Best gaming PCs of 2021: Get playing whatever your budget – Evening Standard

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From entry-level machines to high-end powerhouses, get the best rig for your budget
s an investment in your gaming future, buying a new gaming PC – and pinning down the exact specifications and high-end components needed to ensure a smooth, HD gaming experience – is a big decision.
Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that you can choose to go down the custom build route, with companies designing your whole rig from scratch to your exact specifications. But if your pockets aren’t limitless, then a gaming desktop from a mainstream computer company will pack the high processing speed and quality graphics you need for 21st-century gaming, as well as a manufacturer warranty that could well come in handy later down the line.
When it comes to picking the right tech, GPU and CPU are the most important. “The graphics card is the hardware that puts in the most work to output the beautiful visuals you see when playing modern games. The better the GPU, the higher the resolution, framerate and graphics settings you can achieve,” says Kaelum Ross, founder of What In Tech. 4K resolution monitors (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) and VR headsets require a high-quality graphics card for the level of detail they offer, so if you’re looking to play with cutting-edge technology, then don’t scrimp on this feature.
The CPU is the heart of your PC and determines how effectively your computer can perform. Ideally, you want it to support your graphics card and “a CPU that compliments the power of your GPU is key; if it’s too weak, the CPU will limit what the graphics card is capable of,” Ross advises. Fast RAM and storage should also be top of your shopping list of features. Finally, while an 8GB DDR4 memory used to be a good baseline, this no longer cuts the mustard with modern AAA titles; a 16GB RAM is much better if you can afford it.
Gaming PCs can cost more than you’d wish and it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you need the fastest processing speeds and latest graphics card. Ultimately, our advice is to set a budget and spend only what you can afford; you can always upgrade individual components at a later date. For inspiration, here are the best gaming PCs for all budgets.
With its 11th generation, Intel® Core™ i9 and the possibility of 128 GB RAM, we’re not exaggerating when we say the Alienware Aurora R12 is the future of gaming. Not only is the design futuristic and guaranteed to turn heads even among your non-gaming pals, it also uses cutting-edge technology to make your gaming as smooth as possible, including supporting liquid-cooled graphics cards.
On the lowest specs, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card offers great quality at a decent price for entry-level gamers, but for playing at 1080p on Fortnite or COD: Warzone, you’ll want to spend an extra £140 on the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, which offers enhanced gaming power and supports ray tracing.
An accessible design means you can easily open up and upgrade different components without the use of tools, giving you the option to add more RAM, a second hard disk or SDD, or even an upgraded graphics card. Not only is this a gaming PC with tremendous power, but it’s one that can grow with you and your budget.
From £1,449 | Dell
The Aurora Ryzen Edition comes in at a close second in our rankings of the best gaming PCs. Fitted with third-generation AMD Ryzen processors, this rig offers exquisite performance and power at an affordable price. At the lower end of the configurations, you can get a six-core AMD Ryzen™ 5 5600X, with a GTX 1650 Super, 8GB RAM 3200MHz and 1TB of storage, a setup designed to handle 1080p gaming with ease.
It’s worth noting that, like all Alienware products, this machine comes with an added price premium because of the (not unwarranted) hype surrounding this brand, but that doesn’t mean you’re overpaying. A one-year warranty and Dell’s exceptional customer service make this a solid investment for new gamers and seasoned pros alike.
We also love the unconventional design of the case, which not only will look cool in your room but also gives you access to nearly every part of the PC without tools. Maintenance and upgrades are a breeze as a result, meaning the sky’s the limit with where you take this gaming desktop.
From £1,249 | Dell
The most powerful gaming rig from HP, the Omen 30L is an impressive high-end PC that’s a match for even the most experienced gamers. It’s available with a seemingly endless range of configurations, but we found the Intel® Core™ i7-10700K and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 more than enough for standard gaming. This provides exceptional power for extremely fast play with smooth and steady frame rates at both 1080p and 4K.
Despite a classy removable glass side panel, it’s not as easy to customise as the two Alienware desktops (we found space to be at a premium inside the casing, making fiddling with components tricky), so we recommend buying the highest spec you can afford at the outset, to prevent scalped knuckles later on. That said, by using standardised components, HP have ensured that you’ll be able to keep upgrading this rig for years to come, so it can develop as your gaming does.
With its customisable RGB lighting, slick, slimline look and extremely high-performance capabilities, this is a very good-looking product that will give you your gaming fix without taking up all of your desk space.
£1,999.99 | HP
Compact design and slick RGB lighting won’t make any difference to your gaming, but they sure make the Acer Predator Orion 3000 look a lot more expensive than it is. Inside, there’s no forgetting that performance is the name of the game here: with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 and an Intel® Core™ i7-10700 inside the case, it promises crisp graphics thanks to this high-end GPU – considered among those in the know as one of the best cards of all time – plus smooth, high-powered gaming.
Inside, a FrostBlade fan ensures this desktop is kept cool, so there’s no concerns about overheating forcing you to stop play, or even doing irreversible damage.
In short, if you’re looking to try out NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 – a GPU that’s extremely rare due to pandemic shortages – this is an affordable, pre-built, high-end desktop that’ll handle 4K gaming with ease.
£1,499.99 | Amazon
A long-standing gaming PC company, CyberpowerPC balances build quality with price better than other leading manufacturers. The Wyvern proves this point: comfortably coming in below the four-figure mark, it’s a great entry point into gaming.
A mid-range, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card is paired with a mid-range CPU to provide more than enough power for casual gaming, although you’ll want to take settings down a couple of notches from the top for the smoothest performance in most AAAs.
Customisation choices are limited but still enable you to make changes that matter. Go for 16GB of RAM to add power where it counts, while we also love the controllable RGB fans that can be matched to your mood or provide subtle ambient lighting mid-game.
£898.80 | Amazon
The perfect gaming PC to buy on a budget, the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop delivers when it comes to processing power and high-quality graphics for casual and multiplayer games at 1080p.
All of the available configurations use 10th Generation Intel® Core™ processors, but allow you to power up with AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce GPUs, including those with ray tracing capabilities such as the RTX 2070 Super. What you get is a high-performance PC with smooth frame rates for games at 1080p at their highest quality settings, and one that is compact and durable enough to move around for group gaming sessions.
While it might not have the full complement of bells and whistles like Dell’s higher end Alienware range, you still get the same excellent aftercare and two-year warranty on what is a brilliant entry-level gaming PC at a superb, sub-four-figure price.
£966.70 | Amazon
Future-proofed and packing all the power you need for your favourite AAA games, the Dell Alienware Aurora R12 blows the rest of the competition out of the water, particularly if you upgrade to the in-demand NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti graphics card for some of the most impressive visuals you’ll find on the market. For budget conscious gamers, the CyberpowerPC Wyvern is a solid choice for entry-level gamers, with enough customisation to grow with your gaming.