We hate to admit it, but now is not the ideal time to build a gaming PC. The biggest reason why is because cryptocurrency mining has driven up the price of graphics cards, and that’s assuming you can even find the card you want in stock. Most mid-range and high-end graphics cards are selling for much higher than MSRP, some of them going for twice or even triple what they should be.
Memory prices are trending higher these days as well. Take for example this 16GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000 RAM. It sells for $205 today, versus around half that much a year ago. And for a period of time in 2016, this exact same kit sold for $70.
It sounds like a bunch of sour grapes, but if you want to turn those grapes into wine, take a look at the prebuilt market. System builders have the advantage of being able to buy parts in bulk, and they also seem immune to the outrageous markups on GPUs. As such, there are some tremendous deals out there, on both desktops and gaming laptops.
We took it upon ourselves to round up some of the best bargains in each category. Rather than select a bunch of deals at random, we focused on finding compelling options at different performance tiers. So, whether you are looking for a serviceable gaming setup that costs less than $700 or have twice as much cash to throw at a more powerful configuration, you’ll find it here. Let’s get started!
HP Pavilion Power
For less than $700, you can pick up this HP Pavilion Power gaming tower and run games competently at 1080p. It’s built around an Intel Core i5-7400 processor, a quad-core chip clocked at 3GHz (3.5GHz boost clock), and a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 3GB of GDDR5 memory. That is a potent combination for the price.
You also get 8GB of DDR4-2400 memory and a 1TB hard drive. Ideally we’d like to see a solid state drive for the OS and a bulky hard drive for storage duties, but at this price, it’s hard to complain. Besides, you could always add an SSD yourself.
Dell Alienware Aurora
This Alienware Aurora desktop is built for high-end gaming and costs around a grand, depending what upgrade options you decide on. The baseline configuration that we link to has a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card inside and is a good value at just $931 for the entire setup. However, if you select the GeForce GTX 1070 upgrade option, as we recommended, it only bumps the price up to $1,029.That gets you a burlier GPU to throw at games, especially if you plan on playing at 1440p or higher. If you want even more GPU horsepower, selecting the GeForce GTX 1080 upgrade option pushes the price to a still-reasonable $1,127.
Flanking the graphics card is an Intel Core i5-8400 processor based on Intel’s newest Coffee Lake architecture. This is a six-core chip with a 2.8GHz base clock and 4GHz boost clock, so it has plenty of processing grunt to throw at tasks. This configuration also comes with 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM and a 1TB (7,200 RPM) hard drive.
MSI Nightblade MI3
Like the Alienware Aurora, MSI’s Nightblade MI3 is another system that can be customized. We took aim at the high end by selecting a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card with 8GB of GDDR5X memory, which should be able to handle most games at 1440p and even some games at 4K.
To keep the price from ballooning out of control, we stuck with the default CPU and storage selections, consisting of an Intel Core i5-7500 processor (4-core/4-thread clocked at 3.4GHz and 3.8GHz with boost), 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, and a 1TB hard drive. The SSD is an M.2 drive, meaning it’s one of those gumstick-sized SSDs that plug directly into the motherboard. It also has an NVMe interface to allow for faster data transfers over the PCIe bus, versus slower SATA-based SSDs.
You can score a 3% discount on this system if you pay with cash. With or without it, however, this is a good deal for the money.
CyberPowerPC VR Ready Deal
Companies like CyberPower PC and iBuyPower use off-the-shelf parts to build PCs that are close facsimiles to what you could assemble yourself. Cable management isn’t always great and is certainly not on par with what you would get with a premium boutique builder, but these systems are cost-effective, sometimes even cheaper than building your own.
One system that caught our eye is a “VR Ready Deal” that CyberPower PC put together. Like MSI’s Nightblade MI3, it has a GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB of GDDR5X memory to muscle through demanding games, only it’s paired with an Intel Core i7-8700K processor. This is Intel’s flagship Coffee Lake processor with 6-cores/12-threads clocked at 3.7GHz to 4.7GHz. It also has an unlocked multiplier, making it easier to overclock, if that’s something you feel comfortable doing. And to keep temps in check, the CPU sits underneath an Asetek 550LC 120mm all-in-one liquid cooling solution.
There is 16GB of fast DDR4-3000 memory in this system, along with a 240GB solid state drive and a 2TB hard drive. These are all name-brand parts, too, all of which are plugged into an MSI Z370 A Pro motherboard, and shoved inside a Thermaltake Core G21 mid-tower case with tempered glass panels on both sides.
Origin PC Millennium ($3,000)
We’ve covered some good values up to this point, but what if you want to go all out on a high-dollar system from a premium boutique? Well, more power to you, for one thing. And secondly, have a look at Origin PC’s Millennium.
Origin PC recently refreshed its Millennium line, both with updated parts and by making some tweaks to its custom chassis. We’ve spent some hands-on time with the new Millennium and really like what Origin PC has done. To start with, the case allows for four different motherboard orientations—standard, inverted, 90 degrees, and 90 degrees inverted.
You can customize the Millennium to fit your budget, with prices starting at around $1,700. We spec’d out a $3,000 configuration consisting of an Intel Core i7-8700K processor, 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, a burly GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe solid state drive paired with a 2TB hard drive. We also sprang for a 360mm all-in-one liquid cooling solution, as the unlocked CPU is just begging to be overclocked.
Obviously this is a pricey system that costs more than the sum of parts. But if you’re looking for a boutique build with excellent cable management and a unique case that isn’t available anywhere else, this is it.
Lenovo Legion Y520 ($780)
We’ve covered several gaming desktops, but if you want a laptop instead, there are plenty of options out there. One that we like in the sub-$1,000 range is Lenovo’s Legion Y520. It has a 15.6-inch display with a 1920×1080 resolution, powered by an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, 8GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. It also comes with a 1TB hard drive.
Since most laptops can’t be upgraded, at least when it comes to the CPU and GPU, it’s important to start with as strong of a foundation as you can afford from the outset. That’s why we opted for a laptop in this price range with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti instead of a regular GeForce GTX 1050. The Ti variant doubles the amount of video RAM and has more CUDA cores, resulting in better gaming performance.
Circling back to Dell, this 15.6-inch Inspiron 15 7000 normally runs $1,000, but can currently be had for $882 if you use coupon code 50OFF699. What you get in return is an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor paired with a 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 GPU. The foundation outperforms its price tag and is easily capable of playing games on the laptop’s native 1920×1080 IPS display.
This configuration also sports 8GB of DDR4-2400 RAM and a 256GB solid state drive. Connectivity options are rather robust as well, consisting of three USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, a gigabit Ethernet port, a headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 output, and a media card reader. Not too shabby for a roughly $880 gaming laptop.
If it’s a bigger, more powerful gaming laptop you’re after, this HP Omen brings the goods at a reasonable price. It’s a 17.3-inch laptop with a 1920×1080 resolution, and supports G-Sync for buttery smooth gameplay.
The Omen is built on a solid foundation consisting of an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor (4-cores/8-threads clocked at 2.8GHz to 3.8GHz) paired with 12GB of DDR4-2133 RAM and a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 memory. It doesn’t have a solid state drive, but it does provide a capacious 1TB hard drive for games and other programs.
External ports consist of three USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), gigabit Ethernet, headphone/microphone combo jack, and mini DisplayPort and HDMI outputs.
Acer Predator (G9-593-71EH)
This Acer Predator laptop is a fully loaded machine with high-end parts from top to bottom. It starts with the display, a 15.6-inch IPS panel with a 1920×1080 resolution and G-Sync support. Sure, there are higher resolution displays out there, but those will also make your GPU feel long in the tooth sooner than 1080p will.
Inside this machine is an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a beefy GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. For storage, Acer slapped a pair of 128GB solid state drives in RAID 0 for added speed, giving you 256GB of total space. The downside is that if one of the drives fails, your entire RAID array goes down with it. You’ll want to make sure you’re backing up your important data, and there’s a 1TB hard drive crammed inside to help do that. There’s also a DVD burner included.
There is a generous selection of ports here as well, including four USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, a gigabit Ethernet port, and both DisplayPort and HDMI outputs (one each).
Razer Blade 14”
Just as we included a boutique desktop in this roundup, we’re also including a premium laptop that isn’t a bang-for-buck selection, but a luxury option for those who can afford it. In this case, it’s Razer’s Blade laptop.
The Blade is a sharp looking machine with a 14-inch display that checks in at 1920×1080. It also flexes an Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR5 memory, and a sizable 512GB solid state drive.
It’s offers a nice selection of parts, though for $2,100, there are definitely faster laptops out there for the price. Part of what sets this apart, however, is its thin and light unibody aluminum chassis—it has a trim 0.7-inch waistline and weighs barely over 4 pounds. It’s basically an ultrabook for gaming.