The 6 Best Gaming PCs of 2021

From high-powered custom rigs to entry-level PCs

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"Desktop gamers should take a long, hard look at the Dell Alienware Aurora R11 when it comes to time to make their next purchase."
Best Custom Built Gaming PC:
iBuypower Custom Gaming PC at Ibuypower.com
"The expert builders at iBuypower can get you a powerful gaming PC without too much of a premium."
"Custom-built rigs offer practically endless options for everything from hardware components to case designs."
Best Aesthetics:
HP Omen 30L at Amazon
"Aesthetics aside, HP has continued the Omen legacy with a solid and relatively affordable gaming desktop.hetic"
Best Form Factor:
MSI MPG Trident at Amazon
"The MSI MPG Trident puts a remarkable amount of power into an incredibly small package."
"If you need a custom-built PC, the experts at NZXT have got your back"

Trying to build your own PC in this economy has become all but impossible, so your best bet for playing the latest games on max settings is to invest in one of the best gaming PCs. While building your own PC or upgrading specific parts is certainly more cost-effective, getting your hands on the best parts is another matter entirely. Our collection of the best gaming PCs allow you to plug and play with minimal effort on your part, while still letting you pick and choose components that embody that gamer aesthetic you crave.

A single point of contact for your warranty is likely the biggest draw for many pre-fab PCs. Having to troubleshoot and RMA individual components is one of the biggest hassles to making your own PC, and going with an Alienware or Omen gaming desktop allows you to circumvent most of that.

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.

Best Overall: Alienware Aurora R11

What We Like
  • Powerful hardware

  • VR-ready

  • Easy to upgrade

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey compared with building your own

Desktop gamers should take a long, hard look at the Dell Alienware Aurora R11 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 10th-generation Intel Core i7 5.1GHz 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 has access to Nvidia's 30-series GPUs which are more than enough to support 4K 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.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700KF GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 RAM: 2x8GB Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD  

"I was impressed with the R11’s overall performance, especially considering the model I tested is one of the more affordable configurations. Boot times are fast, and it jumps around different applications at lightning speed." — Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Alienware Aurora R11

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Custom Built Gaming PC: iBuypower Custom Gaming PC

Ibuypower Custom Gaming PC
What we like
  • Excellent value

  • Solid build quality and attention to detail

  • Powerful hardware for demanding games

  • Very little bloatware out of the box

  • Prompt and courteous customer service

What we don't like
  • Purchase and delivery took over three months

  • Parts selection could be better

The custom PC builders at iBuypower are one of your best sources for high-end components, especially the scarce RTX 30-series graphic cards. If you're in the market for a demanding gaming rig that can handle games like Troy Total War, the iBuypower Custom Gaming PC can be configured to your needs and specifications. Despite costing more than doing your own build, the added premium isn't much higher than picking the components yourself. On top of that, you get solid build quality, attention to detail, and practically no bloatware out of the box.

While there might be some issues with shipping due to the scarcity of parts, solid customer service sweetens the deal and can be a great option for those who aren't comfortable with doing a build themselves. While our chosen configuration cost upwards of $4,000, more affordable options are also available depending on your gaming needs.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5900X GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 RAM: 4x8GB Storage: 1TB M.2 SSD

"iBuypower, when compared with other ISBs has the most impressive selection of hardware I’ve seen, with a broad range of proprietary and name-brand hardware to choose from allowing you to mix and match to your heart’s content."Alice Newcome-Beill, Product Tester

iBUYPOWER Custom Gaming Computer

Alice Newcome-Beill / Lifewire

Best Splurge: Origin Genesis (Custom Build)

Origin Genesis
What We Like
  • Tons of configuration options

  • Professional assembly

  • Awesome performance

What We Don't Like
  • Exorbitantly expensive

  • 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.

CPU: Intel Core i9-9900X GPU: Intel UHD Graphics RAM: 4x16GB Storage: 2TB M.2 SSD

Best Aesthetics: HP Omen 30L

What We Like
  • Attractive minimalist design

  • Very receptive to upgrades

  • Robust construction and build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Packaged with bloatware

  • Will need a better power supply to handle larger upgrades

The HP Omen 30L is among the first in HP's gaming desktop lineup to benefit from their recent rebranding, abandoning the threatening red tribal logo in favor of an ominous solid white diamond. Aesthetics aside, HP has continued the Omen legacy with a solid and relatively affordable gaming desktop.

The model we've outlined here features a top-of-the-line 10th gen intel gaming processor, 8GB of HyperX DDR4 RAM, and a GTX 1660Ti. The 256GB M.2 SSD doesn't leave you with a ton of space, but just like their previous models, the 30L also allows for some customization options based on your budget, offering a decent amount of flexibility in your build.

Because of the spacious case, there's plenty of room for upgrades down the line, but regardless of what parts you go with, the standard warranty still provides you with a year of coverage from the date of purchase.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700F | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti RAM: 1x8GB Storage: 256GB M.2SSD

Best Form Factor: MSI MPG Trident

What We Like
  • Extremely small

  • Quiet fans

  • Excellent performance

What We Don't Like
  • Packaged bloatware

  • Little room for upgrade potential

The MSI MPG Trident puts a remarkable amount of power into an incredibly small package, even giving modest builds like the Corsair One and NZXT H1 a run for their money. The sharp and angular form factor of this desktop is highlighted with RGB strips and even features a tempered glass side panel for showing off components.

This gaming PC has a considerable amount of power behind it as well, featuring hardware you'd expect on a desktop twice its size. The Trident comes packed with an Intel 10700F, an Nvidia RTX 2060 Super, and a 1TB M.2 SSD. The chassis also packs in 16GB of RAM, with support for up to 64GB if you choose to upgrade.

The Trident can easily serve as a gaming desktop if your desk space is at a premium, but it truly shines in the living room, filling in as a game console and media PC. The desktop can be oriented vertically, or laid flat depending on where you need to stash it, but occupies a footprint no larger than an Xbox One or PS4.

CPU: Intel Core i7-10700F GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super RAM: 2x8GB Storage: 1TB M.2 SSD

Best Custom: NZXT BLD PC

NZXT BLD PC
What We Like
  • Extremely accessible service

  • Broad range of customization options

  • Plenty of budget options available

What We Don't Like
  • No closed loop cooling designs

  • No Custom case options

If you need a custom-built PC, the experts at NZXT have got your back with their BLD service that makes buying a desktop that is specifically tailored to your needs easier than ever. NZXT starts each custom build by having you choose from a selection of major titles and what kind of performance you're looking for and assembles a custom PC that can best handle that game based on your budget.

The BLD service has options ranging from as low as $699 but can also provide you with a desktop with all the trimmings for over $3000 if your budget stretches that far. Regardless of how much you can spend, if you're in the market for a pre-built PC, NZXT can help you figure out a build that works for you.

While you can get into the nuts and bolts or customizing your specific build, swapping out one component for another if you're so inclined, we particularly appreciate how accessible this custom build service is, providing you with clear guidance as well as allowing you to outline specific price or performance points you'd like to hit without charging you a premium for parts.

CPU: AMD Ryzen GPU: AMD Radeon RX RAM: Varies Storage: Varies

Final Verdict

For easy upgradability, top-notch performance, and amazing support it's tough to beat the latest in Alienware's extraterrestrial line of R11 desktops (view at Amazon). Although if you're looking for something a bit more conventional, a customized NZXT BLD PC (view at NZXT Build) is a great alternative.

About Our Trusted Experts

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.

What to Look for in a Gaming PC

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.

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