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.