Game Front’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Page 1: Intro | Page 2: Games | Page 3: Gaming Peripherals | Page 4: PC Components

Keyboards

Mad Catz Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 Gaming Keyboard

Price: $299.99
Buy It From: Amazon

The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 incorporates basically every single piece of technology possible into a keyboard. In addition to a few macro keys, Mad Catz also incorporated a color touchscreen. Overkill? Maybe. But once you get used to using it, you sorely miss it when it’s gone. From controls for media to a game launcher to backlighting controls, there’s a lot of functionality in that little screen. Oh, did I mention it’s modular?

That’s right, you can assemble the pieces of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 in any configuration you want, from a standard keyboard layout to a numpad and touchscreen only gaming controller. It even includes two extra sets of WASD and arrow keys so you can choose the style that suits you. It’s a little pricey, but if you’re shopping for the PC gamer who wants the latest piece of awesome tech gear, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 fits the bill.

Logitech G710 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Price: $149.99
Buy It From: Amazon

Unlike the other keyboards on this list, the G710 is mechanical, sporting Cherry Red switches. While the keys aren’t as “whisper-quiet” as the ads might claim, the noise from the keys certainly isn’t distracting. As with other members of the G-series from Logitech, the G710 offers up customizable G-keys. Six keys are available, with 3 macros sets per key. While that’s a lot less keys than the classic G15, it’s certainly enough for most gamers.

Besides macros, the G710 incorporates dual-zone backlighting, 110-key anti-ghosting, and a nice, solid feel. As is the case with most mechanical keyboards, it’s a bit heavier than you might expect. Still, it’s nothing that you’ll notice. All in all, it’s a solid, dependable keyboard with just enough features to make a gamer happy. If you prefer the feel of a mechanical keyboard, you should check this one out.

ROCCAT Isku Gaming Keyboard

Price: $89.99
Buy It From: Amazon

The Isku is a traditional membrane keyboard, which may be a turnoff for mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, but it’s nonetheless comfortable to type with, relatively silent, and has LED backlighting and anti-ghosting capabilities that allow you to press multiple keys at once without issue. It also allows this keyboard to sneak in at an affordable price — more so if you factor in Holiday discounts.

But what puts the Isku on this list is its macro capabilities. Built into this keyboard is a column of five macro keys to the right of Caps Lock, accessible to your pinky while keeping your hand centered around WASD, and three “thumbster” keys below the spacebar for easy thumb access. All eight of these keys are fully configurable and can run custom macros, but it’s ROCCAT’s Easy-Shift technology that really impresses here.

Easy-Shift is a function that allows you to hold down one key in order to access a secondary function on another key, much like the traditional shift key. This Easy-Shift key, which defaults to override the rather useless Caps Lock key but can be reassigned to the thumbster or macro keys, allows you to assign a total of 36 functions to the macro and thumbster keys, as well as 20 keys centered around WASD.

This means that, while gaming, you’ll have no reason to move your hand out of position, nor will you need to break your head re-assigning a game‘s default keys to fit into that tight area. Further, the keyboard can store up to five unique profiles, so if your setup for one game doesn’t work in another, you can easily create a second profile and switch between them freely.

Gaming Mice

ROCCAT Kone+

Price: $79.99
Buy It From: Amazon

A large mouse with a comfortable design, the Kone[+] has a customizable weight, a 1000Hz polling rate and a 6000dpi laser sensor, and a tracking & distance control feature that lets you optimize lift-off distance and fine-tune the sensor for your gaming surface.

This mouse features a total of 12 buttons, with its ancillary buttons positioned such that you won’t be clicking them accidentally, yet they are still relatively easy to access. One of those buttons is the Easy-Shift, which allows for a total of 22 mouse functions. Like the ROCCAT Isku keyboard, the Kone[+] is macro-ready, with the ability to store up to five different profiles in memory.

The best aspect of the Kone[+], however, is ROCCAT Talk, a technology that synergizes the Isku and Kone[+] by allowing the press of one Easy-Shift button to apply to both the keyboard and the mouse — at your option, of course. If you feel that pressing two mouse buttons at once is awkward, then the ability to press the Easy-Shift button on your keyboard to access the secondary functions on the Kone[+] buttons will feel so much more natural and allow for seamless gaming.

SteelSeries Sensei

Price: $89.99
Buy It From: Amazon

SteelSeries has a long history with gaming mice, and it’s embodied in the Sensei. Utilizing a laser sensor at 5,700 CPI and an ambidextrous shape, the Sensei fits your hand quite nicely, even if you’ve got large paws like me. The SteelSeries engine software lets you set up profiles, customize the CPI, change the color of the illumination, and even upload a customized bitmap graphic to the mouse. That graphic will appear on the LCD screen on the bottom of your mouse, which can also be used to adjust any of the mouse’s settings.

Add in the macro support and features like adjustable lift distance, and you’ve got a mouse that would be right at home in any PC gamer’s arsenal. Don’t like the silver color? Check out the Raw version, which is available in glossy or rubberized black.

Logitech G600

Price: $79.99
Buy It From: NewEgg

MMO gamers, your mouse has arrived. Sporting a whopping 20 buttons, the Logitech G600 incorporates a new G-shift feature that allows you to have multiple functions on every button. It also fits your hand very nicely, especially if you’ve got a bit larger hand than most folks. It’s comfortable to use, even for longer play sessions.

The G600 features an 8200 DPI laser, on-the-fly DPI shifting, and even a braided USB cable to combat fraying. Most importantly, all three profiles for the mouse are stored onboard, so you can change all your button assignments, lighting preferences and more without any software at all.

While some gamers may not need the large number of buttons that the G600 offers, if you do, you won’t be disappointed with this mouse.

Headsets

Logitech G35 Surround Sound Headset

Price: $129.99
Buy It From: Amazon

The headset entry into Logitech’s G-series, the G-35 gets a ton of things right. It incorporates 3 G-keys which can be used for any macro or hotkey that you like. By default, they control your music, but you can have them do anything from activating push-to-talk to changing your voice to sound like a robot. The mic boom isn’t flimsy like some headsets; instead, it’s a solid bar that appears to be pretty darn durable so far. The G35 also include 3 interchangeable headband pads to make sure it fits you just right.

Most importantly, the sound is outstanding. In standard stereo mode, voices are crisp and clear, and music sounds great, with punchy lows, solid mids, and clear highs. In surround mode (toggled by a switch on the left ear cup), the G35 Makes gaming sound great, with gunshots seeming to come from all around while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

It’s not wireless, but the G35 incorporates all the features and functionality you need for long gaming sessions in comfort. The only downside (for some) is that it’s a USB headset, which can make the transition from headset to speakers a little tricky if you’re in the middle of anything. It’s a little pricey, but it’s definitely a quality product.

Steelseries 7H

Price: $129.99
Buy It From: Amazon

If you like to take your gaming headset along while traveling, or you want a headset that can transition from gaming to your iPod without a hitch, the Steelseries 7H fits the bill. It features a pull-out microphone concealed in the left ear cup, an in-line volume control / muting switch, and one of my favorite features, interchangeable ear cushions. Snap on the leather set, and you’ll be immersed in your sound, often times oblivious to what’s happening around you. Switch to the cloth cushions, and you’ll be able to hear through your game sound, allowing communication with teammates. The 7H also quickly and easily breaks down into 4 pieces, making it a great travel companion.

The 7H uses 3.5mm connectors, and even includes an extension cord to allow you to route however you like. In our testing, the 7H was accurate at both high and low volumes, felt great, and was comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions. The retractable mic allows you to tuck it away when you’re not gaming, meaning this headset can easily double as I music listening set, if you so desire. Again, these headphones are a bit pricey, but you’re definitely getting what you pay for.

ROCCAT Kave

Price: $119.99
Buy It From: Amazon

This 5.1 Surround Sound headset is gamer ready, featuring a fully rotatable and completely removable microphone — which lights up when muted, so your teammates won’t accidentally overhear your conversation with your significant other — noise cancelling earcups, an adjustable vibration unit, and a desktop remote.

The “Tip’n'Control” remote can be placed firmly on your desktop — no more fumbling with buttons on the side of your head mid-action. The remote allows you to separately control the center, front and rear volume, as well as the bass. You can even switch between sound-profiles.

Want to make sure you hear someone sneaking up on you from behind with a knife? Blast that rear volume.

ASTRO A50 Bundle

Price: $299.99
Buy It From: AstroGaming

What You Get: A50 Headset, MixAmp, Two USB Cables (one to power the MixAmp, one for charging the headset), One XBL Chat Cable, One Optical Cable, Stand

What’s better than a sweet “regular” gaming headset? How about one that works flawlessly – and wirelessly – with three of the four major gaming platforms? That’s exactly what the ASTRO A50 Wireless Headset accomplishes, playing nice with your PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (sorry, Nintendo Wii’ers).

The A50 bundle combines the Dolby Digital-packing A50 headset with the latest MixAmp ASTRO has to offer. What separates it from the heralded A40 system ASTRO’s been selling since 2008? Less wires and more audio options, of course! The A50’s charge via USB when not in use — or even during use if A) you play games all day like the champion of life you are, and B) you buy the $7.99 Play and Charge cable (sold separately, and the name is fancy talk for “really long USB cable”). When you’re done charging, there are zero cables between the A50’s and your console, allowing you to sit far away on the couch, use the headset for Netflix while watching ESPN from the kitchen, or my favorite maneuver, which may or may not involve my bathroom, a series of mirrors and Netflix…

The only cable that gets in your way is when the Xbox is used, as you still need a chat cable between the headset and the controller. When it comes to the PS3 and your compatible* (depends on your sound card) PC, voice is transmitted to the MixAmp wireless, and audio vice-versa. The digital optical cable handles audio, while USB powers the MixAmp and handles voice. The A50 is very well designed, too, including a flip-up-to-mute microphone, volume and mix controls built into the headphones (no dongle!) and three audio modes: Media, Core and Pro. Media brings up the low end, Core is a fairly even mix that’s good for most games, and Pro brings up the high end. The latter is best for your Halos and Call of Dutys as the high-end is accentuated, allowing you to pick up on movements and gunfire a bit easier.

While the $300 asking price is a bit steep, the ASTRO A50 is a great buy for any multi-system gamer. The sound quality is some of the best you’ll find in any 7.1 virtual surround sound setup, the mic sounds pristine, and it’s comfortable, to boot. Don’t expect the battery in the A50 to last the advertised 12 hours, but you won’t be throwing yours against the wall two hours after a “full charge,” either (7-10 hours is a better estimate, depending on which system the A50 is paired with).

And hey, if you think all this wireless audio talk is the devil’s work, check out the A40 bundle as well. It’s got more wires, but it’s $50 cheaper AND it’s more PC-friendly!

Page 1: Intro | Page 2: Games | Page 3: Gaming Peripherals | Page 4: PC Components

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