If you’re like me when I first started gaming on a computer, your first and most important question is probably “Which PC do I buy?” That’s a very heavy question for anyone interested, and it’s a complicated one to answer. To help, we’ve compiled a guide of sorts to picking out your first gaming PC.
This guide is specifically for helping you buy a pre-built PC. That means one that’s already assembled and working, not one that you have to build yourself. If you want to know how to build a new PC, we have a guide for that, too. There are advantages to buying a pre-built gaming machine, such as accessibility and reliability for those who aren’t familiar with building one. It’s also obviously a lot faster and easier to buy pre-built. So if building your own system isn’t an option right now, here’s what you need to consider to get the best gaming PC for you.
Find your PC gaming goals
The first thing any would-be gaming PC purchaser needs when embarking on this journey is to realize what their actual goals are. Here are some of the most important things to consider.
- Am I buying a PC just to play one game, or do I intend on playing many?
- What are these games?
- Are those games graphically demanding?
- Do I want to have a future-proofed PC that can play triple-A titles with high-end graphics for years to come?
- Do I intend to do anything other than play games on my PC, such as streaming or video rendering?
- Do I want to play games on the go, do I travel often, or will I want a more permanent rig at home?
Each answer to a question will change which type of computer you’re looking for. If you intend to primarily play an older game like Overwatch or Rainbow Six Siege, you wouldn’t need something incredibly powerful to run your game, even at the highest graphical settings. If you want to dive into newer games, like the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, Control, Final Fantasy XXIV, and more, you’ll need a beefier setup. If you travel a lot, there are strong contenders for gaming laptops. And if you want to multitask to stream or work, you’ll want a computer with a specific type of processor.
Ask yourself all of these questions, figure out exactly what you’ll want to do with your new computer, and take note of them all. Once you have your list of notes, move onto the next step.
Determine your budget
This is perhaps the most important step. If someone were to ask me to find them the best gaming PC available, that’s an easy question to answer. I’d pick out one with all my favorite hardware from my favorite manufacturers, custom liquid cooling, and a slick design, and I could find one that would run over $10,000. It’s an easy question to answer, but more often than not, the real question is, “What’s the best gaming PC for me?”
That question is a lot more difficult to ask, because while I can look at your goals and easily find the best of the best stuff to buy, pretty much everything changes when you dive into how much you can actually spend. Depending on specific needs, you can make cuts in certain areas but perhaps not others. Even if you want a future-proofed rig that can handle big games, you can still make that happen without breaking the bank, and most people don’t want to, or can’t afford to, break the bank.
So figure out how much you can spend on this rig, and be honest with yourself. Games are fun, but they’re not worth going broke. Trust me, I learned from experience.
Decide on your baseline hardware
Just slightly less important than your budget is determining which hardware and types of hardware you need. There are many, many component factors to consider when landing on a build to buy, too, which makes the process even more complicated than before. Luckily for you, we’ve been around the block, and we can help you with some of the more common questions and notes. We’ll break them down based on the questions you answered when deciding your gaming PC goals.
To start, simply determine which type of game or games you’d like to play on your new PC. That helps to narrow down the required hardware quite a bit, and that can make your decision much easier. For instance, and as an example that we used above, if you’re only playing an older game like Overwatch or Rainbow Six Siege, your rig wouldn’t need to be very souped up to still get the best graphics possible. You can run a mid-range modern GPU like AMD’s Radeon 5700 or Nvidia’s 2060 SUPER. Likewise, a mid-range processor, such as an Intel i5 9600 K or an AMD Ryzen 3600. For something like Fortnite, the bare-minimum hardware requirements could be even lower – but you might not have as much future-proofing built in to your system.
On the other hand, if you plan to dive into a handful or several handfuls of new, more demanding games, like Cyberpunk 2077 or Control, while running graphics to the best of their capabilities, you’ll need something really beefy to handle them. We’re talking an Nvidia 2080 SUPER GPU, an Intel i9 9900K CPU, and at least 16GB of RAM. That’ll be able to handle most high-end games, but you won’t be able to multitask quite as much. Either way, you’ll want RAM with speeds in the range of around 3000 or more.
A useful resource for determining your baseline hardware is “Can You Run It?” That site aggregates system requirements for popular and upcoming PC games, and tells you what the minimum and recommended hardware specs for those titles are (in addition to scanning your current PC for compatibility, if you want that). If you have no idea of what hardware you’ll want in your gaming PC, look ahead at an upcoming game you’ll want to play, like Borderlands 3, and take the recommended requirements as the baseline for your new gaming PC. That way you’ll be set with a system that should run the games you want for years to come.
Storage is a concern, too. I’d recommend anyone look for a computer with a solid state drive, but if your budget isn’t too big, you can get away with just picking a small SSD just for Windows and a game or two, while picking out a cheaper hard drive for the rest of your storage needs. The benefits of using an SSD are obvious and endless. They fail far less often, they read and write data much faster, you can shrink your startup time down to a few mere seconds, games will load much faster, and the list goes on.
Obviously, the more games, documents, pictures, videos, and audio you think you’ll need to save, the larger your total storage should be. There are absolutely massive hard drives out there for not much money, so if you need tons of data, don’t be afraid of a high RPM platter drive. You can just get that smaller SSD for Windows and your favorite game.
The final major hardware consideration you’ll need to make is your form factor. Are you on the go? Do you travel a lot? Or do you want something that can maintain semi-permanence in your home or office? As far as I know (hey, I could be surprised), there are only two ways to go here. You can either get a gaming laptop, or you get a gaming desktop. Either way, there are some really solid options for each, and we’ll list those down below.
Know the gaming PC brands
Before we dive into specific models of pre-built gaming desktops and laptops to choose from, we should briefly look at PC brands. There is a handful of brands out there that have become known as reliable and trusted PC gaming manufacturers. Some of them started out with a reputation for one thing, like motherboards or graphics cards, but they’ve all at some point established themselves as full PC gaming manufacturers, too.
Some of the most common are iBuyPower, MSI, ACER, CyberpowerPC, ABS (that’s Newegg’s own brand), and SkyTech. Keep your eyes peeled for these companies when picking out your build, and, in most cases, you can’t go wrong.
Research your gaming PC options
Using the notes you took down earlier, using your PC gaming goals, and keeping your budget in mind, it’s time to look into your options. There are a ton of great pre-built gaming rigs on Newegg that address different goals, and we’ll share some of them here, while explaining which goals each of them address.
If you don’t like any of the computers listed here, don’t fret. Using the explainers I include with each gaming PC below, you can take your own notes and go out into the wild blue yonder to find your own options that I may have missed. Either way, the goal is to help.
Desktop, low budget: SkyTech Archangel II – $639.99
- Low budget gaming PC
- Decent specs, but limited multitasking potential, wouldn’t be able to stream or render videos while gaming
- Perfect for older, or less GPU-intensive games
- Can run most modern games at decent-to-high graphics, but new high-end games at ultra graphics will be too demanding
- WiFi included
Desktop, mid-range budget: ABS Mage H – $1599.99
- Mid-range budget gaming PC
- Good specs, can run most games at ultra settings now, will probably be able to run high graphics for the next couple of years of new games
- Processor is good at multitasking
- Liquid cooled
- Large SSD, which means fast loading and decent space
- Looks very pretty
Desktop, mid-range budget: iBUYPOWER Trace2 – $1299.99
- Similar pros and cons to the ABS Mage H (above), but can’t multitask as well; built specifically for gaming
Desktop, high-end: Acer Predator PO9-900 – $5999.99
- Looks really cool
- Some of the best hardware available
- Great at multitasking
- Future-proofed for the next decade of gaming
- Handles real-time ray tracing and virtual reality very well
- Sturdy handles on case make for easy transportation to events, LANs, etc
Laptop, low budget: Acer Predator Helios – $949.99
- Very reliable and proven brand for mobile gaming
- Processor is good for multitasking, but RAM may bottleneck you
- GTX 1060 graphics card can run most modern games at high to medium-high graphical settings
- Portable gaming PC
Laptop, mid-range: AORUS 15-X9-RT4AD – $1599.00
- Very solid graphics card, even by desktop standards, and should be able to run high-end games for a few more years
- High refresh rate is great for shooters and competitive titles
- Great for multitasking
- Spacious, with 512GB SSD and 1TB HDD
- Sleek and simple design, with bright and smooth RGB
- Portable gaming PC
Laptop, high-end: Alienware Area 51M – $3369.99
- Extremely powerful graphics capabilities, should be future-proofed for a long while
- Cutting edge graphical tech: Built with an interchangeable laptop graphics card, allowing you to upgrade just the GPU when you need to in the future
- Top-end processor is great for multitasking
- 16GB of RAM should be plenty for most tasks, especially with 8GB of graphical RAM for gaming just in the GPU
- High refresh rate
- Uses a PCIe SSD for extra-fast load and boot times
With the exception of the Alienware Area 51M, gaming laptops often require the use of some extra peripherals to really make the most of them. For the added portability of a laptop, you typically need to forego some of the things that gaming desktops require to maintain quality, like open and dedicated airflow for cooling down all of that hardware. Mobile graphics cards can be really expensive, too, so if you already have a laptop with a powerful processor, you can just pick up a full desktop GPU, hook it up to an external GPU bay, and you’re made in the shade.
Here are some of our favorite mobile gaming accessories.
- Cooling station for any laptop
- Works well, stays silent, can make a huge difference
- Reliable external GPU station
- Solid option for anyone that wants to maintain desktop-level graphics that’s easily upgradeable without a massive budget for a laptop with that capability