Alineware Aurora

Best Gaming Desktop PC Windows Central 2019

If you thought you had to build a gaming PC to get the most out of it, you'd be wrong. There are amazing pre-built rigs out there, like the Alienware Aurora, that give you all the fun without any of the fuss.

Best overall - Alienware Aurora R8

Alienware Aurora

Just like its parent Dell brand, Alienware has been making some amazing hardware recently. The Aurora is one such example, revived and reborn with a whole new design that's both striking and clever.

Thanks to touches like the swing-out vertically mounted power supply, you get more space for peripherals. You can squeeze in a pair of graphics cards as well as a liquid cooler for the CPU. You also get plenty of space for additional drive bays, with two on the bottom and a 3.5-inch HDD bay mounted behind the front panel. It's a little awkward to work in, but there's still a big opportunity for user upgrades.

It isn't even that expensive, either. While you're not getting the most powerful parts at the entry level, the ease of upgrade means you're not limited by what you can initially afford. Adding more RAM or a new graphics card is completely tool free and takes just a couple of minutes.

What the Aurora offers is something for everyone: those on a tighter budget, those looking for ridiculous power, those hoping to upgrade in the future, and everyone else in between.

Reasons to buy

  • Lots of configurations
  • User upgradeable
  • Powerful
  • Fairly compact
  • Inexpensive

Reasons not to buy

  • No optical drive
  • Awkward internal design

Best overall

Alienware Aurora R8

The latest Alienware Aurora is an incredible thing

Not only does it have room for incredible gaming power, it does so in a relatively compact, well-designed case. You get options galore, too, with the latest 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processors, RTX graphics cards, and 64GB of RAM. You even have it liquid cooled if you wish.

Best small form - Zotac MEK Mini

Zotac MEK Mini

There is a fashion for large gaming PCs with mad cases and more RGB lights than a Vegas hotel, but not everyone wants or has the space for a colossal rig. It's also not necessary any more, with some truly amazing and small gaming PCs like the MEK Mini.

It's small enough to fit inside a backpack, and yet has a six-core i7 processor and an NVIDIA RTX 2070 GPU inside it. That's pretty remarkable, and when you add 16GB of RAM and a mixture of SSD and HDD storage, you wonder why you'd ever want a large PC again. If you often take your PC on the go to LAN parties, this is the perfect option.

The RAM and storage are also upgradeable if you ever need more (although the space is, of course, limited). Even though it's tiny, there are all the ports you could ever want on the MEK Mini to connect all of your additional hardware.

Reasons to buy

  • Incredibly small
  • Lots of gaming power
  • Good price
  • Lots of ports

Reasons not to buy

  • Limited upgrades to make
  • Still on previous gen processor

Best small form

Zotac MEK Mini

Despite its tiny size, this PC still packs a punch

The form factor means it's a fraction of the size of a regular gaming rig, while still packing an RTX 2070 graphics card and 6-core Intel Core i7 processor.

Best budget - HP Pavilion Desktop

PC gaming can be very expensive, but if you were worried that you couldn't engage without spending a fortune, worry no longer. For not a lot of money, you can get this excellent desktop PC from HP that serves as both a solid entry point to gaming as well as keeping your budget firmly in check.

With a combination of a Ryzen 5 and 8GB RX 580 GPU, both from AMD, you're well placed for 1080p gaming, and the RX 580 in particular is a very good piece of kit to get at this price point. The only real drawback to it is that you're limited to a single HDMI output, the only other option is DisplayPort which isn't all that common on budget gaming monitors right now.

The Pavilion also serves well as a workhorse, with an understated design, a whole bundle of ports for connecting additional hardware and displays, and even an optical drive. The latter isn't that common any more, so this is also a great shout if you're looking for a home media PC, too.

Reasons to buy

  • Amazing price
  • Excellent graphics card
  • Optical drive
  • Plenty of ports

Reasons not to buy

  • Not future upgradeable
  • Limited display outputs

Best budget

HP Pavilion Desktop

Spending a little can still get you a lot

Not all PC gamers want to spend thousands or need the power from the top-of-the-line GPUs. For not a lot you can get a HP Pavilion Desktop with a Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB AMD RX 580 graphics card.

Best for work and play - Dell XPS 8930

XPS 8930

While RGB is all the rage these days in gaming PCs, such a thing isn't really suited to an office environment, at home or at work. Some just want a powerful PC that can game without it screaming "I'm a gamer." That's where the superb Dell XPS 8930 comes in.

It's pretty stylish to look at, although it's a bit boring by the standard of most gaming PCs, anyway. XPS is Dell's professional brand, and the 8930 fits right into that, except it's also packing some serious horsepower for gaming.

Dell has a whole host of configurations to choose from, all of which offer dedicated graphics from NVIDIA, including the RTX 2060 or the GTX 1080. It has also been updated to offer 9th Gen Intel processors, and since it uses standard parts, much is upgradeable. Dell also uses superfast NVMe SSD storage, so this is a desktop PC that can hang with the best of them.

Reasons to buy

  • Lots of configurations
  • Easy to upgrade
  • Powerful
  • Optical drive

Reasons not to buy

  • Can get expensive
  • Entry level a little underpowered

Best for work and play

Dell XPS 8930

Looks like an office PC, games like a champion

If you want a PC to game on that doesn't look like a teenager designed it, here it is. The Dell XPS tower is sleek and sophisticated looking while still packing some serious horsepower inside.

Best barebones - Intel Hades Canyon NUC

Hades Canyon

The beauty of a barebones gaming PC is that you get to build most of it yourself while still, at least in this case, getting a really small package to start with. The Hades Canyon is Intel's top of the line NUC (Next Unit of Computing) and it's pretty special for a number of reasons.

For one, it uses one of Intel's special Core i7 processors that also contain a 4GB dedicated AMD Vega M GPU. So out of the box, there's some gaming you can do with the Hades Canyon. How much storage and RAM you want, though, is up to you. That means, of course, that the price is going to rise fast.

One of the best parts of the Hades Canyon is the freedom it gives you to build the gaming PC you want without having to start from scratch. It also has a Thunderbolt 3 connection so if you want to hook it up to a full desktop graphics card with an eGPU, you can.

Reasons to buy

  • Add your own storage and RAM
  • Extremely compact
  • eGPU over Thunderbolt 3
  • Lots of ports

Reasons not to buy

  • Only two CPU options
  • Can get expensive
  • Not a stylish PC

Best barebones

Intel Hades Canyon NUC

A devilishly good barebones gaming PC

Intel continues to push the boundaries and its latest high-end Next Unit of Computing the Hades Canyon, is easily the most impressive to date. You now get a choice of quad-core 8th Gen Core i7 processor, both with 4GB Radeon Vega M dedicated graphics.

Concusion

There are a lot of great pre-built gaming PCs out there but it's hard to do better than the Alienware Aurora right now. You can either save money now and upgrade it down the line or spec it up out of the box with an insane amount of hardware. There's something for everyone in this cleverly designed PC.

What's also very apparent right now is that there's a good selection of both small, and budget PCs for people who just don't want a massive rig full of RGB and the most amount of hardware you can possibly lay your hands on.

You can have a good time for a few hundred, likewise you can have a powerful PC that can fit in your bag. LAN parties are still very much a thing, and when you can get such a small PC as a Zotac MEK Mini, why would you bother with a gaming laptop?

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

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