Custom Gaming Desktops Review
Why Buy a Custom Gaming Desktop?
The top performers in our review are the CyberPowerPC Fang III, the Gold Award winner; the Alienware Area 51, the Silver Award winner; and the CybertronPC Silencer, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of the 10 best systems.
How to Choose a Custom Gaming Desktop
Many people think that gaming requires the use of consoles from companies like Microsoft and Sony, but for enthusiast users, custom gaming PCs are a higher-end alternative. With features like multiple graphics card support and high-capacity storage arrays, custom gaming computers have the ability to provide unparalleled gaming and processing performance.
Secondary options are also available if you're looking for more accessible gaming setups. Video game consoles offer home theater-friendly designs, while gaming laptops tout portability along with dedicated graphics cards. Elsewhere, standard gaming PCs feature high-performance components at a mainstream price point.
Custom gaming desktops can be assembled through a manufacturer's automated website tool. Here, you can choose your computer's individual components, including graphics card and the case's finish color. Top gaming PCs typically pair parts like high-performance graphics cards with equally fast processors. Accessories like keyboards and monitors can also be bundled in with the computer during the checkout process. After a brief assembly period, your computer is shipped out. Check out our articles on custom gaming desktops for more information.
Custom Gaming Desktops: What We Tested, What We Found
For our evaluation, we selected configurations of desktops with price points of around $3,500. If configurations around this price point were unavailable, we instead customized models to meet this base comparison point. We also drew upon benchmarking data from our colleagues at Anandtech and Tom's Hardware to establish a composite measurement of the computer's performance ceiling.
To evaluate the gaming performance of these configurations, we used Tom's Hardware's graphics card benchmark database for 3840 x 2160 performance at Medium graphics settings in the games "Far Cry 3," "BioShock Infinite" and "Battlefield 4." At minimum, games need a frame rate of at least 30 to 45 frames per second in order to run smoothly. Via Anandtech, we also used processor benchmark Cinebench 11.5's multithreaded test to evaluate CPU performance for each configuration.
Our research found several key points to consider before you configure your own custom gaming computer. At this premium price point, a lot of gaming desktops draw from the same pool of high-end graphics cards. However, several of our top gaming PCs also integrated premium features like multi-card setups into our designated price point. As with any computer purchase, the best custom gaming PCs combine value with excellent specifications.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. Our testing used both manufacturer-provided review units and data from our colleagues at Anandtech and Tom's Hardware. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important in Selecting a Custom Gaming Desktop?
Along with basic graphics card specifications, additional gaming computer facets are important to consider before your purchase. Factors include the following criteria:
Performance vs. Cost
While the customization options for high-end gaming PCs provide flexibility, certain premium features can be omitted if you're configuring on a budget. For instance, Ultra HD graphics settings provide exceptional visual fidelity in games. Ultra HD-level graphics cards can still provide excellent performance at 1920 x 1080, but Ultra HD settings require a monitor that supports these resolution levels. Other high-end features like liquid cooling and hard drive arrays fall into a similarly optional category.
Making Your PC a Multitasker
The parts in a standard gaming PC help power gaming performance, but they can also be harnessed towards other professional uses. Components like your computer's memory and processor are important contributors for applications like graphics rendering or video editing.
Extra Speed & Extra Space
Compared to computer subsets like home desktops and ultrabooks, many custom gaming desktops prioritize performance over space. For instance, our reviewed units had an average height of around two feet. While this extra room is often necessary for parts like large graphics cards, consider your gaming space and desk restrictions alongside your PC purchase.
Custom Gaming Desktops: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Our top custom gaming desktop selections excel at balancing performance with specifications. The CyberPowerPC Fang III's value-friendly price point gives the system ample room for high-performance customization add-ons. With its comparatively low starting price point, the gaming computer has ample room for upgrades like multi-graphics card setups and high-capacity hard drives. Similarly, the Alienware Area 51's distinctive design effectively works alongside its SLI NVIDIA graphics card setup. Taking advantage of its customized case, the Area 51 tailors every inch of the computer to high-performance gaming needs.
Finally, the CyberTronPC Silencer's straightforward appearance belies its high-end twin NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980s. While it lacks the deluxe cases and features of many custom gaming desktops, the Silencer's dual-graphics card setup is a premium asset typically seen in similarly priced competitors. Beyond these options, additional highlights include the Maingear Force and the Digital Storm Velox. Both offer strong designs and build quality alongside standard high-end gaming PC components.