How to Buy a Gaming PC in 2021: Best Gaming PCs, GPUs, and more

Enlarge / Our two hands-on gaming rigs are the Lenovo Legion 5i (left, presently related to the monitor) and HP Omen 30L (proper).

Jim Salter

If you happen to’re planning to construct a brand new gaming rig in 2021, we’ve got unhealthy information for you—that is going to be troublesome to not possible, as a consequence of provide chain constraints imposed by COVID-19. However we even have excellent news: when you won’t have the ability to construct a gaming PC, you may virtually actually purchase one.

Do not get us unsuitable. When you’ve got sufficient time and endurance, you may nonetheless amass all of the elements to construct your personal customized rig from the bottom up. However that would take weeks and even months at this level in 2021. So as an alternative of choosing elements lists, our subsequent System Information will deal with latest rigs from three of the foremost pre-built gaming PC distributors.

HP and Lenovo offered us with an Omen 30L and Legion 5i Tower, respectively. We additionally wished to evaluate an Alienware Aurora R11—and though we weren’t in a position to get a evaluate unit from Dell, Senior Commerce Editor Jeff Dunn graciously took a number of pics and ran some restricted testing on his private R11.

Even on the huge OEMs, the {hardware} that’s accessible presently adjustments from week to week. However armed with element efficiency charts and a radical evaluate of those techniques, you may make your personal well-informed shopping for selections.

The contenders

The HP Omen 30L and Lenovo Legion Tower 5i are mid-tower techniques, a little bit on the massive aspect however nowhere close to “full tower” bulk. Every is considerably heavier than you’d count on from its measurement, however these machines are nonetheless properly beneath something you’d need to slap a “crew carry solely” sticker on. The Omen is barely bigger, however the Legion sadly makes up for it with an pointless whale-tail tacked onto the back-end for model. Every affords greater than enough cooling for the CPU and chassis, and every of them technically has loads of room to work inside. We’ll get extra into that “technically” weasel-word.

The HP Omen 30L got here to us with a fluid-cooled Intel i9-10900K CPU and a GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. The Lenovo Legion got here with a extra modest air-cooled Intel i7-10700 and GeForce RTX 2070 Tremendous. Each techniques (together with Dell’s Aurora R10/R11) are not less than theoretically configurable to no matter efficiency ranges you need, however once more, COVID-19-constrained provide and demand are likely to restrict your choices unpredictably from week to week.

We broadly count on comparable efficiency from a given CPU and GPU mixture coming from any given producer. However there are another variables that influence efficiency—notably the cooling. Nonetheless, in our expertise, these gamer-targeted rigs are unlikely to under-specify the cooling. Which means the large issues we’re listed here are the look of the system, how noisy it’s, and what it is prefer to work on.

Fan noise

The Legion Tower 5i is mostly quieter than the Omen 30L, regardless of the Omen’s fluid cooler. Neither machine is loud in regular operation, however the Omen’s followers have a slight rattly undertone. The Legion’s fan noise did a a lot better job of fading imperceptibly into the background—I really pressed my ear to the chassis the primary time I powered it on to verify it was booting.

A full Cinebench R20 run turns the usually well-behaved Lenovo and HP rigs into raging beasts that appear prone to carry off the desk beneath sheer fan stress. However each machines keep quiet till the final third of the Cinebench run and return to—as one Ars reader described it—”wabbit-hunting quiet” a number of seconds later, even whereas working single-threaded Cinebench. Neither machine ramped up the fan noise in any respect throughout 3DMark Time Spy exams at 1440p, that are significantly extra demanding than most AAA video games.

I did not have an Alienware Aurora R11 readily available, so I can’t examine it immediately. Tom’s Information described it as loud and hot, which I would not name both the Lenovo or HP rigs. I requested Ars Senior Commerce Editor Jeff Dunn to place his i9-10900K/RTX 3090 powered Aurora R11 via the identical exams. Throughout Time Spy, Dunn stated his R11’s fan velocity elevated considerably. He described it as simply audible from 4 toes away with out being “brutal.” It by no means went into the form of raging beast mode that the Omen and Legion did throughout Cinebench R20.

By spinning up earlier and extra aggressively than the Omen or Legion, the R11 manages to keep away from accumulating sufficient thermal buildup to require emergency excessive speeds on the followers later. With its smaller cooling capability, it in all probability does not have a lot selection within the matter. The Omen and Legion, with significantly greater capability, gamble that excessive thermal spikes will not final lengthy sufficient to require elevated fan velocity and noise. The truth that they do not spin up till the tip of a Cinebench run—and return quickly to idle afterward—argues that they are right about that, too.

Customers preferring the R11’s “a little bit extra fan now, rather a lot much less fan later” model tuning can modify the fan curves in both of the larger techniques to match—which might be an excellent thought certainly, in case you plan to make use of your gaming system for long-term 100% CPU output like protein folding, hour-long compilation jobs, and so forth.

The bling

If bling is your factor, HP’s Omen 30L mid-tower is able to be your favourite rig. HP did not miss an opportunity to glow up any particular person a part of this technique, and the result’s a gaudy however pleasing discotheque vibe that simply wants you so as to add some bass. The HyperX RGB RAM glows its method softly via the rainbow on a loop, the chassis consumption fan and Omen diamond brand on the entrance throw pearlescent mild out into the room, the GPU broadcasts itself with extra LEDs, and even the fluid cooling system’s radiator has rope LEDs wrapped round it.

That stage of ostentation is not to my private style, however the general impact is properly achieved. The sunshine from the system’s numerous parts melds collectively properly, producing a smooth, cool glow that feels sci-fi-movie cool.

Subsequent to the Omen 30L, Lenovo’s Legion 5i appears fairly restrained. The Legion 5i has a yellow-tinted glass aspect panel, however the one light-up element inside is a customized GeForce RTX 2080 Tremendous GPU cap. A big Legion brand on the entrance of the case seems white and unlit—till the machine goes to sleep, that’s. With the 5i in sleep mode, the large Legion brand flashes shiny blue in a roughly six-second on/off cycle that I discovered each pointless and obnoxious.

I believe that there is a management, someplace, to vary the conduct of that LED-lit Legion brand. Nevertheless it did not reveal itself to an informal search of the pre-installed Lenovo app within the system tray, and I did not burn any extra time on the lookout for it.

The Alienware Aurora R11 is the plainest system of the lot. The one light-up bling on the R11 is a slim LED trim ring on the entrance and an “Alienware” branding on the precise aspect; there is no aspect panel, and your complete exterior shell is plastic, accessible in “Darkish Facet of the Moon” (darkish, charcoal grey) or “Lunar Gentle” (someplace between pale grey and pearl). It is also the smallest internally—the R11 is a micro-ATX system, whereas the opposite two are full-sized ATX.

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