Best gaming PC: top battlestations for maxing out games

A collection of the best, most powerful, or indeed smartest looking gaming computers you could wish for

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With a little knowledge, it's easy and cheap to build a gaming PC. On this site or others, you can find good guides to the balance of components you need, whether you want to build a recommend spec PC, an Oculus-ready piece of kit, or a top-end gaming monster.

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

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Custom chassis+Overclocked CPU
Reasons to avoid
-Large, slow HDD-Expensive
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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

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K
Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 290
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 2TB SSHD
Features: 625W PSU
Reasons to buy
+Big-ass graphics card+Speedy i7 CPU
Reasons to avoid
-Older tech all round-Slow but capacious storage
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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

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5-4460T
Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 255
RAM: 8GB DDR3
Storage: 1TB hard disk
Features: Integrated speakers, card reader
Reasons to buy
+Solid performance+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Only midrange specification-Consider the G6 instead
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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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Smart-looking case+Good SSD and HDD combo
Reasons to avoid
-SSD is small though-Bloatware
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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

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 2TB hard disk
Features: Micro-ATX case, red lighting
Reasons to buy
+Tiny size+Not bad value
Reasons to avoid
-Low-powered-Not overclocked
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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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Overclocked, water cooled top-end CPU+Great Nvidia graphics card
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-There's nothing else negative to mention(!)
Today's best deals

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Powerful specs+Fast CPU speed
Reasons to avoid
-More general-purpose CPU-Small SSD
Today's best deals

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Looks like a console+Fast CPU
Reasons to avoid
-Strange amount of memory-Stinted on storage
Today's best deals

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Fast overclocked CPU+High-end graphics card
Reasons to avoid
-Costs a pretty penny-Only middling RAM
Today's best deals

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).