Best gaming PC: top battlestations for maxing out games

Yet with a little too little knowledge, you can really screw up building the PC. And if you do, it's not always obvious which one of your expensive components isn't properly installed – or worse, has just died and needs replacing. That can be a series of expensive mistakes. And the knowledge required changes all the time.

So buying a premade PC, from people who make them all the time, is a no-brainer. Don't – ever – buy them from a small corner computer shop. Unless you know your components well and are willing to price-check, you'll be gouged. We'd also recommend skipping the Linux-based Steam Machines until they have a larger library of games.

Without further ado, here are the 10 prebuilt desktop PCs we recommend to get the best gaming experience today.

1. Cyberpower Trinity 300

No, it doesn't transform into a car

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

Six-core processor
High-end graphics card
Need to manually add 20% overclock
Case design not for everyone

I mean, what is that? From the side it looks like a cyborg three-leaf clover, but from every other angle it looks like an artefact that's escaped from Halo, Destiny or Killzone (it's called the DeepCool Tristellar, if you're looking to get it for a home-build). Despite that funky look, there's a real beast of a machine in there, with a six-core processor, a high-end GeForce GTX 980 card, a nice-sized SSD and a welcome 2TB HDD. And 16GB of DDR4 RAM is just greedy. Pay a little more and they'll overclock it for you too.

2. Alienware Area 51

Dell abducts another premium gaming machine for probing

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K | Graphics: AMD Radeon R370 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB hard disk | Features: 3.8GHz overclock, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless

Custom chassis
Overclocked CPU
Large, slow HDD

Dell has spent a lot of marketing dollars on building up Alienware's reputation as a premium gaming brand, so it's no surprise that this machine attempts to maintain that rep. Most notably, it's got a custom chassis which has been nicely designed for easier access and looks damn fine too.

This basic model comes with a liquid-cooled processor and AMD graphics – you can get dual SLI Nvidia GeForce cards instead, but the price rockets accordingly.

3. Lenovo Erazer X510 Gaming Desktop

An off-the-shelf leviathan with a lantern jaw

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

Big-ass graphics card
Speedy i7 CPU
Older tech all round
Slow but capacious storage

Lenovo has attempted to build a reputation for stolid quality (see also its purchase of the IBM ThinkPad brand) and this Erazer PC has a great specification, with a fast CPU and high-end AMD graphics. Admittedly, it is a bit longer in the tooth and pricier than other PCs in this list, but it's still capable of high-res smooth frame rate gaming. And it looks the part, in that great angular steel enclosure with the funny Judge Dredd-style jaw.

4. Acer Predator G3-605

A good midrange PC at a solid price

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

Solid performance
Good value
Only midrange specification
Consider the G6 instead

Everything in the Acer G3 is midrange, but that means it all works together well – and is substantially cheaper than the newer G6, which is running Intel's new Skylake processors. Given that even the next-gen consoles are holding back games from pushing top-end PC specifications, this machine can run almost any modern game. The case isn't exactly beautiful either – it's a bit dull and definitely not as handsome as the newer G6 model – but for the money you'll pay, this is a good computer.

5. HP Envy Phoenix

A solid performer sporting unusual components

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

Smart-looking case
Good SSD and HDD combo
SSD is small though

A good combination of standard components makes up the core offering of the Phoenix. I'm personally not a fan of the design – it looks like a plastic Knight Rider fascia tacked onto a standard silver tower – but I've heard others rave about it. In terms of power, the included Radeon GPU can match most equivalent-cost GeForce cards, and that 16GB of memory should make any game run well. The SSD is a bit small – it's only really big enough to hold the standard OS bloat – but the 2TB HDD provides more storage (for the typical HP bloatware, ahem).

6. MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix

A cutesy-wutesy gaming monster

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

Tiny size
Not bad value
Not overclocked

The Micro-ATX PC range has bubbled along for several years, but it manages to keep going, throwing out perfectly good small PCs. This one has a pleasant enough black metal design, complete with a handle in case you really must take it to LAN parties. Inside the tiny case is an older i7 processor, which should just about be able to keep up with the slower GTX 960. Both the RAM and the 2TB HDD are standard – but you might want to add in an SDD for the OS.

7. Chillblast Fusion Master

Expensive but has a powerful Skylake processor

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 16GB 3000MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB M.2 PCI-E SSD + 2TB SSHD | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, Cooler Master Nepton Cooler, Cooler Master case, 750W PSU

Overclocked, water cooled top-end CPU
Great Nvidia graphics card
There's nothing else negative to mention(!)

This PC is focused on the new Intel Skylake processor, plugged into the Asus Z170 Pro Gaming Motherboard. Using the Nepton water cooler, Chillblast has overclocked the processor to a stonking 4.6GHz. On top of that, it comes with a 4GB GTX 980 video card and a superfast, large SSD capable of the obscenely-fast transfer rate of 2GB/sec. All this is packed into the specially designed Cooler Master mid-tower gaming case, with a 750W power supply.

8. Overclockers UK Titan Riptide

Do anything, play anything, with this beast

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 120GB SSD + 2TB hard disk | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, six-core CPU, white LED strip, Phanteks Enthoo Case, 650W PSU

Powerful specs
Fast CPU speed
More general-purpose CPU
Small SSD

Another PC with an astoundingly aggressive and meaningless name, the Titan Riptide certainly packs a punch. That six-core CPU isn't as powerful as others on offer here for gaming, but it does run at 4.2GHz and should be able to perform general computing tasks better.

We'd really want this to have a full-flavour GeForce GTX 980 instead of the 970, given the good speed of that processor and that big lump of RAM, but all this is minor quibbling really.

9. Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ

The angles, the marvellous angles

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

Looks like a console
Fast CPU
Strange amount of memory
Stinted on storage

If you're looking for something for your living room, then the Republic of Gamers G20AJ has the right testosterone-saturated chassis for the job. Inside the angular red and black case are the specs of Asus' top-end gaming line – not quite as high-end as some PCs on offer here, but still definitely better than the midrange.

There's a nippy six-core CPU, a good amount of RAM (although 12GB is an odd number), a classic midrange 970 GPU, and speedy built-in wireless. Oh, and it has customisable lighting effects too. Finally, as an option you can upgrade the midrange GPU to a bank-breaking Titan X.

10. Scan 3XS Vengeance

The template for a solid gaming PC

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

Fast overclocked CPU
High-end graphics card
Costs a pretty penny
Only middling RAM

Looking at this and the Chillblast Fusion Master, there's little to choose between them – which shows that this is the sweet spot for custom-built PCs right now. A setup like this really will handle anything you throw at it, putting out 30-60 fps at anything under a 2K resolution.

The i7 processor here has had an overclock, pushing up its core performance to match that top-end 980 card. The rest of the kit is set up to help that, with that lovely SSD and HDD combo, and an acceptable amount of DDR3 RAM. (You don't really need 16GB of DDR4, but we do get greedy sometimes).