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 weighty question for anyone interested and complicated to answer. To help, we’ve compiled a guide to picking out your first gaming PC.

This guide is specifically for helping you buy a pre-built PC. That means one already assembled and working, not one you have to build yourself. There are advantages to buying a pre-built gaming machine, such as accessibility and reliability for those unfamiliar with building one. It’s also obviously a lot faster and easier to buy pre-built. So if building your system isn’t an option right now, here’s what you need to consider to get the best gaming PC.

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 to play one game, or do I intend to play many?
  • What are these games?
  • Are those games graphically demanding?
  • Do I want 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 compelling to run your game, even at the highest graphical settings. You’ll need a beefier setup if you want to dive into newer games, like the upcoming Cyberpunk, Control, Final Fantasy XXIV, and more. 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 these questions, figure out precisely what you want to do with your new computer, and take note of them. Once you have your list of notes, move on to the next step.

Determine your budget

aorus gaming laptop gaming pc

This is perhaps the most crucial 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 challenging 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 spend. Depending on specific needs, you can make cuts in certain areas, 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 component factors to consider when landing on a build to buy, too, which makes the process even more complicated than before. Luckily, we’ve been around the block and can help you with common questions and notes. We’ll break them down based on the questions you answered when deciding your gaming PC goals.

To start, determine which type of game or games you’d like to play on your new PC. That helps narrow down the required hardware, making your decision much more accessible. For instance, as an example 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 get still the best graphics possible. You can run a mid-range modern GPU like AMD’s Radeon 5700 or Nvidia’s SUPER. Likewise, a mid-range processor, such as an Intel i5 9600 K or an AMD Ryzen 3600. For Fortnite, the bare-minimum hardware requirements could be even lower – but you might not have as much future-proofing built into your system.

On the other hand, if you plan to dive into a handful or several handfuls of new, more demanding games, like Cyberpunk or Control while running graphics to the best of their capabilities, you’ll need something beefy to handle them. We’re talking about an Nvidia SUPER GPU, an Intel i9 9900K CPU, and at least 16GB of RAM. That’ll 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 valuable 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 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.

evga 2080 abs buildStorage 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 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 evident and endless. They fail less often, they read and write data much faster, you can shrink your startup time down to a few seconds, games will load much faster, and so on.

The more games, documents, pictures, videos, and audio you think you’ll need to save, the larger your total storage should be. There are massive hard drives for little money, so if you need tons of data, don’t be afraid of a high RPM platter drive. You can get that smaller SSD for Windows and your favorite game.

The final primary 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 excellent options for each, and we’ll list those below.

Know the gaming PC brands

ABS precision xtreme gaming PC

Before diving into specific models of pre-built gaming desktops and laptops, 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 started with a reputation for one thing, like motherboards or graphics cards, but they’ve all established themselves as full PC gaming manufacturers.

Some of the most common are iBuyPower,  MSI, ACER, CyberpowerPC, ABS (Newegg’s brand), and SkyTech. Keep your eyes peeled for these companies when picking out your build; in most cases, you can’t go wrong.

Research your gaming PC options

Young college students having fun, laughing and playing esports at computer stations with monitors, keyboard and mice

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 addresses.

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 notes and go out into the wild blue yonder to find the options I may have missed. Either way, the goal is to help.

Desktop, low budget: SkyTech Archangel II – $639.99

  • Low-budget gaming PC
  • With decent specs but limited multitasking potential, I wouldn’t be able to stream or render videos while gaming.
  • Perfect for older or less GPU-intensive games
  • It 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 and will probably be able to run high graphics for the next couple of years of new games.
  • The processor is good at multitasking.
  • Liquid-cooled
  • Large SSD, which means fast loading and decent space
  • Looks very pretty

What To Look For In A Gaming PC

Desktop, mid-range budget: iBUYPOWER Trace2 – $1299.99

  • Similar pros and cons to the ABS Mage H (above), but it 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 the case make for easy transportation to events, LANs, etc

Laptop, low budget: Acer Predator Helios – $949.99

  • A very reliable and proven brand for mobile gaming
  • The 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

  • Excellent graphics card, even by desktop standards, and should be able to run high-end games for a few more years.
  • A high refresh rate is excellent 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

  • Potent 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

Laptop accessories

With the exception of the Alienware Area 51M, gaming laptops often require some extra peripherals to make the most of them. For the added portability of a laptop, you typically need to forego some 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 costly, too, so if you already have a laptop with a powerful processor, you can pick up a full desktop GPU, hook it up to an external GPU bay, and make you in the shade.

Here are some of our favorite mobile gaming accessories.

What To Look For In A Gaming

Cooler Master NotePal X-Lite II – $24.24

  • Cooling station for any laptop
  • Works well, stays silent, and can make a huge difference

ASUS XG Station Pro – $329.99

  • Reliable external GPU station
  • A solid option for anyone that wants to maintain desktop-level graphics that are easily upgradeable without a massive budget for a laptop with that capability

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