2018 Hardware Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are right around the corner and that means shopping season is about to begin. While most gamers know what they want in terms of their games, there’s a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to hardware and what is the best for certain situations. Heck, there’s stuff you probably didn’t know you wanted. We are here to fill in some of those questions by highlighting some of the video game related hardware we got to test out this year. This includes hard drives and capture cards to keyboards and computer cases. Here is our hardware holiday guide for 2018.

 

For Racing Enthusiasts

Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer with Sparco P310 Competition Mod – $649.99 (Buy)

Racing games are plentiful, and one of the best ever created was released this year. There was worry Forza Horizon 4 would be just more of the same, and while you can’t revolutionize the racing genre, Playground Games has instead iterated upon their property to ensure it’s the most versatile, creative racing game yet. What better way to celebrate this occasion than with a racing wheel? While you can play with a mouse & keyboard, or a controller, the best way to experience a racing game such as this is with a racing wheel, and Thrustmaster has the perfect solution for you. The TS-XW is easily the best racing wheel around; it’s comfortable, sturdy, and will give you one big kick when driving around like a maniac. It offers an unparalleled racing experience as you’ll feel like you’re truly controlling a Bugatti going down the highway at 300 mph. With that said, this is an expensive solution, coming in around $649. If you’re someone who’s already invested in the most immersive experience possible, this is what you should be after, and I can only imagine what it would be like for those with VR headsets. Whether it’s Forza Horizon 4 or any other of the many racing games on Xbox One and PC, if you’re someone who considers themselves as an enthusiast in the genre, you owe yourself to try this puppy out.

 

Best Bang For Your Buck PC Gear

Latest HyperX Set

Year after year, there’s no better set of gear we’d recommend for PC gamers than HyperX. The Kingston Tech brand has come a long way from simple headsets, as they’ve produced some of the best valued peripherals on the market. Whether it’s keyboards and mice, or flashy storage, you’ll find some of the best gaming products here.

This year, HyperX has a lot to offer. For example, their wireless Cloud Flight ($159.99 – Buy) headset is their premiere product, giving players a comfortable, top-notch experience. There is a Bluetooth option in the HyperX Cloud MIX, but if you’re someone looking for the best audio experience, the Cloud Flight is just that. It has a creative audio control, especially when it comes to muting and unmuting the mic, a fully detachable microphone and upwards of 30 hours of use, at least if you don’t have the bright LEDs turned on. It’s comfortable 20-20,000 Hz frequency (15-23,000 while connected via 3.5mm jack), 32Ω impedance, 90 degrees rotatable earcups and only weights around 300g, which is incredibly light for a wireless headset. There are a staggering number of headsets on the market, a lot aimed towards gamers, but HyperX has one of the most delightful offerings.

As for the others, the Alloy Elite ($139.99 – Buy) should be your go to keyboard, alongside the Pulsefire Surge ($69.99 – Buy). Both of these complement each other perfectly, with RGB lighting and comfortable, form-fitting designs. The Alloy Elite keyboard has some serious weight to it and the tactile WASD keys are a nice touch. It also has a wrist rest which some major players fail to include. I still think that that the cap locks indicator is located in an awkward place, and hidden behind the subtraction/dash key on the number pad, but it’s a small annoyance. The Pulsefire Surge is also precise, with 16,000 DPI and 450 IPS max speed. It feels much smoother in your hand than most gaming mice, and being symmetrical instead of simply ergonomic, it ensures left handed users aren’t left out. It does feel a little weird holding it if you have larger hands, however, as it’s much smaller than a lot of the typical gaming mice out there, but using it has never felt better.

 

For Stylish PC Enthusiasts

NZXT H500 – $67.99 (Buy)

 

The company’s biggest attraction is their cases and it’s for a good reason as they are some of the best on the market. They’re offering a sleek, modern design that you can’t find anywhere else. The cases are designed with airflow in mind, with an open airy inside, with the solid state drives being strapped down/mounted on the backside instead of being in their own slots. Cable management has never been easier either, especially when it comes to your power supply, having its own little compartment below. The tempered glass panel also gives a nice window into your computer’s innards, with only a single screw keeping it neatly in place. It’s a minimalist, stylish series of cases that go well beyond what you’ve come to expect. Best yet, they’re offering a series of limited edition cases themed after various video games, such as PUBG, Fallout and more.

Kraken – $148.88 (Buy)

Right next to their cases are their water cooling solutions. If you haven’t considered water cooling before, it’s without doubt something to think about, especially if your fans generate a lot of noise like mine do. This also includes those who overclock their CPUs. The Kraken series is the best available from NZXT, with up between 120mm and 360mm liquid coolers that have either one, two or three different fans. It’s easy to install, much more than any standard air CPU coolers that feature heat pipes and heat dissipation. Better yet, just as most of NZXT’s products do, the Kraken series also features RGB lighting to make the inside of your computer look like a rave.

Hue 2 Ambient RBG Lighting Kit – $99.93 (Buy)  / Echo System – $45.72 (Buy)

Lastly, we can’t forget to talk about NZXT’s latest lighting kits. They offer both internal and external lighting options, mainly for the inside of your computer and around your computer monitor. It’s a little tricky to get it all set up as it’s about laying strips of LED lights across the back of your monitor and lining the inside of your computer, but the results are more than worth it. The Ambient Lighting Kit alone is worth it for the glow behind your monitor, and it’s easy to modify things with NZXT’s Cam interface, something that can be used on either a phone or computer, the former of which is a smart choice. The RGB Lighting Kit will really only be worth it for those with a large glass screen on the side of your PC, similar to NZXT’s cases.

 

For Those with an Xbox One

Xbox One Elite Controller – $139.91 (Buy)

I have recommended the Xbox One Elite Controller for three years running now and there’s a reason for that. The best controller you’ll ever hold in your hands, it takes the most appealing parts of the Xbox One controller, which is arguably the best standard controller available, and improves upon it by giving it additional buttons and a sleeker design. It’s a modular design where the d-pad, thumbsticks and back paddles can be replaced, allowing for a lot of customization. The back paddles alone should be worth it, as you’re able to assign different actions to each. The fact you can plug this into your PC and play your collection of games there only adds value to it. The biggest issue is that this is an expensive controller, coming in at $149, but if you’re able to afford an Xbox One X or a pricey PC, then this should be in your collection. Heck, even if you don’t own either, so long as you have a device that can utilize the controller, it’s what you need.

 

For Those with a Switch

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller – $44.88 (Buy)

If you own a Nintendo Switch, you owe it to yourself to get either a second set of Joy-Cons or a Pro controller. If you can’t afford either, PowerA has the perfect solution for you. Not only do they offer inexpensive versions of their Pro controller, but they also offer an even more superior wireless edition. The Enhanced Wireless controller is a much cheaper to the Nintendo Pro Controller, which is $50 vs. $70. While PowerA’s controller doesn’t feel as weighty, and a little plasticy at times, especially the triggers, and there is no HD rumble, it comes with all the other features. Not only that, it even has two programmable buttons on the back, somewhat similar to the Xbox One Elite controller (except they aren’t paddles), allowing you to customize your experience based on what game you own. If you can’t afford the Pro controller or want the extra functionality, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless controller seriously needs to be in consideration because it’s a phenomenal alternative.

 

For Those Who Want to Go Beyond SSD

Western Digital Black NVMe M.2 – $129.99 (Buy)

While SSDs were evolution of hard drives, then the NVMe M.2 is the next step. It offers upwards of 6x the speed of standard SSDs, which is already 8x that of a standard hard drive, and an easy to plug in and play component. Western Digital released their Black NVMe M.2 drive earlier today and it blew away our expectations when it came to transfer tests. With that said, the current difference in power in terms of loading in games, OS boot times and general productivity is a minimal different when comparing this to an SSD. One of the better aspects of an NVMe drive, though, this does occupy a commonly unused PCIe slot and transfer speeds are off the chart. If you want to expand your PC’s capabilities and are looking for the best new thing out there, the Western Digital Black NVMe M.2 drive is the perfect little drive to find under your tree this holiday.

 

For Those Want a Flashy SSD

HyperX Fury RGB SSD – $214.99 (Buy)

HyperX keeps coming up in this guide and for good reason. While this brand is known for their headsets, keyboards and mice, they also release impressive SSD storage options. This year, we saw the HyperX fury RGB SSD, which is offered in 240GB, 480GB and 960GB models, each capable of upwards of 550 MBps read and 480 MBps write. While that’s standard for solid state drives, the big attraction with the Fury RGB, as the name suggests, is that it offers an RBG lighting design, not to mention a metal frame that has some serious weight to it. I feel like if you tossed this onto a glass table, it could very well shatter it. If you’re looking to buy an SSD, and not for your laptop or console, this should be considered for its style and design. It does run a little hotter than the standard drives, but it still maintains a temperature that’s in the ideal range.

 

For Content Creators

AVerMedia Live Gamer 4K – $285.00 (Buy)

Last year we saw the first ever 4K, but this year we get something even better as The Live Gamer 4K is superior in almost every factor. The biggest complaint with Elgato was that their 4K software was limited with what you could do. AVerMedia on the other hand launched with a RECentral fully functional, meaning you could easily perform all the complex functionalities just as you could with any of their other cards. Even better, the Live Gamer 4K is capable of capturing 4K60 HDR content, meaning all that beautiful video game footage can look even better. Now mind you, a small fraction of users on say YouTube actually watch videos at 4K, and I assume an even small amount watch HDR content, especially considering monitors are still lacking, but this is setting up for the future, and with the Live Gamer 4K, the future is looking bright.

AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra – $246.90 (Buy)

The big problem with the Live Gamer 4K is that it’s an internal card, meaning that you’re unable to use it portably. That’s where the Live Gamer Ultra comes in. If you own a powerful laptop and go to various events, then AVerMedia has two options. The first we recommended last year, which was able to capture 1080p60 without a PC, but this is a little different. The Live Gamer Ultra requires a somewhat powerful PC, but it is able to capture 2160p30 (or 4K at 30 FPS). Because it is a little more portable, it does make a lot of noise when running, so prepare for that, but it works as good as the Live Gamer 4K, just without the capabilities of capturing 4K60 or HDR. Really, if you just use your PC, the internal card will do the trick; if it’s a laptop you normally stream or capture from, this should be your go to.