PC gaming is serious business. This is where video game fans go when they want the highest resolution, lowest latency and most precise experiences available, from first-person shooters to top-down team-based strategy titles and beyond. In a word, PC games are slick -- and so is the gear.
It's easy to break the bank in this world, especially for a student on a budget. With gaming laptops starting at $1,000 and towers priced even higher, it's important to get equipment that's durable, high-quality and as affordable as possible. That's why we've compiled the following list of laptops, PCs and accessories that make the most sense for students in 2019.
PC gaming is perfect for streaming, marathon play sessions or making new friends (dorm-wide tournaments, anyone?). To accomplish all of these things, you'll need more than just a laptop. On top of processing power and graphics cards, there are mice to consider, headsets to mull over, keyboards to test and streaming boxes to put through their paces.
And if you need to justify the cost to anyone (ahem, mom), simply put it this way: You'll be able to use most of these things for homework, too.
ASUS ROG STRIX GL12
It's not hard to find gaming desktops these days, but finding one that's been reliably overclocked out of the box is far rarer. The ASUS ROG STRIX GL12 sports Intel's Core i7-9900K running beyond 5GHz, paired together with NVIDIA's cream of the crop RTX 2080 Ti graphics card. There's also a unique RAID configuration for SSDs, for when you really need a speed boost. It's a solid investment if you're hoping to play the next four year's worth of triple-A games in 4K or just want a machine that's powerful enough to support your budding game-streaming career. As a bonus, it looks like it's survived a few scuffles with ninjas.
-- Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor
Corsair One i140
If space is a problem in your dorm but you don't want to compromise on gaming power, the Corsair One i140 should fit the bill. It's a gaming beast with an eight-core Intel Core i7-9700K CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, 32GB of DDR4-2666 RAM and a 480GB M.w NVMe SSD, but has a tiny compact form factor and weighs just 7.38kg (16 pounds). On top of that, it's very quiet, so it won't disturb you when studying, or bother your roommates during an intense Fortnite session. The drawbacks are the price ($3,000) and mediocre hard disk storage drive.
-- Steve Dent, Contributing Editor
Dell G7 15
A decent gaming laptop doesn't have to cost a ton. Dell's G series notebooks have proven that over the past few years, cramming in a surprising amount of power for a relatively low price. The G7 15 is a good bet for students: It starts at just $999 with NVIDIA's GTX 1060 graphics card and can be upgraded to include the high-end RTX 2080. Its large 15.6-inch display will be great for gaming and media production alike, and its design is subtle enough to feel at home in a lecture hall. And at 5.5 pounds, it's far lighter than gaming laptops from a few years ago. (If you're looking to save a bit of cash, Dell's G5 15 is also worth a look. It offers much of the same hardware without a colorful LED keyboard and some cooling features.) -- D.H.
Elgato Stream Deck Mini
When you stream games from a cramped dorm room, space and money are of the essence. Luckily, Elgato recently released the Stream Deck Mini, which is a smaller, cheaper version of its original Stream Deck controller. For one-third of the cash, you get far fewer buttons (six versus 15) but a more stable triangular design, OLED buttons and an intuitive programmable interface. For instance, with just a single button press you can start a stream, tweet that the stream has started and send messages to Twitch followers. Best of all, it's just $99, which is a steal for such a flexible controller. -- S.D.
Gigabyte Aero 15 Classic-XA
If you want to head to classes with the ultimate lightweight gaming laptop and have the budget to match, Gigabyte is ready for you with the Aero 15 Classic-XA. It's the successor to the Aero 15X we reviewed last year but packs an upgraded ninth-generation six-core Intel i7-9750H CPU, a 240Hz 1080p screen instead of a 144Hz model and a faster NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU that's capable of ray tracing. All those high-end components will let you play any game out there at maxed out settings or edit videos more quickly than your pals. The downside is the $2,700 asking price. That's a pretty big chunk of change for a student, but on the plus side, it's comparable to similar models like the Razer Blade 15 RTX 2070 Max-Q.
Kingston HyperX Pulsefire Surge
Sometimes you want a mouse with all the bells and whistles. But you don't want it to look like it has all the bells and whistles. The Pulsefire Surge definitely fits the bill here: It has customizable lighting, some extra buttons on the side and even adjustable weights. Just pop off the panels on each side and put in up to 32 grams for some nice drag when you're trying to be precise, either in gaming or on your latest design assignment.
-- Kris Naudus, Senior Editor
Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro
HyperX got just about everything right with the Cloud Alpha Pro: It's comfortable enough to wear for hours on end, it costs less than $100 and most important, it sounds incredible. With a dual-chamber design, it's able to hit deep bass notes and soaring highs without distortion. There's no need for gimmicks like haptic rumbling, which some high-end headsets are pushing. Its aluminum frame also makes it tougher than the plethora of cheap gaming headphones out there. And as a bonus, it's Discord and TeamSpeak certified, so you can stay in touch with your online friends without worrying about any compatibility issues. -- D.H.
Just because student life is hard and expensive doesn't mean you can't get a decent keyboard for your gaming needs. Logitech's G512 mechanical keyboard is a basic but relatively affordable option for $100. That's not pocket change for a struggling student, but it won't be adding too much to your growing debt either.
The G512 is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy and has three mechanical switch options, including one that provides both tactile and clicky feedback. Plus, it comes with a USB pass-through port that you can use to plug in a mouse or a device you want to charge. If you're feeling artistic, you can even customize each key's background lighting and create your own animations. -- Mariella Moon, Contributing Editor
Razer Abyssus Essential
You can get a mouse with LED lighting, adjustable weights and a plethora of buttons, but sometimes you don't need all that, especially when you're not always gaming. That's what makes the Abyssus Essential so refreshing: You're getting a high-quality gaming mouse from a premium accessory maker, but it just gives you the basics, saving you both the headache of figuring out how to customize it and also any worry about breaking your budget. -- K.N.
Competitive gameplay requires a top-notch headset, but throwing more than $100 at one isn't an option for most students. For just $80, Razer's Kraken 2019 edition gives you everything you need, including decent sound quality, extended comfort, PC and console support, and iconic Razer design. Even with the solid metal frame, the Kraken is quite light, and it stays cool and comfortable during hours-long gaming sessions (don't forget your studies though). Most important, sound quality is decent (and loud), and a recent upgrade delivered 7.1 surround sound. The main drawback is mediocre microphone quality, but otherwise it's a solid headset for the price. -- S.D.
Razer BlackWidow Lite
You're going to want to keep up your steady regimen of PC gaming when you get to college, but it's a bit tough if you're sharing a dorm with a roommate: All that typing is bound to drive them nuts when they're trying to study. The BlackWidow Lite is great for small spaces, not only because it is small but also because it's nice and quiet. Even then, it doesn't sacrifice much of the tactility and responsiveness you've come to depend on in a gaming keyboard. -- K.N.
Razer Blade 15
If you're looking for a best-in-class Windows laptop that will pull double duty for work and play, then you can't go wrong with a Razer Blade. The laptop is beloved by gamers and serious professionals for its blend of power and portability. Thanks to NVIDIA's Max-Q program, the Blade is one of the thinnest and lightest gaming machines, but it still packs a wallop. You can opt for a model packing a high-end Core i7-9750h CPU and NVIDIA RTX 2070 graphics, ideal for both work and play. There are plenty of neat build-to-order options too, including a 4K OLED touch display. Be warned, though: It's pretty expensive. Then again, Razer is a reliable, trustworthy brand that has plenty of cachet with gamers and muggles alike, so go for it. -- Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor
Turtle Beach Recon 70
When you need a headset that just works, and works well with any system you may own, the Recon 70 fits the bill. It's comfortable even after several hours, which is great for listening to music during an all-night cram session as well as playing long battle royale matches. Nor does it require a graduate degree to configure, working pretty readily with systems like the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and even your phone, if it still has a 3.5mm jack. -- K.N.