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The best gaming PCs of 2020 have all the specs necessary to run the hottest games of today and tomorrow. These machines bring together high-end performance and top-notch aesthetics.
When looking for the right gaming PC there are some things to consider besides just general componentry. Of course, knowing your CPU from your GPU will help you make a more educated decision but different manufacturers offer different warranties and customization options depending on who you go with.
If you're looking for a deep-dive on what makes a top-notch gaming rig, make sure to check out our beginners guide to PC gaming.
Easy to upgrade
Pricey compared with building your own
Desktop gamers should take a long, hard look at the Dell Alienware Aurora R7 when it comes to time to make their next purchase. With high scores for upgradeability, Dell impresses with good looks for desktop placement, a bevy of upgrade options including support for the latest 8th-generation Intel Core i7 4.6GHz processors, up to 64GB of RAM, a whopping five solid-state drives, and ExtremeRange Wi-Fi technology that allows for dual external 5GHz signal amplifiers for an increased signal range.
Perhaps best yet, Dell can support dual 300W graphics cards for 600W of total graphics power which is enough to support 12K gameplay. The outside is just as fantastic as the inside with more USB connections than you could ever need including six total USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.1 ports, and an added USB-C port for future-proofing. Our testing also revealed a bevy of audio ports, Ethernet, HDMI, and a trifecta of DisplayPorts also ensure that you can hook the Dell up to multiple monitors for enhanced gameplay or multitasking.
"There’s also an array of customizable RGB lights on the side that can be changed to whatever colors suit your style." — Gannon Burgett, Tech Writer
Solid 1080p gaming performance
Red-only LED lighting
Front panel connections are difficult to reach
As laptops play catchup to desktops in the gaming space, Lenovo’s C530 is uniquely positioned. Compact and powerful, this is a gaming desktop that’s actually portable. With an integrated carrying handle on top, the 24-pound computer is easily transported for gaming on the road. Taking it with you might seem odd, but factor in an 8th generation Intel processor (i5 or i7), up to 32GB of RAM, and up to a 256GB SSD and you have the power of a full-size tower in a small, moveable cube. The C530 comes with your choice of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, 1050 Ti or 1050 graphics card, each with its own dedicated memory.
Put all of these pieces together and you have an ultra-powerful gaming desktop. Fortunately, Lenovo’s brilliant design is also open to upgrades down the road. The C530 adds one press, tool-free upgrade system with best-in-class ease of access. Dolby Atmos makes your gaming experience even better with outstanding audio that provides immersive sound. There is a headphone jack on the front of the PC and a slew of connectivity options in back: eight USB ports, four HDMI inputs, audio-out and a variety of display outputs for connecting to a monitor.
Tooless access for easy upgrades
Interior lighting is a bit ugly
Motherboard doesn't provide much room for upgrades
Despite being just a little over two years old, HP’s Omen lineup has become a force to be reckoned with in the world of gaming. And looking at the Omen 880-130, it’s easy to see why. Undoubtedly one of the best gaming PCs out there, it’s powered by Intel’s eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8700K processor. The hexa-core CPU supports overclocking and is helped by 16GB of DDR4 RAM, making multitasking a breeze.
However, the true star of the show here is NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU. With 11GB of dedicated GDDR5X memory, the top-tier graphics card allows the HP Omen 880-130 to make quick work of even the most demanding AAA titles. The PC comes with a 512GB SSD for super-fast bootup times, and there’s even a massive 2TB HDD for all your game saves, videos, and more. The Omen 880-130 doesn’t skimp on connectivity features either, having everything from USB Type-C and HDMI to DisplayPort and S/PDIF.
Other features include a multi-format CD/DVD burner, a 3-in-1 card reader, as well as integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.2. All this goodness comes packed in a swanky-looking tower-style case, complete with red internal illumination and edge vents for better heat dissipation.
Comes packed with tons of bloatware
Acer may be primarily known for its value-for-money computing products, but the Taiwanese company’s gaming portfolio is also equally (if not more) impressive. Want proof? Just take a look at the Predator Orion 9000. Featuring the perfect blend of power and performance, it ranks up there among the best gaming PCs you can buy today.
Delivering horsepower to the Acer Predator Orion 9000 is an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8700K processor, packing six cores and extensive overclocking capabilities. Our recommended configuration includes 16GB of DDR4 RAM for hassle-free multitasking, as well as a 256GB SSD to ensure that all your programs and games start-up in no time. Speaking of games, they all run flawlessly even at the highest settings, thanks to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU and its 11GB of discrete GDDR5X memory. Running Windows 10, the PC also comes with a 2TB HDD for all your storage needs. For I/O and connectivity, the Predator Orion 9000 features HDMI, Ethernet, DisplayPort, integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and more.
Its tower-style case is also a work of art with RGB lighting (customizable via PredatorSense software), thermal zone separation for enhanced cooling, a see-through side panel, and even a dedicated ‘Turbo’ button.
Difficult to upgrade
Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, there’s no point in spending a fortune on a maxed-out rig. Thankfully, there are many great entry-level gaming PCs you can choose from, and these are perfect for playing some selective titles every once in a while. One such machine is HP’s Pavilion 690-0020.
At the heart of the Pavilion 690-0020 is AMD’s Ryzen 5 2400G processor, with a quad-core CPU and onboard RX Vega 11 graphics. Complementing that is a Radeon RX 580 GPU, with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. Add to that 8GB of DDR4 RAM (upgradeable to 32GB) and a 1TB HDD, and you’ve got a computer that can handle most modern games with little to no effort. For connecting peripherals, the HP Pavilion 690-0020 features USB Type-C, USB Type-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and 3.5mm audio. There’s also integrated Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and 5.1 channel audio included in the mix.
Running 64-bit Windows 10, the PC includes a multi-format CD/DVD burner and a 3-in-1 card reader. The tower case’s green LED lighting and brushed metal case give the Pavilion 690-0020 a distinctly unique appearance, and the PC even comes with a wired keyboard and mouse.
Design is certainly a primary feature of many gaming PCs. Most modern rigs have eye-catching cases, replete with sharp edges and multi-colored illumination that give them a distinct visual identity. But even then, there’s one that clearly stands out from the rest. Meet the Dell Alienware Area-51.
Hands-down the best-looking gaming PC on the market today, the Area-51 is a sight to behold. With the second-generation 'triad' chassis design, this massive PC resembles an extraterrestrial mothership. The case is made from carbon-powder-coated metal. It has extensive cable management features and storage bays, plus a swinging cage that allows for the tool-free addition of graphics and expansion cards. Our recommended configuration comes with an Intel Core-i7 7820X processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 128GB M.2 SSD (as a boot drive), and a 1TB HDD for storage. The Dell Alienware Area-51 includes NVIDIA’s latest and greatest GeForce RTX 2080 OC GPU, with 8GB of dedicated GDDR6 memory.
For connectivity, the PC has everything from USB Type-C (with PowerShare) to Gigabit Ethernet. There’s also integrated Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1. With the preinstalled AlienFX software, you can not only tweak RGB lighting effects but also save custom illumination schemes for individual games.
"While there is a certain point of pride in building your own PC, buying a pre-built PC can offer benefits like extended warranties and customer support." — Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor
Tons of configuration options
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.
Renowned for its high-performance computers, Origin PC 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.
Not easy to upgrade
Fast, small, and quiet are not generally words we associate with desktop gaming computers, but in the case of the Corsair ONE Pro, that’s exactly the right description. Corsair’s adoption of a custom-manufactured liquid-cooling system and its custom GPU and CPUs help the desktop produce just 20 dBa while idle which makes it quieter than a whisper and almost inaudible. Fortunately, running quiet doesn’t mean running slow as the Intel Core i7 processor — paired with 16GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card — can more than handle 4K and VR gaming.
With all that power inside, it’s a little disappointing to see the Corsair isn't super upgradeable, but, there is even more performance power to be derived from the internal components which should continue to make the Corsair a smart buy for years to come. At just 15 inches tall and less than eight inches deep, the Corsair is a compact desktop whose size belies the power inside and, with its cylindrical style, it should fit neatly on or under your desk.
For easy upgradability, top-notch performance and amazing support it's tough to beat the latest in Alienware's extraterrestrial line of R7 desktops. Although if you're looking for something a bit more conventional, the HP Omen 880 is a great alternative.
Alice Newcome-Beill is constantly looking for new ways to edge out some additional performance from her gaming PCs and obsesses over component benchmarks.
David Beren is a writer with more than 10 years of experience in the tech industry and has been writing for Lifewire since 2016.
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.
When testing our gaming PCs our expert put these machines through their paces with AAA gaming benchmarks from titles like Doom Eternal and The Division 2 as well as free benchmarking tools like Cinebench and 3DMark to see how far their performance can be pushed. They also pay attention to a specific manufacturer's warranty, which can be a massive perk when buying a pre-fab gaming PC. While this is often quite subjective, aesthetics can count for quite a bit when you're dropping some serious dime on a beefy gaming PC.