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Best gaming desktops big and small

Whether you want a multithousand-dollar behemoth or a tidy little tower for less than a grand, these recent gaming desktops represent some of the best PCs the category has to offer.

Gaming desktops have become impressively diverse over the past few months. The best part is that even the lower-end systems are remarkably capable. It's now possible to spend less than $1,000 on a ready-made gaming desktop from a specialized vendor that will play pretty much any current title you can throw at it.

Whether that accessibility has come from better-designed hardware components, or game graphics stagnating because of the longer life cycle for consoles, it's a great time to be in the market for a new gaming desktop. Below you'll find four of the best systems in the category.

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Alienware X51
Alienware started off 2012 with one of the more innovative gaming desktops to hit the market. Slim tower desktops can typically only accommodate half-height expansion cards, restricting those systems to slower budget-priced 3D cards at best. Thanks to some clever motherboard design, the Alienware X51 can accept a full-size graphics card, allowing it to run most current PC games at decent image quality and at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. You will also appreciate its price, which starts at $999. Read the full review of the Alienware X51.

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Falcon Northwest Mach V
On the other end of the price spectrum, the most recent Mach V from boutique PC granddaddy Falcon Northwest comes with three graphics cards and an overclocked, six-core Core i7-3930K CPU from Intel. The CPU will be overkill for most current games and consumer applications, but if you're a committed gamer and have the need for massive multithreaded processing capability (perhaps you analyze seismic data for your weekend oil and gas scouting club), this Mach V will deliver uncompromising, high-resolution game performance, even across multiple monitors. And all for only $4,995. Read the full review of the Falcon Northwest Mach V.

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Origin Chronos
Origin's Chronos is a direct response to the Alienware X51. This system took home an Editors' Choice Award. Alienware's came close, but just missed. The small-form-factor Chronos only costs $1,199, $200 more than the tiny Alienware system, but with an overclocked Core i7-2550K CPU, a faster graphics card, and a much larger power supply, the Chronos is faster and more upgradable than Alienware's entry. Read the full review of the Origin Chronos.

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Velocity Micro Edge Z55
The $2,299 Velocity Micro Edge Z55 lands in the middle of the gaming-desktop pricing landscape, but especially if you play on a single monitor, it's hard to argue that you really need to spend more. Its Core i7-2700K CPU comes overclocked to 4.9GHz, and its pair of GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 graphics cards will play any PC game you can find at smooth frame rates. Read the full review of the Velocity Micro Edge Z55.

Compare these systems head to head.