Gaming PC Review

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Why Buy a Gaming PC?

The top performers in our review are the CyberPowerPC Zeus Evo Lightning 1000, the Gold Award winner; the ASUS ROG G20AJ, the Silver Award winner; and the Digital Storm Vanquish II, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at the ranking of our 10 systems.

How to Buy a Gaming PC

Gaming desktop computers offer unique performance benefits when compared to traditional game consoles. Along with their multitasking abilities for applications like office work, custom gaming PCs can often run PC games at higher resolutions than game consoles. If you're unfamiliar with how to build your own computer, though, gaming PC manufacturers can take care of this work for you. Besides standard tasks like hardware installation, trained gaming PC builders can safely and neatly perform tasks like cable organizing and water cooling setup.

Compared with other classes of computers, gaming desktops are optimized for serious action; they have large hard drives, excellent cases and the ability to play games at high visual settings without performance issues. We looked at several top gaming PC manufacturers and compared base configurations at a price point of $1,000 to $1,300.

To keep our comparisons consistent across brands, we selected review models from a comparably priced pool of stock configurations. Many manufacturers do, however, also offer part-by-part customization options for their PCs, generally for an additional cost; such models are featured in our custom gaming PCs reviews.

If you don’t require optimal gaming performance, you can pick a machine from our reviews of more mainstream computers, including all-in-one desktops, laptops and ultrabooks. Outside of low-end or entry-level processor models, units from popular series like Intel's Core and AMD's FX line of processors can handle most games when paired with a powerful graphics card.

Gaming PCs: How We Tested, What We Found

When purchasing a desktop computer, especially one designed for gaming, the key buying considerations are its graphics performance and processing speed. Our colleagues at Tom's Hardware and Anandtech conducted extensive benchmark tests and gathered data on the performance of both of these components. We drew on those evaluations to find the performance ceilings for each gaming PC's default graphics card and processor.

These numbers won't necessarily be identical to your gaming computer – performance is based on a variety of factors, including a computer's memory, processor and video card. Because these numbers are produced on test computers with high-end components, they establish a performance ceiling. For instance, if a Tom's Hardware tested card has a score of 37 frames per second in the game "Tomb Raider," it won't run faster than this frame rate on a stock configured system. Since some gaming enthusiasts understand and use such test results, we’ve reported them in our comparison, so you can precisely evaluate your options based on this information.

Overall, graphics performance for the gaming PCs covered in our lineup was consistently high. That’s unsurprising given that all of our evaluated models use relatively high-end graphics cards. Within the group, you can play games at resolutions and visual settings that are comparable to current-generation video game consoles.

Similarly, since they all use mainstream processors, processing speed for the group ranged from reliably fast to speedy high-end models. Those with the slowest performance, relatively speaking, can struggle with processor-intensive tasks like video compression when compared with their newer, faster counterparts. Newer chips generally benefit from more efficient design in areas like power consumption and processing ability.

What Else Is Important in Selecting a Gaming PC?

While there are many other attributes of gaming PCs, the following areas are among those we emphasized in our scoring. For more information, check out our articles on gaming PCs.

Storage: Where Do Your Files Go?
Hard drives are a crucial part for any computer – they store everything from music files to the operating system – but they are especially vital for gaming users. With game sizes averaging between 20GB to 50GB, high-capacity hard drives are a requirement for your gaming PC.

For customizable systems, multiterabyte hard drives will capably handle your game library and other files. Further, solid-state hard drives and setups with multiple hard drives offer additional storage flexibility. While solid-state hard drives traditionally have smaller capacities of under 1TB, their faster data transfer rates make them useful for high-demand system resources. Similarly, multiple hard drive setups provide additional storage and – when set up in a RAID array – they can also have fast transfer performance.

Cooling: How to Keep Your PC Cool?
Computers traditionally rely on fans to circulate hot hair out of a case and keep components from overheating. For high-demand gaming PC users, liquid cooling is an efficient alternative. Liquid cooled PCs rely on a series of radiators, fluid and tubing to transfer heat away from high-use components like graphics cards and CPUs. This allows them to operate safely when run at high-clock speeds for better performance.

Around half of the models in our lineup have liquid cooling as an available upgrade. Liquid cooling setups are typically expensive to install and maintain, which make them less-feasible options for a budget-limited gaming PCs. In addition, self-installation can be equally difficult, since loose bearings can cause leaks and damage your computer's components. Still, by reducing operating temperatures, liquid cooling is a feature that can lengthen the life and increase the reliability of your gaming machine.

Gaming PCs: Our Verdict and Recommendations

The Digital Storm Vanquish II, Asus ROG G20AJ and CyberPowerPC Zeus Evo Lightning rank among our best gaming PCs because of their focus on high performance at a competitive price point. In the Digital Storm Vanquish II's Level 3 configuration, its high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 graphics card provides excellent performance at a value-conscious price tag. Similarly, the Asus ROG G20AJ's high-end Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA graphics card can handle games or general work with ease. Likewise, the CyberPowerPC Zeus Evo Lightning's base AMD CPU and graphics card provides an excellent level of in-game performance, and this ceiling can be expanded with CyberPowerPC's customization options.

 
 
Electronics » Computers » Gaming PC
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
CyberPowerPC Zeus Evo ASUS ROG Digital Storm Vanquish 3 Acer Predator G Alienware X51 Lenovo Erazer X510 XoticPC Executioner Velocity Micro Edge Z40 iBuyPower Erebus Maingear Potenza
CyberPowerPC Zeus Evo ASUS ROG Digital Storm Vanquish 3 Acer Predator G Alienware X51 Lenovo Erazer X510 XoticPC Executioner Velocity Micro Edge Z40 iBuyPower Erebus Maingear Potenza
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Ratings
9.25
8.98
8.88
8.75
8.70
8.63
8.48
8.13
7.88
7.57
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
8.13
10.00
10.00
9.00
9.38
7.50
8.75
9.38
8.75
6.88
9.38
8.75
9.38
7.50
7.50
8.13
9.38
8.13
8.75
8.75
9.38
6.88
6.88
9.00
7.50
10.00
8.75
7.50
8.75
8.75
7.50
7.50
7.50
8.75
10.00
7.50
7.50
8.13
7.50
 
Graphics & Performance
Selected Graphics Card AMD R9 270 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 AMD Radeon R9 285 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 AMD R7 260X
Graphics Card Upgradeable To: AMD Radeon R9 295X2 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960   NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Z AMD Radeon R9 290X NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
RAM Options (GB) 4-32 16 8 8-12 6-16 16 8-32 8-32 8-32 8-16
Graphics Card Battlefield 4 Benchmark (frames per second) 46 49 79 49 36 49 49 31 31 32
Graphics Card Tomb Raider Benchmark (frames per second) 67 78 137 78 53 78 87 44 44 48
Graphics Card Far Cry 3 Benchmark (frames per second) 50 67 93 67 46 67 65 40 40 37
Multiple Graphics Card Support
     
 
 
Processor & Storage
Selected Processor AMD FX-9590 Intel Core i7-4790 Intel Core i5-4590 Intel Core i7-4790 Intel Core i7-4790 Intel Core i7-4770K AMD FX-8320 Intel Core i5-4460 AMD FX-4300 Intel Pentium G3258
Processor Speed 4.7GHz 3.6GHz 3.3GHz 3.6GHz 3.6GHz 3.5GHz 3.5GHz 3.2GHz 3.8GHz 3.2GHz
Processor Upgradable To:    Intel Core i5-4690K   Intel Core i7-4790K   Intel Core I7-5960X Intel Core i7-4790 AMD FX-9590 Intel Core i7-4790K
Selected Motherboard Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3   Gigabyte Z97X-SLI     ASUS M5A97 Gigabyte H97M-D3H Gigabyte GA-970A-D3P MSI H81-I
Motherboard Upgradable To ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z       ASUS X99 RAMPAGE V   Asus Crosshair V Gigabyte GA-Z97N
AMD/Intel Alternative Available
 
   
   
Multiple Hard Drive Support
 
Hard Disk Drive Options 500GB-4TB 1TB-3TB 1TB 1TB-2TB 1TB-2TB 2TB 1TB-6TB 1TB-3TB 500GB - 2TB 1TB-4TB
Solid State Drive Options 64GB-1TB Up To 256GB 120GB-250GB 256GB 256GB   120GB-1TB 128GB-512GB 120GB-1TB 250GB-1TB
SysMark 2014 - Media Creation (points) 1254 2168 1808* 2168 2168 2039 1003* 1808* 718 1054
Design & Connectivity
Base Case Dimensions (LxWxH in inches) 25.2 x 10.2 x 24 14.1 x 4.1 x 13.4 21.7 x 8.3 x 17.3 16.9 x 7.1 x 17.2 12.5 x 3.7 x 13.5 20.3 x 7.2 x 17.5 16.3 x 13.1 x 18 18.9 x 7.3 x 17.8 22.5 x 9 x 24 9.3 x 7.4 x 15.6
Power Supply Options (watts) 400-1600   600 500   625 750-1600 500-850 500 - 1500 450
USB 2.0 Case Ports 2    2    2   2  
USB 3.0 Case Ports 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 2
Customizable Finish
        
Liquid Cooling Support
      
 
Blu-ray Availability
  
 
Help & Support
Base Warranty 3 Years 1 Year 3 Years 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 3 Years 1 Year
Email Support
 
 
Phone Support
Online Support
Live Chat