paying a pretty penny for it, get an Origin Genesis.
Best Aesthetics:
HP Omen 30L at Amazon
The 30L allows for some customization options based on your budget, offering a decent amount of flexibility in your build.
Best Form Factor:
MSI MPG Trident 3 at Amazon
The desktop's sharp and angular form factor is highlighted with small but sleek-looking RGB light.
Its impressive specs beat most desktops and many lower-end gaming PCs.

Best Overall: Alienware Aurora R11

Alienware Aurora R11
What We Like
  • Powerful hardware

  • VR-ready

  • Easy to upgrade

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey compared with building your own

Desktop gamers should take a hard look at the Dell Alienware Aurora R11 when it comes to time to make their next purchase. Dell impresses with good looks for desktop placement, a bevy of upgrade options including support for the latest 10th-generation Intel Core i7 5.1GHz processors, up to 64GB of RAM, up to a whopping five solid-state drives, and ExtremeRange Wi-Fi technology.

Perhaps best yet, Dell has access to Nvidia's 30-series GPUs, which are more than enough to support 4K gameplay. The outside is just as impressive as the inside with more USB connections than you could ever need: six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.1 ports, and an added USB-C port. Our testing also revealed plenty of audio ports, Ethernet, HDMI, and a trifecta of DisplayPorts also ensure that you can hook up the Aurora R11 to multiple monitors for enhanced gameplay or multitasking.

Our reviewer Erika Rawes praised the Aurora R11 for its mature-looking design and the vast options it provides, as you can opt for liquid or air cooling, different levels of CPUs, different ranges of graphics cards, and even two graphics cards if you so choose. Alienware has since come out with an R12 series, which adds 11th Gen Intel chips, but the Alienware R11 series still remains our top pick.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700KF GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 RAM: 2x8GB Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD  

"I was impressed with the R11’s overall performance, especially considering the model I tested is one of the more affordable configurations. Boot times are fast, and it jumps around different applications at lightning speed." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Alienware Aurora R11

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Budget Custom-Built: NZXT BLD PC

NZXT BLD PC
What We Like
  • Extremely accessible service

  • Broad range of customization options

  • Plenty of budget options available

What We Don't Like
  • No closed loop cooling designs

  • No custom case options

  • No NVIDIA or Intel options

If you need a custom-built PC, the experts at NZXT have your back with their BLD service. NZXT starts each custom build by having you choose from a selection of major titles and what kind of performance you're looking for, and it assembles a custom PC that can best handle that game based on your budget.

The BLD service has options ranging from as low as $699, but can also provide a desktop with all the trimmings for over $3,000, if your budget stretches that far. NXZT provides builds only for AMD, so if you are a fan of Intel processors or NVIDIA graphics cards, then you are out of luck.

While you can get into the nuts and bolts of customizing your specific build, swapping out one component for another if you're so inclined, we particularly appreciate how accessible this custom build service is, providing you with clear guidance as well as allowing you to outline specific price or performance points you'd like to hit without charging you a premium for parts.

CPU: AMD Ryzen GPU: AMD Radeon RX RAM: Varies Storage: Varies

Best Splurge: Origin Genesis (Custom Build)

Origin Genesis
What We Like
  • Tons of configuration options

  • Professional assembly

  • Awesome performance

What We Don't Like
  • Exorbitantly expensive

  • Case design is a bit odd

While getting a pre-configured gaming PC is definitely the easier (and relatively hassle-free) option, custom-built rigs offer practically endless options for everything from hardware components to case designs. This also means that it’s completely up to you to decide how powerful—and expensive—you want the machine to be. So, if you want the ultimate gaming PC and don’t mind paying a pretty penny for it, get an Origin Genesis. 

Origin PC is renowned for its high-performance computers and lets you easily configure a custom gaming rig through its website. The company then assembles the computer to your specifications and delivers it to your doorstep.

Built around Origin’s Genesis tower-style case, our recommended configuration includes Intel’s top-of-the-line Core i9-9900X processor, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, a 500GB SSD, and a 2TB HDD. In terms of graphics cards, we recommend going for dual NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPUs, each with 11GB of discrete GDDR6 memory. You can also opt for integrated Wi-Fi, a multi-format DVD burner, and a 40-in-1 card reader module.

As far as standard I/O and connectivity features are concerned, everything from HDMI and USB Type-A to VGA and 3.5mm audio is already taken care of. With the final price coming out to be a little over $7,000 (not including the vast array of cooling and RGB lighting options), this is a gaming PC that will deliver astounding performance with any game or application you throw at it.

CPU: Intel Core i9-9900X GPU: Intel UHD Graphics RAM: 4x16GB Storage: 2TB M.2 SSD

Best Aesthetics: HP Omen 30L

The HP Omen 30L is our pick for best gaming desktop
What We Like
  • Attractive minimalist design

  • Very receptive to upgrades

  • Robust construction and build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Packaged with bloatware

  • Will need a better power supply to handle larger upgrades

The HP Omen 30L is among the first in HP's gaming desktop lineup to benefit from its recent rebranding, abandoning the threatening red logo in favor of an ominous white diamond. Aesthetics aside, HP has continued the Omen legacy with a solid and relatively affordable gaming desktop.

The model we've outlined here features a top-of-the-line 10th-generation Intel gaming processor, 16GB of HyperX DDR4 RAM, and a NVIDIA RTX 3070. The 1TB M.2 SSD provides a solid amount of space to get started with. Just like HP's previous models, the 30L also allows for some customization options based on your budget, offering a decent amount of flexibility in your build.

There's plenty of room for upgrades down the line thanks to the computer's spacious case, but regardless of which parts you go with, the standard warranty still provides you with a year of coverage from the date of purchase.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700F | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 RAM: 16GB Storage: 1TB M.2 SSD

Best Form Factor: MSI MPG Trident 3 Gaming Desktop

MSI MPG Trident 3 Gaming Desktop
What We Like
  • Extremely small

  • Can sit vertically or horizontally

  • Excellent performance

What We Don't Like
  • Packaged bloatware

  • Little room for upgrade potential

The MSI MPG Trident 3 puts a remarkable amount of power into an incredibly small package, even giving modest builds like the Corsair One and NZXT H1 a run for their money. The desktop's sharp and angular form factor is highlighted with small but sleek-looking RGB light, and features a case design which looks like what you would expect a next-gen console to look like. 

This gaming PC has a considerable amount of power behind it as well, featuring hardware you'd expect on a desktop twice its size. The Trident comes packed with an Intel 10700F, a Nvidia RTX 2060, and a 512GB M.2 SSD plus a 1TB 2.5-inch HDD. The chassis also packs in 16GB of RAM, with support for up to 64GB if you choose to upgrade.

The Trident can easily serve as a gaming desktop if your desk space is at a premium, but it truly shines in the living room, filling in as a game console and media PC. The desktop can be vertically oriented or laid flat depending on where you need to stash it, but occupies a footprint no larger than an Xbox One or PS4.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700F | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 RAM: 2x8GB Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD + 1TB 2.5-inch HDD

Best Mini Gaming PC: Intel NUC 9 Extreme NUC9i9QNX

Intel NUC 9 Extreme NUC9i9QNX
What We Like
  • Incredibly small

  • Easily portable

  • Powerful

What We Don't Like
  • Can be a bit noisy

  • Expensive

The Intel NUC 9 Extreme is an interesting gaming computer option. It’s about the size of a normal external hard disk drive, but packs much more under the hood than your average computer.

A 9th-generation Intel i9-9980HK processor provides users with plenty of processing power, along with 64GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD hard drive. These specs already beat most desktops and many lower-end gaming PCs. The mini PC comes with an AMD Radeon EX Vega M GH graphics card, but can be upgraded up to a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Mini pretty easily. 

The PC is 4K ready, and has two Gigabit LAN ports, an HDMI 2.0a port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm stereo jack, and six USB 3.1 ports, so buyers will be able to plug in almost any device they need. The PC can be a bit noisy under heavy load, and can certainly be expensive. The PC's size is a big benefit, as traveling with it is easy and convenient.

CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics RAM: 2x8GB Storage: 380GB M.2 SSD + 1TB M.2 SSD

Final Verdict

For easy upgradability, top-notch performance, and amazing support, it's tough to beat the latest in Alienware's extraterrestrial line of R11 desktops (view at Amazon). If you're looking for something a bit more conventional, a customized NZXT BLD PC (view at NZXT Build) is a great alternative.

About Our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has written for Lifewire since October 2019. She is an expert in consumer technology, including gaming PCs.

Alice Newcome-Beill is constantly looking for new ways to edge out some additional performance from her gaming PCs and obsesses over component benchmarks.

Alienware Aurora R11

 Lifewire / Erika Rawes

What to Look For in a Gaming PC

Graphics

If you want to do any serious gaming, you absolutely need a system that has a discrete graphics card. Integrated graphics, where the GPU is built into the motherboard, just won’t cut it. It’s impossible to go too big in this department, but you can save a ton of money by avoiding the latest cards in favor of an older card that’s still capable of running your favorite games at high settings.

SSD vs. HDD

After the CPU and the graphics card, the hard drive is one of the most important components in a gaming PC. If you want fast load times, then you need to get a gaming PC with an SSD, or be prepared to add one in later. If you’re working on a budget, get a small SSD that has enough space for your operating system and a couple games, and a larger HDD to store everything else.

Upgradability

One of the best things about PC gaming is that when your rig starts getting a little long in the tooth, you can replace components one at a time, or add new components. Look for a gaming PC that has enough extra PCI, PCIe, and M.2 slots, and enough room in the case to accommodate upgrades. It’s a nice bonus if the case is easy to crack open without special tools.

iBUYPOWER Custom Gaming Computer

Alice Newcome-Beill / Lifewire

FAQ
  • What is the best gaming PC for Beginners?

    The best gaming PC for beginners depends largely on the amount of budget available, and the user’s comfort level with the potential for upgrading their PC in the future. It is not recommended that a beginner start with a custom PC or build their PC custom from a site, so you may want to focus on a pre-built rig if you’re new to the hobby. 

  • Is a gaming PC worth the money?

    PC gaming is a wonderful hobby that allows players to enter tons of worlds, experience amazing stories, and challenge themselves. A PC has several advantages over a console, such as access to types of games that do not play well or are not available on consoles. While PCs can seem expensive due to the upfront cost, they can actually last for a long time, and are upgradable. Consoles can die and cause players to have to buy a whole new system. Often if a PC breaks, you simply can replace a part and continue on, saving money in the long run.

  • How much RAM do you need for gaming?

    The more RAM you have, the better. Many games have a minimum requirement of RAM that starts at around 8GB, but some may require more. 32GB or 64GB are recommended for top-level gaming. However, you do not have to start at that amount as RAM is easy to upgrade and add later on, so do not let low RAM deter you from buying a PC that you like.

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