Mice and controllers
Most of us are less particular about our mice than about our keyboards, but that doesn't mean we don't have our preferences. For the most part, we're quite keen on comfy gaming mice with high-precision sensors and other perks, such as on-the-fly DPI adjustments, macro buttons, and software that supports custom bindings and profiles.
|SteelSeries Sensei Raw||$59.99|
|Corsair Vengeance M65||$69.99|
|Cyborg Rat 7||$99.99|
|Cyborg Rat 9||$139.99|
Among wired gaming mice, we're partial to Corsair's Vengeance M65. We reviewed the M60, a slightly older version of the same rodent with a lower-precision sensor, and we liked it a lot. Its wide shape is particularly nice for those of us with large hands.
Logitech's G500s is another tethered option, and it's also priced around the $60 mark. Logitech gaming mice tend to have narrower shapes that suit some mousing styles better. The G500s—and its wireless sibling, the G700s—also have some handy macro buttons just above the thumb rest, which can always come in handy. I use the G700, the predecessor of the G700s, for day-to-day mousing, and I'm quite pleased with it. Plenty of other folks swear by Logitech's gaming mice.
A nice wired alternative for lefties is SteelSeries' Sensei Raw, which Geoff uses in addition to a right-handed mouse in order to avert RSI during long work days. The Sensei Raw has a symmetrical design with thumb buttons on both sides and the requisite on-the-fly DPI adjustments. Geoff digs the soft-touch coating and the fact the LED lighting can be toned down, as well.
Moving a little upmarket, we have Cyborg's Rat 7 and Rat 9. Geoff gave the former our Editor's Choice award a few years back. The Rat 9 is the same thing, but wireless. These mice are completely adjustable, from their width and length to the height of their palm supports, so they can be tailred to match the shape of the user's hand. That perk comes at a price, though. These things aren't cheap.
Don't need a fancy gaming mouse? We also like a couple of Logitech's no-frills rodents:
The Logitech M510 has a full-sized, ambidextrous design, while the M505 is smaller and meant to cater to laptop users. Both of these mice are wireless, too. For everyday desktop tasks that don't require an extreme amount of precision or speed, they'll do just fine.
Finally, we'll throw in a recommendation for Microsoft's Xbox 360 controllers:
|Xbox 360 USB controller||$39.99|
|Xbox 360 wireless controller for Windows||$49.99|
You can get 'em in both wired and wireless flavors. (The wireless one linked above is marketed toward Windows users, and it comes with a wireless receiver in the box.) We won't debate the superiority of keyboard and mouse control in games. However, we will say that some games, especially racing titles, can be a lot more fun to play with a controller. Some cross-platform games just have crummy mouse and keyboard controls, too.
Whatever the reason, having an Xbox 360 controller around is always handy. Windows has drivers for them out of the box, and most cross-platform games will support them with no setup required. The same isn't necessarily true for other PC gamepads.
There was a time when buying a budget display meant putting up with a TN panel. These days, IPS-based monitors are available almost at every price point. The most affordable ones only have six bits of color depth per channel (rather than the usual eight bits), so their color reproduction may not be much better than that of TN solutions. Nevertheless, they have considerably wider viewing angles, so you won't see hues shift too much when viewing the screen off-center.
Though IPS panels are more widespread than ever, TN panels still rule in one notable market segment: high-speed panels. 120Hz and 144Hz offerings can refresh the image twice as fast as conventional, 60Hz displays. That higher refresh rate can produce visibly smoother animation, provided your graphics card can keep up.
Some high-speed displays can also sync up with active-shutter 3D glasses. These glasses work by shielding each eye from every other frame on the screen, so that in practice, one's left and right eyes each get their own, 60Hz image feed. The effect is stereoscopic 3D imagery not unlike what one might see at the movies (albeit implemented differently). The only catch is that a rather powerful graphics card is needed, since each frame must effectively be rendered twice—once for each eye. For graphics card recommendations, check out our main System Guide.
|Acer H226HQLbid||21.5" 1920x1080 IPS||$129.99|
|Asus VS239H-P||23" 1920x1080 IPS||$159.99|
|Asus VG248QE||24" 1920x1080 TN||$279.99|
|Asus PA248Q||24" 1920x1200 IPS||$319.99|
|Achieva QH2700-IPSMS||27" 2560x1440 IPS||$389.95|
|Dell UltraSharp U2713HM||27" 2560x1440 IPS||$699.99|
|Dell UltraSharp U3014||30" 2560x1600 IPS||$1,099.99|
Among $200 monitors, there are options aplenty. We don't have first-hand experience with either the Acer H226HQLbid or the Asus VS239H-P, but those displays have solid specs and encouraging user reviews on Newegg. We think they're safe bets for folks seeking a budget-friendly 1080p monitor with a 6-bit IPS panel.
Above $200, we have a few favorites. There's the Asus PA248Q, which is a 6-bit model with more inputs, more adjustments, and a taller (16:10) aspect ratio than the sub-$200 options above. Geoff has a couple of older versions of this display, and he likes them well enough. Shoppers with a little more scratch can spring for a 27" Korean monitor like the Achieva QH2700-IPSMS, which has an 8-bit IPS panel with a 2560x1440 resolution. Korean monitors like these are cheaper alternatives to full-featured models like Dell's UltraSharp U2713HM. They tend to have less connectivity and either minimal or no on-screen controls, but they're also a good bit more affordable.
Then there's the Asus VG248QE. This 24" display has a 144Hz refresh rate and supports Nvidia's 3D Vision stereoscopic glasses. We tested a larger predecessor to this model, the VG278H, and were quite impressed by its image quality and color reproduction—despite the TN panel. If you're looking for the smoothest gaming experience possible, or you must have stereo 3D support, the VG248QE is a great choice. The Newegg user reviews bear that out.
At the higher end of the spectrum, it's hard to go wrong with a 30" Dell display. The UltraSharp U3014 is the latest revision of this imposing classic, which features a humongous panel with a 2560x1600 resolution (and thus a taller, 16:10 aspect ratio than typical 27" screens). Dell has also built a plethora of inputs—even a card reader—into this thing.
Some folks with deep pockets might also want to explore the nascent 4K category. These newfangled high-PPI monitors all have a resolution of 3840x2160, which is equivalent to four 1920x1080p frames put together. There are some associated challenges, though, not least of which is the fact that all the 4K monitors we've seen present themselves to the host system as dual-display setups. Not all games handle multi-display configs well. On top of that, some Windows apps have inadequate support for such high pixel densities, and encountering the odd firmware kink isn't unheard of.
No doubt about it, there's a price to be paid for being an early adopter—not just figuratively, but also literally. 4K monitors are pretty darned expensive.
|Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q||23.8" 3840x2160 IPS (8-bit)||$1,067.24|
|Asus PQ321Q 31"||31.5" 3840x2160 IGZO||$2,999.00|
We have two recommendations here. Asus' PQ321Q is a 31.5" specimen with an IGZO panel, and we've used it for our own 4K testing. This was one of the first 4K panels to hit the market last year, and it wasn't without rough edges—but it has field-upgradable firmware (via a hidden USB port), which has allowed Asus to roll out bug fixes that users can apply themselves. That perk is one of the reasons this monitor has such good user reviews.
If $2,999 is too rich for your blood, Dell's UltraSharp UP2414Q squeezes the same resolution into a smaller, 24" panel priced at just over a grand. We can't vouch for this monitor ourselves, but user reviews of it are fairly encouraging. Considering the pixel density, it's almost a bargain.
Before we move on, we should bring up the latest version of Oculus VR's development kit, which is available for pre-order for $350. If you like to live on the bleeding edge, it doesn't get much bloodier than this: state-of-the-art stereoscopic VR goggles that track both orientation and position, so one can look around a 3D scene as if one were standing inside it. Oculus VR is about to be acquired by Facebook, so I expect we'll see more affordable goggles from the company eventually. In the nearer term, though, the development kit is the only way to play the growing list of games that support (or will soon support) Oculus' VR technology.