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 a decent PC. For the latter, it’s hard to look beyond the Alienware Aurora R11.
Best Overall: Alienware Aurora R11
Dell’s Alienware Aurora R11 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 R11 can be kitted out to deliver high-quality graphics and high frame rates.
There are quite a few configuration options available for the Aurora R9, with a high-end model sporting up to dual NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super graphics cards (GPU) or 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 for sim racing on a tighter budget.
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 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
Style, power, and ports
A great-looking, easy to upgrade PC that has a ton of ports and plenty of headroom for any sim racing activity you can throw at it.
AMD Powered: HP OMEN 30L
If you’re throwing a lot at a PC, then there’s a strong case to be made for using an AMD Ryzen CPU, precisely what you find here. The base model has an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU with six cores, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, and an AMD Radeon RX 5700XT GPU with 8GB of VRAM. And this is an excellent starting point for any sim racing title, although if you’re looking to indulge in iRacing in particular, you’ll want to get an additional 8GB of RAM in there.
HP has plenty of options, though, depending on what you’re looking to do, especially if you’re thinking of VR or triple monitors. Go up to an AMD Ryzen 9 with 12 cores, 32GB of RAM, and a 2080 Ti if you want the best.
Everything is contained in a sleek tower with a streamlined design and a brushed aluminum finish. You can also spec one up with Wi-Fi 6 for a little future-proofing, and as you need when sim racing, ports, ports, and more ports.
- Optional Wi-Fi 6
- Tons of hardware options
- Plenty of ports
- Excellent Ryzen CPUs
- Can get pricey towards the top end
- 8GB of RAM entry point not enough for iRacing
High-end performance without overspending
The redesigned HP OMEN 30L is a beautiful gaming PC packed with premium hardware perfect for any sim racer.
Best Laptop: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central
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 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
A Ryzen flagship
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 manages to take advantage of the latest chips from AMD and NVIDIA in a way that makes it a powerful contender if you’re looking for a laptop to run your racing.
Great All-rounder: Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition
Dell’s XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition is easy to recommend thanks to a ton of configuration options that suit various budgets. 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 does have 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
Great for most people
With a wide variety of hardware options and easy upgrades, the XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition should be a good fit for any sim racer.
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 a solid PC at the heart of your setup and the Alienware Aurora R11 is the 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.
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This post was written by Richard Devine and was first posted to WindowsCentral
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