Say hello to our first-ever Buyer’s Guide dedicated to consoles, turbocharged headsets and all gaming things . It’s a wide, wide world out there, and choosing the right console and accessories is a daunting task. So whether there’s a special gamer in your life, or you’re looking to make a few upgrades yourself, we have the top 17 picks right here.
Microsoft Xbox One
The Xbox One had a very rough start thanks to some PR gaffes on Microsoft’s part, but Redmond has been diligently addressing them since last year’s launch. Whether it’s with monthly firmware updates or a $349 holiday bundle that includes a Kinect-less console and a game, we have no reservations recommending it.
Sony PlayStation 4
There are so many similarities between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that it’s incredibly hard to recommend one over the other. If you go for the PS4, you’re getting access to a huge selection of (mostly great) indie titles in addition to third-party games that look a little better on Sony’s console. What it’s lacking, at least for now, is a killer lineup of games that you can’t play anywhere else.
Sony PlayStation Vita
If you can only buy one portable game console this year, buy a 3DS XL — but if you can grab two? Give the PlayStation Vita some serious consideration. It’s less portable, true, but it has a gorgeous 5-inch screen, two actual thumbsticks and a library filled with sleeper hits like Spelunky and Hotline Miami.
Nintendo 3DS XL
Nintendo’s 3DS XL is far and away the best handheld console on the market, and potentially the best value for any game console currently available. It has a voluminous library of excellent games that aren’t constrained to touch controls, and better yet, it’s significantly more affordable than the mobile alternatives.
Hyperkin Retron 5 Gaming Console
Hyperkin’s Retron 5 can solve all of your retro gaming problems: Not only does the Android-powered console support cartridges from several classic systems (including NES, SNES, Famicom, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance), but it also outputs them all through HDMI — giving you a crystal-clear picture on modern TVs.
Dell Alienware 17
If you’re shopping for a new gaming laptop, you’d be smart to check out the Alienware 17. This machine offers all the screaming performance you’d expect from a 17-inch gaming rig, not to mention durable build quality, an attractive design and a best-in-class keyboard.
Razer Blade (2014)
It’s not cheap, but if you have deep pockets, the new Razer Blade is the closest thing you’ll find to a no-compromise gaming laptop. Aside from the price, the one thing we don’t like about the new Blade is that it trades stellar battery life for a sharper 3,200 x 1,800 display.
Asus ROG G751
The ASUS ROG G751 is one of the best gaming rigs available. This machine features a distinctive offset screen hinge with brushed-metal accents, an excellent keyboard and all the power you could ask for. It’s still as big and heavy as laptops come, but ASUS’ superb build quality and attention to detail make up for the category’s usual trade-offs.
MSI GT70 Dominator
MSI’s 17-inch GT70 laptop was so good the first time around, the company barely made any changes to the 2014 model, dubbed the “Dominator.” As ever, it offers powerful gaming performance, along with a comfortable keyboard and trackpad, and robust audio quality.
Astro A50 Wireless Headset
There are a plethora of cheaper gaming headsets out there, but we can say without a doubt that the Astro A50 wireless headset is the best you can buy. They also sound incredible, and are extremely easy to set up and operate.
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
If you want your Twitch viewers to be able to see your live reactions, you’re going to want a good webcam. For gamers on a budget, Logitech’s C920 is a strong choice.
Elgato Game Capture HD60
Sure, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One feature built-in options for livestreaming and editing video of your gaming exploits, but they’re pretty limited compared to what the Elgato Game Capture HD60 offers. It’s damn-near foolproof to set up (just plug it in and install the software) and it offers more options for game broadcasting and recording than you’ll likely ever need.
Blue Microphones Yeti
If you’re serious about recording game commentary or livestreaming your gameplay on Twitch, take a look at Blue Microphones’ Yeti. It’s an excellent recording tool with a handy plug-and-play USB interface.
Xbox 360 Wireless Gamepad and Receiver for Windows
Sure, you could use a current-generation Xbox One or PlayStation 4 gamepad for PC gaming, but who wants to deal with wires or Bluetooth dropping? The Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver simplifies all that with an easy solution for using Xbox 360 gamepads wirelessly.
Xbox One Controller Charger
The Xbox One controller seemingly lasts forever on a pair of fresh AA batteries, but even those are bound to wear out. The Microsoft-flavored Energizer charging stand is pretty similar to the PS4 model, but includes two 1,200mAh rechargeable battery packs to keep the action going.
PS4 Controller Charger
How do you solve the inherent problem of the DualShock 4’s terrible battery life without resorting to clunky onboard battery packs? With an Energizer charging stand. Setup is simple and the unit looks a lot cooler sitting on an end table than a tangle of micro-USB cables does.
Antec Bias Lighting
Late-night gaming sessions can wreak havoc on your eyes if you aren’t careful, and that’s where Antec’s Bias Lighting comes in. This self-adhering LED strip sticks to the back of your display, is powered by your screen’s USB port and one kit is big enough to accommodate up to a 65-inch screen.