Last year essential hardware was more crucial than ever with so many having to supply their own as they were stuck at home. This year it remains pertinent whether you’ve completely shifted to an at-home lifestyle or you’re back out in the world and need all the physical comforts to blow off steam with your favorite game after a long day of dealing with people. The 2021 installment of our long-running holiday hardware gift guide features essentials such as chairs and mice, controllers that will help dominate multiplayer or items that just plain look cool on a shelf. So without further ado, here’s our 2021 Holiday Hardware Gift Guide that’s sure to give you a great gift idea for a loved one, friend or let’s be honest, yourself, as we close out the year.
There’s no doubt that Sony’s latest console would make the list. The PlayStation 5 is one of the hottest items out in the world right now, with its availability remaining scarce a year after release. We don’t have the killer holiday lineup we had hoped for, but there’s still a ton amazing games that were released. The launch of the platform started off strong with the Demon’s Souls remake and Astro’s Playroom, and it only continued into early this year with Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Looking to the future, things are looking bright from the company itself, with games such as Horizon: Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and more. That’s not to mention its third-party offerings, be it timed or console exclusives, such as Final Fantasy XVI, Pragmata and GhostWire: Tokyo. It helps that the system offers an amazing backwards compatibility feature, meaning your catalogue of games will continue forth with you. While all of this sounds great, the means of obtaining one are less than ideal. So if you’re able to find a PlayStation 5 in your cart, do not hesitate as otherwise it will be snatched up immediately.
There’s no doubting Microsoft’s commitment to their new console, with the corporation eating up high profile developers like they’re candy. While its initial offerings were disappointing with most of its lineup being older games and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, 2021 has served it well. Microsoft Flight Simulator flew into everyone’s living rooms, Forza Horizon 5 remains one of the best games of the year and of course Halo Infinite is just a couple of weeks out. That’s not to mention the incredible amount of value you get for simply signing up for Game Pass, offering hundreds of great games for a small subscription fee. This is on top of one of the best packed-in controllers on the market, all the bells and whistles you can expect with 4K media, and it is the most powerful console on the market. Of course, the big issue is that obtaining an Xbox Series X is difficult. It’s not impossible, and in fact its little brother, the Series S, is far more obtainable, but if you have a chance to obtain one, don’t pass up on the opportunity to do so.
Best Handheld OLED That’s Not PS Vita: Nintendo Switch OLED (Buy)
Alright, while the PS Vita might have boasted an OLED ten years ago, it’s obviously obsolete now (but still great) and has far less Mario, so it’s time for holdouts to finally switch to a Switch. In all seriousness, Switch has proven itself to be a versatile console with a fantastic library of games and the newest hardware makes it even better on the go. While the vanilla Switch looks nice in handheld mode, Swich OLED ups the ante and looks so great that you may be tempted to never dock it again. If the screen isn’t enough to sway you, then the upgraded stand, wired LAN port, improved audio and 64GB of internal storage should seal the deal. Let’s face it: practically everybody you know already has a Switch, but they likely don’t have the OLED model, and this will make even the most content Switch owner happy to upgrade.
NZXT offers quite a bit of variety for gamers in terms of its pre-build PCs. The H1 series allows for the ability to conserve desk space or use as a console for the living room thanks to its tower design. It closely resembles the Xbox Series X and is a tidy package internally while allowing for cool temperatures under high usage. There are three version of the H1 Mini PC available that comes with Intel 10th Generation processors and either a NVIDIA RTX 3060 or RTX 3060 Ti and will allow for an excellent 1080p gaming experience with high refresh rates in tons of games. The H1 Mini PC is low profile and available on either black or white with a hint of RGB popping out through the tinted glass. The input ports for the system board sit at the bottom of the case and allow for better cable management. All three models are currently $1,000 off MSRP starting with the H1 Mini at $1,299, the H1 Mini Plus at $1,499 and the H1 Mini Pro at $1,599.
Best Niche Console: Polymega (Buy)
The Polymega is one of the most unusual console releases in recent memory. Yes, even more so than the likes of the Atari VCS. Fortunately, the Polymega has a lot more reasons to pick it up. The console is designed as a new way for you to play your retro console games all in one place. For example, if you stick a PS1, Sega Saturn, TurboGrafx-CD, Sega CD or Neo-Geo CD disc in the slot, it’ll be able to play that game. It’s shocking that it works and that it works as well as it does. The device only comes with a disc drive by default, but folks can order add-on modules for cartridge slots, enabling even more game playability. Of course, this system requires that you actually own some original game CDs or cartridges to get the most use out of it, though it does come with a few titles pre-installed. The biggest downside is anyone looking to pick up the Polymega will have to wait. They’ve finally started shipping out to pre-orders that were placed years ago. Eventually, they’ll catch up. Those lucky enough to grab the system are in for a fabulous trip through gaming history.
The Razer Kraken nameplate is synonymous with gamers as this line of gaming headsets has seen many improvements over the years. The latest looks to be the best yet and while it does work on PlayStation 5, it’s mainly designed to work for PC. The Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense adds a ridiculous amount of immersion to gaming. The HyperSense is the gamechanger for the headset as it offers three varying levels of vibration to put you squarely on the battlefield or fully immerse you in a movie much like a theater will. The comfort level of the Kraken V3 HyperSense makes sure there are limited issues with ear fatigue and includes other Razer innovations that have been introduced over the years. Players can expect THX Spatial Audio, Razer Chroma RGB integration, leatherette and memory foam ear cups, and a cardiod microphone to offer a premiere audio experience. There are two options available with the wired coming in at $129.99 and the wireless version at $199.99.
Best Console Headset: Victrix Gambit Wireless Headset (Buy)
PDP’s premium Victrix line offers high build-quality for controllers and headsets, and their Gambit Wireless Headset is fantastic for Xbox and PlayStation gamers in wireless formats or for anything with a wired 3.5mm connection. There are differing dongles for each system available and the headset is the most comfortable I’ve used yet. Most over-the-ear headphones have heft to them on the head, which can get annoying over time. The Gambit has two large cushions to help the headset stay comfortable and the ear cushions are top-notch. Most faux-leather designs feel cheaply-made with iffy stitching, but these have light ear cushions that fit snugly around the ear and manage to offer a lot of room for things like glasses to still be worn comfortably. The in-line controls on the 3.5mm cable are a nice touch, as is using a thicker cable to help ensure that they last for a long time. For only $129.99, the Victrix Gambit offers a high-quality multi-device headset at a great price point.
Finding a controller that’s well built and includes extra features without a triple digit price tag is rare which makes the Turtle Beach Recon Controller a great find. Turtle Beach is known more for their headsets than their recent entry into the controller market and the Recon Controller is self aware of this fact. It’s main unique feature is that it has a control panel that allows users to adjust EQ settings, activate SuperHuman Hearing mode, Pro-Aim Focus Mode, mic monitoring and independent game audio and mic volume controls. This controller adds some of the audio features Turtle Beach headsets are known for to any wired headset with a 3.5mm jack. These onboard controls work to improve the sound quality of any headset, making average headsets sound good and good ones sound great. On top of these features it has textured grips and two mappable buttons on the back of the controller. It’s a wired controller, so the main caveat to consider about purchasing this is whether a ten foot cable is adequate for one’s gaming set up, but beyond that consideration this is one of the best third-party controllers at the $59.95 price point and is available in white and black.
Controllers are rather pricey so often gamers aren’t willing to splurge anything beyond a standard controller price. With that said, sometimes it’s worth the splurge — especially when this is a tool you’ll be using week after week for years. The Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma is a premium controller at $149.99 MSRP, but there are so many reasons that the price is worth it. The controller comes packed with Mecha-Tacticle buttons, basically making it clicky and as responsive as a mechanical keyboard. Then there are the additional functional buttons on the top and four additional triggers on the back. The swappable analog sticks and short/long trigger throw toggle add even more customization to suit your specific gaming needs. Of course, as with so much gaming gear in 2021, there’s also RGB lighting going on. Since the Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma works perfectly on PC, Xbox Series and Xbox One, it’s an excellent choice for the PC or Xbox-focused gamer out there.
Most of us would love playing video games on a screen that’s over 100 inches. There’s a lot of practical reasons why most of us won’t ever own a TV that size, but a high-quality projector can be just as good. The XGIMI Horizon Pro projector can turn your wall into an enormous screen with 4K resolution with picture quality that can rival a high-end television in the right lighting. The Horizon Pro is perfect for use for PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo consoles with its HDMI input. It’s also compatible with several streaming apps such as YouTube, Hulu and Disney Plus. It’s great for entertaining, whether it be movie watching or gaming. The Horizon Pro is an amazing way to experience your favorite games but it doesn’t come cheap with a $1699 price tag. For those seeking a great projector experience that want to save money and are satisfied with 1080P resolution, the XGIMI Horizon otherwise matches the quality of the Pro model for $1099.
It’s an often overlooked facet of gaming, but spending hours in front a computer is a lot more pleasant with a comfortable chair. AndaSeat offers a variety of chairs for such things but the one we’ve liked the most is the Kaiser II. The ergonomic design is comfortable to sit in for hours at a time and includes a head pillow and lumbar support pillow. This chair has an adjustable height and can accommodate users up to seven feet tall with a weight capacity of 440 lbs. The faux leather design not only allows for easy clean up, but also gives the chair a sophisticated look. The Kaiser II normally has a retail price of $499.99 and includes a lifetime framework warranty.
Best PS5 M.2 NVME SSD: WD BLACK SN850 (Buy)
After almost a year into its launch, Sony has finally unlocked the ability to increase storage on the PlayStation 5. While it requires a heatsink for recognition by the console, there are options on the market that include the heatsink. One such NVME SSD is even recommended by Mark Cerny, and that’s the WD BLACK SN850. The hard drive is marketed at a 7,000 MB/s read speed and a 5,300 MB/s write speed, which is above what the stock PS5 drive offers. This amounts for quicker loading times on top of expanded storage. The installation is easy as all that’s needed is a screwdriver and the ability to remove one of the side covers on the console. There are three options available starting with the 500 GB for $149.99, 1 TB for $249.99 and the 2 TB for $389.99. WD BLACK is currently offering discounts, as well as other outlets such as Best Buy, on all of these drives. The SN850 is currently the fastest tested drive for the PS5 and can also be used on PC with Gen 4 or Gen 3 supported motherboards.
Best Retro Gaming Upscaler: RetroTink-5X Pro (Buy)
Playing retro games is always fun, but it’s increasingly difficult to do so with original hardware. These systems from 20+ years ago ran at 240p among other tiny resolutions and used now obsolete video cables. Sure, you can buy modern cables for each and every system, but there’s a better way. The RetroTink-5X Pro is one of the best affordable upscalers on the market today. What is an upscaler exactly? It reads the video resolution being output by the console and basically blows it up multiple times until up to a maximum of 1440p. This is necessary because many modern TV sets and monitors simply won’t accept resolutions below 720p. The RetroTink-5X has spots for a variety of old-school video imports as well so it has compatibility with a wide variety of systems (as well as VHS, LaserDisc, etc machines). The ports include composite, component, S-video and RGB and composite on SCART connector. All this fits into a compact design so it’ll fit easily into an existing gaming setup.
If you have a gamer in your life you’re buying for — whether young, old, dedicated or casual — a RepliCade is always a safe gift. New Wave Toys have delivered quality product after quality product, so rest assured you’re in good hands with any RepliCade you may choose, but their latest is certainly one to consider. RepliCade x 1942 boasts one of the first and most famed shmups in a beautiful wooden cabinet that could pass as the Real McCoy if you didn’t realize it was 1/6th scale. Not only does it look great to display, but it plays like a dream and feels authentic to the arcade with a crisp screen and a tight control panel. Plus, if the world is ever invaded by extra terrestrials with shrink rays, whoever you buy this for will be the most popular person on the block.
Happy Holidays from everyone at Hardcore Gamer!