Some ideas to get you started when you're staring at a blank list for your favorite gamers.
Updated Dec. 23, 2020 4:00 a.m. PT
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Reviews ethics statement
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
is unprecedentedly popular this year, but you don't have to give an expensive, hard-to-find console or PC to spread the love -- every PC gamer needs a great gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, comfy chair or headset. Here's my first stab at a list of the best gaming accessories to gift the video gamers in your life, intended to appeal to a variety of gamers and wallets. I'll be expanding it on a regular basis, so check back.
As you're shopping, keep in mind that gamers can be a picky lot. Do you know what mouse grip she prefers? Whether he likes his keyboard switches clicky or smooth and silent? In theory, this list would need to be about 50 products long to cover all the bases just for keyboards, mice, headsets and controllers. So your best bet is to (somehow) suss out in advance what they need or want. Or at least make sure they'll be able to exchange it for something they really like.
It's amazing how good this Lightning-connected controller from startup Backbone is compared to the alternatives. It turns any iPhone 6s or later into a Nintendo Switch-style gaming experience, with added smarts for social and chatty gamers.
With budget prices but better-than-budget build quality and features, this line of mice and keyboards come highly recommended. The mice come in two sizes (which is rare), because hands aren't one-size-fits-all -- the "minus" models are the smaller sizes -- and the keyboards have swappable switches. Before you buy a keyboard, check with your giftee to find out what type of switches they prefer.
The HyperX Alloy Origin and its tenkeyless (TKL) sibling, the Alloy Origin Core, are great streamlined gaming keyboards and will only run you around $100. There are no discrete media controls, but the function keys are marked out with media controls as well as a Game Mode so you can disable the Windows key and certain key combos while gaming. (The markings are illuminated also, which isn't always the case.) The company's Ngenuity app is simple enough for building custom macros and reassigning key functions. And the keyboard's bright per-key RGB lighting is fully programmable with the app.
The Alloy Origin's braided cable is removable and, since it's a USB-C connector, you can easily plug it in without looking. Plus, rear flip-down legs give you three keyboard angles to work with.
The best controller for the crowd-pleasing console
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
If you can afford to get the official Switch Pro Controller, do it. It's the best you can give at the moment in terms of comfort, performance and features. And even if your giftee already has an inexpensive controller, this one can serve for at-home gaming while the less expensive option can be drafted for visits with friends and family.
PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch
Sitting on our list of best Nintendo Switch controllers, the PowerA Enhanced Wireless is the closest you'll find to Nintendo's own Pro. How low the price is depends on which model you buy, from Pokemon to Overwatch, though.
Steelseries' $30 Rival 3 is surprisingly decent for the money. The ergonomic right-handed six-button mouse is very light at 77g (2.7 oz.) and uses the company's TrueMove Core sensor with an 8,500 CPI and one-to-one tracking for precise movement. This wired mouse uses the same switches as the $120 Rival 650 mouse, and, while the buttons require a little more force than others we've tested, it has a fair amount of configuration possibilities, including three zones of RGB LED lights that Steelseries says are the brightest it's used in any mouse.
According to our friends at Roadshow (who know best), these are the best steering wheels for the driving-game aficionado in your life; at least, with prices in the mid-$200 range, the best that don't cost a gazillion bucks. Both are PC compatible; the G920 is designed to be used with an Xbox and the G29 with a PlayStation.
There's a BlackShark V2 headset for every budget, starting with the V2 X at $60 through the V2 Pro wireless at $180. These are some of the most comfortable headsets I've ever worn, lightweight and not too head-squeezy, with excellent sound. They all work with consoles as well through 3.5mm jacks. If you have the budget, I'd opt for at least the $100 BlackShark V2; it's got a lot of nice touches, such as a removable mic, braided cable and USB dongle.
Best Xbox/PC controller for gamers with limited mobility
Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller
Microsoft's controller lets any gamer who can't maneuver typical gaming input devices easily customize it for their particular needs. It comes with some basic inputs, like big buttons, but you might want to pair it with Logitech's $100 kit with a ton of extra inputs.
This has become one of my favorite monitors of the year. HP's 27-inch 2,560x1,440 27i features a wide color gamut (98% P3), a gaming-friendly 165Hz refresh rate with Nvidia G-Sync (over DisplayPort) and an elegant design that should pass muster with less gaming-oriented family members; it's got some simple gaming lighting, but also a useful task light shining down beneath the bottom bezel. And because of the unique port arrangement -- on the sides of a diamond in the back -- it's a lot easier to maneuver cables than the typical recessed, bottom-accessed design. I've been using it for months and I haven't had a single problem or screen artifact issue. (Note that the wide-angle photograph makes it look curved, but it's not.)
If you feel generous, one of the nicest gifts you can give is comfort -- in this case, comfort for long gaming or work-from-home sessions. The Secretlab chairs are some of the most comfortable around and come in several sizes and a ton of color and game-specific variations. For the giftee who's resisted getting gaming chairs because they tend to be flamboyant, Secretlab has a low-key black-and-gray Softweave fabric that I really like. It's not just great for pretending it's a staid office chair during the workday, but the fabric is exceptionally comfortable against sensitive skin (because you know it's shorts below the waist).
As a gift it works well, too. Secretlab packages it extremely well, and it's easy enough for the least handy in your crowd to assemble. You might want to get some posterior measurements -- if there's any discreet way to do that -- to ensure the right size, because you don't want to have to disassemble and pack it back up for a swap.
Wireless bridges create a direct wireless connection between a Wi-Fi router and another device, which helps provide a stronger signal to get through walls or to deliver a separate wireless connection that's not affected by the rest of the use in a household. The NexusLink connects directly to the router on one end and to the peripheral, such as a gaming console, PC or streaming box, via Ethernet on the other. While individual mileage may vary -- in my apartment it doesn't deliver better speeds or lower latency, for example -- but the "wired" connection does seem to be more stable and that lets me get more consistent download speeds for those 50-plus gigabyte games.
It's exceptionally easy to set up, too, and can sort of match a new PS5.