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Getting Started: The Games And Gear

Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money?
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Do all of those warm, fuzzy feelings of showcasing epic gear on your desktop translate into better performance in-game? Do they at least turn into a heightened sense of satisfaction while you play? In order to test this out, I put all of our peripherals against a battery of games that represent a wide selection of game-types, and tried to make use of the peripherals’ unique features in each game to whatever extent was possible.

The MMO is probably the genre that makes the heaviest use of macros, custom keyboard commands, and key bindings. The current reigning king in the MMO empire is Blizzard's World of Warcraft, so I decided to give each of the devices and their respective features a run through a couple of WoW raids and dungeons. For added flavor, I also included Guild Wars in the mix (another gorgeous MMO that has tons of customization options).

MMOs aren’t the end of the story, though. A number of us play third-person adventure games, RPGs, and other titles that have complex interfaces as well. To test some of these out, I played The Witcher, a game with challenging combat mechanics that could be aided by peripherals emphasizing precision.

No gaming peripheral test would be complete without running through a handful of first-person shooters. Conveniently, I’ve been meaning to play through Far Cry 2, and already had Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare installed. For a little more frenetic action and a faster pace, I also decided to run through Team Fortress 2, one of my favorite time-wasting multiplayer games.

Now that we have our games installed, all we have to do is line up the peripherals to test. Some peripherals predictably shine through more, depending on the type of game you play. But whether or not that difference is palpable enough to make them worth purchasing remains to be seen.

In order to be as scientific as possible, we need a control group, a set of peripherals that don’t have the bells and whistles that high-end gaming peripherals feater. From this, we can establish a performance baseline.

I started with a standard Dell media keyboard and USB optical mouse, the kind you can expect with any Dell system. Both peripherals are very basic USB devices without any gaming-specific features. The mouse is a standard 2-button optical unit with a scroll wheel and no programmable buttons.

For competition, Logitech’s new flagship gaming keyboard, the G19, takes the spotlight from the much-loved G15. Microsoft is in the gaming keyboard mix with its new SideWinder X6 keyboard, a backlit low-rise model featuring programmable keys and media controls. Saitek builds on the success of its Eclipse line with the Cyborg Keyboard, which also sports backlighting and programmable keys, and is targeted squarely at gamers.

In our lineup of mice, Logitech sent its ever-popular G9, which I matched up against a Razer Lachesis. Microsoft sent its X3. And Gigabyte jumped into the mix with its newly-released M8000 high-end gaming mouse.

In the audio category, I dug up an old, generic desktop microphone and a pair of unremarkable Sony headphones. Razer sent the fairly-new Megalodon 7.1 headset, which I compared against a pair of Sennheiser PC 350s.

Gamepads were a bit trickier. Either you use them or you don’t, so I decided my control in this case would be to simply not use one. During testing, I tried the Saitek Cyborg Command Unit and compared it against the Belkin Nostromo N52, which came highly recommended from some of my MMO-playing friends.

I tested each peripheral for a week to get a deep feel for it, making sure to spend many hours with each device during normal gameplay.

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Top Comments
  • 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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