How to Choose a Gaming PC

Bigger isn't always better: You don’t need a huge tower to get a system with high-end components. Only buy a big desktop tower if you like the look of it and want lots of room to install future upgrades.

Get an SSD if at all possible: This will make your computer far more faster than loading off of a traditional HDD, and has no moving parts. Look for at least a 256GB SSD boot drive, ideally paired with a larger secondary SSD or hard drive for storage.

You can't lose with Intel or AMD: As long as you opt for a current-generation chip, both companies offer comparable overall performance. Intel’s CPUs tend to perform a bit better when running games at lower resolutions (1080p and below), while AMD’s Ryzen processors often handle tasks like video editing better, thanks to their extra cores and threads.

Don’t buy more RAM than you need: 8GB is OK in a pinch, but 16GB is ideal for most users. Serious game streamers and those doing high-end media creation working with large files will want more, but will have to pay a lot for options going as high as 64GB.

Don’t buy a multi-card gaming rig unless you have to: If you’re a serious gamer, get a system with the best-performing single graphics card you can afford. Many games don’t perform significantly better with two or more cards in Crossfire or SLI, and some perform worse, forcing you to disable an expensive piece of hardware to get the best experience possible. Because of these complications, you should only consider a multi-card desktop if you are after more performance than can be achieved with the best high-end consumer graphics card.

The power supply is important: Does the PSU offer enough juice to cover the hardware inside? (In most cases, the answer is yes, but there are some exceptions, particularly if you intend to overclock.) Additionally, note if the PSU will offer enough power for future upgrades to GPUs and other components. Case size and expansion options vary drastically between our picks.

Ports matter: Beyond the connections necessary to plug in your monitor(s), you’ll want plenty of USB ports for plugging in other peripherals and external storage. Front-facing ports are very handy for flash drives, card readers, and other frequently used devices. For added future-proofing, look for a system with USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB-C ports.

Graphics cards, including Nvidia's RTX 3090, RTX 3080, and RTX 3070 GPUs, are still hard to get. Some of our Nvidia-based picks still have the last-gen cards, though those who are patient or keep checking back may be able to find them with the latest and greatest.

For most people, budget plays the biggest role in a desktop buying decision. You can sometimes find good deals on big-box desktops when they go on sale, but you’ll be stuck with the components chosen by the likes of HP, Lenovo or Dell. The beauty of a custom-built PC is that you can adjust the component configuration until it suits your needs and budget. We are happy, though, to see more builds coming with standardized parts than ever before, so you can upgrade them later on.