Review: 2015 Gift Guide for Hard-core Gamers

Gieson Cacho
gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com

Finding the right gifts for hard-core gamers can be challenging. They often have the newest generation of consoles. Some have already built a blazingly fast PC that can handle “Star Wars Battlefront” with the graphics turned up to ultra. They’re the type of person who buys the latest games the second they’re released.

So what do you get the gamer who has everything? There’s one avenue worth exploring, and that’s e-sports. It’s a burgeoning part of the industry with companies making high-end gear for players seeking an edge over the competition. But with several choices among controllers, keyboards and headsets, it can be tough to pick the right gift. With that in mind, I’ve amassed a list of gaming’s best e-sports gear:

Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller ($149.99): No other gadget impressed me as much as Microsoft’s top-end controller. Built with sturdy parts and boasting innovative features such as paddles on the back, this is a must-have for any gamer, especially competitive “Halo” players. The first-rate material gives the controller a tanklike sturdiness. Couple that with customizable parts and an app that lets players adjust the tiniest settings, and the Elite already has an edge on its rivals. But what puts this over the top is the feel of the controller in your hands. The analog sticks have the perfect amount of give, and movements feel silky and luxurious. Going from a stock controller to this one is like switching from driving a Honda Civic to a Mercedes Benz.

Lastly, the paddles on the back give players a distinct edge. Because players never have to take their thumbs off the sticks, they can save that second normally used to hit a face button and use it toward firing down a hallway or switch gears in a race. It’s a controller feature that’s a long time coming.

Corsair Gaming STRAFE RGB MX Silent ($159.99): It’s no secret that most competitive PC gamers prefer mechanical keyboards. There’s something about the click of a key that makes it a top choice among those who play “Counter-Strike Go” or “League of Legends.” That said, the best mechanical keyboard on the market comes from Corsair Gaming and its STRAFE line. These feature customizable illuminated keys and a solid build-quality. But what separates it from its peers is the German-made Cherry switches. Nothing can quite duplicate the feel, responsiveness or durability of these parts. The one drawback is that Cherry switches are notoriously loud. But Corsair worked with Cherry to mitigate the noise factor, and it pays off with this great keyboard.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X ($149.99): There’s a reason Turtle Beach dominates the headset market: It offers feature-packed devices with excellent audio. The Stealth 420X continues that tradition, but the big selling point this time around is that the headset gives players wireless gaming audio and chat. No cords and an easy setup make this one of the most convenient headsets I’ve used. The only thing that’s lacking is surround sound and customizable presets, but that’s available in Turtle Beach’s pricier models — the Elite 800X ($299) and the Stealth 500X ($229).

Astro A40 TR + Mixamp Pro TR Edition ($250): Astro Gaming doesn’t change its products often, but when they do, there’s a good reason for it. With the Tournament Ready edition of the venerable A40 headset and Mixamp, the company updates the devices with an eye toward the e-sports scene. The headset boasts more customizations with the ability to modify the ear cups to be noise isolating. The Mixamp’s upgrades focus on the digital end with features that make it better for teams participating in big competitions. By daisy chaining the devices together with FireWire, they can communicate with each other without delays or hiccups.

For gamers using the headset at home, the TR edition of the A40 and Mixamp offers big, rich sound and features such as presets geared toward shooters. Players can even add their own audio adjustments using the Astro Command Center software. Lastly, it supports Dolby 7.1 surround sound, so players will have a better sense of where bullets are flying in a game.

Turtle Beach Star Wars Battlefront Sandtrooper Gaming Headset ($99.99): For gamers on a budget, these cans not only sound great, but you can also wear them outside the living room and not feel embarrassed. Just be sure to remove the mic. Credit the eye-catching “Star Wars” design that mimics the look of Sandtroopers. Turtle Beach makes up for the lack of features with the clear and crisp audio that the company has perfected over the years. If you’re a “Star Wars” fan, this is the headset you’re looking for.

gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com.