Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050
The best card for eSports
We weren’t expecting the GTX 1050 to be particularly good value, but at the time of review – and up against AMD’s excellent RX 460 – it just about did enough to stay ahead. With prices starting at £110, it’s £20 more expensive than the cheapest AMD Radeon RX 460s and £10 more than RX 560 cards. However, the benefits are that you get a much smaller board, lower power consumption and better performance. If your budget will stretch to the GTX 1050, it’s worth it for that.
The limitation is memory: in this day and age 2GB is probably too little, so be sure to check out the minimum requirements of new games carefully before you buy.
It’s interesting to note that you’ll find GTX 1050 in various mid-range gaming laptops such as the £900 Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming, where it gets 4GB of memory instead of 2GB. This should improve performance if you dare turn up the graphics settings in the latest AAA games.
AMD Radeon RX 570
Best AAA gaming card for £200
The RX 570 is a minor improvement to the RX 470 reviewed in 2016. It has slightly higher clock speeds and lower power consumption when not in use. It’s largely identical to its predecessor, however, so anyone running a 470 needn’t worry.
In terms of performance, expect to run the latest games in Full HD at High and Very High settings. 90+fps in the likes of Battlefield 1 at High settings in Full HD.
It’s now on a level with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 in some benchmarks, and with 4GB and 8GB models available as well as loads of different cooler designs, it’s a great buy if you can grab one for under £190, you’ll be getting a decent deal. But if you can spend a little more, consider an RX 580 instead as the two are priced very closely.
Things have now got a little more complicated, because the rise in crypto-currency mining has resulted in huge demand for these mid-range GPUs. This has sent the price of 8GB models sky-rocketing to over £300 in some cases. It’s not clear when or if this trend will end, but for now it’s making life very hard for the average gamer on a budget.
AMD Radeon RX 580
A minor update to the RX 480, the 580 is the new graphics card of choice for those with a budget of between £190 and £220. It’ll play the latest games at maximum settings in Full HD, and you can drop to High if you fancy some 1440p action. It’s very similar to the RX 480, and is based on the same GPU. So don’t eliminate AMD’s 400-series GPUs from your shortlist.
There’s a variety of third-party GPU options available, with various levels of overclocking and lots of different cooler designs. It’s a bit of a power hog, however, and you’ll seldom find a compact version of the RX 580. It’s here, where the more efficient GTX 1060 rules the roost, with near-identical performance at a competitive price, Nvidia’s mid-range offering is better for that Mini-ITX build you’ve always wanted to do.
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Also consider: Full HD and 1440p for under £250
Nvidia’s third-tier GPU is very competitive, going toe-to-toe with the AMD Radeon RX 580. It has slightly less memory, with 6GB of GDDR5 on board instead of AMD’s 8GB, but the GPU itself is slightly more powerful. Prices have stabilised in recent months and the GTX 1060’s pricing is almost on a par with the 8GB RX 580. Considering it’s it’s a little faster in some games, the raw bang-for-buck figure is quite appealing, especially when picking the 6GB model.
Picking the cheaper 3GB model is a bit of a risk; our tests show performance is slightly lower than the 6GB version, and with AAA games becoming so demanding, it seems short-sighted to short-change yourself on memory, especially if you’re planning on playing at resolutions higher than Full HD.
The choice is yours:
You can build your own PC that tailors to your specific needs or you could just buy one of the gaming PCs that are recommend below.
A beefy LAN-friendly PC with a tasty design
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (3,866MHz) | Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD; 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD | Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet; Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi | Power supply: SuperFlower 1000W | Ports: 4 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio
The latest Overclockers machine is one of the best-designed gaming PCs we’ve ever seen, with bespoke water-cooling, a great color scheme and keen attention to detail. It pairs its great design with class-leading performance in games and applications, and it’s never hot or loud. It’s expensive and niche, however, with limited upgrade potential. If you’re looking for an attractive (and unique) LAN-friendly gaming PC that can handle anything from 4K gaming to VR, The Asteroid is an out-of-this-world machine with a price tag that will bring you back down to earth.
Lenovo Ideacentre Y900
A forward-looking gaming desktop for PC enthusiasts
CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core, up to 4.2GHz, 8MB cache) | Graphics:Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4GB GDDR5 RAM) | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133 MHz) | Storage: 2TB + 8GB SSHD with 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, DVI, 7.1 analog audio out, optical audio out, headphone jack, microphone jack, PS/2 combo, 7-in-1 card reader
This gaming desktop might come in a designer case wrapping, but it’s much more accessible and easy to upgrade than your average pre-built system short of a boutique. The arrival of the Y900, among a few other machines on this very list, herald a eureka moment in the major vendors’ approach to PC gaming: give the people exactly what they want. A tool-less internal design will help soften the blow of some less-than-optimal cable management, meanwhile the device has plenty of room for expansions and upgrades. If you want the lowest friction possible getting into PC gaming, this is fine place to start.
Alienware Aurora R5
Alienware’s iconic gaming PC returns as a mini powerhouse
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD, 2TB HDD | Features: 850W PSU, uniquely futuristic chassis
One of the few PCs on this list to earn a perfect score, the Alienware Aurora R5 combines design elements traditional to Dell’s famed luxury gaming brand with a handful of contemporary twists. The nigh-mini ITX computer bears resemblance to, say, the Area 51, but with a case that feels strikingly more native to our home planet. Of course, it simultaneously boasts top-of-the-line specs; an overclockable K-series Intel Core i7 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1080 and a massively capable 850W power supply are just a few of the Aurora R5’s redeeming qualities. Plus, even with the small chassis, there’s plenty of room for an unparalleled SLI configuration.
Scan 3XS Vengeance
A very speedy PC which can cope with demanding gaming
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCI-E SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, Be quiet! Dark Rock 3 CPU cooler, Corsair Obsidian 450D chassis, 750W PSU
Scan’s 3XS Vengeance gaming computer very closely matches that of Chillblast’s Fusion Master, with an overclocked Skylake processor for the fastest possible gaming performance and a powerful GeForce GTX 980 graphics card. This sort of setup will cope with any game up to 1440p resolution in maximum detail. The gap in price between the two systems can be attributed to small differences – a slightly smaller Samsung M.2 PCI Express SSD and less memory in Scan’s default configuration. Whatever, the combination of Skylake and a GeForce GTX 980 will result in a very fast gaming PC.