Nov 15 2012 - Computer gaming can be one of the most demanding applications for PC hardware. Not only can the hardware inside of the computer make a big difference in the gaming experience, so can all of the peripherals that one can use with the games. If you happen to know someone who likes playing games on a computer and aren't sure of what to get them as a gift, check out some of these PC hardware related items that can make a great gift.
One of the most important aspects of a computer's hardware for PC gaming is the graphics card. A poor graphics card will degrade the overall feel and experience. Some games may not even be able to be properly run without a certain level of hardware. As computer displays get larger and larger, the need for a higher performance graphics card to take full advantage of the displays. A high end graphics card will let the player become fully immersed in the experience. One thing to be aware of is that the high end graphics cards require specific power, motherboard and even space requirements to be used properly. Expect to pay anywhere from just about $300 to over $500 for such a card.
While the graphics card is an important aspect of a gaming computer, one does not necessarily need the highest level of graphics in order to enjoy a game. Most budget minded graphics cards can play modern games at resolutions up to 1680x1050 or higher without any issues. This can be a great gift for someone who happens to have a desktop computer but has to run their PC gamers at lower resolutions or quality levels. The hardware requirements of the computer to run one of the budget level cards is not as strict as a high end card but there are still some. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 for a budget graphics card. Be sure to check to make sure the PC has the proper sized power supply to handle any cards before purchase.
The display is a critical component for any PC gamer. The size and resolution will determine how detailed the computer can render the gaming world. Most computers tend to be sold with 22-inch or smaller screens. The 24-inch screens are a great compromise between size and features. They tend to have a higher resolution allowing for more detail but also tend to have additional inputs allowing devices such as a gaming console (Wii, XBOX, PS3) to be plugged into them as well. This can allow the PC gamer to experience more than just gaming on their computer. Prices range from around $200 more than $500.
While graphics may be the most important feature of games, the audio experience can be just as important. While most desktops feature built-in audio solutions, their quality can leave much to be desired. There are a variety of different audio cards available on the market that offer a varying number of features as well as prices. Gamers are probably most interested in cards that support Creatives EAX extensions for environmental audio effects. Secondary features may include digital audio output for speakers or headers for front panel audio jacks. Cards are available for both PCI and PCI-Express connectors. Prices range from around $70 to over $200.
As more and more games have social aspects to them, the need to be able to communicate with other players in the game is more critical. While it is possible to do with with a standard microphone and audio speakers on a computer, they tend to be distracting for players on both ends. An audio headset gives the immersion of being inside the game while allowing the player to better control what audio is sent to the other players. Sennheiser is a huge name in audio and they make some superb yet affordable headsets. The PC 310 uses a standard mini-jack audio and microphone plug to work with just about any type of PC. Priced around $70.
The keyboard is the primary input device for all computers. Of course any old standard computer keyboard will work for playing PC games, but a gaming keyboard can provide that extra edge over other players. The primary feature for gaming keyboards are programmable macro keys. Fancier models offer features such as LCD displays and backlighting. Prices range from about $75 to over $200.
7. Gaming Mouse
For many games, the mouse is used as the primary means of looking around and aiming. The precision of this input device is critical to being successful in the games. The average computer mouse has a very limited resolution and sensitivity making them not very useful, especially for first person shooter games. Logitech has released the G9x gaming mouse that offers high precision laser tracking, programmable buttons, sensitivity adjustment up to 5700dpi and even adjustable weight to provide just the right amount of heft. It even has onboard memory to store up to five profiles for easy access for game macros between PCs. Prices range from $65 to $80.
8. PC Gamepad
More and more games are being made across multiple platforms. This means that a publisher creates a game that is available for the PC, XBOX 360 and PS3. When games are designed like this, they tend to have a control scheme designed for a gamepad even when used with the PC. Because of this, a gamepad for the PC is a very useful device for gamers. Microsoft developed their XBOX 360 controller to use a standard USB connector. This allows their standard controller for the console to also function with the PC. When a game is available for both the XBOX 360 and the PC, generally the game already has controls mapped out to the controller for the PC. This makes it one of the easiest controllers to setup and use on a PC. Price is around $50.
Flight simulation games are a popular genre for PC gaming. While it is possible to play these games using a mouse and keyboard, they don't provide the same level of experience as using the same style controls one would find in a plane. There are a number of specialty companies and products out there for flight sims but they can get extremely expensive or unique to one particular setup. The Saitek X52 Pro flight control system is a good system that is very flexible yet affordable. It comes with both a flight stick and throttle unit with a huge number of switches and programmable buttons. There are even programmable LEDs that can light up in certain conditions within a game. The controller uses USB with prices between $140 to $200.