Gear to make your work-from-home PC setup gaming-friendly

9 Sep, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


Trying to work in a cobbled-together workspace is hard. Cobbling it together to serve as an office by day and video-game sanctuary by night, especially with all the belt tightening everyone’s had to do during this coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s some gear that might make it go a little more smoothly.

Hopefully, you’ve already bought or own the requisite laptop, desktop or tablet necessary to get your work done, but if you’re searching for one suited to both work and gaming, you’ll have to go above the popular $500 ceiling. 

Here are some important gaming accessories that will ship or come back into stock within the next 10 days that will also help to kit out your workday home office, most of which shouldn’t blow your limited budget. We’ll try to keep it up to date as they sell out or others become available.

Read more: Best cheap VPN: 3 options for working from home in quarantine  

Lori Grunin/CNET

You need a mouse pad, so you might as well go all out. An oversized version adds a little padding underneath your laptop or keyboard as well as making your mousing more precise, and it’s a nice way to dress up your desk a little. There are literally hundreds of these on Amazon, ranging from basic black to covered with cats and as large as roughly 35 x 16 inches. For general gaming you don’t need anything fancy, either; I blindly bought this $15 pad from ITNRSIIET and have had no issues. I do like it better than some of the faux leather ones I have, though.

Read more: Best monitors under $200 you can get right now

BenQ

This 27-inch model isn’t cheap, but if you have the luxury of considering something that will last you a while, the EX2780Q is a good multipurpose choice for the money. In addition to its 2,560×1,440 resolution for sharper edges in everyday use than 1,920×1,080, it’s got a gaming-friendly 144Hz refresh rate, 400-nit brightness and a 95% P3 gamut for basic HDR support in games and movies, plus built-in speakers that actually sound pretty good. There’s one drawback, though: you can tilt it, but not raise or lower it. 

Asus ProArt PA278QV

Asus

If you need a color-accurate monitor on the cheap-ish, but still want something that can handle games where you won’t exceed 75fps play, the 2,560 x 1,440 PA278QV is a great way to go. This $300 display has excellent sRGB coverage and accuracy, plus it’s 75Hz refresh rate is suitable for games like simulations, turn-based RPGs and so on, and it has some motion blur reduction modes (though they’re quite dim). As a monitor it’s very well rounded, with a USB hub, a full set of inputs and speakers, and a stand that raises and lowers, swivels and supports 90 degree rotation into portrait mode. The speakers don’t get very loud and the connections can loosen when you move it, but otherwise I really like this one. If you can’t afford it, the 24-inch model, PA248QV) is $100 less, though it drops the resolution to 1,920 x 1,080.


Oyen

If you bought a system for work, chances are you didn’t think you’d need a lot of storage space, so an external drive is essential for all those massive AAA games. The tiny USB-C Oyen Helix is a hair cheaper than competitors for this 2TB drive, but it doesn’t skimp on the speed. Plus, it looks like a big heatsink (and probably is), which adds a little geek to it. I’ve been using one for several months now without issue.


Lori Grunin/CNET

If you’re on a lot of video calls or stream games in a really cramped space, this collapsible green screen attaches to the back of your chair so you can hide the unmade bed behind you. (Unless that’s just me.) One caveat is that collapsing it isn’t nearly as simple as any of the videos make it out to be, at least if you have spatial relations issues. (Unless that’s just me.) Otherwise, it’s a great multipurpose accessory for both work and play, and easy to mount on the back of your chair with its Velcro strap. It comes in different sizes and colors.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To play keyboard-and-mouse games that require any sort of responsiveness, a gaming mouse is essential. Even an inexpensive one can be better than a standard cheap mouse; many of those choose the pretty form over durable, customizable function. While wired versions can be clumsy — one day I’m going to break something tripping over my cables — they are cheaper with more dependable response. In order to get a decent wireless mouse for gaming you’d have to pay a bit more. For $30, the Rival 3 offers a great balance of low price and capability. As of now, it will be back in stock on May 9.

Best cheap gaming mice.

Razer

For $30, Razer’s wired DeathAdder Essential is also a great choice if you’re more serious about gaming than working. It’s quite customizable for the money. It has a better cord than the SteelSeries as well. (You’ll see complaints everywhere about Razer’s drivers and software requiring an account. That’s not true. It just uses dark patterns to make you think it does, and in fact, you don’t even need to install the Razer software for basic operation. However, it will nag you to install if you unplug and replug Razer’s products.)

Lori Grunin/CNET

If you do a lot of typing during the day and need something quieter than a mechanical but don’t want to give up that clicky, tactile feel, the Razer Ornata v2’s hybrid membrane-mechanical keys deliver. The actuation force is high, so I wouldn’t recommend it for games that require a light, fast touch unless you’re particularly heavy handed.

Read Razer Ornata Chroma v2 hands-on.

HyperX

This is another excellent option if you’re “isolated” in a crowded space and need to keep the peace with a quiet keyboard. Some gamers don’t like the feel of membrane switches, but for everyday work they can feel more fluid than clicky, clacky mechanical ones. There are some great dual-purpose keyboards with hybrid membrane/mechanical switches, along with the SteelSeries Apex 5 ($100 at Amazon) another favorite for straight-up typing with occasionally keyboard gaming, which I wish I had thought to grab when I left the office in mid-March. 

If you want a wireless keyboard, you’ll have to pay a lot more for one suited for gaming. Cheap wireless keyboards may be notably glitchy, which is annoying when you’re a fast typist and frustrating if you’re a fast gamer. The best of the midpriced models are from Logitech, which is having stock issues at the moment. 

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aukey makes everything from power banks and chargers to dashcams and yes, budget gaming keyboards. The $40 G6 mechanical gaming keyboard uses Outemu Blue mechanical key switches that are clicky, and you’ll have no problem feeling the actuation point as you go through your keystrokes. They are also loud, so if you’re typing or gaming in a shared space be prepared for some side-eye. Also, the keycaps are on the small side, which resulted in a lot of mistakes when typing and gaming. Unless you’re really accurate or have slender fingertips (I don’t) you’ll likely need time to adjust. If you’re just looking for a budget mechanical keyboard with lights, media shortcut keys and a number pad, this hits the spot.

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want a wireless keyboard, you’ll have to pay a lot more for one suited for gaming. Cheap wireless keyboards may be notably glitchy, which is annoying when you’re a fast typist and frustrating if you’re a fast gamer. This budget wireless keyboard uses rubber-dome switches with a pronounced actuation point, which gives it more of an office-keyboard feel like the Razer Cynosa. Gaming on it requires a touch more force than the mechanical keyboards here and rollover is limited to eight keys. Aside from those, the experience is just fine.

The K57 is a solid, relatively inexpensive model which wirelessly connects to your PC via low-latency Bluetooth or Corsair’s 2.4GHz Slipstream technology that uses a tiny USB-A adapter for lag-free gaming. It can also be used wired with the included Micro-USB cable, which charges up the keyboard, too. While it doesn’t have the longevity of the Logitech when you’re using the per-key RGB lighting, you can get through several days of gaming without needing to charge it up.

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

Read more: The best racing wheels and pedals for iRacing and your budget  


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