PCs for Sim Racing
Sim racing is enjoying a surge in popularity in 2020, and while you do need to spend some money on equipment, it’s a fraction of the cost of what it costs to go real racing. And the crashes are easier to deal with. At the heart of your setup, you’ll be looking for the best racing wheel and the best gaming desktop PC. For the latter, it’s hard to look beyond the Alienware Aurora R12.
Best Overall: Alienware Aurora R12
Dell’s Alienware Aurora R12 is the best desktop PC around for gaming, and in turn, sim racing. Whether you want to run in VR, on a single monitor, a massive ultrawide, or with triples, the Aurora R12 can be kitted out to deliver high-quality graphics and high frame rates. What also helps set it apart is that it’s fairly compact considering how much is inside.
There are quite a few configuration options available for the Aurora R12, with a high-end model sporting the new RTX 3090, a 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900KF processor (CPU), 128GB of HyperX DDR4-3200MHz RAM, and a 2TB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) coupled with a 2TB hard-disk drive (HDD). A Wi-Fi 6 adapter can be added for blazing wireless speeds, and you can even add water cooling with an 850W PSU. Equally, the entry-level model is still very capable of sim racing on a tighter budget, with even the GTX 1650 perfectly serviceable in titles like iRacing.
The hardware is all contained in a sleek and compact case that’s available in two colors. It still has a PSU swing arm to allow easy access for tool-free upgrades and tinkering, and there’s a boatload of ports for easy connectivity. This is important mainly for sim racing when you’ve got multiple devices that all want a USB connection to your PC.
- Many configurations available
- Tool-free upgrade
- Plenty of ports for sim racing hardware
- Programmable lighting
- Sturdy, unique chassis
- Styling won’t be to every taste
- Tight space to work inside
Runner-up: HP Omen 30L
HP’s Omen 30L is more compact than its predecessors but still powerful and ultra-impressive. In an era where building your PC is so common, many manufacturers are trying to think outside the box with their desktop rigs. However, HP just grabbed the box, made it look like the sort of PC you might put together yourself, then proceeded to stuff it with LED lighting and all the hardware you can shake a stick at. The only reason it comes second here is that it doesn’t have as many configurations or the highest-end options, which can be important for sim racers running triple monitors and streaming.
On the one hand, you might say the design is a little uninspiring, but to the PC gamer, this is a machine where function is the primary concern, and ease of access is paramount. You simply pull the glass side panel off, and you have free access to all internal components, all of which can be upgraded over time.
The Obelisk boasts the high-end of the NVIDIA RTX GPU lineup with the new RTX 3080 as the top-end solution, CPUs from Intel’s 10th Gen desktop lineup, DDR4 RAM from HyperX, SSD storage, and Intel’s Optane memory if you wish. Literally, everything is replaceable, including the case fans, and the bottom line is that this is a PC any enthusiast would be happy with. HP did the work for you, though.
- User upgradeable
- Straightforward design
- Affordable entry model
- A little noisy
- Lackluster cabling
Best Laptop: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
The chances of you sim racing on a laptop display are slim, but if you’re tight on space, especially then a good gaming laptop could be a smart call to power your rig. ASUS’s new ROG Zephyrus G14 is a perfect choice because it’s powerful, compact, and affordable, as well as having plenty of ports to connect up all your various bits and pieces.
Inside, you find AMD’s Ryzen 9 4900HS 8-core, 16-thread CPU paired with an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU and up to 32GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM. The GPU is perfectly capable of running any modern sim racing title at high frame rates and in VR, and the CPU is pushing desktop levels of performance.
On the outside, you have not only an HDMI output to hook up your external display but four USB 3.2 ports, two of which are USB-C. OK, you may end up needing a couple of adapters depending on your hardware, but there’s enough here to attach a wheel and pedal set as well as an external shifter and still have a port spare.
- Powerful CPU
- Excellent GPU
- Plenty of ports
- USB-C probably means adapters
Great All-rounder: Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition
Thanks to a ton of configuration options that suit various budgets, Dell’s XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition is easy to recommend. And also a lot of ports. On the front are USB-C, USB-A, and 3.5mm audio ports that are easy to reach for common accessories alongside an SD card slot. You even get an optical drive and a heap of ports on the rear to connect pretty much everything you could want. Ports are essential for the multitude of sim racing hardware you’ll be wanting to use.
The entry model is probably one to avoid for sim racing purposes, as while it has dedicated graphics, you’re not saving much, and the performance will be lacking. The sweet spot is the mid-tier 10th Gen Intel Core i5 model paired with the AMD Radeon RX 5600.
But you can really beef up the hardware inside, too, and you can also opt for a 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900K CPU, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, up to 4TB of storage, and a beefy NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super GPU with 8GB of VRAM if you so wish. This box looks like it belongs in an office, but it’s capable of scorching performance, and even if you do opt to get one of the lower-tier configurations, it’s a simple task to upgrade the internals down the road.
- Plenty of spec options
- Good port selection
- Amazing performance potential
- Easy upgradeability
- Entry model lacking the performance you need for sim racing
The finish line
Getting started in sim racing is pretty straightforward, and though you can’t engage without a decent PC and racing setup, it’s easy enough to get going. What you need is a solid PC at the heart of your setup, and the Alienware Aurora R12 is a perfect choice.
It doesn’t take up masses of space; it’s easily upgradeable if your budget doesn’t stretch to the higher-spec models right now, and it’s got plenty of ports to connect up all your assorted racing hardware. You really can’t go wrong.
All of the PCs here are more than capable of handling all the virtual racing you can throw at them, along with multiple monitors or even VR.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore, and Windows Central. Currently, you’ll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer with a burning passion for video games, of which he’s been an avid fan since childhood. He’s relatively new to the writing scene, but he counters that lack of experience with a rock-solid work ethic and a desire to improve at every opportunity. You’ll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.
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