The Best Gaming Desktops [September 2020]
The world of gaming PCs is exciting. Unlike traditional gaming consoles, shopping for a new gaming PC makes every year feel like the launch of new gaming hardware. You don’t have to wait years to find out what Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo have planned for their newest consoles—with gaming PCs, you’re the one in control. From ultraportable gaming laptops to building your own tower PC, diving into the world of PC gaming is thrilling and nerve-wracking all at once.
Of course, you don’t need to build your own hardware to get into gaming desktops. While many hardcore gamers will be quick to tell you that building your first desktop PC is exciting, it’s also not for everyone. Pre-built desktop PCs don’t cost much more than the sum of the parts you’ll need for a custom rig, and for many gamers, the extra cost includes a number of benefits: labor, free software, and most importantly, manufacturer warranties.
From Alienware to Zotac, we’ve taken a look at every major gaming PC company working today. These are the best gaming desktops you can buy in September 2020.
If you’ve paid any attention to PC components in the last several years, you know that AMD has come back with a vengeance in their fight against Intel. After years of struggling to compete with Intel in raw performance, AMD’s Ryzen chips released to critical acclaim in 2017, and each revised architecture release has gotten better and better. With Zen 3, AMD is finally outperforming Intel on both price and performance, and that makes Alienware’s new Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition a must-have for any gamer looking for a new desktop. With a high-end Ryzen 7 3700x, multi-core performance shines. AMD has long outpaced Intel chips in terms of multi-core performance, and that makes the Aurora R10 perfect for both graphics work and video editing. Paired with AMD’s own Radeon RX 5700 XT—essentially equivalent to Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super, for anyone who hasn’t used AMD products before—and this thing is a gaming beast for under $1,500. Alienware has basically guaranteed 1440p gaming on modern games with graphics set at high or ultra-high, and that’s one of the best deals you’ll find in gaming today. While the R10 may cost three times as much as Microsoft’s new Series X for similar performance, you’re also gaining access to a powerful workstation, perfect for streaming, video editing, or any other intensive work. In an era where more work and studying is being done from home than ever before, that’s an essential addition. That excellent processor/graphics card combo is backed up by the rest of the internal specs as well. A 512GB M.2 NVMe card brings fast read and write speeds to the table, but you aren’t left out in the cold on storage space. A standard 1TB HDD gives you plenty of storage for games, videos, or anything else you need stored, and additional PCIe slots leave space for expandable storage down the road. 16GB of DDR4 RAM from HyperX is a must for speedy multitasking while gaming, and a wide variety of IO—USB ports along both the front and the back of the tower, as well as easily accessible headphone and microphone jacks—make for a fantastic user experience. Alienware’s Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition isn’t the most powerful tower on this list, but it comes close for well under most of our other top picks. This is a great example of a computer that is simultaneously perfect for budget-minded consumers who also want top-end performance. AMD has come leaps and bounds in terms of their performance, and Alienware has upped their game in terms of design. It’s tough to beat the Aurora R10 in terms of a performance-to-price ratio, and that’s what keeps it on top of this list in 2020.
- Great specs
- Fantastic price for the performance
- Can be tough to upgrade
- Some prefer Nvidia over AMD
Any PC gamer worth their while is well acquainted with Corsair. From RAM and solid state drives to gaming mice and keyboard, the company has built their reputation off the strength of their PC gaming equipment, and since making the jump to building desktop PCs, the company has managed to become a frontrunner in the space. The Corsair One a100 is unlike any other computer on the market today; it’s a compact tower PC designed to take the space of an Xbox or PlayStation in your home theater space, opening up your gaming possibilities without sitting outside your entertainment center like a sore thumb. Believe it or not, despite packing some serious hardware, Corsair’s One a100 is just slightly larger than Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. The a100 is just 3.14″ taller than the newest high-end Xbox, and just 2″ deeper. That console-sized space is more powerful than anything you can buy with an Xbox logo on it though. With AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X and Nvidia’s RTX 2080 built right in, Corsair has effectively built the most powerful console-sized computer we’ve seen to date. Paired with Steam’s Big Picture Mode, you can easily achieve frame rates well above 60FPS while playing in 4K. That’s unheard of from any next-gen hardware from either Sony or Microsoft, and that’s before you factor in browsing, file management, and production work that a console simply isn’t designed for. Despite the small space, Corsair has managed to make their compact PC still look high-end. While most of the external casing is covered by vents in order to improve air flow and help keep the relatively-small space within the machine cool, LED lights highlight the front of the computer, serving as an excellent accent to a clean-looking machine. The size and shape of the device manages to bring back memories of Apple’s ill-fated Mac Pro from 2013, although without the rounded circular shape, we doubt anyone will be calling this a “trash can” any time soon. That said, there is one other major similarity Corsair’s One a100 shares with the Mac Pro: most of its core components can’t be upgraded. While you can open up your brand new a100 to replace or upgrade both the memory and the included storage drives, that’s where your path to upgraded hardware ends. The included processor and graphics cards are locked within the chassis of the system, and to avoid voiding your warranty, you’ll also be limited to specific Corsair-made upgrade gear for both your drives and your RAM. Not that you’ll be dying to upgrade either any time soon. Both SKUs available on Amazon include a whopping 32GB of DDR4 RAM, perfect for gaming and productivity alike. Meanwhile, a 480GB M.2 NVMe SSD is plenty fast enough to keep your PC running fast, and an included 2TB traditional hard drive gives you all the storage space you’ll need to host your gaming library. Corsair’s One a100 is nothing if not niche. Designed from the ground up for gamers looking for a home console replacement underneath their TV, it’s a tough sell at $3,000—especially when you factor in the unreplacable parts. Still, the a100 is the type of desktop you can’t design on your own. The price you’re paying for incredible performance may seem high, but for some, being able to place a high-end 4K gaming PC underneath a shiny new 4K television is all that matters.
- Incredibly compact
- Perfect for replacing a console
- Super expensive
- Cannot upgrade most components
It’s rare we see a computer’s name accurately describe what the PC looks like, but in the case of HP’s Omen Obelisk, it fits the bill. Part of HP’s acclaimed Omen line of gaming gear, the Obelisk is a massive traditional tower PC, spitting in the name of the compact Corsair One. From the blood red accent colors to the angular design of the front of the PC, this is a mean looking tower. It’s also the first desktop on this list to use Intel components instead of AMD. Running on Intel’s top-end 9th-gen Core i9-9900K and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super, this is truly a beast of a device, outperforming Corsair’s a100 at two-thirds the price. Complete with a full terabyte of NVMe M.2 storage and 32GB of HyperX DDR4 SDRAM, HP’s Obelisk is made for performance above all else. It’s also, notably, upgradable, which means you won’t have to replace the entire PC in just a few years after the components are outdated. Despite its massive size, the Obelisk still manages to run hot. Nvidia’s RTX line has incredible performance, but airflow is necessary to keep things cool without taxing the entire system. Make sure you keep the desktop elevated off the ground to maximize cooling; it’s certainly not made to be placed within an entertainment center.
- Great price for top specs
- Classic tower design
- Runs quite hot under pressure
- Huge footprint
Corsair may place much of their marketing focus on the One a100—and for good reason—but you don’t have to switch to compact desktops to score a prebuilt Corsair gaming desktop. Corsair’s Vengeance 5182 still features a striking, minimal design and powerful specs for 4K gaming, but for the same price as HP’s Omen. Built into Corsair’s own Crystal 280X Micro-ATX case, the Vengeance 5182 is both minimal and able to be upgraded, making it a great middle-ground option for anyone looking to buy into compact desktops without losing their upgrade route. Powered by Intel’s Core i7-9700 and Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Super, this is a solid PC for gaming and productivity alike, complete with the same storage options we saw provided with the Corsair One. While an additional 16GB of RAM may have been nice, upgradable RAM makes pushing the Vengeance to 32GB of DDR4 memory post-purchase a simple task. Liquid cooling is also a great addition, especially since it’s rare to see on computers that aren’t custom-built. While it may not be able to outperform HP’s Obelisk, anyone looking to buy into Micro-ATX PCs with a pre-built desktop will find plenty to love about the Vengeance 5182.
- Uses a standard case for replaceable parts
- Fast and speedy performance
- Not as powerful as the Obelisk
- Odd case shape may not be everyone's taste
We haven’t forgotten about our budget-minded friends. The fine folks at CyperpowerPC have made their names on designing affordable rigs for gamers looking to buy into PC gaming without going into bankrupcy, and their Gamer Xtreme model is one of the best deals on the market today. $799 gets you access to a capable, upgradable gaming PC, without skimping out on some of the extras we’ve come to expect from gaming hardware. Unlike other mid-range gaming PCs, the case is absolutely gorgeous. Tinted clear plastic with RGB lights help keep the Gamer Xtreme from feeling or looking cheap, with a clear window side panel to allow you to view the interior of your machine. Speaking of which, the specs aren’t anything to sneeze at. While an Intel Core i5-10400F with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super aren’t high-end, it’s more than enough to play pretty much anything you can throw at it in 2020 at medium settings. A couple of bonuses, including a 500GB NVMe SSD for faster storage and an included keyboard and mouse, help to make it a complete package out of the box. While it may not be as powerful as the other desktops on this list, CyberpowerPC have built a great rig for anyone looking to get started in PC gaming without building their own device. The combination of a six-core i5 processor and the GTX 1660 Super is enough to hit high frame rates in games like Overwatch or Apex Legends, and can even power a VR headset. Plus, with upgradable parts, you can always improve this desktop down the road—at the cost of your warranty, of course.
- Super budget friendly
- Great for entry-level gaming
- RGB lights can be tacky
- Smaller brand