Once upon a time PAX was very special to me. Of all the gaming shows, it was the one I’d been to that was friendliest to PC players. Then I went to Gamescom and...well, let’s just say Brad and I saw some incredible PC gear a few weeks ago.
Nevertheless, PAX is still the place to be for U.S.-based PC gamers. All the usual companies came out, from Lenovo and Asus to HyperX and Razer and even Valve. I managed to snag some photos of the best hardware at the show, though unfortunately there were no pirate ship-shaped builds or, you know, all the weird stuff from Gamescom.
Step it up, PAX. I expect a whole casemod corner for 2019.
Cooler Master MK850
My colleague Gordon Ung checked out Cooler Master’s MK850 earlier this year at Computex, but PAX West was my first chance to go hands-on with this unique new keyboard. It’s certainly intriguing. Cooler Master embedded IR sensors under the WASD keys, a technology it dubs “Aimpad,” allowing for analog movement on a standard keyboard setup.
It’s not quite as natural as an analog stick, but it does indeed work. I’m curious to see whether the tech takes off or not, because it could be the first major change to WASD movement since...well, the start of WASD movement.
Razer BlackWidow Elite
We just took a look at Razer’s Huntsman Elite ($200 on Newegg) last month, the first Razer keyboard to sport dedicated media keys—and not the last either, as Razer announced the BlackWidow Elite ($169 on Razer.com) during PAX this week. You’ll notice it sports the same circular media keys as the Huntsman, which I still think is an odd choice. But hey, better than nothing right?
There’s more, too. Razer also announced a refresh of the Mamba Wireless, dropping the price to $100 and upgrading to the PWM 3389 sensor. And there’s a new Kraken headset too, the Kraken Tournament Edition, which features THX Spatial Audio and cooling gel in the ear cushions.
Xotic PC GX14 Savage
Of all the booths, AMD had the most over-the-top hardware to show off at PAX 2018. Top of the list: This dual-system setup from Xotic PC. Packed inside the massive GX14 Savage case you’ll find a full AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X system coexisting with another Ryzen 7 2700X system, with all the accompanying RAM, fans, RGB lights, and so on.
It’s beautiful to behold, though with prices starting at $2,499...well, I’ll probably keep admiring it from afar.
I’ll never get tired of these demos of spill-resistant keyboards. There’s not much to say about the drenched Corsair K68 ($100 on Amazon) here, but it’s oddly mesmerizing watching water flow over an elevated keyboard like this. You could throw this in a modern art museum for sure, I think.
Asus ROG GT51
Asus's booth can't really match the decadence of Intel or AMD's, with tons of custom-built PCs—these computers are actually meant to sell, not just impress people at trade shows. That said, I still really dig the jet engine look of the ROG GT51's front fan. Leaving the fan completely unprotected and open is a bold move, but I think it matches the aggressive look of this case perfectly.
It keeps the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti inside pretty damn cool too.
HyperX FPS Alloy RGB
The HyperX FPS Alloy is one of my favorite mid-tier keyboards, primarily because of its small footprint and no-nonsense design. The updated Alloy FPS RGB sports many of the same design cues, albeit with flashier lighting and a slightly sleeker silhouette.
The biggest change though: Kailh keys. HyperX has used Cherry on every other keyboard, but the Alloy FPS RGB will sport Kailh Speed Silvers. As far as I can tell, HyperX also worked with Kailh to expose the RGB light instead of hiding it underneath translucent plastic. I haven’t seen that before, even on other Kailh keyboards. We’ll dig into it with a proper review soon.
HyperX Fury RGB SSD
HyperX also showed off its RGB LED-laden Fury SSD, which is just about the silliest, most ostentatious piece of hardware imaginable. It’s really pretty though in person. Like, really pretty.
There’s...not much more to say. It’s an RGB SSD.
Fallout 76 Terminal
Some high-tech hardware at PAX, as this Fallout 76 terminal can attest. Unfortunately it wasn’t being used to show off the game itself—just a “Guess the Number of Caps” competition. What a slick-looking machine though.
Logitech G502 HERO
“All they did was upgrade the sensor a little bit.” I know, I know. Logitech’s new G502 HERO gaming mouse isn’t a very thrilling overhaul—definitely not the wireless G502 I’ve been hoping for. It’s still one of my all-time favorite mice though, and so any whisper of news piques my attention.
The G502 HERO ($80 on Amazon) adopts the titular HERO sensor, making it the first wired mouse to do so, and also changes out the old model’s thick cable for a slimmer, less tangle-prone version. It’s the same mouse, just slightly better, and that’s fine by me.
Gaming headsets are the hot market right now, as evidenced by Audio-Technica's continued booth presence at PAX West. Audio-Technica and Sennheiser have dabbled in gaming headsets for a while now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even bigger push from mainstream headphones manufacturers in the next year or two. Strike while the iron's hot and all that.
And it’s worth mentioning: Audio-Technica had one of the cleanest, most attractive booths at PAX too.
We covered Lenovo’s Legion line at E3, but I couldn’t help stopping to take a picture of the T730 ($1,430 on Lenovo.com) again. I’m in love with that dorky handle on top, like the Gamecube’s sleek PC counterpart. I don’t move my system around very often, but I feel like if you buy a T730 you have to take it out with you. Them’s the rules.
Turtle Beach Atlas
Turtle Beach announced the new Atlas gaming headset line right before PAX, and for the most part it checks the usual boxes—Atlas One for entry-level gamers, Atlas Three for a slightly better experience.
But it’s the Atlas Elite I’ve got my eye on. First of all, it’s a PC-specific headset from a company that usually keeps its eye on consoles. I also found it legitimately comfortable to demo, with cooling gel earpads, a cut-out channel for glasses users, and a sturdy metal headband that’s a huge step up from the usual chintzy plastic I associate with Turtle Beach. I’m looking forward to testing this one out when it launches on September 30.
Artifact / Valve
And last but not least, it’s...Valve? There are a lot of PC-centric publishers at PAX West every year, but not many can match the novelty of seeing Valve with an honest-to-goodness booth (and game) of its own. Artifact, the Dota 2-themed card game, is set to release by the end of the year. Hopefully it’s the start of a renaissance for Valve.