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Price, Performance, And Conclusion

Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money?
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Even the cheapest gaming mouse will run you between $30 and $40, and the best can cost much more than that. Quality gaming headsets can run well over $100, and the most expensive single product in the roundup, Logitech's G19 gaming keyboard, is almost $200.

If you have the money to spend on gear like this, then the price isn't likely to keep you from buying the things you want. But if you're concerned about getting bang for your buck with regard to performance, you may want to ease into the market more carefully and pick mid-range products. See if they really make a difference for you before sinking additional funds on peripherals.

While some of the products in this roundup have features that are, at worst, helpful in some games and, at best, nearly essential in specific titles, the amount of money you have to shell out in order to procure them may not be worthwhile for you, especially when you could take the cash for a programmable keyboard you'll never actually take the time to configure and use it to buy a few more games.

If you're already a fan of gaming peripherals, you're probably already jaded about how expensive they are. There are some notable exceptions, though. I felt that, in the gamepad category, you really do get what you pay for when you bump up from the mid-range to the high-end.

Gaming mice are another exception. Moving from a standard multi-button mouse to a heavier, ergonomically-designed gaming mouse will pay dividends. However, even with gaming mice, the price-to-performance gets difficult to justify when you start finding gaming mice that sell solely on their DPI sensitivity and cost upwards of $100. You'll likely never use the highest DPI settings, and you likely won't notice the performance difference between the top of the class and the second or third runner-up. At that price point, what really matters is whether the mouse feels good to you and works for the way you game.

Conclusion

The goal of this round-up was to determine whether or not premium gaming peripherals really improve your performance, especially compared to standard I/O devices that cost less (and might even come bundled with your machine), but don't include as many twitch-controlling extras. Keeping our tested peripherals spread across similar levels of quality and price helped ensure we weren't comparing diamonds to coal.

The answer is, predictably, that "it depends." Whether or not you should shell out the cash on premium peripherals depends highly on the types of games you play, how engaged you are in those games, and whether or not you see yourself actually getting the value out of those peripherals. For example, if you're a heavy World of Warcraft player, you'll find that programmable macro keys on your keyboard are absolutely indispensable, and the more you use them the more you love them. When you love them that much, you may not mind spending over $100 for a keyboard that supports them. Can you play without them? Sure, but you'll miss them when you do (and your guildmates may not enjoy your performance as much). On the other hand, if you're a heavy FPS player, and games like Crysis and Call of Duty are your favorite titles, you may not find much use in having a dozen programmable keys on the side of your keyboard. 

The same conclusion applies to gamepads. I normally don't play with one, but when I did, there were certain games in which I found them incredibly useful and others where I could take them or leave them. While I can  see how addictive using a gamepad could be, it really comes down to whether or not you think one would be useful for the games you play, and whether you play those games enough to make the purchase worthwhile.

Whether or not you should shell out money for a premium headset relies not just on the types of games you play but how serious you are about audio quality outside of games. If you're primarily using a headset to occasionally chat with friends during a raid or coordinate among teammates in a multiplayer shooter, you may not care about a headset that delivers rich bass when playing music. If you're serious about audio and voice quality, and if you plan to use your headset for more than just gaming (podcasting, audio recording, etc.), you would do well to pony up and get something on the high-end.

Gaming mice is the only category for which I can solidly suggest that everyone ditch their flimsy mouse and pick up something nicer. The difference in manufacturing quality between the types of mice you're likely to find at the bottom of your local IT guru's file cabinet and the ones that come in packages bragging about sensors and programmable buttons is more than noticeable.

In the end, not a single one of the peripherals I tested, although they were by and large excellent products, would transform a new PC gamer into an expert who could go toe to toe with someone who's been playing for a long time. No keyboard in the world will turn your guild's worst healer into the best with the help of some programmable macros. No gamepad will turn you from a spray-and-pray FPS player into a top-scoring sniper. And no gaming mouse, no matter how high the DPI sensitivity, will make combat in The Witcher easier to handle.

What premium gaming peripherals do is help you customize your playing experience to the way you want to play. If your mouse is too light and flimsy, maybe a Logitech G9 or Gigabyte GM-M8000, with their customizable weight cartridges, will help you find the right balance and heft. If no one's laughing at your jokes over TeamSpeak because you sound washed out, The Razer Megalodon headset gives you discrete control over the microphone sensitivity on the control brick. None of these peripherals will improve your performance all by themselves, but if you have the money to spend and you buy the right product at the right price with the right features for the way you play, you'll have more fun gaming, to be sure.

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  • 11 Hide
    Fortunex , November 26, 2009 6:58 AM
    I don't need the $100+ keyboards or anything, what REALLY makes a difference in my playing is how smooth the feet of the mouse are, and how comfortable the mouse is.

    I had a $10 cheap ass mouse, was the most comfortable mouse I've ever used, but then the cord wore down and it stopped working, and I lack the skills to fix it. Bought a Microsoft Habu, didn't like it at all. Bought a Logitech G5, love it. Bought a steelseries mousepad, OH MY GORSH. My KDR in games (particularly sniping in TF2, where headshots are near essential) nearly doubled. EVERYTHING is so much smoother when compared to my (what I thought was smooth) desktop. It just glides, no more rugged, scratchy mouse movements, it's amazing.

    For keyboards, I have a Razer Arctosa, which I bought because I LOVE the flat keys, and the low profile. No need for fancy backlighting or macro keys, I just want it to be easy to type with and the keys to not be curved.

    I'd advise ANY gamer who doesn't already have a mousepad to get one.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , November 26, 2009 5:36 AM
    Ive been looking at the G19 for some time now, ever since it came out, but I am not sure if I should just go for the Sidewinder x6 or the G15 which is still good and at a reasonable 80-100dollars where Im from....
    Should I get it or wait for my next build..... x6? g15?
  • 1 Hide
    scorc25 , November 26, 2009 5:45 AM
    I recently just purchased a Saitek Cyborg keyboard. Very impressed with it, loving it the moment we touched. Ive used the first Saitek Eclipse, and then the Eclipse 2. The Eclipse 3 is out there; the Cyborg is basically just the gamer edition of it.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 26, 2009 5:48 AM
    Keyboard: SteelSeries MERC Stealth
    Mouse : Roccat Kone
    Mousepad: Roccat Sota
    Headset : Roccat Kave
  • -6 Hide
    volks1470 , November 26, 2009 6:01 AM
    bah on fancy gaming peripherals. I'm still using a roller-ball PS2 port mouse and keyboard and they work great. Price? Free, because nobody wants cheap stuff like that!
  • 3 Hide
    fleeb , November 26, 2009 6:07 AM
    I am waiting for Logitech G110. Looks nice and will not cost $200.
  • 4 Hide
    JimmiG , November 26, 2009 6:21 AM
    Since I'm a flight simmer, I own both a CH Yoke+Pedals and a Saitek X52 Pro. I also bought an "A4Tech" laser gaming mouse - a discount brand but the mouse itself compares to any Logitech or Razer rodent...for half the price. For keyboard, I'm using a $10 no name corded keyboard :) 
  • 11 Hide
    Fortunex , November 26, 2009 6:58 AM
    I don't need the $100+ keyboards or anything, what REALLY makes a difference in my playing is how smooth the feet of the mouse are, and how comfortable the mouse is.

    I had a $10 cheap ass mouse, was the most comfortable mouse I've ever used, but then the cord wore down and it stopped working, and I lack the skills to fix it. Bought a Microsoft Habu, didn't like it at all. Bought a Logitech G5, love it. Bought a steelseries mousepad, OH MY GORSH. My KDR in games (particularly sniping in TF2, where headshots are near essential) nearly doubled. EVERYTHING is so much smoother when compared to my (what I thought was smooth) desktop. It just glides, no more rugged, scratchy mouse movements, it's amazing.

    For keyboards, I have a Razer Arctosa, which I bought because I LOVE the flat keys, and the low profile. No need for fancy backlighting or macro keys, I just want it to be easy to type with and the keys to not be curved.

    I'd advise ANY gamer who doesn't already have a mousepad to get one.
  • 1 Hide
    IzzyCraft , November 26, 2009 7:01 AM
    Are they worth it eh not really

    Are they pretty just about every time.
  • 0 Hide
    cyb34 , November 26, 2009 7:23 AM
    I got a G15 v2 and a G9. They are worth every penny.
  • -1 Hide
    anamaniac , November 26, 2009 8:41 AM
    Preiphereals are worth it.
    Full 7.1 sounds, 7000 DPI mouse, 9x 2560x1600 monitors, G(insert number here) keyboard, soft leather chair with fully adjustable tilt, proper desk...
    You could have a boring powerhouse, or a crappy computer but with all the fixings. It's nice having the extras.
  • 1 Hide
    aznguy0028 , November 26, 2009 10:12 AM
    @ Fortunex

    Totally agree w/you dude. I also have a Logitech G5 with a Steelpad 5L mousepad, it feels like my mouse is gliding each time i game. Flawless!
    I can't go back to anything after that combo :) 
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 26, 2009 10:24 AM
    Gaming peripherals won't make a bad player good, but they can enhance a good player's game. Or at the very least, add some comfort to make the long hours of gaming less ergonomically stressful
  • 1 Hide
    Flying Sq , November 26, 2009 10:36 AM
    Should have looked at other brands other than the 2 big ones, OCZ's line of mice and keyboards are an amazing deal for their performance. I suggest anyone thinking about getting a gaming specific keyboard or mouse at least give them a check. I've used them personally, and my customers love them too.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 26, 2009 10:41 AM
    I like this article! Comparing products without having to find a winner is a nice change.
    Too bad you can't have the g19 display on a saitek chrismas lighting board with keys.
  • 1 Hide
    theubersmurf , November 26, 2009 11:43 AM
    Flying SqShould have looked at other brands other than the 2 big ones, OCZ's line of mice and keyboards are an amazing deal for their performance. I suggest anyone thinking about getting a gaming specific keyboard or mouse at least give them a check. I've used them personally, and my customers love them too.
    There are too many products out there for them to cover any but the most common...and perhaps some they'd like to point out to users.

    I have a bad habit of spilling beer on my keyboard while playing tf2 and destroying it. So I don't buy expensive keyboards anymore. Which is fine since I use a Logitech G13 gamepad anyway. The thing I noticed about nicer peripherals is that you don't notice too much change when you get them, it's when you have to go back to the ultra cheap stuff that it becomes bothersome. I have a gigabyte ghost mouse, plantronics gamecom headset, an old Q-pad, and my 15 USD Logitech USB keyboard...All of which I am glad to have. If I had to go back to some of the simpler hardware out there, I'd be a little unhappy.
  • -5 Hide
    timbo , November 26, 2009 12:08 PM
    To say good peripherals won't improve your game is silly. A good mouse & pad will make a difference, no matter your skill level. Get a good mouse like a MX518 & a good pad like a SteelSeries & your game will improve. Makes me think the author isn't that experienced @ fps.
  • -2 Hide
    x_microbe_x , November 26, 2009 12:42 PM
    I feel compelled to respond to this artical mainly from a highly competitive FPS perspective. Been playing FPS games for years and I am currently into QuakeLive pretty hardcore atm.

    I just wanted to disagree with the part about the very high DPI settings on some of the more expensive not being of much use. I've went from a plain M$ mouse, to a MX518 (1600dpi), to a G5 (2000dpi), to a G9x (5000dpi) and have seen notable gain in speed and control with each upgrade. Going from the $40 MX518 to the $100 G9x is a pretty remarkable improvment. A must say that using a good mouse pad can actually make or brake a high dpi setting.

    Obviously one needs to go into the console and fine tune the sensitivity in order to take full advantage of a high dpi setting. I recommend using the 360/inches method to figure out the exact sens you need when upgrading. I'm currently playing at .52 sens/ 5000dpi/ 1000 polling rate with my G9x (this comes out to 5 inches per 360 degree rotation, or 360/5") and I will never go back to my old G5.

    After trying many preiphereals, this is the best setup I've found so far

    keyboard: Wolf King Warrior $40, or Warrior Extreme $60
    mouse: G9x with smaller grip $100
    pad: Razer Destructor $40
    headset: Steelseries $80
  • -2 Hide
    DjEaZy , November 26, 2009 12:50 PM
    ... o... the G9... so many unreal frags... nice and heavy...
  • -1 Hide
    h83 , November 26, 2009 12:59 PM

    Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money?

    For me, they aren´t. I have a cheap keyboard and mouse from Lifetech and they are more than enough to play Counter Strike Source at a very nice level. I prefer to spent that kind of money on PC parts like CPUs and graphic cards.
  • -1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 26, 2009 1:13 PM
    h83Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money?For me, they aren´t. I have a cheap keyboard and mouse from Lifetech and they are more than enough to play Counter Strike Source at a very nice level. I prefer to spent that kind of money on PC parts like CPUs and graphic cards.

    Using a cheap hp basic keyboard and noname mic is fine for me too, but I can't live without a proper wireless laser mouse. Since the day I got my first 'cordless logitech mouse' I can't imagine life with a generic noname thing. It just wouldn't work.
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