VGBlogger’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Gaming Hardware and Peripherals

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Happy Cyber Monday, holiday shoppers!

VGBlogger is here to kick off our annual holiday gift guides for geeks and gamers series with recommendations for gaming peripherals, including mice, keyboards, controllers, headsets, and other hardware. We’re still actively testing product and will be adding to our guides with new recommendations leading up to Christmas, so continue to check back for updates over the coming weeks. And if you have any specific questions about a particular product, drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Also stay tuned for additional gift guides that will posting throughout the week for art books, comic books and novels, toys and collectibles, stocking stuffers, and more. Now let the 2015 gift guide extravaganza begin!

Read our ongoing Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks and Gamers series for more shopping ideas at the following links:

Strategy Guides and How-Tos Gift Guide
Comic Books and Novels Gift Guide
Art and Coffee Table Books Gift Guide
Gadgets, Stocking Stuffers, & Beyond!

Logitech Hyperion Fury Gaming Mouse — Buy from Amazon or Logitech:

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A high-performance mouse designed primarily for FPS gaming, the Hyperion Fury features a low DPI range (240-4000), eight programmable buttons, and exclusive Fusion Engine tech which combines an optical sensor with an accelerometer for ultra-fast tracking speed. I’m not a mouse geek so I don’t know the specifics behind the buzzwordy jargon and the technical inner-workings, but as an experienced gamer and a user of many different gaming mouse brands over the years, I can say unequivocally that this is the fastest-moving mouse I’ve gamed with. It glides and tracks with such effortless fluidity and speed, which makes it perfect for quick reaction and precision aiming. The only slight hindrance is the stiffer-than-it-should-be cable, which occasionally can get in the way of broad mouse movements. All of the extra buttons are aligned alongside the mouse’s left side–three within natural thumb-click range, and two stacked just off from the left mouse button to hit with the index finger. The buttons are programmable, but by default the two by the left mouse button are for DPI up/down adjustment (up to five levels can be customized using Logitech’s gaming software), and the two down by the thumb are for forward and backward shortcuts.

Further down the left side is another thumb-click button which acts as a DPI shift. With the gaming software app you can set a desired shift DPI setting, and the mouse will seamlessly switch to and operate at that DPI for as long as the shift is held down. Building the muscle memory in your fingers to instinctively be able to hold down the shift while clicking and scrolling takes getting used to (as does the button placement in general), but this is an awesome feature for having an alternate, on-the-fly DPI for a specific situation, like when you want to hone your aim for sniping or looking down iron sights. Even for slower paced adventure, hidden object, and puzzle type games as well as general web browsing, having the shift button is handy for quickly changing between high and low DPIs so you can scroll the cursor quickly but then slow things down momentarily for accurate clicks and selections. Lighting options are minimal–only the logo and three small light bars by the DPI buttons glow–so this probably isn’t the mouse for you if visual flair is a high priority. Though the mouse on its own has a cool look, sleek form factor, and comfortable hand feel.

Logitech Daedalus Apex Gaming Mouse — Buy from Amazon or Logitech:

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Logitech’s Daedalus Apex is in a lot of ways the antithesis of the Hyperion Fury (except, of course, that both are of excellent build and performance quality). It has a much more compact form factor, a higher DPI range (200-12,000), fewer buttons (6 instead of 8) that are placed in a more conventional orientation (the forward/backward buttons fall right under the right-hand thumb and the DPI toggle is right under the scroll wheel), a more flexible braided cable, and some additional software options for RGB lighting as the Logitech G logo and both sides of the mouse back near where the base of your hand and palm rests can be lit with a programmable breathing effect or a color cycle across a full spectrum of 16.8M colors. The sides also have a clear-coated perforation that lets the light glow through a cluster of tiny holes, which looks pretty slick.

Rather than specializing in FPS gaming, the Daedalus Apex is power built for games with a lot of intensive clicking and quick mouse movements, which makes it an ideal mate for MOBAs, real-time strategy, and action-RPGs. Instead of the Fusion Engine, this mouse’s main selling point is its enhanced metal spring tension system. Again, I don’t know exactly how the tech works, but in comparison to other mice the left and right mouse buttons feel a lot clickier and seem to travel less and thus react quicker. I guess I would say it’s similar to a mechanical keyboard versus a traditional membrane keyboard–there is a firmer tactile bump to the clicking action that just feels more responsive and satisfying. Ergonomically, the mouse feels good and has a durable heft that defies its smallish size. A potential drawback, though, depending on your grip style and hand size, is the way the sides of the mouse hump out. This works great using a fingertip claw grip, but with a full-hand grip the side bulges can feel a little awkward. For me, when I fully palm the mouse, the right hump pushes my pinky finger ever so slightly up and off the side in a way that isn’t altogether uncomfortable, but is noticeable.

SteelSeries Sensei Pro Grade Laser Mouse — Buy from Amazon or SteelSeries:

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SteelSeries has three different Sensei models to pick from: the Sensei RAW, the Sensei Wireless, and the standard Sensei, which is the one I’ll be talking about here. The Sensei has the fundamental features a gamer needs covered: 7 programmable buttons, a highly flexible braided cable, a high DPI (or CPI in SteelSeries terminology) range from 5,700 to 11,400, and a DPI/CPI toggle below the scroll wheel. But the Sensei has two distinguishing characteristics from its dojo mates and other mice from competing brands. First is the ambidextrous design. The uniformity of the mirrored layout means both righties and lefties can use all features of this mouse the same way as both sides feature identical twin button placement. So if you’re a righty, two buttons fall right under your thumb, and two more buttons fall under your pinky and ring fingers (and vice versa for lefties). While the ambidextrous design is nice, I personally found having buttons under my pinky and ring fingers to be slightly awkward, because the way they’re placed regularly caused me to accidentally click them when I would firm my hand on the mouse during heated action or simply adjust my grip. Even when I don’t have any actions mapped to those buttons, just the sensation of hitting one when I didn’t intend to causes a mental reaction like I mishit something. It’s an easy thing to learn how to avoid with time, but it’s still something to consider when deciding on the perfect mouse for you.

The other main feature of the Sensei is its built-in customization. SteelSeries has a lot of fancy verbiage for its mouse settings, but in simpler terms the mouse’s key performance attributes, such as CPI sensitivity, lift distance, acceleration, path correction, and so on, can be changed right on the mouse via an LCD display screen built directly into the bottom, in the empty space below the laser sensor and between the mouse’s back glide pads. Holding down the CPI button pulls up a menu on the LCD screen that allows you to adjust all of these settings by scrolling and clicking the mouse wheel to navigate the interface and make selections, and then you can save them directly to the mouse in one of five different profile slots. This allows for robust customization without the need for installing additional software, which is great for gamers looking to reduce running background apps and squeeze every last ounce of performance out of their PC. The SteelSeries Engine app is needed for programming macros and customizing lighting effects, but the mouse’s lighting capabilities are weak (the only glow points are under the logo and around the scroll wheel and CPI button) so they’re easy to shut off and live without. In addition to its deep onboard spec customization, the Sensei lives up to the SteelSeries name. Of all the mice featured in this guide, I would say that this one is the sturdiest. Despite its sleek form, it feels rugged and durable, like it can be trusted to last through seriously heavy duty gaming conditions.

The only caution I have is for gamers with sweaty hands, because the smooth, faux-metal finish on the top surface of the mouse isn’t very good at wicking away moisture. Grip isn’t an issue as the mouse surface doesn’t become slippery or anything like that, it just starts to feel a wee bit gunky and sticky on the palm after long sessions. This is hardly a deal-breaker, but I was periodically having to wipe my palms during use whereas I never had to with any of the other mice, so it’s something to keep in mind if hand sweat is an issue. (For the record, I get sweaty hands fairly easy and am a heavy sweater in general. If you don’t have a problem with sweaty hand syndrome than you should be good to go.)

PDP Wired Fight Pads for Wii / Wii U — Buy from Amazon or PDP:

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PDP’s line of character-themed wired fight pad controllers for Nintendo Wii and Wii U consoles has continued to expand this year with some of the boldest designs yet. Joining previous models for characters like Mario, Luigi, Link, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach, Samus, Yoshi, and Wario, new approaching challengers include Metal Mario, Toad, and Zero Suit Samus, the latter two of which don’t appear to be as widely available as the others so you may have to search around or keep an eye out for restocks. I’ve been able to check out the Metal Mario and Toad pads, and they really are aesthetically and ergonomically fantastic third-party controller alternatives. Each controller has a two-toned case design with matching buttons, colors, and logos. Appropriately, the Metal Mario controller features a matte charcoal underside with a silvery top finish that is so shiny you can literally see your own reflection off its surface. The Toad pad isn’t as flashy, for obvious reasons, but its white and blue casing with red buttons and analog sticks perfectly represents the personality and visual identity of the character.

Designed in the likeness of the old GameCube controller, the fight pads are primarily aimed at the Smash Bros. fanbase but are compatible with any Wii or Wii U game that offers a Classic Controller Pro control scheme. The only catch continues to be the need to plug each controller into its own Wii Remote (which is more of a fault with Nintendo’s design anyway), so in a weird way they’re wired and wireless at the same time. If you don’t mind tethering to a Wiimote and the overall light build heft (they don’t have built-in rumble so they feel hollow), these controllers perform well in terms of control response and button feel and offer an almost amiibo-like collectible quality at an incredibly wallet-friendly price point of $24.99 and under.

PDP Rock Candy Accessories — Buy from Amazon or PDP:

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Other accessories in this guide are built for hardcore PC gamers and competitive players, and thus they come at an expensive price. PDP’s Rock Candy line falls at the other end of the spectrum, offering solid, basic functionality for general gaming and computer usage at prices that don’t break the bank. The $15 Rock Candy optical mouse doesn’t have a bunch of extra buttons or DPI toggles, just the standard left and right mouse buttons and an in-clicking scroll wheel. It’s compact, sturdy (despite the plasticy feel), and completely wireless, with both a manual on/off switch and an auto-shutoff timer for conserving battery juice when not in use. This is a good mouse to consider if you don’t care about all the extra bells and whistles that come with the premium priced competition.

The Rock Candy keyboard, which starts at $30, is similarly wireless, and features a washable, waterproof case (I haven’t spilled anything on it yet though) and a function key for accessing media/volume controls and other shortcuts. The keyboard is streamlined and takes up very little desk/lap space–even compared to a tenkeyless keyboard it’s only a little longer, and it still has the numeric keypad. Though in tradeoff there isn’t a wrist rest. The only point of contention some users might have is with the rounded key caps, which definitely have a longer travel time and feel a bit weird at first when you’re used to the typical square or chiclet caps found on most keyboards. I definitely had my fair share of mistypes, but I have since adjusted after about a week or so of continuous use and adopted it as my main, everyday workhorse keyboard.

Both the mouse and keyboard include wireless USB receivers (they aren’t Bluethooth, but they can share one receiver to save USB slots) and unlike a lot of products, batteries are included (they run on AAAs). Of course, the main selling point of the Rock Candy brand is the transparent housing and the neon-soaked style offered by color options like Cosmoberry and Lalalime. You can coordinate your peripherals (Rock Candy also includes a wired PC/Xbox One controller, which is a solid third-party gamepad in its own right) in matching colors or mix and match flavors for a funkier setup. Overall, Rock Candy peripherals strike a good balance between fresh +style and fundamental substance.

Logitech Atlas Spectrum Mechanical Gaming Keyboard — Buy from Amazon or Logitech:

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“So who is the G410 Atlas Spectrum for? Primarily I would say that it is tailored to competitive gamers that do a lot of travel for league play or friendly LAN parties as the compact form factor and lighter weight make it easier to stuff into a backpack and tote around. It’s equally ideal for gamers with limited desk space to work with–no more angling that full-sized keyboard in an awkward position to keep the end from hanging off the desk or encroaching on the mouse’s territory! Interestingly enough, younger gamers may also find the smaller size to be less daunting (though I’m not sure how many kids need to be using a high-end keyboard such as this). In terms of offering a balanced output between responsive gaming, comfortable typing, and general, daily usage needs, the G410 Atlas Spectrum, although maybe not the top choice out there, performs at a high level and is fully capable of fulfilling the duties of an all-purpose keyboard while freeing up a lot of extra room on your desktop.” Read our original product review in full here.

Razer Mamba Tournament Edition Gaming Mouse — Buy from Amazon or Razer:

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“By shedding the “Click Force” tech and wireless capabilities of the standard Mamba, which are likely features only elite competitive gamers will care about, the Tournament Edition delivers all the premium performance PC gamers have come to expect from Razer while hitting a price point that is a whole lot friendlier on the wallet. Whereas the wireless model costs $149.99, the Tournament Edition is $89.99, a whole $60 cheaper. Taking all factors into account, including price, ergonomics, build quality, and aesthetics, the Mamba TE offers a great balance of performance and functionality, and probably the best overall bang for your buck of any of the Razer mice. If you’re in the market for a gaming mouse upgrade, you can’t go wrong with the Mamba Tournament Edition.” Read our original product review in full here.

Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset — Buy from Amazon or Kingston:

“Between the sturdy build, comfortable ergonomics, impeccable audio fidelity, and the included sack of accessories, the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset delivers powerhouse performance in a surprisingly affordable package. It’s probably not the number one option for console gaming since the PS4 and Xbox One are not capable of taking advantage of the main USB sound card features, but for PC gaming I’m not sure there’s a better combination of value and premium quality.” Read our original product review in full here.

PlayStation 4 Console Bundles — Buy from Amazon:

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If you’re looking to grab a new PS4 for a loved one or yourself this holiday season, the Nathan Drake Collection bundle is probably going to be your best option in terms of value. The bundle includes a 500GB PS4 console and a copy of the aforementioned Nathan Drake Collection featuring upgrades versions of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Other options worth looking at include a 1TB limited edition featuring Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, a Star Wars: Battlefront bundle, and bundles that pair the Nathan Drake Collection with Fallout 4 or Star Wars: Battlefront.

Nintendo Wii U Bundles — Buy from Amazon and Walmart:

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Nintendo’s holiday bundle lineup includes the Walmart-exclusive Super Mario Maker Deluxe Set Wii U bundle including a digital copy of the game along with an idea book and the 30th Anniversary Mario amiibo for $299.99, and the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set for $249.99. A Smash Splat Special Edition Deluxe Set bundle featuring pre-installed digital copies of Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon is also out there with limited availability for $249.99, but it looks like that one flew off the shelves for Black Friday. They’re all sold out online as far as I can find, but check around your local retailers and maybe you’ll get lucky. I did a search on Walmart and found one store in my general area that has some stock still left for in-store pickup.

Xbox One Console Bundles — Buy from Amazon:

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Microsoft has lined up an impressive slate of no less than a dozen different Xbox One console bundles configurations. There’s the limited edition Halo 5: Guardians bundle with its spiffy paint job and matching controller. There’s the Elite bundle featuring a 1TB solid state hybrid drive and one of the extravagant new Xbox One Elite wireless controllers. Other noteworthy 1TB console bundles feature Rise of the Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, as well as another with a special holiday 3-pack of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Rare Replay, and Ori and the Blind Forest. Check out www.majornelson.com for a complete listing of bundle options and game discounts.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!