PC gamers are a tough, discriminating crowd to shop for. And if you don’t know the difference between an SSD and a GPU, it makes shopping even harder—can you imagine browsing for LED fans and power supply cables without knowing what you’re looking for? Yikes.
But don’t worry—to make it easier for you, we’ve assembled a list of the best gifts for PC gamers that won’t break the bank. This is the gear that our gaming-obsessed staff is pining over this season, and there’s a little something to fit everyone’s needs.
EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video card
Despite what you may have heard about gaming hardware, your PC doesn’t need more RAM or a faster hard drive for gaming. No, it’s all about the graphics card that drives the pixels to the screen.
For gamers that are still using ancient graphics cards, EVGA’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC ($150 MSRP, same price on Amazon) is a wonderful upgrade. With 4GB of GDDR5 and Nvidia’s latest Pascal architecture, it’s the budget card of the season. Even better, the new card is so efficient that it doesn’t need external power, so it stands a better chance of being compatible with older PCs.
Kingston HyperX Cloud headset
How great of a gift is Kingston’s HyperX Cloud ($78.95 MSRP, same price on Amazon) gaming headset? It’s so good, we’re recommending it for our second year in a row—it’s the only item to return from last year’s gift guide.
This headset features 53mm drivers and sound quality that is second to none in its price range. Available in a black/red combo or black/white combo, the HyperX Cloud’s main weakness is the microphone, but don’t worry—it’s still quite workable. Kingston even bundles an airplane and phone adapter if you’d like to use these analog headphones with other devices.
Logitech G610 Orion Red keyboard
If it’s a keyboard you’re after, Logitech’s G610 Orion ($120 MSRP, $90 on Amazon) is pretty hard to beat: It’s made by big-name company Logitech, doesn’t break the bank, and it features authentic Cherry MX mechanical switches (which is a big step up from Logitech’s Romer-based switches). It also has an easy-to-find roller for quick volume control, which means your gamer can stay focused on the task at hand.
But one of the best parts about the G610 Orion is its looks—it comes in an understated all-black design that doesn’t scream “I’M A GAMER!!” like many other gaming keyboards out there.
Samsung 750 EVO SSD
If your PC gamer is working on a budget build—but doesn’t have the budget for an SSD—this one gift will change their life. SSDs can turn a slow computer into a faster one, as they increase the storage performance by several magnitudes more than what a hard drive offers. When introduced, SSDs were insanely expensive, but prices have come down considerably since then.
Samsung’s 750 EVO SSD (prices start at $60 on Amazon) is among the best—if not the best—cheap drive out today. (At $57 for 120GB, what’s not to love?) And, yes, if you’re feeling a little more spendy, the 240GB and 480GB versions are even better... just not as cheap.
Valve Steam Link and Steam Controller
Your PC gamer probably already has a massive collection of Steam games, so Valve’s Steam Link ($50 MSRP, same price on Amazon) is a great gift option. The Steam Link connects to your PC via Wi-Fi or a wired network, and streams games from your PC to the TV screen. Is it as good as putting a PC in front of your TV? No, but a small-form-factor gaming machine can’t be had for $50, and it gets you out of the den and into the living room. (Our review of the Steam Link gives more details of the limitations of the device, but for the PC gamer, this gift is an easy one.)
Because you’re buying the Steam Link as a gift, you may also want to buy the Steam Controller ($50 MSRP, same price on Amazon). This controller gets you “closer” to a mouse-and-keyboard experience thanks to its dual-haptic pads. It’s an acquired taste, but for a PC gamer who isn’t acclimated to Xbox or PS4 controllers, it might be the easier path to take.
Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse
Picking a mouse without testing them out is tough, but trust us on this one. Logitech’s G502 Proteus Spectrum ($80 MSRP, $57.45 on Amazon) is an upgrade of one of Logitech’s best mice, but with the addition of 16.8 million customizable color LEDs. How good is it? Our reviewer said of the Proteus Spectrum, “the best gaming mouse just got better.” Mic drop. Even more amazing, it’s actually affordable.
Alienware 13 laptop
Most of our gaming gifts are for those who have budget limitations. But if you’re an investment banker or venture capitalist—or if bubblin’ crude came up out of the ground while you were shootin' for some food—the ultimate gift for a gamer this year (besides an Nvidia GeForce Titan X Pascal) is the Alienware 13 gaming laptop (starting at $1,200 MSRP). This laptop features an Intel quad-core CPU, a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, and a drop-dead gorgeous OLED screen.
There are certainly more powerful gaming laptops out there, but what we like about the Alienware 13 is its compact size. It can be your only gaming machine, but it’s really for gamers who already have a desktop rig, but want an option for gaming on the go.
Don’t, however, expect a super-light laptop. In fact, it’s a bit hefty at five pounds, but that weight means it can soak up the heat far better than super-thin gaming laptops.