Gamepad: Saitek Cyborg Command Unit
Gamepads are a unique beast. Either you use one or you don't. In this case, there's no "low-end product everyone has" to compare higher-end gamepads against. Most gamers simply don't use one. However, there are those that swear by them, so it was worth a look to see whether they're essential for the games you're likely to play.
Saitek's offering in the gamepad space is its Cyborg Command Unit, a $30 USB device that offloads some commonly-used buttons, so that you can perform functions in your favorite games with a single hand. The Command Unit is clearly designed for use with your left hand, as the thumb stick is on the right side of the device. Next to the thumb stick, you'll find two programmable buttons, almost like left- and right-click mouse buttons. The wrist-rest of the Command Unit is extendable, so you can move it into any position that matches where your wrist naturally sits on the desk surface. The WASD keys on the Command Unit are silver and stand out from the others. Additionally, the whole gamepad is backlit in red. Four function keys span the top of the gamepad, and number keys are arranged around (and include) the WASD keys.
Saitek has made all 21 buttons on the Command Unit independently programmable, so if you don't want to use the WASD keys for directional movement, you can change them. That also means you can change the number keys to represent macro commands or any other in-game feature you choose. This is especially useful in MMOs and FPS games that rely heavily on key commands. The Command Unit can also switch between three programmable profiles on the fly, so if you move from your favorite FPS title to your favorite RPG title, a single switch on the gamepad also reprograms all of your buttons.
The Command Unit looks and feels as though it was designed for FPS players, and that's where I found it had the most use. Switching weapons using the number keys was incredibly easy and much faster than using a full keyboard, since I didn't have to take all of my fingers off the WASD keys to pick a new weapon. The thumb stick was perfect for twitch maneuvers like lining up a shot while sniping or gently nudging the direction of a vehicle while driving. That's not to say it wasn't as useful in Guild Wars as it was in Team Fortress 2, but the device felt more suited to TF2 and CoD4 than any of the other games with which I tested it.