The best desktop gaming PC 2018: T3's top picks for high-end gaming

T3 picks the top pixel pushers on the PC gaming market in 2018

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We think the best desktop gaming PC on the market today is the Corsair ONE Pro. It's not cheap, but it's incredibly strong for its compact size.

You can just unplug the ONE Pro and take your 4K or VR gaming wherever you need it, and the Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti inside means it's going to last into the next generation of games.

It's not the most expensive machine on our list, and you can take its £2,500 RRP and bump it up by a power of ten in fact and you still wouldn't hit our top priced box, too. But we've picked out a host of machines suitable for just about any wallet. 

That said, read on to find out why PCs cost quite as much as they do right now...

How to choose a great desktop gaming PC for you

The desktop gaming PC market is in a bit of a weird place at the moment. There's a RAM manufacturing crisis going on, which is pushing the price of memory through the roof. Cryptocurrency miners are hoarding graphics cards, which is doing the same to their value. We've reached the point where building your own might not be such a good deal, particularly if you're chasing the highest-end performance.

Buying an off-the-shelf desktop is the best way to get great gaming power without the complexity and potential for disaster that constructing your own offers up. Selecting one isn't easy, but you're generally going to have to do a bit of cost/benefit analysis based on exactly what you want to do with it.

Buying for VR? Make sure there's multiple HDMI outputs and a little breathing room for the next generation of headsets. Want to game in 4K? Spend a little more and only the top end of graphics cards can comfortably push that many pixels. Want something you can upgrade later on? This is a key benefit of desktop PCs, so consider something in a more traditional form factor, as awkward cases can sacrifice accessibility for aesthetics.

All things considered, it's best to set your budget and buy the best combination you can afford, looking primarily at storage, memory and GPU power rather than being too wowed by CPU speeds. There'll always be a newer, faster PC configuration coming down the tracks, but settling for what works for you right now is the only way to get on the ladder.

Best desktop gaming PCs

Best gaming PC

Alienware Area 51 Threadripper

Top processor, massive graphics potential, and liquid-cooled style

CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X @ 3.6GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 2TB, 7,200rpm
PSU: 850 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Outrageous CPU power+Unique case design+4K-capable
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Even pricier upgrades

Alienware's obvious penchant for odd-looking cases is on display in the second-generation Triad enclosure of its monstrous Area 51, a triangular oddity that twists key hardware on a 45-degree angle for ease of access and better airflow. 

Strange case or not, this is a powerful package, particularly at the Threadripper 1950X tier, which packs in an absolutely incredible overclocked 16-core CPU, super-quiet liquid cooling on its Geforce 1080 GPU (with an option to double up your 1080s or jump to 1080Ti cards if you're feeling extra flush) and a whole lot more. 

We're not going to argue that it's cheap. It isn't, and the upgrade tiers could potentially send you upwards of five grand in a couple of clicks. But for an unashamed luxury machine that can throw out 4K with the best of them, it's a solid and unique build.

Best gaming PC

OMEN by HP 880-172na

Old-school styling with power inside

CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K @ 3.7GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
RAM: 32GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 2TB 7,200rpm, 512GB SSD
PSU: 500 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Great package for the price+Powerful GPU+Plenty of RAM and Storage
Reasons to avoid
-Flimsy PSU-Spiky case

Aside from a little of that ubiquitous hard-edged gamer styling, HP hasn't gone too crazy with the appearance of the liquid-cooled Omen desktop line - the cube-shaped Omen 900 aside - and it's held back a little on the price, too. 

For £2,500 you get an excellent eighth-gen Core i7 CPU, about twice as much RAM as you actually need, half a terabyte of SSD plus a 2TB spinning drive, as well as a heavyweight GTX 1080 Ti taking care of the graphics end of things.

This is a box that won't flinch at anything, and it's traditional enough in construction that you shouldn't struggle to upgrade it when the time comes, although we might have put in slightly more than the bare-minimum 500W power supply.

Best gaming PC

Overclockers UK 8-Pack OrionX

A PC builder's fever dream made real

MAIN UNIT: **CPU:** Intel Core i9 7980XE @ 4.6GHz
Graphics: 3x Nvidia Titan X 13GB
RAM: 64GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 1TB SSD (boot), 2x 1TB RAID 0 SSD (secondary), 10TB 7,200rpm (tertiary)
SECOND UNIT: **CPU:** Intel Core i7 7700K @ 5.1GHz
Graphics: Nvidia Titan X 13GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz
Storage: 2x 512GB RAID 0 SSD (boot), 10TB 7,200rpm (secondary)
PSU: 2,000 Watt (shared)
Reasons to buy
+Absolutely insane power+Immense storage+Two PCs in one
Reasons to avoid
-You can't afford it-No, really, don't spend the money

If money really is no object, the latest generation of OrionX designed by OCUK's in-house Dr Frankenstein, world record overclocker Ian '8-Pack' Parry may be worth selling a kidney for. It's more expensive than a new car, it's stuffed with LEDs, custom watercooling loops and more cabling than a BT junction box, and that glass-sided case contains not one but two distinct PCS. One is a complete overkill 18-core Intel Core i9 machine, somehow packed with three Nvidia Titan X GPUs running in SLI, 64GB RAM, and a swathe of SSD storage.

Alongside it a second machine, still more powerful than most of the hardware on this list, with its own Titan X, to be used as a server, a streaming host, or just on weekends whatever you fancy. The whole lot comes bundled in its own custom flight case for safe storage. Absolutely ridiculous, and you'll have to endure a 42 working day lead time to secure the services of the mad scientist himself, but the OrionX is a real indicator of what's possible in the PC world. 

And if a rummage around under the sofa cushions doesn't quite turn up the requisite funds, check out OCUK's Infin8 range of slightly more restrained pre-overclocked hardware.

Best gaming PC

Zotac Magnus EN1070

A tiny yet tremendous PC perfect for the living room

CPU: Intel Core i5 6400T @ 2.2GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
RAM: None included
Storage: None included
PSU: 180 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Tiny size+Perfectly portable+Decent performance
Reasons to avoid
-Limited upgrade possibilities-RAM and storage extra

There's big, flashy and ostentatious, and there's the other end of the scale, the sort of PC that's so small and unassuming you barely know it's even there. Zotac's Magnus series is a prime example, packing a stack of power into a space not much larger than its own power brick.

Don't be fooled by the slightly scaled down specs of the EN1070's Core i5 and a GTX 1070 are, in tandem, more than capable of pushing out a quality VR signal, and the pair of HDMI and DisplayPort outputs on the back of this specced-up Magnus mean you can drive up to four displays at once.

There's some advanced thermal engineering on board, meaning the Magnus stays pretty quiet, dissipating its heat through a massive heatsink, the fans only really get tested when it really gets cooking. One tiny blip, though: Zotac's packaged up all the processing, but buying and installing storage, memory, and your own copy of Windows is up to you.

Best gaming PC

Asus ROG Strix GD30

A battle-armoured beast with 4K chops

CPU: Intel Core i7 7700 @ 3.6GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB 7200rpm
PSU: 500 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Traditional setup+Beautiful lighting+Great speed for the price
Reasons to avoid
-Showing its age-Love it or hate it style

Styled precisely to fit in a Stormtrooper's office, the 7th-generation i7 CPU and three-steps-down 1060 GPU of the GD30 means it is, we'll admit, looking a little long in the tooth but such is the nature of the ever-advancing PC market. If you're less concerned about cutting your feet on the bleeding edge than you are about getting rock-solid gaming performance for a reasonably decent price, then the GD30 has you covered.

It's packed with customisation options, from the LED light show inside to the replaceable front and side panels, and there's room inside the case to add a liquid cooling solution (or just swap out the components) when you're looking for that next boost. A proper desktop PC, well made, practical, and reasonably affordable.

Best gaming PC

Corsair One Pro

A compact machine that doesn't skimp on the specs

CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K @ 4.2GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Storage: 480GB SSD, 1TB 7200rpm
PSU: 500 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Tightly designed case+Compact cooling solution+Extreme muscle
Reasons to avoid
-Tricky to upgrade-High price

About the most power you'll find in a space as small as this, Corsair's cleverly engineered compact PC contains a market-leading GeForce 1080 Ti, a screaming-fast Intel Core i7-7700K, a good chunk of the company's super-fast DDR4, and a host of speedy storage.

Corsair claims it's upgradeable, although the intricate liquid cooling and unusual component mounting scheme inside means you won't be able to just toss in a new GPU - you'll need to replace its stock cooler and do a little screwdriver-wrangling to make it work. 

Not that you'll need to pull it apart any time soon as 4K and VR are well within the ONE Pro's capabilities, and it'll serve you well for at least a few years.

Best gaming PC

Chillblast Fusion Arrow 2

An affordable gaming PC that proves you don't need to break the bank

CPU: Intel Core i5 8400 @ 4.0GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
Storage: 250GB SSD, 1TB 7200rpm
PSU: 500 Watt
Reasons to buy
+Affordable components+Capable enough+VR-capable
Reasons to avoid
-Only entry level-Slightly cheesy styling

Proof that you don't need to empty your savings to get decent desktop gaming power, Chillblast's Fusion Arrow 2 skims in under £1000 and offers up entry-level VR performance. 

You'll have to make a few sacrifices, obviously: there's no liquid cooling, a reasonably scant amount of RAM, and a less-powerful CPU, but Chillblast has still managed to apply mod cons like a 250GB SSD and a 3GB GTX 1060 GPU. 

You'll be surprised at how much you can tease out of the Fusion Arrow, and it's the perfect starting point if you're interested in a long-term upgrade path.