The Best Gaming Desktops of 2017

Despite the lure of game consoles and handheld devices, PC gaming is alive and kicking. Enthusiasts know that nothing beats the quality of gameplay you can get with a desktop built for gaming. But what kind of PC can make major 3D games look and run better than they do on the Sony PS 4 Pro for the Microsoft Xbox One S? If you have deep pockets, your answer could be a custom-built hot rod from an elite boutique PC manufacturer such as Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, or MSI. But a couple of well-informed choices will go a long way toward helping you get the right gaming desktop from the standard PC manufacturer even if you're not made of money. Here's how to buy your best gaming desktop, regardless of your budget and our top 10 picks in the category.
It is admittedly simplifying a complex argument, but high-powered graphics, memory and processors improve the graphics detail such as cloth, reflections, hair and physical interactions such as smoke, thousands of particles colliding, and the general animation of scenes in your favorite games (see How to buy PC games on the cheap). Throwing more resources, like a more powerful graphics cards or faster CPU, at the problem will help to an extent.
The most pivotal decision you make when purchasing a gaming desktop is which 3D graphics subsystem to use. Integrated graphics are fine for casual 2D games, but to really bring out based on 3D, AAA titles, you'll want one or more discrete graphics cards. These cards, powered by technologies from long-time rivals AMD, Nvidia, make more advanced graphical details and improved performance possible although both companies cards most exclusive features to help smooth on-screen animation or deliver improved visual effects of various kinds, for the most part, you should choose the card that best fits within your budget.
Most gaming systems will come preinstalled with a single midrange or high-end graphics card, higher-priced systems will naturally have better cards, since purchase price typically correlates with animation performance and visual quality. Our gaming desktop reviews will let you know if there is room in the system's case for adding more graphics cards, in case you want to improve your gaming performance in the future. Most boutique manufacturers, will sell systems equipped with multiple card arrays if you want to run the best looking and best performing games right away.
Equipping your system with any high-end GPU will unavoidably boost your total bill by a few hundred dollars per card. Still beyond adding extra power to your gaming experience, multiple graphics cards can also enable multiple monitor setups so you can run up to six displays. Higher-level graphics will also pay off in the long run for 4K and virtual reality gaming. Panels with 4K resolution and the displays built into VR headsets have exponentially higher pixel counts than a simple 1080 P HD monitor. You'll need at least a single high-end graphic card, or to lower end cards, to drive a 4K display at top quality settings, with similar requirements for smooth gameplay on VR headsets (see Top VR Headsets in 2017).
You can still get a rich gaming experience for thousands less by choosing a desktop with a single but robust middle tier video card. If you're less concerned about VR or turning up all the eye candy found in games - anti-aliasing and esoteric lighting effects, for example, then today's less powerful graphic cards and GPU's will still give you plenty for your money.
The heart of any system is its processor. While the GPU specializing graphics quality and some physics calculations, the CPU takes care of everything else, including making sure the soundtrack sinks up with gameplay, managing the games load screens, and determining if you hit your targets. At the moment, Intel's 10-core CPU tops the list in terms of raw processing power. AMD goes bang for the buck with its FX processors, which use up to eight cores. Lesser, but still high-powered CPUs, such as the AMD Athlon X4 and A10, and unlocked quad core Intel Core i7 K-series processors, can also provide the computing muscle needed for a satisfying gaming experience. Budget gamers should look to a lower price quad core processor such as the AMD A8 or the Intel Core i5, which will knock hundreds of dollars off the bottom line.

AMD & Intel CPUs ForumHUB

When given the choice between paying for a higher-level GPU or a higher-level CPU, go with the graphics in most cases. In other words, a system with a higher power Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU and a Core i5 processor is a much better choice for 3D intense FPS gaming then one with a low-end card and a zippy Core i7 CPU. But you may want to choose the latter if you are into games that involve a lot of background math calculations, such as strategy titles like those in the Civilization series.
One thing that's often overlooked on gaming systems is RAM. It can be severely taxed by modern games. Try to outfit your PC with at least 8 GB of RAM and budget for 32 GB if you're truly serious about freeing up this potential performance bottleneck. Faster memory also improves overall performance and lets you keep your CPU more stable if you decide to overclock it. A expensive, higher clock memory won't necessarily help a CPU that's running at stock speeds, so make sure you budget wisely.
Solid-state drives or SSD's have become more popular since the prices began dropping dramatically a few years ago. They speed up boot time, wake from sleep time and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Although you can get an SSD of any size, the pairing of a small one such as 128 GB with a larger spinning hard drive 1TB is a good, affordable set up for gamers who also download the occasional video from the Internet.
With the release of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, real VR gaming is possible in the home for the first time. If you want to be able to use them to their fullest, your PC will need to meet their system requirements. The most important is the video card you are pushing a 1080 x 1202 HI, after all, so go with one of the most powerful cards from either the current or previous generation. For the Vive, this means an AMD RX 480 or an Nvidia GTX 970 or GTX 1060. For Oculus headsets, a new processing technique called asynchronous space warp promises for performance with lower end video cards specifically and RX 470 or a GTX 960.
You'll also want a newer AMD or Intel CPU with a minimum of four processing cores, both HTC and Oculus recommend a Core i5-4590 or itís equivalent. And the 8 GB of RAM we recommended should be enough to ensure the fluid gameplay you want.
Don't stop at internal components. Once you have your ideal gaming desktop, a couple of extras can really enhance your gaming experience. We recommend that you check out your machine with a top-notch gaming monitor with a fast response rate and a solid gaming headset so you can trash talk your opponents. Comfortable keyboards, mice, and specialized controllers round out your options at checkout.

Here are some of the best gaming desktops we've recently tested. Many are configured to order PCs from boutique manufacturers, but some come from bigger brands normally associated with consumer grade desktops.

Dell XPS Tower Special Edition - $949.99 at Dell. The Dell XPS Tower Special Addition is a sleek gaming desktop that delivers good performance at an accessible price. It's a good choice for modest gamers. See more...

Dell XPS Tower Gaming Desktop ForumHUB

Alienware Aurora 2016 $799.99 at Dell. This is a more compact gaming desktop than some of the behemoths we've tested lately, but it's more than capable of handling VR and fluid gameplay on one or more 4K monitors. See more...

Alienware Aurora Desktop ForumHUB

Acer Predator G1-710-70001 $2229.99. A scintillating performer that is also a strong value proposition. This desktop is the gaming desktop to be if you want to spend less than $2500. See more...

Acer Predator G1-710-70001 Desktop ForumHUB

Asus ROG GT51 $4999. For thousands less than some other high-end desktops, the ROG offers 60fps 4K gaming and a ton of storage, making it a very worthy option if you like it's conversation starting transformer design. See more...

ASUS ROG GT51 Gaming Desktop ForumHUB

Origin Chronos VR $1722.00 at Origin PC. This is a compact desktop that can fit on most tests and even next year 4K TV, but it delivers performance good enough for serious 4K and VR gaming. See more...

Origin Chronos VR Desktop ForumHUB

Origin Genesis 2016. $1832.00 this is an expensive gaming desktop that delivers rock steady frame rates, even at 4K resolution with all the eye candy turned up. See more...

Origin Genesis Desktop ForumHUB

Digital Storm Aura $1999.00 this pricey desktop isn't innovative: one PC for gamers that delivers excellent performance, many customization options and full upgradability. See more...

Digital Storm Aura Desktop ForumHUB

Falcon Northwest Talon 2016 $1771.00. Though more conservatively designed than other recent high-end gaming desktops, this product has impressive hardware that helps it drive VR and 4K gaming smoother and faster than the competition. See more...

Falcon Northwest Talon Desktop ForumHUB

Velocity Micro Raptor Z95 $1999.00. This is a top-end performer with a DIY friendly, attractive design, but it's not quite as fast as more expensive dual card gaming desktops. See more...

Velocity Micro Raptor Z95 Desktop ForumHUB

HP Omen X $1799.99. With a standout build and high-end components, the HP Omen X gaming desktop won't disappoint on performance or features, as long as you like its appearance enough to sacrifice the extra desk space and cash. See more...

HP Omen X Desktop ForumHUB