We’ve already given you an idea as to what video games you should probably pick up for your friends and family. Now, it’s time to look over some of the awesome gear we’ve picked up throughout the year, and what you need to make your holiday pop. With everything from the newest consoles, like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, to an energy supplement of all things in Aimbot 1.1, we’ve got you covered to help in making the best decisions as you peruse the online shopperverse. As long as Amazon doesn’t decide to turn it into a “metaverse”, I think we’ll all be fine.
Gear & Hardware:
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year, but here we are. And what a year it has been! Demon’s Souls, Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales, Death Stranding Director’s Cut, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, Deathloop…heck, even Astro’s Playroom was a blast. So many games are still coming to PlayStation 4, but the PlayStation 5 is where you should be playing them. 60fps, 4K, and a fantastic implementation of the DualSense make it hard to pass up, especially when you hear that Sony’s PlayStation Studios has another 25 exclusives coming shortly.
Xbox Series X:
Two words: Halo Infinite. Two more words: Game Pass. There is simply no better value in gaming right now than that, and with games like A Plague Tale: Requiem, Atomic Heart, Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl, Fable 4, State of Decay 3, CrossfireX, Redfall, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, Warhammer 40K: Darktide, and more coming in 2022, there’s plenty to be excited about. Microsoft has done a fantastic job of picking up the right teams at the right times, and gamers are the beneficiaries. The Xbox Series X also has the simplest storage upgrade of both next-gen platforms — just plug and go. Oh, and they also purchased Bethesda. So…Starfield on consoles is exclusive to the Xbox Series X/S, at least for now. Until then, more Halo Infinite please!
Game Pass Ultimate:
It’s still the best value for your gaming dollar, hands down, full stop. With games like Back 4 Blood, Marvel’s Avengers, Psychonauts 2, The Medium, The Ascent, Hades, and Scarlet Nexus (just to name a few!) coming to the service on launch day, it’s a great way to try out the best games with very little risk to your pocketbook. There’s a reason why this is on our list year after year.
Nintendo Switch OLED:
Sure, we all wanted a power upgrade for our favorite Nintendo handheld, the number of quality of life upgrades and double the storage space combined with the bright and colorful new OLED screen make this an excellent mid-cycle upgrade for anyone taking their Switch on the go.
GeForce RTX cards:
Yeah, I know…these are so hard to get that places like NewEgg have literally set up lotteries for the opportunity to buy them. Still, there’s no denying that these are the most powerful cards money can buy. When we saw what DLSS could do for games like Guardians of the Galaxy (link) it was absolutely jaw dropping. Going from 7fps to 60fps at 4K thanks to DLSS on an RTX 3060 is astounding, and with DLSS 2.3 just hitting the street in the newest update, there’s no doubt that NVIDIA is well positioned to deliver incredible value for the cost. Just do yourself a favor…use something like NowInStock to find your card — resist the scalpers.
While it’s definitely more than just a single device, Stadia is one of the simplest ways to play video games. Let’s take a look at the makeup of what to use.
- The Stadia Controller: I think the most surprising thing about this one is how comfortable it is. Most controllers have that couple of days in which you have to adjust to it, but the Stadia controller just has a great feel in your hands right away, along with some great squishy triggers. While it connects through Wifi using the Stadia app or browser, you can also use it via a USB-C connection. Even though that isn’t necessarily it’s intended function, I was able to finish up a Halo Infinite daily challenge with it on the Game Pass app on my phone, proving this controller has more than one use.
- Chromecast with Google TV: One of the best streaming devices out there, the Chromecast with Google TV ranks right up there next to its competition. But not only does it come with a ton of apps and a sleek remote, but Stadia has finally made it’s awaited debut. Crisp, 4K (with Stadia Pro, we’ll talk about that below) gameplay can in fact exist in the cloud gaming world, along with HDR and Dolby Vision and Atmos, and the Chromecast with Google TV is how you can do it. It’s a little higher than some at $50 (although regular sales have it around $40), but the feature set is well worth your dollars.
While the sheer number of games available may not be the same as the staggering amount that Game Pass has, Stadia Pro has found a great niche, adding titles like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Mafia III Definitive Edition, and Control Ultimate Edition. Not to mention, you can take it with you almost anywhere, with the cloud service available on mobile, computer, and through Google’s own Chromecast devices. It’s truly something to boot into a game without needing an update or to download 50gbs+, especially considering they all run so smoothly.
FlexiSpot Standing Desk:
There are some things you want, and some things you need. This is the latter. I didn’t realize just how much sitting was contributing to my back problems until I got the FlexiSpot Standing Desk. Put simply, it’s a life changer. The construction on this desk is top notch, and the warranty will help keep it that way. As many of us shift to working from home, this is one splurge you’ll want to make. Your back will thank you for it. There’s also an ongoing Black Friday sale all the way till November 29th, so now’s the time to pick one up!
Sit2Go 2-in-1 Fitness Chair:
There’s no end in sight for the pandemic, but a great many of us have simply moved to a work from home situation. Making time for exercise is important, but being able to do so while working is just a cheat code for getting healthy once again. The Sit2Go 2-in-1 Fitness Chairs let you burn a few calories while you work, though you’ll probably look a little funny bobbing back and forth on camera during your favorite Zoom meeting.
Retro nostalgia is at an all time high and thanks to Arcade1Up you can now re-create the arcades of yesteryear in your home. Arcade1Up specializes in 3/4th size arcade machines that nearly perfectly emulate the look and feel of the original arcade machines. Arcade1Up has innovated since their inception, delivering quality products and constantly expanding their array of home arcade machines. In the past year alone the company has released multiple pinball machines and the Arcade1Up Infinity Table, in addition to a steady stream of new arcade releases and legacy machines. Their latest line-up includes arcade classics such as The Simpsons, X-Men, Tron, Killer Instinct, T2, and Ridge Racer.
If you work in videography or photography, you need a good control surface. This device allows you to quickly switch between panels and scenes, quickly important and adjust clips, make cuts and moves, and so much more. It truly is a force multiplier, allowing you to quickly whip together video clips, adjust color, and build content rapidly. There were some hiccups with the software at launch, but recent software improvements have made this an absolute must-have. It may be a little pricey, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Loupedeck’s second device is aimed at a different audience than their CT unit. In addition to editing, the Live is geared towards live streamers, and it does a fantastic job of serving that purpose. Our resident streamer Adam “Rex” Moreno does livestreams of our favorite gaming events, and something like this device would make that significantly easier to switch between scenes, camera angles, and many other functions well beyond simple toggles. If you are a streamer, don’t just buy the Streamdeck — take a look at what Loupedeck is doing as it might serve you better for the same money.
Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD [PS5/PC]:
There are only a handful of trusted drives with enough speed to keep up with the internals of the PlayStation 5, and only one that seems to be reliably available — the Seagate FireCuda 530. This NVMe drive delivers consistent speed, and when combined with a solid heatsink, the performance and storage you’ll need for the amazing games on the Horizon! (Enjoy that pun — you deserve it) If you’ve got yourself a fancy new Z690 motherboard with a 12th Gen Intel Processor to power it, then this is easily an excellent choice for maximum performance for your new rig.
Nibble – a STEM DIY Console:
I’m a huge supporter of STEM, and I work to support them in any way I can. A company called Circuitmess has put together an ambitious and cool project that lets you assemble the console, play a few retro games, and ultimately CODE NEW ONES! If your kid loves video games, and might have a desire to make games for a living, this could be the cornerstone of their potential future career. I wish I had known that making videogames was a real profession when I was a kid! These will take about 2 hours to build as you learn a little bit of soldering, some electronics concepts, and even a little C/C++, Python, and Scratch. Built on an Arduino platform, this starter box is suitable for anyone 9 and older, though adults will absolutely love tinkering with these as well.
Turtle Beach Recon Controller:
If you game on PC, you need a good controller. Whether you go wired or wireless, having something with sticks and triggers for games like Hades is a must. The Turtle Beach Recon controller gives you all of that, and then adds in audio functionality (hello mic monitoring channel!) that is normally reserved for an external device. And it does it all for the same price as a normal controller.
HyperX Cloud Earbuds:
Sometimes you want the freedom of wireless bluetooth headphones, and sometimes you don’t want yet another thing to charge. HyperX has made some super comfortable earbuds that come with a convenient case to keep them disentangled, making them easy to grab and go for long trips where you don’t want “single serving friends”. Heavy in the midrange, they also sound great doing it.
HyperX Chargeplay Quad:
If you are like me, your Nintendo Switch spends a lot of time in docked mode. Reaching into my entertainment center to mount the Joy-Cons onto the console itself is inconvenient, so I nabbed a Chargeplay Quad from HyperX to solve that problem. Now I can throw the Joy-Cons (up to four of them) into a charger and I’m ready to play another round, or team up with friends for some competitive game time. At just $29.99, this is a steal.
No Sweat Liners:
These were on our list last year, and the year before that as well, and I’m gonna keep recommending them. No Sweat makes a sweat absorbing disposable liner in several varieties (one for hats, one that is just a strip for face masks, and one for visors. Sure, they are aiming these at golfers, baseball hat wearers, and medical professionals, but I think you know how we use em — virtual reality. These strips help absorb the sweat from our forehead when playing more active or workout games, and the little bit of anti-fogging tech makes them a must-have.
Woojer Vest Edge:
There’s immersion, and then there’s immersion. Woojer has been making auditory enhancements for quite some time, and this newest goodie takes it to the next level. More specifically, it brings total body immersion into your favorite games, regardless of platform. On the vest it has six haptic transducers capable of conveying everything from the slightest rumble all the way up to some serious thumping for a full 360 degree experience. Playing games like Until You Fall (an amazing VR game, by the way) with a Woojer Vest Edge is out of this world. I can’t wait to try it out with the upcoming Yaw 2 VR Motion Simulator — stay tuned.
Rig 500 Pro HX Gen 2 Headphones:
It’s always good to find a competent headset, but there are plenty of variables to finding the right one. Comfort, audio, mic, and durability are all important qualities to look for, and the Rig 500 Pro HX has them all. I love the ultra-light feel as it rests on my head, while the metal band gives me the peace of mind that it won’t break in half getting it there. The surround sound is also great, and the microphone works like a dream. You’ll spend more and still get less, so you might as well grab this one at its $80 price point.
Razer Anzu Smart Glasses:
Even since my review I’ve found new ways to use this set of smart glasses. The Razer Anzu gives me the flexibility to keep working while taking calls, all while protecting my eyes from the blue light coming from my monitor. They sync with my Razer Phone 2 almost instantly (no surprise that these two would be fast friends), are great for driving thanks to the included set of polarized sunglass lenses, and even got me to play a few games on my phone. If you are looking for a set of audio glasses, these are worth a look.
BenQ x1300i LED Gaming Projector:
The BenQ team turned in a stellar performance with this tiny projector. Quiet and powerful, it’s 4K HDR ready, hits 98% of the REC. 709 standard, and does it all while delivering 1080p / 120Hz with only 8ms of latency. Good for 4K movies or high-framerate games, this will turn your theater space into a 150” mega-wall screen. Best of all? It runs off LEDs, so you won’t need to change bulbs.
The M-TWE Earbuds are my new perfect companion for workouts. Long gone are the days of stumbling over to pick up my wired earbuds on the treadmill and the frustrated sighs at the terrible battery life of my older pair of Bluetooth headphones. The earbuds also work well on a commute, especially on trains, with its noise suppression and convenient touch controls, and in my experience, it lasted no less than six hours on a full charge. Overall, it makes the mundane experiences a lot more bearable.
Roccat Pyro Keyboard:
The Roccat Pyro is a stylish and comfortable keyboard that’s difficult to beat. It’s lights are colorful yet non-intrusive, and has some convenience features like a volume knob and the ability to disable the windows key for gaming. Whether you’re furiously typing some sort of holiday guide or playing an intense FPS, you can’t go wrong with this keyboard.
Origin PC EON17-X 2021 Laptop:
Origin PC continues their long tradition of somehow jamming desktop level power into impossibly small cases, and the EON17-X is no exception. With 3080 level power, this machine lets you play the latest games at the highest settings, and all while on the go. It’s a premium laptop with a premium price tag, but if you want to take desktop power on your trip to wherever, this is your choice.
WD_Black SN750 SE SSD:
By the time you read this, the WD_Black SN750 SE SSD 1TB drive will be just 89 dollars, including a copy of Battlefield 2042! Be quick! With fast speeds, despite being DRAMless, this drive is rock solid. The Acronis backup software and game are essentially a free throw-in at this price. Guess it’s a good thing we’ve got benchmarks to show that it delivers on its promises eh? Check out our full review above.
WD_Black D50 Game Dock:
If you are switching between a work and play laptop, the WD_Black D50 Game Dock is an excellent solution. With a minimally invasive footprint, it’s easily the smallest dock that sports a hard drive for backups. It’s a great way to get all of your gear on the table, allowing you to grab and go when the day is done.
WD_Black D30 SSD:
Built to bridge the gap between the previous generation of consoles and the current, the WD_Black D30 represents the perfect solution to speed up those older games, or to keep your newer games on tap when not on your primary storage. If you are like me and still rock out to Rock Band and need a place to store all your songs, this is the perfect solution.
EON Super 64:
You have three options: 1.) Try to mod your N64 to play games on your HDMI screen and likely break it, 2.) pay someone else to mod your N64 with the chance they might break it, or 3.) buy the EON Super 64 and assume none of the risk and you get all the benefits. $150 isn’t cheap, but buying a new N64 isn’t either. Just get this. It’s awesome.
EON GC-HD MK-II:
Are you a competitive Smash Bros. player, or just want to be able to use an HDMI cable to play your Nintendo GameCube? Well, very few options are available to you, unfortunately, but the top of that list is the EON GC-HD MK-II. Just like the EON Super 64, it bypasses mods that might brick your system, but it also enables both HDMI and Component output at 480p at the same time — perfect if you are running in the competitive scene. Priced at $150 it’ll set you back a little bit, but given that the component cable is on eBay for over $400, it’s a steal. Plus you can stop using tube TVs as an added bonus.
Aimbot Energy 1.1:
Energy products are truly a dime a dozen, but Aimbot actually does it’s job and looks cool doing it. The whole “science-y test tubes” look rocks, and the 300mg of caffeine is going to rock you (probably to the sky). It’s also awesome that it comes in four different flavors (just a tip, Grape Apple is the best). In a world where we’re all gaming until 3am and have work at 7am, having a box of these nearby is a smart decision.
Aukey KM-G12 Keyboard and KM-P7 RGB Mousepad:
We all have to be careful with our budgets, and mechanical keyboards ain’t cheap. Well, I say that because that’s the usual deal, but Aukey has dropped an amazing mechanical keyboard in the KM-G12. At only $60, you’re getting a real bang for your buck. Along with that you might as well grab the KM-P7 RGB mousepad, which comes in at a really good size and has a nice clean look along with some nice lighting options. Both of these are going to come in at or lower than what a high-end mechanical keyboard would cost you, and you won’t notice much of a drop off.
Seagate Storage Expansion Card [Xbox Series X/S]:
Ok, let’s be frank, it’s not like you’ve got a lot of options here. You can either saddle your brand new console with a standard hard drive or SSD of just about any speed to act as intermediary storage, copying back and forth when you want to play something, or you can skip that entirely and just enjoy your games. I like the latter option. As simple as plugging it in, the Seagate Storage Expansion Card plugs into the back of your Xbox Series X or S, instantly expanding the storage space without sacrificing any speed whatsoever. Available in 1TB or 2TB options, if you like to keep several holiday blockbusters installed, this is the right way.
EPOS H6Pro Headset:
This is EPOS’s flagship headset, and you can pick it up in open or closed configuration. Noise isolating with an excellent removable magnetized microphone, they are as comfortable as any headset at twice the price. Pushing a pair of 42mm drivers, the audio coming from these wired headphones are extraordinarily well balanced, with solid highs, lows, and mids. Coming in at $179, they are well-positioned on price for performance and features, standing at the top of the mid-tier headset. Perfect for when you don’t want to have to remember to charge just one more thing.
EPOS GTW270 earbuds:
Now that the Nintendo Switch supports Bluetooth right out of the box, we need a good pair of earbuds for gaming on the go. EPOS is easily one of the best in the audio business, and they’ve got a great pair of low-profile ear buds for exactly that purpose. If you want to use them with your PlayStation 4 or 5, or Xbox One, Series X/S, or PC, then the included low-latency USB-C dongle has you covered. These TWS buds are going to last you around 5 hours from our testing, with the carrying case itself offering up around 3 full charges. The dongle is surprisingly low-latency, though you do lose the microphone when you use it. Still, these are comfortable, and your mic is intact when using Bluetooth. An excellent first attempt from EPOS, and one I can recommend.
Assassin’s Creed Atlas book:
Assassin’s Creed has always been steeped in real-world historic settings, and this Atlas helps bring them all to life — even the ones that have been lost to antiquity. If you are a long-standing fan of the series, this virtual tour of the world is a must have.
EZQuest Ultra High Speed HDMI cables:
HDMI cables come in all shapes and sizes, and as the team at Linus Tech Tips can tell you, their quality is all over the place. Now, I don’t have the tools to test them the way they did, but I did happen on a cable provider I have found to be reliable — EZQuest. Their newest HDMI cables use a nylon braided design to prevent wear and tear, with a multi-point strain relief section at the end. At 7.2 feet, they should work for just about any setup, and best of all, they’ve been tested all the way up to 10K resolution — that’s 10240x4320! Skip that Monster nonsense and pick up an HDMI 2.2 cable that’s gonna be reliable and stay that way for the life of your system.
Astro.ID A40 Season 2 Headset:
Astro Gaming has an absolutely stellar headset with the A40, and now you can personalize them to make them your own. Season 2 brings over a dozen new colors, plates, and configurations, bringing the number to 60. These new configurations will help you make these look as good as they sound. Drop by and configure one for yourself!
E-WIN Flash XL Gaming Chair:
No gaming setup is complete without a comfortable seat, and no seat we’ve tested is as comfortable as the E-WIN Flash XL. With ample padding, a stellar warranty, excellent construction, and a very reasonable price, this chair is the one you are looking for. Pick one up — your butt will thank you. You can check out our unboxing video for a closer look at the chair, but our review has all the details.
HTC Vive Pro 2 VR HMD:
An incremental step from the Vive Pro, the Vive Pro 2 delivers on its 5K/120Hz promise. The new lens design delivers better quality and field of view, though black saturation underperforms. The microphone is a travesty, but once you see games like Elite Dangerous on this headset, there’s simply no going back.
Velocity One Flight Universal Controller:
There is nothing out there like Microsoft Flight Simulator. It delivers the entire world in unrivaled quality, combined with pinpoint precise controls and realism at a level that is unmatched. Well, if you want to push the immersion into the stratosphere, there’s nothing better than the Velocity One Flight Controller. Whether you are playing on Xbox or PC, these work perfectly, though they are a hot commodity — if you want one for the holidays, you’ll want to move fast!
Fanhome Subscription: Iron Man or R2D2:
You might have seen our unboxing of the initial kit for Iron Man (video) or R2D2 (video), but I can’t express just how much fun it really is to build these icons of the big screen. Coupled with fantastic artwork, shots from the set, and even some comic panels and science, there is a whole lot more here than just the build itself. It’s immersive, gives you something cool to look forward to each month, and it makes the perfect and unique gift. While COVID and shipping madness may have slowed this series down for us, look for us to continue building the amazing Mark II suit very soon!
Pimax 8K X VR HMD:
Did you buy into VR when it first came out, and now you’ve watched as headset after headset slowly moves the bar forward? Well, how about a huge leap? Pimax, once a Kickstarter darling and now a full-fledged powerhouse, has released their Pimax 8K X headset. With an ultra-wide 200 degree field of view, 4K in each eye, and a 110Hz refresh rate capable of running on an RTX 3060, this headset is a massive improvement, bringing your immersion to a whole new level. Compatible with the Valve Knuckles Controllers or the Vive Wands, as well as the standard lighthouses that came with your existing headset, there’s a lot to like here. Look for our full review as we spend more time with the hardware.