Maingear Potenza Super Stock
Maingear Potenza Super Stock

Best gaming computer

Sleek, cool and nearly silent, the Maingear Potenza Super Stock quietly delivers class-leading gaming prowess in test after test. Scads of powerful upgrades are available; experts particularly recommend a $2,000 version with a heavily overclocked Intel Core i7 processor and mighty Nvidia graphics. Everything's backed by a generous lifetime labor and three-year parts warranty.
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*Est. $1,325 and up Estimated Price
Digital Storm Bolt
Digital Storm Bolt

Best-value gaming computer

If you just want a great PC that can play any game title you throw at it, experts say the slim Digital Storm Bolt is hard to beat. Most reviewers test a $1,600 version with an overclocked Intel Core i7 processor and advanced Nvidia graphics, and find it thoroughly satisfying on the gaming grid.
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*Est. $1,000 and up Estimated Price
Apple iMac 27-inch
Apple iMac 27-inch

Best all-in-one gaming desktop computer

Impossibly thin, beautiful and powerful, the Apple iMac 27-inch blows away other all-in-one desktops in tests. Its stunningly high-res screen (2,560 by 1,440 pixels) is unmatched. Speedy Intel processors, brawny Nvidia graphics and Apple's Fusion Drive sail through graphics-heavy games. It's the only all-in-one that truly excels at both work and play.
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Velocity Micro Vector Z25
Velocity Micro Vector Z25

Best mainstream desktop computer

The Velocity Micro Vector Z25 is the best mainstream desktop computer according to reviews. Completely configurable, even the base version is a powerful everyday workhorse; gamers can step things up to get more than competent performance without completely emptying their wallets. The Vector Z25 is also easy to upgrade after purchase, making it a system than can grow with your needs.
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*Est. $750 and up Estimated Price
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Gaming Computers Runners Up:

Dell XPS One 27 Touch *Est. $1,600 and up

7 picks including: CNET, PCMag.com…

Apple iMac 21-inch *Est. $1,300 and up

6 picks including: Amazon.com, Arstechnica.com…

Falcon Northwest Tiki *Est. $1,745 and up

2 picks including: DigitalTrends.com, CNET…

iBuyPower Revolt R770 *Est. $1,400 and up

2 picks including: About.com, Anandtech.com…

Maingear F131 *Est. $1,695 and up

2 picks including: DigitalTrends.com, CNET…

Origin Chronos *Est. $1,100 and up

2 picks including: Anandtech.com, CNET…

Sony Vaio Tap 20 *Est. $880 and up

2 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Types of Gaming Computers


High-performance computers for gaming and more

The average computer user doesn't need to spend thousands of dollars on a top-performing desktop model. Computers costing less than $800, like those covered in our report on desktop computers , provide plenty of performance for surfing the web, sending emails and composing office documents. However, power users like top-gun gamers -- as well those who need serious power for work, such as video editors and other creative professionals -- will benefit from the extra oomph under the hood of a gaming desktop.

Unlike traditional desktop computers, gaming desktops have top-of-the-line processors, lots of memory, huge hard drives and discrete graphics. You'll pay more for this type of computer, with some hardcore gaming models going for more than $7,000, but you'll also get excellent gaming, graphics and multimedia performance. Not all gaming desktops cost that much, either. It's now possible to find a good one for less than $1,500, although more serious gamers will want to look at options that fall into the $2,000 to $3,000 range where you'll find better graphic cards and more powerful processors.

In the past, all-in-one desktop computers that combine the computer and monitor into one unit weren't a good choice for intensive tasks like gaming or video editing. That's starting to change with the latest crop of all-in-ones, especially the Apple iMac. Although it can't match the screaming performance of a dedicated gaming computer, the top-of-the-line iMac does a very playable job, even with demanding games. It comes with an absolutely stunning high-res screen that's outstanding for graphics work, too.

One complication in buying a high-end desktop computer system is that most vendors and particularly online sellers offer a multitude of options, and any changes from the system as reviewed can help or hurt performance. These modifications also greatly impact the bottom line. It's easy to increase price substantially -- sometimes by thousands of dollars -- as you add performance and other upgrades.

To make our recommendations, we scour professional and user reviews to find the best desktop computers. Among those sources, the desktop computer reviews at mainstream sites and magazines such as CNET, PCMag.com, ComputerShopper.com and Maximum PC are thorough and easy to understand. If you crave in-depth detail, check out enthusiast sites like HotHardware.com and AnandTech.com.

These reviewers evaluate lots of systems, and some -- particularly PCMag.com -- do an excellent job of making comparisons between models. Reports are backed by testing, and conclusions are clearly explained. ConsumerReports.org also tests, rates and ranks a number of recent desktop computers, but discussion is woefully short. User reviews of these expensive systems can be hard to come by, but Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Newegg.com may be helpful.

Once we read all the desktop computer reviews, we separate the best computers from the ones that are nearly as good by considering a number of factors. Performance, of course, is key. We also look for ample connectivity, adequate cooling, easy access to the innards for those who want to do their own upgrades or service, and more. Reliability and how well the maker backs its desktop computers should something go wrong are also considered.

Finally, there are the desktop computers that offer the best bang for the buck. Anyone can put together a killer gaming computer that costs into the thousands, but special consideration is given to those that perform as well or nearly so but won't leave you short of funds to buy those must-have killer computer games to go with it.

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