If you'd like your next computer to double as a game-playing machine, here are some suggestions that can help you choose the best model.
What are the most important features to look for? In our tests, computers with discrete graphics, which feature a separate graphics card inside the case, have usually performed better at action gaming than those with integrated graphics.
To find such a model, look for an Nvidia GeForce or AMD Radeon card in the specs, as well as at least 512MB of video memory. For greater performance and enhanced visual quality, look for 1,024MB or, better yet, 2,048MB. To get the best performance, a computer also needs a higher-end processor, such as an Intel Core i5 or i7, or an AMD A-series.
Find a good number of desktops and laptops suitable for gaming, in a variety of sizes and price ranges, in our latest computer Ratings.
Should I get a laptop or desktop? Chances are, you'll base that decision on considerations other than gaming, such as how often you need a computer when traveling. But desktops do have advantages for gaming, such as better sound, easier upgradability (to add more memory or a faster graphics card), and the availability of much larger displays.
Full-sized desktops are preferable to all-in-ones, because you can more easily upgrade a desktop's graphics card. But a laptop is easier to move from room to room than a desktop, and if sound quality is an issue, you can always add external speakers or headphones.
Do I have to spend a lot for gaming-strength performance? Not necessarily, according to our latest tests. Two full-sized desktops—a $950 Acer and a $680 Dell—both of which included Radeon graphics cards and 1,024MB of video memory, performed well with demanding games, featuring smooth graphics and quick response. So did a $1,000, 15.6-inch Dell laptop, which has a GeForce graphics card and 2,048MB of video memory.
For more news and reviews, see our guide to Video games, consoles & tech toys.