Gaming is one area in which the desktop PC still reigns supreme. Consoles are great, but they simply can’t match the graphical power of the latest gaming PCs.
Of course, you also get plenty of performance for all your non-gaming needs and a graphics card can also offer a considerable performance boost to other applications, such as photo and video editing software.
Your Buying Guide for the Best Gaming PCs in 2017
While you can go straight to the list below and buy a PC in the exact specification reviewed, it’s worth understanding what to look for as each supplier allows you to customise and configure your PC to tailor it for your needs.
Different games place different demands on your computer hardware, but choosing a gaming PC will involve a balancing act between CPU and graphics performance.
For gaming PCs we’re happy to allow system builders to overclock processors, which can significantly increase performance without having to stump up for the most expensive chips, like Intel’s 7th-gen Core chips and AMD’s Ryzen.
Overclocked processors place additional demands on the system’s power supply and also require better cooling, so expect to pay more for PCs with more extreme overclocking. You can overclock the processor yourself if you wish, but it can be a good idea to buy a pre-overclocked system that’s covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
There are several points to consider when choosing the right motherboard for your PC. If you’re not into technical details you may be tempted to overlook the motherboard and concentrate on the processor and graphics, but the motherboard is extremely important.
Not all motherboards support overclocking, and opting for a lower-cost motherboard can allow you to spend a little more on your graphics card, which can have a big impact on your final performance figures.
If you want the latest ports and connectors including USB 3.1 Gen 2 (which supports transfers at twice the speed of USB 3.0 – also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1) then make sure you check this before ordering.
It’s usually the graphics card that will determine the overall quality of your gaming experience. This is why we suggest gamers go for a mid-range processor as the difference in price will almost certainly serve you better spent on the graphics card rather than on the CPU.
To ensure smooth gameplay, you generally want to achieve a minimum of 60 frames per second (fps) in your game. This is the limiting speed of most PC displays, so you won’t really need to go faster than this unless you have a high-speed gaming monitor that allows for faster refresh rates.
Any extra performance will then allow you to increase the quality settings in your game, making characters sharper, textures more realistic and graphical effects more immersive.
You can read our complete guide to VR for more in-depth information on the headsets, games and apps available, but your PC will need to meet the recommended specs below.
If your PC struggles to play games at 1920×1080 – the minimum is considered 30 frames per second – then it’s not going to cope with running an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive which both have a 2160×1200 screen, especially if you want 90fps.
A VR-ready PC will need to have the following specifications (or better) to drive a VR headset and produce a ‘great experience’:
- Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 graphics card
- HDMI 1.3 output
- 2x USB 3.0
- Intel Core i5-4590 (or equivalent)
- 8GB of RAM
- Windows 7 SP1 or later
You may be able to get away with a less powerful CPU, but it’s inadvisable to do so as developers are also working with these specifications to ensure games run well.
Cases and cooling
We’ve already talked about processor cooling, but gamers tend to like their PC tower system to look the part as well. Many come with fans that light up in various colours, but don’t overlook the fact that the case needs to be practical. Internal cable management aids airflow, while fan controllers let you reduce noise or boost cooling as necessary.
Graphics cards can also come with various cooling systems, the more advanced of which can allow for faster clock speeds on the GPU and less noise when playing games.
For more immersive gameplay, go for the largest display you can find and one with a good contrast ratio. TN-based monitors will cost less and provide most of these features, but IPS-based displays will give you better overall colour reproduction and wider viewing angles, although response times tend to be slower.
For a more responsive display, go for a gaming monitor with a high refresh rate of 120- or 144Hz, although you’ll need powerful graphics to supply frames at this speed.
For more see our list of the best gaming monitors.
If you’re using your PC on a desk with a monitor, you’ll benefit from the improved responsiveness of wired rather than wireless devices. Look for high-resolution mice, and keyboards with programmable keys and backlighting.
High-grade mechanical switches in keyboards have a better ‘feel’ and provide longer life than cheap membrane switches. Here are the best gaming keyboards.
A gaming sound card can provide a more immersive experience by adding multiple sound effects, with improved audio fidelity. Also consider a gaming headset with a built-in mic.
Warranty terms are crucial when it comes to gaming PCs and a key advantage of buying a pre-built overclocked PC is that all of the overclocking will be tested and covered by the vendor’s warranty. The longer the warranty the better, but also look for a collect-and-return rather than return-to-base option. Also pay attention to whether parts and labour are both covered and for how long.
Best gaming PCs 2017 UK – gaming PC reviews
The Chillblast Fusion Adamantium 3 Gaming PC delivers high performance in a compact form factor, while making the minimum noise. Higher performance is available at no extra charge via an optional overclocking option, but not without compromising it’s ‘cool and quiet’ design philosophy. You won’t be expanding it with dual graphics cards, in fact there’s not much room for internal upgrades at all, but it’s also very reasonably priced for a PC of this specification.
Read our Chillblast Fusion Adamantium 3 review.
If you love bright, pulsing lights with customisable colours, then the YoyoTech BlackBox SP has got your name written all over it. If you love high-performance gaming, you’ll also enjoy the overclocked Intel CPU, Nvidia graphics and NVMe storage which combine to deliver superb performance for your money.
Read our Yoyotech BlackBox SP review.
The Overclockers Titan Falcon embraces the spirit of overclocking by boosting the performance of lower-spec components to match their more expensive counterparts, but without the higher price and all backed by a superb 3-year warranty. This overclocked Ryzen 7 1700 system occasionally outperforms those based on the pricier 1700X chip and makes no sacrifices on build quality. You may wish to upgrade to a more powerful graphics card for resolutions above 1080p, but the price will remain highly competitive.
Read our Overclockers UK Titan Falcon review.
This eye-catching PC is constructed from premium components and built to a very high standard. The 8-core Ryzen 7 1700X processor delivers excellent multi-threaded performance and, combined with a GTX 1080, turns in some very impressive gaming results, however similar or better performance can be had for less money.
Read our Wired2Fire Pyro Ryzen DG review review.
The Mesh Ryzen 7 Gaming PC-A is beautifully built, but ultimately flawed in its configuration. Let down by a slow SSD and a non-overclocked graphics card, yet coming with an unnecessarily expensive operating system, we feel this PC could do much better with a couple of minor tweaks to the spec.
Read our Mesh Ryzen 7 Gaming PC-A review.
The Wired2Fire Diablo Fury is a high-performance gaming PC using overclocked components which deliver good value for money. However, the lack of a hard drive means the SSD is likely to fill up quickly
Read our Wired2Fire Diablo Fury review.
As a budget system with a strong emphasis on gaming, the Overclockers Kinetic H1 sacrifices multi-core processor performance, instead to sinking most of the budget into the graphics card. Photo and video editing performance may suffer a little, but you’ll be able to enjoy decent gaming frame rates up to 1440p. The inclusion of a hybrid hard drive also keeps the system responsive in general purpose computing scenarios.
Read our Overclockers UK Kinetic H1 review.