Buying a gift for an avid gamer is a little trickier than usual right now. New models of PlayStation 4, Xbox One and other current-generation video game consoles aren't expected until the 2020 holiday season and many a serious gamer already has at least one, if not all of the available models. There are newer, upgraded versions that are worth considering, but a better gift idea could be to explore a retro video game console, upgraded controller, or a virtual reality gaming headset (which has taken a big leap forward).
Here's what we consider to be an amazing lineup of the best gaming gifts for the discerning gamer in your life. This list will be updated as new and worthwhile gaming gear hits my desk.
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Dell's is a 13.3-inch laptop that's so trimmed up that the body is basically the size of an older 11.6-inch laptop. Being part of the company's XPS line means both its chassis and components are top notch for its class, so you're getting great battery life and performance, too. An easy-to-use keyboard makes it great for a PC gamer. Read our Dell XPS 13 (2019) review.
The Switch Lite is a smaller, lighter version of the popular Switch console, built exclusively for mobile game use (relive the days of your old Game Boy). That means it is a Switch that can't connect to your TV, but the design is perfectly hand-size, with permanently attached game controllers that won't get lost in your bag, making a great gift. In fact, the Switch Lite is arguably the gamer gift of the season. And if your gamer giftee will need to transfer game saves from an original Switch console before they play, they can navigate that particular minefield by following these instructions. Read our Nintendo Switch Lite review.
Even if it's gotten along in years, the PS4 is still a very capable game console. The biggest problem is, in the intervening five years or so, you've probably upgraded to a 4K TV, while the PlayStation 4 is still spitting out paltry 1,920x1,080 content. Is that the kind of world any gamer wants to live in and play a game in? I think not. The upgraded Pro version of the PS4 offers 4K HDR output, plus some games can take advantage of the better hardware to juice up their actual graphics for a better gaming experience. The gamer in your life will thank you. Read our PS4 Pro review.
The Xbox One X is the most powerful home game console right now in terms of raw horsepower. Like the PS4 Pro, it outputs 4K HDR. But side by side, games like Red Dead Redemption 2 look better on the One X on a high-end 4K television. Does a current Xbox One gamer really need to upgrade? Probably not, but it's a great match with a nice, big OLED TV (and a new game or two). Read our Xbox One X review.
The so-called V2 version of the original Switch has quietly made its way into stores, and many a gamer has even traded in their original Switch hardware for the new model. The difference between the two versions of the modular Switch device is a processor upgrade that promises improved battery life, which means you can play your game for longer. Most Switch stock in stories should be the new V2 version by now, but to make sure, note that the V2 Switch comes in a box with a red background on its front panel. Read our Nintendo Switch V2 impressions.
Hands-down the best overall VR game headset experience for consumers right now. While the app library for Oculus' new virtual reality headset is small, it also kills the big external cords hanging off the back, so the VR headset is perfect to play a game in a small living room or bedroom. The Quest VR headset provides an immersive VR game experience with great controls and full positional tracking -- requiring no phone, PC or game console. It's basically the VR gamer experience we were promised since at least the 1980s. Read our Oculus Quest review.
Got thousands to spend on a gaming laptop? The choices are endless for any PC gamer. Want to spend less than $1,000, but still not come off as a total cheapskate? This is our favorite budget game laptop right now, with the right mix of decent keyboard design, good gaming power and mainstream features. Read our Dell G5 15 review.
Like PC gaming, but prefer to do it from the comfort of your sofa? The appropriately named Couchmaster may be gigantic and garish, but it has room for any gaming keyboard, mouse or laptop, no matter how big. It's basically a big plastic desk that sits on two giant foam boxes, like an old-school TV tray, while you play your game. But inside this desk resides a USB hub that will help route all your cables to a single output. Bonus: There's very little chance your giftee will get this gamer accessory from anyone else.
If you're going to go all-out and spend as much on a game laptop as one might on a decent smart refrigerator, it's hard to go wrong with the expertly made Origin PC Eon17-X. It's got desktop-level keyboard and components, including the newest Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU, and configuration options that go from expensive to really expensive, to really, really expensive. Part of the appeal is also the excellent hands-on customer service this Florida-based company offers to any PC gamer. Read our review of the Origin PC Eon17-X.
I get that $179 seems like a lot to spend on a single game controller, even as a gift for a gamer you like a lot. The Series 2 version of the Xbox Elite gamepad is a big step up from any other game console controller you can use to play, buttons and all. You can adjust the tension on the thumbsticks, and the controller will work with the Xbox One, gaming PCs and next year's Project Scarlett next-gen Xbox, and the rock-solid build and buttons feel better than any other game controller I've used. New for this series' controller is a nicer texture on the grips, and a cool charging dock built into the case. Read more about the Xbox Elite Series 2.
Who knew people would want to play retro micro consoles like they have? The Nintendo NES Classic and SNES Classic were both huge hits with players (the PlayStation PS1 Classic, less so), but this Sega Genesis version was the one an entire generation of Gen-X gamers were waiting for. The list of included games to play is solid, leaning heavily on Sega Genesis nostalgia. Original pack-in video game Altered Beast is there, as is Sonic the Hedgehog and Ecco the Dolphin, plus Phantasy Star IV and the Zelda-like Beyond Oasis. They make for great gifts, and they're cheaper than an arcade machine. Read the Sega Genesis Mini review.
Originally published in 2019.