Review: Updated: OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Review: Updated: OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Introduction

Update: Starting June 13, Apple is expected to reveal the next iteration to the OS X platform at WWDC 2016, which may actually be called MacOS. Read on into "Latest news" to find out more.

Original review follows below…

It’s much better to think of El Capitan as an OS X update that adds some spit and polish to its predecessor, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, while also providing some convenient tweaks and features. And despite some minor pain points, Apple has succeeded in that respect.

If you’re wondering whether you should make the leap from Yosemite to OS X 10.11 El Capitan, the answer is ostensibly yes. That being said, let’s take a deeper look at Apple’s latest, including its highs and lows, to see why you should consider the upgrade.

Latest news

With OS X 10.11.5 now out in the open, those registered with the Apple Beta Software Program can grab the OS X 10.11.6 Beta 1 straight from the App Store.

Though the Cupertino company didn’t specify the content of the measly 600MB patch, it’s likely just a minor update resolving bugs and addressing performance issues.

With OS X 10.12 expected to be revealed at WWDC 2016 in June, it’s unlikely we’ll see much more than minor tweaks to El Capitan from this point on. Instead, we can salivate at the idea of Siri integration, TouchID, and perhaps even a name change. As some recent rumors claim, OS X may be no more starting soon, as Apple will purportedly make a return to simply ‘Mac OS.’

And, with a Siri SDK reportedly in development, it’s possible you could be controlling your favorite Mac apps with just your voice within the year. Moreover, Siri for Mac could be interoperable with Apple’s facial recognition sensor-equipped home assistant allegedly in the works.

You can download this latest update from the Mac App Store given you have the proper credentials. However, you’ll need a compatible Mac computer to install it if you’re not already using El Capitan.

El Capitan

Interface

Upon first booting your Mac back up after installing OS X El Capitan, you’re not going to notice many visually apparent changes. El Capitan largely carries over the same flat, iOS 7-inspired design cues that arrived with Yosemite, and, frankly, that’s a good thing.

You are likely to see to changes if you’re astute and do a little poking around. The first, and most aesthetically pleasing change is the adoption of a new system font. Yes, after initially switching to Helvetica Neue in Yosemite, Apple has once again switched things up with its own, specially designed font called San Francisco that also appears in iOS 9 and on the Apple Watch. Overall, this is a welcome change that only further unifies the Apple ecosystem.

The second main interface element change you’re likely to notice also happens to be one of convenience. Now, if you’re struggling to find your mouse cursor, simply wiggling the mouse back and forth will cause the cursor to temporarily inflate in size. It’s an extremely minor detail, but it’s a nice change that keeps with Apple’s focus on the little things in El Capitan.

Split View and Mission Control

General interface sameness notwithstanding, Apple has managed to bring some pretty major changes to multitasking in El Capitan. On the minor side of things, the new Mission Control features few tweaks that clean things up a bit.

Mission Control

Now, when you swipe up with three fingers on your trackpad, you’ll notice that Mission Control’s overall view of your open windows is more spread out. The multitasking feature no longer overlaps windows, which could make it a bit easier to spot the window you want at a glance.

Meanwhile, the Space Bar at the top of Mission Control now features labels, rather than thumbnails by default. Thumbnails aren’t totally gone, however, as hovering over the labels will give you a peek at the thumbnails. And as an added bonus, you can now drag windows up to the Space Bar to create new desktops.

None of the Mission Control changes are what I’d consider essential, but they aren’t off-putting either. Where multitasking has really taken off, however, is with the new Split View.

Anyone who has used a Windows PC in the last half-decade will be familiar with Split View. The feature essentially lets you more easily manage side-by-side windows on your desktop with a couple of clicks, rather than going through the cumbersome process of manually resizing each window.

There are a couple of different methods for accessing Split View. The first involves clicking and holding on the green full-screen icon in the upper-left corner of a window. One side of your screen will then turn blue and you can then drop the windows on that side. After that’s done, OS X will show you other open Split View-compatible apps that you can then drop on the other half of the screen.

Maps

The second method involves the Space Bar in Mission Control. If you have an app already expanded to full screen, you can swipe with three fingers to open Mission Control. From there, you can drag a compatible app up to that desktop in Space Bar to add it in Split View.

Overall, Split View is a fantastic step forward for multitasking on OS X. However, already being familiar with Microsoft’s implementation of Snap in Windows, I do have one misgiving about Apple’s methods. Just getting apps into Split View feels like it takes too many clicks, and I would have liked to see Apple move more towards a "drag-and-snap" method. That being said, it’s still a great feeling to know I don’t have to manually fiddle with a window’s size and position to work on two things at once.

Spotlight

Another area receiving some big love in El Capitan is the improved Spotlight Search. We saw Spotlight get a touch-up in Yosemite, but El Capitan works to bring it in-line with its counterpart on iOS.

Spotlight in El Capitan can now pull from more sources for data, bringing you weather, stock, and sports information directly to the Spotlight Search box with a click on the menu bar.

Perhaps the largest change to Spotlight, however, is the addition of natural language recognition. Essentially, this means you can ping Spotlight with complex queries like "emails from Bill in June" or "documents I edited last week." This also extends to Spotlight’s new web sources, allowing you to enter phrases like "what’s the weather in Cupertino."

Weather

There’s no doubt that the Spotlight Search’s new smarts are a vast improvement over its previous iterations, but I found the natural language input to be a bit finicky with how I worded things at times. Additionally, while Apple has brought Spotlight a little bit closer to its iOS counterpart in El Capitan, I can’t help but feel it’s high time to go all-in and bring Siri to the desktop. After all, what’s more natural than simply asking a question with your voice?

Notes

The diminutive Notes app has perhaps seen some of the biggest changes of any stock app in El Capitan. Whereas Notes was previously a pretty barebones affair, it is now expanded with the ability to add new types of content, more ways to format your notes, and more.

Users now have the option to add videos, PDFs, and Maps locations to notes, making it that much easier to flesh out your ideas. In tandem, Apple has expanded Notes to be an option in the Share Sheet across many of its own apps – something developers also have access to – so pulling that content in is a smooth as a couple of clicks.

Notes

To keep track of these elements, the Notes app now includes an attachments browser, which provides a running list of media elements you’ve attached over time. Combine that with the ability to finally add proper checklists (as in, you can actually check items off), as well as the addition of a third "categories" pane, and it’s hard to complain about this update. Some users will still flock to third-party solutions like Evernote and Wunderlist for their needs, but the stock Notes app is now much more viable.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

Safari, Mail and Maps

Though its changes are minor (on par with the rest of the OS), Safari has caught up with the competition in some respects as well. First and foremost is the addition of site pinning, which can really help out if you find yourself frequenting the same group of sites on a daily basis.

To use site pins, you control-click the tab for a particular site and click the "Pin Tab" menu option. From then on, no matter what else you do in your browser, that site will be loaded up and ready to go in a miniature tab on left of the tabs bar. For those of us that rely on constantly checking specific pages, whether it be Gmail or Facebook, for our workflow, pinned tabs add a bit of convenience.

More minor, but no less useful, is that tracking down a rogue sound clip or video that starts playing in one of potentially dozens of open tabs is now much easier. Similar to Chrome’s implementation, Safari now displays a tiny speaker icon on any tab that is playing sound. To put an end to the noise, you simply click the icon and the tab is now muted. Finally, Safari now sports compatibility with Apple’s AirPlay. With this, you can now cast videos to your Apple TV while getting a bit of work done on your Mac.

El Capitan

Combined with Safari’s already great speed on OS X, these are all solid improvements that could make the browser worth another look for those that are tired of Chrome’s constant assault on both battery and memory. However, if you’re tied to Chrome’s larger extension library, you may not be sold.

Mail

Mail has also picked up some nice enhancements, but it’s still far from the type of redesign that would make customers rush back to the oft-maligned email client.

Perhaps the most prominent change in Mail is that it now supports gestures not dissimilar to those that appear in its iOS cousin. You can now use a two-fingered left swipe to delete an email, while a right swipe will open up options to mark an email as read. I was already used to this behavior with my go-to third-party client, Mailbox, so the transition was easy and welcomed.

Mail also now features tabs for your drafts while in full-screen mode, which makes working through multiple threads at once less of a chore. Also appearing in the revamped Mail are some new smarts that will automatically detect times and dates, giving you a quick-access link to your calendar in response. The same applies for phone numbers and addresses, with Mail prompting you to easily add such information to your contacts. It’s the type of thing that initially evokes an approving shrug of the shoulders, but becomes invaluable the first time you use it to add a meeting or due date to your calendar.

Maps

Maps

You’re allowed to sing your praises from the rooftops on this one: transit maps are finally here. Okay, so it’s a much bigger deal on iOS 9, since that’s on the device in your pocket at all times, but it’s no less intriguing a prospect on a Mac.

True, the transit directions are only available for a handful of cities in the U.S. and Europe at the moment, along with hundreds in China, but more will be added as time goes on. The feature works as you’d expect, allowing you to enter start and end points, then showing you which subway or bus line to take and where to switch. Even better is that Handoff allows you to easily plot your course on your Mac and then send it off to your iPhone before you head out the door.

How to master OS X 10.11 El Capitan

If you’ve already upgraded to El Capitan, our how-to guides are here to help you get the most out of it. In our latest guide, we show you how to selectively delete files tossed into the OS X trashcan.

  • 56 OS X El Capitan tips and tricks
  • Use Split View
  • Pin sites in Safari
  • Use the Mac OS X Dock on all monitors
  • Download and perform a clean install
  • Delete files faster on a Mac
  • Pin sites to Safari
  • Overhaul the Today View

Verdict

OS X El Capitan doesn’t represent a sweeping departure from the foundation set by Yosemite by any means, but, overall, that feels okay for an update following on the heels of the overhaul we saw in 2014. There are certainly some areas where I would have liked to see Apple push further, but El Capitan feels like a solid spit-and-polish type of update.

We liked

Despite its somewhat clunky implementation, Split View is a welcome, sorely needed addition. The ability to easily get a couple of apps side-by-side for an intense multitasking session means there is no need to fiddle with manually resizing and placing windows in just the right spot. Similarly, Spotlight Search is now handier than ever, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple improves on not only the natural language detection, but the sources Spotlight draws from as well.

And while none of the app changes may seem striking or revolutionary, they add up to form a nice package that brings Apple’s offerings closer in-line with third-party options. The sheer quality-of-life improvements brought to Safari in the form of pinned tabs and tab muting are particularly noteworthy. Add in a revamped Notes app that has me questioning my loyalty to Evernote, and the updates feel solid all around.

Finally, there’s performance to consider. Apple has clearly done a bit of work under-the-hood to speed up OS X, and it’s noticeable from the get-go. Apps load and switch more quickly, and there’s a definite feeling of freshness when you load El Capitan for the first time. Perhaps best of all, El Capitan still retains compatibility with a massive list of Macs going back to 2007, so nearly everyone can get in on the action.

We disliked

Despite its utility, Split View feels cumbersome compared to Microsoft’s implementation in Windows. Anyone that has used Snap on Windows 7, 8 or 10 is likely familiar with the simple click-and-drag gesture used to invoke it, and Apple would have done well to take a cue from Microsoft in this department. The time spent waiting after you initially click on the full screen icon feels wasted, and the process overall simply doesn’t feel as modern as it could be.

Ultimately, I would have liked to see Apple go further with its apps as well. Outside of the refreshed Notes app, the other changes feel like a game of catch-up. Safari will certainly see more use thanks to its added features, and its memory and battery consumption are second-to-none on the Mac, but I’m still not convinced it’s enough to cause users to switch from alternatives. Similarly, I don’t see Mail’s changes as being enough to cause those tied to their Gmail tab to give it a second thought.

Final verdict

OS X El Capitan isn’t going to please anyone looking for a revolution, but it’s a solid update overall. Between the performance improvements, new app features, and multitasking tweaks, there’s no reason not to dislike what Apple has accomplished here. And the lack of major design changes is good news for those who may have been a bit shellshocked by Yosemite’s redesign in 2014.

In musical parlance, the upbeat is less pronounced than the downbeat, but it’s no less important, and the same thing can be said when comparing El Capitan to Yosemite. In short, if you’re still considering whether it’s worth the free upgrade to El Capitan, the answer is a resounding yes.

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Myspace hack may be the largest breach ever

Myspace hack may be the largest breach ever

I haven’t logged into my Myspace account for over 10 years, but I did create it before June 11, 2013, which means my account login data – along with more 360 million other accounts – could be up for sale online.

The OG social network’s parent company, Time, Inc., announced today that it was recently alerted to a hack that scooped up usernames, passwords and email addresses for accounts created before that June date.

It’s important to make the chronological distinction because it’s after then that Myspace migrated to a new, more secure platform.

Though Myspace didn’t say how many accounts were compromised, LeakedSource.com, a paid hacker search engine, published a report that information for more than 360 million accounts was stolen. Because some of the accounts had a second password attached to it, the number of compromised passwords actually sits at over 427 million.

Myspace says a Russian hacker named "Peace" is responsible for the breach. Peace is also responsible for hacks on LinkedIn and Tumblr, and, according to Myspace, has claimed on LeakedSource that the Myspace data is from a past hack.

The sheer size of compromised accounts makes the Myspace hack possibly the largest hack ever. For comparison, Peace’s LinkedIn hack, which took place in 2012, saw emails and passwords for 117 million accounts end up for sale online. The Anthem hack of 2015 saw personal information for 78.8 million people stolen, while a US voter records data breach exposed the information of 191 million.

What Myspace is doing, and what you can do

Myspace is alerting affected users, so keep an eye out for a note from the service, even if you haven’t used it in over a decade, like myself.

But also like myself, you may not use the same email address you used to set up your Myspace account (or even remember it), which poses a bit of a problem in this mitigation strategy.

Myspace has invalidated all passwords for compromised accounts that were created before June 11, 2013. If your information was stolen and you still use the service, you’ll be prompted to authenticate your account and reset your password the next time you visit Myspace.

The site is also keeping an eye out for suspicious activity using automated tools, and law enforcement is involved in investigating and attempting to persecute the hacker.

One small relief is that no financial information was involved stolen; Myspace doesn’t collect, use or store any credit card or other such info.

However, if you still use your old Myspace password for other accounts across the web, it’s probably best to change those so your other accounts aren’t at risk as well.

  • How to secure your Mac

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7 of the internet’s best animated 404 pages

androiddev101 Gone are the days where a humorous picture or phrase will get your site’s 404 page noticed. In a version of the internet where GIFs are the new text and videos are the new photos, it’s going to take a lot more than a witty phrase to stand out amongst the crowd.
But, we were surprised to see that most sites still aren’t taking advantage of that valuable real estate. Read More

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Buying Guide: 10 best gaming laptops 2016: top gaming notebooks reviewed

Buying Guide: 10 best gaming laptops 2016: top gaming notebooks reviewed

Gaming laptops we recommend

Update: There’s been a changing of the guard in our list at a 17-inch Gigabyte machine has made room for a 15-inch one in the same spot. Read on to see why in spot #4!

You don’t even need to tell us what happened when you told your friends that you want to buy a gaming laptop. Their inner elitist got the best of them, and bashed you for not just building an outright gaming desktop. But we get you. Building a gaming PC takes knowledge and dexterity that you just don’t have or care to develop.

That’s where the gaming laptop shines, as a fast lane to PC gaming. No need to build a case or even buy a monitor. Of course, that convenience usually comes with a hefty price tag. Most vendors start their asking prices at around $1,400 (about £900, AU$1,900) for 13 and 14-inch products, whereas the biggest and beefiest 17 and 18-inch models can skyrocket upwards of $3,000 (around £1,900, AU$4,000).

If you’re ready to accept that a gaming laptop will almost never be as affordable or offer the same level of performance as a comparably-priced gaming desktop, then your decision is already made. But again, the gaming notebook is a device of convenience and portability over raw power. Without further ado, here are our favorite gaming laptops that we’ve reviewed thus far.

Best Gaming Laptops

1. Origin EON15-X

A desktop-grade CPU in an unbeatable gaming laptop

CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M (8GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 LED Backlit Matte Display | Storage: 240GB SSD; 1TB HDD (5,400 rpm)

Great value
Desktop-grade performance
Razor thin viewing angles

The Origin EON15-X is a real head turner. It packs a desktop processor into a fairly compact 15.6-inch laptop that, while smaller, offers even more performance compared to other, bigger hardcore gaming rigs. This extra CPU power is handy for users who need to edit video and other processor intensive tasks that a mobile chip can’t handle. You’ll also get an extra kick of performance in no matter what game you’re running. This machine is definitely worth consideration over all others.

Read the full review: Origin EON15-X

Best Gaming Laptops

2. Gigabyte P35X v5

Underneath the plain exterior lies a 4K gaming beast

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M 8GB GDDR5, Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 SDRAM | Screen: 15.6-inch, UHD 3,840 x 2,160, IPS LCD | Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD

See more Gigabyte P35X v5 deals

Splendid performance at 4K
Surprisingly decent battery life
Poor ergonomics
Pointless optical drive

The Gigabyte P35X v5 is a mighty powerful, 4K gaming laptop equipped. While most machines have failed to play games at Ultra HD resolutions, this 15-inch rig has come closest to making it a reality with speed Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 980M stacked with the maximum amount of video memory on a mobile GPU. All of this overwhelming power will see that you’re able to play 4K games at a decent 30 to 60 fps clip. All the while, the P35X v5 offers decent battery life to boot.

Read the full review: Gigabyte P35X v5

best gaming laptops

3. Lenovo Ideapad Y700 15-inch

An attractive and long lasting 15-inch gaming laptop

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (4GB DDR5 VRAM), Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133MHz) | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD LED AntiGlare Backlit Multitouch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD (5,400 RPM)

See more Lenovo Ideapad Y700 15-inch deals

Stylish look
Ample battery life
Gets hot
Terrible trackpad buttons

Entry-level gaming are a great introduction into the glorious world of PC gaming, and from performance to looks, it’s hard to beat the Lenovo Ideapad Y700. It’s an inexpensive machine that stands out amongst other budget gaming machines with its all metal chassis and included SSD. It also comes packed with enough power to run modern games at decent settings.

Read the full review: Lenovo Ideapad Y700 15-inch

Best gaming laptops

4. Gigabyte P55W v5

High-end graphics on a low-key laptop

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ | Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch full HD 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare LCD | Storage: 128GB SSD; 1TB SSD

See more Gigabyte P55W v5 deals

Decent power
Good battery life
Slightly chunky
Pedestrian design

For the most part, the Gigabyte P55W v5 gives you the meat of the company’s P57W v5, but in a smaller form factor. Everything about this laptop is subtle. Even the tiger stripes color scheme, which you would imagine to be quite flashy, is discreet and subdued, perhaps even passing as a workstation if you’re so inclined. Starting at only $1,224 (around AUS$1,694) or £1,178 in the UK, the P55W is a capable, yet surprisingly portable machine with an appearance that might fool you into thinking otherwise. Its use of a GTX 970M gives it an edge over laptops with more unruly, boisterous exteriors and with only a 15-inch chassis to boot.

Read the full review: Gigabyte P55W v5

best gaming laptop

5. MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

The best thin-and-light gaming laptop

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 eDP Wide View Angle | Storage: 128GB SSD; 1TB HDD

See more MSI GS60 Ghost Pro deals

Performance pusher
Stupendous keyboard
Fleeting battery life
A bit expensive

High on mature styling and light on weight, the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro is one of the thinnest gaming laptops you can buy. Don’t think this svelte machine has sacrificed performance for the sake of cutting weight. It still comes packed with a high-end Intel Skylake processor and graphics card to make it a one of the strongest platforms we’ve ever tested. Just make sure to stick with a 1080p resolution and medium to high visual settings.

Read the full review: MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

Best Gaming Laptops

6. Asus ROG G752

This mobile PC gaming powerhouse throws a hefty punch

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M (3GB GDDR5); Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 17.3-inch, full HD 1,920 x 1,080, IPS LCD | Storage: 128GB SSD; 1TB HDD (7,200rpm)

See more Asus ROG G752 deals

Distinguished design
Top-end specs and performance
No 4K screen
Poor battery life

The Asus ROG G752 has an aggressive design that sets it apart from many of the world’s sedate gaming laptops. Instead of donning the typical appearance of black plastic, the ROG G752 sports a shell with brushed aluminium panels, angular lines and the glowing red segments. On top of its in-your-face styling this 17-inch gaming laptop delivers a hefty performance and it can play modern games at a smooth clip even if you put the graphical setting to max. The only thing the Asus ROG G752 is missing is the option of a high-res 4K display.

Read the full review: Asus ROG G752

best gaming laptop

7. MSI GT72S G Tobii

More than meets the eye

CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M (8GB GDDR5 RAM); Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) anti-glare IPS | Storage: 256GB SSD (PCIe Gen3x4); 1TB SATA HDD (7,200RPM)

See more MSI GT72S G Tobii deals

Accurate eye-tracking
Solid gaming performance
Seeing three constant dots
Limited game compatibility

Despite lacking the visual-slash-desktop performance appeal of the GT72S Dominator Pro, the MSI GT72S G Tobii boasts a unique set of features you can’t find anywhere else. Making use of Tobii eye-tracking technology, this version of the GT72S allows players to use their eyes as an additional control input, at least for a specific set of games. If you don’t need the extra power (or at least don’t want to shell out upwards of $3,000), the GT72S Tobii is an affordable solution with some tricks up its sleeve.

Read the full review: MSI GT72S G Tobii

Best gaming laptops

8. Origin EON17-SLX

The ultimate gaming laptop built with desktop-grade power

CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (8GB GDDR5 VRAM), Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133MHz) | Screen: 17.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS Matte Display with G-SYNC | Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB Hybrid Drive (7,200 rpm)

See more Origin EON17-SLX deals

Nearly unrivaled performance
Sharp, aggressive styling
Awful battery life
Astonishingly heavy

The Origin EON17-SLX takes gaming laptops to their ultimate conclusion of being portable desktops. This 17-inch notebook comes packed with a desktop-grade Intel processor and Nvidia GPU chip, making it one of history’s most powerful mobile machines. Of course, it comes with the sacrifice of portability in both weight and battery life. If these are worthy trade-offs for greater performance, you won’t find a better machine whether you’re a hardcore gamer to in the media creation business.

Read the full review: Origin EON17-SLX

best gaming laptops

9. MSI GT80 Titan

An outrageously sized and powerful gaming laptop

CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GTX 980M SLI (16 GB GDDR5); Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 18.4-inch WLED FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare Display | Storage: 256GB SSD; 1TB HDD (7,200 RPM)

See more MSI GT80 Titan deals

Authentic mechanical keyboard
Easily upgraded
H-E-A-V-Y
Impossible to use on your lap

The MSI GT80 Titan goes above and beyond to give gamers a desktop experience in a notebook with a complement of high-performance parts to a built-in mechanical keyboard. However, weighing in at nearly 10 pounds and measuring roughly two-inches thick, this laptop is seriously pushing the limits of what you can call portable. For all the strain it’ll put on your back and wallet, though, this 18.4-inch gaming laptop absolutely plow through almost any graphically intense game you try to run. This gaming behemoth proved to be a monster with the best in class mobile GPUs so we can’t even fathom what it could do with a Nvidia GTX 980.

Read the full review: MSI GT80 Titan

best gaming laptop

10. Alienware 17 (2015)

The Alienware 17 is an impressive refinement for this series of gaming laptops

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M (4GB GDDR5 RAM), Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 17.3 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS anti-glare display | Storage: 256 GB M.2 SATA SSD + 1TB HDD (7,200 rpm)

See more Alienware 17 (2015) deals

Flexible desktop mode
Excellent large screen
Still quite expensive
Slightly bottlenecked Amplifier performance

The Alienware 17 is one of those few outrageously priced gaming laptops that’s actually worth it. The notebook is a fully capable gaming machine on its own, but with the added power of desktop graphics through the GPU Amplifier it can play almost any game on Ultra settings.If you’re looking for something smaller, the Alienware 13 also works with the optional GPU box.

Read the full review: Alienware 17 (2015)

  • Windows 10 works well with games, too

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buying guide: Best gaming PC: 10 of the top rigs you can buy in 2016

buying guide: Best gaming PC: 10 of the top rigs you can buy in 2016

Introduction

Update: We’ve introduced a new addition to our buying guide, the Overclockers Titan Virtual Force! Read on to see why it should be one of your first stops in your search for VR-ready gaming hardware.

PC gaming is currently in better shape than it has been for years. Software sales are up, and developers now take both the platform and players more seriously.

The fantastic simplicity of services like Steam makes buying PC games a cinch, and the PC’s open nature gives you a great choice of hardware. Graphics cards, storage, processors and memory are interchangeable on the PC in a way that no other platform can compete with. And, with a PC that has a really high specification, the visuals and resolutions it can manage are far superior to even the Xbox One and PS4.

A great gaming computer doesn’t come cheap though. You’ll have to dig deep into your pocket for a PC that has the most powerful graphics card, a top-end "Haswell" or "Skylake" processor which has been overclocked by the PC vendor, and an ultra fast SSD. But, if you love gaming, the considerable expense is absolutely worth it.

The single most important piece of advice for anyone shopping for a gaming PC is to get a powerful graphics card. The graphics processor affects a game’s frame rate and visual detail more than any other component. But, of course, you’ll also want to make sure the rest of the computer cuts the mustard as well.

Or, you could just buy one of the 10 stellar gaming PCs that we recommend below. Your call.

  • Also check out: 23 best PC games

Overclockers Asteroid

Overclockers Asteroid

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

See more Overclockers Asteroid deals

Insanely powerful
Compact design
Expensive
Lacks M.2 storage

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.

Read the full review: Overclockers Asteroid

Maingear Shift

Maingear Shift

A gaming PC that constantly runs in top gear

CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti (8GB GDDR5) | RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 400GB Intel SSD (PCIe, NVMe Gen-3), 4TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (7,200 rpm) | Connectivity: 2X RJ-45 Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth radio adaptors | Ports: 12 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x SPDIF-Out, Mic, Line-In and Line-Out ports

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Clever chassis design
Near-infinite expansion
Hardware issues
Crazy expensive

The Maingear Shift is the very definition of a luxury gaming PC. It’s practically guaranteed to handle 4K and VR gaming with ease thanks to the Nvidia GTX 980Ti graphics card inside, which packs a huge 8GB of virtual memory. Despite a few nagging component issues, this build is a visually stunning ‘flagship gaming PC.’ It costs a bomb, though, so be prepared to empty your wallet for one – and then some.

Read the full review: Maingear Shift

best gaming pc

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

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Tool-less design
Expansive
Inaccessible cabling
A tad pricey

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.

Read the full review: Lenovo Ideacentre Y900

Alienware Area 51

Alienware Area 51

A beautiful looking and well-designed gaming machine

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K (overclocked to 3.8GHz) |
 Graphics: AMD Radeon R370 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | 
Storage: 2TB 7200rpm hard drive | Features: Custom Alienware Chassis, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless

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Great-looking case
Liquid cooled/overclocked
High-end config very expensive
No SSD in entry-level model

Looking at some of the gaming PCs in this article, it’s clear that some manufacturers go to considerable lengths to present great looking custom chassis designs – but we think the Area 51, from Dell subsidiary Alienware, beats them all by a wide margin. A pentagon when viewed from the side, with a soft blue glow, the components are angled for easier access, and the entire design is incredibly funky. With the entry-level model, you get a liquid cooled overclocked processor and AMD graphics, but configurations with dual Nvidia GeForce cards are an option, although you’ll need to dig quite deep into your pocket to purchase them.

Read our hands-on review: Alienware Area 51

Lenovo Erazer X510 Gaming Desktop

Lenovo Erazer X510 Gaming Desktop

A juggernaut PC with plenty of power

CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K |
 Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 290 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 2TB SSHD | Features: 625W PSU, smart looking chassis

High-end AMD graphics
Fast CPU performance
Slightly older technology
SSHD not as good as an SSD

Although it’s a bit older than some of the other PCs in this list, the Lenovo Erazer X510 carries a great specification that will handle modern gaming with ease. Compared with some systems, it’s not the best value for money, but it’s certain to be capable of 1080p gaming, and the chassis has a certain allure, with a look that resembles nothing less than a giant juggernaut of steel.

Acer Predator G3-605

Acer Predator G3-605

A less powerful but more affordable gaming tower

CPU: Intel Core i5-4460T 
| Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 255 
| RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 1TB HDD
| Features: Integrated speakers, card reader

Good gaming performance
Affordable
Only a mid-range specification
Soon to be upgraded with newer tech

The Acer Predator G6 is right around the corner, with all the latest bells and whistles, including Intel’s new Skylake processors. But this older model, the G3, can still be found for a very reasonable price. It packs less power than some high-end gaming PCs, but it’s still perfectly capable of running all games, and with this specification you should be able to enjoy 1080p gaming with details set to medium or high, and still get decent frame rates.

HP Envy Phoenix

HP Envy Phoenix

HP has a good performer here, but the SSD is stingy

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 380 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Bang & Olufsen Audio, 802.11ac wireless

Stylish metallic case
Powerful graphics card
No Skylake technology
Small SSD

HP never comes up with a bad looking design, even for a standard-sized PC tower. The Phoenix looks great, with a bright red light running vertically down the front, which also benefits from a metallic finish. The AMD Radeon 380 in this configuration can deliver great gaming performance to match Nvidia’s GeForce graphics cards. And there’s a Haswell Core i7-4970k chip on board as well, which is a great gaming CPU. There’s everything else you need for a good modern gaming experience too: an SSD and a hard disk plus 16GB of memory. There’s no Skylake chip to be seen here, but we expect HP will follow with a new configuration soon.

MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix

MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix

This compact PC offers solid no-frills performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 2TB HDD | Features: Micro-ATX case, red lighting

Small size
Reasonable value
You might want more power
No overclock

We’ve had large PC cases, PC cases with a wacky design, and PC cases that fit both those descriptions. How about small PC cases? The MSI Nightblade comes in a MicroATX chassis, which adds a degree of portability, useful if you regularly take your PC to LAN parties. It looks pretty good too with red illumination underneath the front. Although beefier configurations are available, this one only comes with a GeForce GTX 960. Intel’s venerable 4.4GHz Core i7-4790k is used as the processor and this machine still offers a lot of gaming performance in a small box.

Cyberpower Trinity 300

Cyberpower Trinity 300

A holy Trinity of cool design, graphics grunt and processing performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 250GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Funky chassis design, Cooler Master liquid cooling

Six-core processor
High-end graphics card
Need to manually add 20% overclock
Case design not for everyone

If you’ve looked at some of the other machines in this article, you may like the idea of having top-end gaming performance with a six-core Haswell E processor for non-gaming tasks as well. What if you really like the look of the custom chassis designs here too? The Cyberpower Trinity 300 gives you all three. The chassis, a DeepCool Tristellar Gaming Case, places the components into a three-winged chassis with a striking appearance. And there’s a lot of performance on offer too, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 video card alongside an Intel Core i7-5820K processor. Oddly, the standard configuration on Cyberpower’s website doesn’t seem to offer an overclocked processor, but this can be added to the overall build for a small additional outlay.

Scan 3XS Vengeance

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

Fast overclocked Skylake CPU
High-end graphics card
Not a cheap machine
Skylake not a huge boost

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.

Overclockers UK Titan Riptide

Overclockers Titan Virtual Force

Virtual reality made easy

CPU: 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Connectivity: Ethernet | Ports: (Rear) 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0; (Top) 2 x USB 3.0, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, HDMI, microphone and headphone jack

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Good value
Handily-located ports
Uninspired case

Like many pre-built gaming desktops, the Titan Virtual Force is not tastefully designed nor is it particularly subtle. But very rarely when we buy gaming hardware are we as concerned about style over power – and holy hell is the Titan Virtual Force powerful. But it certainly needs to be seeing as the Titan Virtual Force is a gaming PC designed for use with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.

For $1,820, of course you could build your own PC with equivalent specs for cheaper, but buying pre-built is all about convenience which is clearly on the table here. Taking a ride on the VR bandwagon with the Titan Virtual Force doesn’t require knowing how to mount a motherboard or install a CPU cooler, but it does demand a hefty chunk of change.

So long as you’re happy with a GTX 980Ti paired with an Intel 6600K but only 8GB of RAM at the entry level, the Titan Virtual Force serves as an excellent shortcut too buttery smooth VR gaming on the high end.

Read the full review: Overclockers Titan Virtual Force

Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ

Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ

A powerful PC with a smart looking case and customisable lights

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | RAM: 12GB DDR3 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Features: 802.11ac wireless, six-core CPU, customisable lighting effects

Great-looking red and black chassis
Powerful graphics card
Less memory than similar priced PCs
Small SSD

If you want a tower PC that looks like it means business, the Republic Of Gamers G20AJ looks like it could be the best choice. Not only does it carry the Republic Of Gamers branding, reserved only for the top-end gaming products from Asus – all of which boast this signature red and black design – it also has a specification to match. We’re talking a high-end GeForce graphics card, fast Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and both an SSD and hard disk, with built-in 802.11ac wireless. And call us immature, but we always love coloured lights on a gaming rig. Asus also used IFA 2015 to show off special edition of the machine that can squeeze in a Titan X for massive power.

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