Best gaming PCs. Gaming PCs reviews. Gaming is one area in which the desktop PC still reigns supreme. In this category we allow vendors to go all out, kitting out their systems to the best of their abilities. Here are the best gaming PCs available to buy in the UK in 2016. (For more advice, see How to buy a great games PC.)
Latest entry: Chillblast Fusion Nano Fury
Best gaming PCs 2016 UK: buying advice
Consoles are great, but they simply can’t match the graphical power of a decent gaming PC. With the right processor and graphics card, you can achieve far higher-quality visuals and enjoy all the game modifications you desire. Of course, you also get high-performance for all your non-gaming needs and that graphics card will also offer a considerable performance boost to other applications, such as photo and video editing software.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Processor
Different games place different demands on your computer hardware, but choosing a gaming PC will involve a balancing act between CPU and graphics performance.
For gaming PC’s we’re happy to allow overclocked processors, which will significantly increase your overall processing power without having to stump up for the most expensive chips. Five of the PCs below feature the new 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K processors overclocked to varying degrees, with the fastest running at 4.5GHz.
To keep the overclocked processors cool, all have been fitted with third party processor coolers, some using the traditional heatsink and fan design, while others opt for a liquid coolant pumped through a radiator.
Overclocked processors place additional demands on the system’s power supply and also require better cooling, so expect to pay more for PCs with more extreme overclocking. You can overclock the processor yourself if you wish, but it can be a good idea to buy a pre-overclocked system such as the ones reviewed here which are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty when running at the higher speed.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Motherboard
There are several points to consider when choosing the right motherboard for your PC, if you’re not into technical details you may be tempted to overlook the motherboard and concentrate on the processor and graphics, but the motherboard is extremely important.
Because the Skylake processors are relatively new, there are fewer decisions to be made than on previous platforms. Any Skylake PC will be using the Intel Z170 Express chipset which supports dual channel DDR4 memory, and processor overclocking. Individual boards will however, offer different feature sets. So you’ll need to think about whether you want the new USB 3.1 sockets or a high-performance PCI-Express M.2 SSD, such as the one fitted to Chillblast’s Fusion Krypton. Premium motherboards may offer additional features such as the higher-quality built in audio of the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 3 used in Mesh’s Skylake PCA system. Gaming motherboards also tend to offer a selection of extras you don’t often get on standard models. These can include cosmetic enhancements such as better looks and even colour changing LEDs, but also faster network cards designed to reduce lag and higher quality audio components.
Lastly, your motherboard will also have to be the correct size to physically fit in your chosen system case. Larger cases leave you with more options, but can take up a lot of space. The more compact designs will require a smaller form factor motherboard, such as the mATX model used by Chillblast in the Fusion Kypton.
If you want to keep down costs and don't need a Skylake-based PC, you can go for an Intel H81 Express chipset. These boards will cost significantly less than premium motherboards based on the enthusiast Z97 chipset, but come with reduced features. Crucially, the H81 Express chipset doesn’t officially support processor overclocking, but the feature has been independently enabled by many motherboard vendors and work just fine.
Opting for a lower-cost motherboard can also allow you to spend a little more on your graphics card, which can have a big impact on your final performance figures.
This option is now without risk. Although your warranty protects you from system failures due to overclocking, it’s theoretically possible for Intel to pull the plug and put pressure on vendors to remove the overclocking features in forthcoming BIOS updates. Similarly, Windows Update could also be used to install new processor microcode with the same effect. The Z97 Express chipset brings many extra features, including more USB 3.0 and SATA ports, support for Intel Smart Response Technology, RAID and PCI-E M.2 SSDs.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Graphics card
It’s usually the graphics card that will determine the overall quality of your gaming experience. Once your processor is fast enough, it’s down to the graphics card to deliver the game to your screen. This is why we suggest gamers go for a Core i5 processor rather than the more expensive Core i7 as the difference in price will almost certainly serve you better spent on the graphics card rather than on the CPU.
To ensure smooth gameplay, you generally want to achieve a minimum of 60 frames per second (fps) in your game. This is the limiting speed of most PC displays, so you won’t really need to go faster than this unless you have a high-speed gaming monitor that allows for faster refresh rates.
Any extra performance will then allow you to increase the quality settings in your game, making characters sharper, textures more realistic and graphical effects more immersive. NVidia’s GeForce GTX 960 offers an excellent balance of price and performance but another great performer is AMD’s Radeon R9 285 DD Edition, which edged just ahead of the GTX 960 in most of our tests.
If you need more power, a GeForce GTX 970 now fits within a £1,000 budget. This would give you twice as much on-board memory for textures and multi-screen use, as well as a significant boost in performance at the higher quality settings. The equivalent AMD option comes in the form of the Radeon R9 390. These cards jostle for supremacy, the result depending largely on the particular games you play and which of the two graphics card companies have the better-optimised code in any given title.
Don’t worry too much about choosing between AMD and nVidia. As is usually the case, it’s down to which graphics card vendor has done a better job optimising any particular game for performance on its own cards. If you have an idea of which games you want to play, it can be worth investigating how well any given card performs with those particular games before you make your decision.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Cooling
Cooling is essential if any CPU is not to overheat, but especially one that’s been overclocked. The basic Intel CPU cooler vendors often fit will save you money, but it can be noisy and won’t keep your processor as cool, and will need careful attention paid to airflow through the case.
Expensive water cooling systems allow for extreme overclocking, but more modest budgets will generally allow for a smaller, sealed liquid-based coolers such as the Corsair Hxx range. Alternatively, you can go for a heat-pipe based cooler, which will give better cooling than a standard model while making less noise, thanks to larger, slower-moving fans.
Gamers like their systems to look the part, but the case needs to be practical. Internal cable management aids airflow, while fan controllers let you reduce noise or boost cooling as necessary.
Graphics cards can also come with various cooling systems, the more advanced of which can allow for faster clock speeds on the GPU and less noise from the graphics subsystem when playing games.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Monitor
For more immersive gameplay, go for the largest display you can find and one with a good contrast ratio. A fast response time will ensure that fast, frenetic gameplay remains free of blur, although not all game players will notice any difference. TN-based monitors will cost less and provide most of these features, but IPS-based displays will give you better overall colour reproduction and wider viewing angles, although response times tend to be slower. For a more responsive display, go for a gaming monitor with a high refresh rate of 120- or 144Hz, although you’ll need powerful graphics to supply frames at this speed.
For the very smoothest gameplay from an nVidia graphics card, look for a monitor that supports nVidia G-Sync. With G-Sync, the monitor stays in step with the graphics card rather than the other way around. This means less blurring or image tearing even at lower framerates, and will be of great benefit to mid-range graphics cards such as the ones found in these PCs. AMD offers a competing technology called ‘FreeSync’, which will soon be available for displays connected to AMD graphics cards.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Peripherals
If you’re using your PC on a desk with a monitor, you’ll benefit from the improved responsiveness of wired rather than wireless devices. Look for high-resolution mice, and keyboards with programmable keys and backlighting.
High-grade mechanical switches in keyboards have a better ‘feel’ and provide longer life than cheap membrane switches. Some draw attention to the W, A, S and D keys with a different colour or texture. A gaming sound card can provide a more immersive experience by adding multiple sound effects, with improved audio fidelity. Also consider a gaming headset with a built-in mic.
However, if you’re planning on playing from the sofa, you’ll want wireless controllers. For keyboard input, we would recommend a wireless model that comes with an integrated pointing device, such as a trackball or trackpad.
Most of the PCs in this group test come without internal optical drives, and those built into the NZXT Source 340 system case lack the drive bays necessary to install them. In these cases, consider adding an external USB DVD or Blu-ray drive. This time, Vibox has included one in the price of the system.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Power consumption and noise
If you’re using the PC as a home entertainment hub, you may also want to consider idle power consumption and noise. The more you overclock your PC, the more power it will consume and the louder it will become.
Best gaming PCs 2016: Warranty
Warranty terms are crucial when it comes to gaming PCs and a key advantage of buying a pre-built overclocked PC is that all of the overclocking will be tested and covered by the vendor’s warranty. The longer the warranty the better, but also look for a collect-and-return rather than return-to-base option. Also pay attention to whether parts and labour are both covered and for how long.
Best gaming PCs 2016 UK
14. Scan 3XS Gamer
- Reviewed on: 26 March 15
- RRP: £849 inc. VAT
Scan’s 3XS Gamer appears at first glance to be a good deal, but the lack of overclocking puts it at a disadvantage against the overclocked competition and a total of 240GB of storage is unlikely to be enough, especially if you want to install lots of games. We'd recommend adding a traditional hard drive to the spec if you decide to buy.
Read our Scan 3XS Gamer review.
13. Vibox Wildfire
- Reviewed on: 27 March 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
The Vibox Wildfire is a well-balanced PC which cuts no corners and delivers solid performance. It’s also one of the better-looking PCs, thanks to its NZXT H440 system case and internal lighting. It includes all the peripherals you’ll need, including an external DVD writer. Sadly, the warranty lasts for only a single year.
Read our Vibox Wildfire review.
- Reviewed on: 27 April 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
The Warbird Gam3r delivers a lot of performance and features for your money, outperforming many other gaming PCs at this price it comes in an attractive compact gaming case and is bundled with appropriate gaming-focused peripherals, but the standard warranty is disappointing.
Read our Yoyotech Warbird Gam3r review.
- Reviewed on: 20 March 15
- RRP: £749 inc. VAT
The Chillblast Fusion Mantis offers excellent value for money and competitive performance, although you’ll need to supply your own monitor and peripherals. It also comes with an unrivalled 5-year warranty.
Read our Chillblast Fusion Mantis review.
- Reviewed on: 23 March 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
The Cyberpower Infinity Achilles Pro GT is simultaneously the slowest and fastest PC in our group test. The non-overclocked processor places it at a disadvantage for applications, but the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card helps it scream ahead for gaming.
- Reviewed on: 24 March 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
The DinoPC Dark Spark GTX 960 is an excellent, well-rounded gaming PC with all the peripherals you’ll need to start playing. It also features the fastest overclock in our group test. It’s also available as a base unit only for £830. If you can live with the effective two-year, return-to-base warranty, it's a great deal.
Read our Dino PC Dark Spark GTX 960 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 March 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
The Eclipse SuperNova i5r285oc is huge and imposing. It also blows away the competition in terms of application performance and is available as a base-unit only for a very competitive price. It’s possible to get faster gaming frame rates at this price, but not without making significant sacrifices elsewhere.
Read our Eclipse SuperNova i5r285oc review.
- Reviewed on: 23 October 15
- RRP: £999 inc VAT and delivery
The Infinity X55 SE performs well, but not as well as much of the competition thanks largely to its unambitious 4.2GHz maximum clock speed. It also boots from a rather small SSD without the large performance advantage of an M.2 model. Some will love the AMD graphics card with its huge video RAM capacity, but overall the price seems a little high for what you’re getting.
Read our CyberPower Infinity X55 SE review.
- Reviewed on: 26 October 15
- RRP: £999.95 inc. VAT
At £899.95 without the monitor, the Eclipse SuperNova i566n970OC is one of the less expensive Skylake gaming PCs. Its performance lags a little in benchmarks, but it’s also more expandable than compact systems such as Chillblast’s and has a larger SSD.
Read our Eclipse SuperNova i566n970OC review.
- Reviewed on: 27 October 15
- RRP: £999 inc. VAT
At £999 without a monitor, the Mesh Elite Skylake PCA is one of the most expensive PCs in our group test, but its features and build quality most certainly earn that price tag. Its feels like a higher-quality system and the high-end internal components deliver useful additional capabilities and bags of upgrade potential.
Read our Mesh Elite Skylake PCA review.
- Reviewed on: 1 February 16
- RRP: £1379.99 inc VAT
The Chillblast Fusion Nano Fury is not without compromise, but fits into an almost impossibly small case while delivering a huge improvement in gaming performance thanks to AMD’s R9 Nano graphics card.
Read our Chillblast Fusion Nano Fury review.
- Reviewed on: 28 October 15
- RRP: £979.99 inc VAT & delivery
The Vibox Spawn X is a very good-looking PC with an impressive specification and a big CPU overclock. It offers a fully-featured gaming motherboard and features a case with excellent cable management and flexible lighting options. It’s no slouch, but we would have hoped for even more performance.
Read our Vibox Spawn X review.
- Reviewed on: 22 October 15
- RRP: £1119.98 inc VAT (£869.99 inc VAT without monitor)
Excellent performance, top-notch build quality and Chillblast’s usual 5-year warranty make the Fusion Kube an excellent choice as long as you don’t need the expansion capabilities of a full-size system case or motherboard. It’s also great value for money.
Read our Chillblast Fusion Krypton review.
- Reviewed on: 29 October 15
- RRP: £899 inc VAT & delivery
The Wired2Fire Diablo Skylake is an excellent performer, combining an overclocked graphics card with a decent CPU overclock up to 4.4GHz. It comes with a 250GB SSD, big enough to hold your most important apps and comes in an impressive system case. It offers great value for money, but if you like to tinker, you may prefer to go for something with a proper gaming motherboard.
Read our Wired2Fire Diablo Skylake review.