11 Gaming Hardware That Will Give You A Competitive Advantage
Heighten your skill level with cutting edge gaming hardware and peripherals.
When it comes to online play, nothing gives you the competitive edge more than a combination of raw skill and practice. As the adage goes, "get good." But when you're faced with opponents equally skilled as you, having the right equipment can eliminate variables that may hold you back from performing your best. From high refresh rate monitors to pinpoint accurate mice, we've outlined all the gaming hardware and peripherals that will help give you that slight competitive advantage.
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High/Variable Refresh Rate Ultrawide Gaming Monitor
When it comes into investing in a gaming monitor that will give you an edge, there are a lot of features to look out for. You'll want a panel that can produce a high, variable refresh rate. Most monitors features a 60Hz refresh rate, but for competitive play, you'll want something higher. For instance, having a monitor that scales up to 120Hz means that the screen can produce up to 120 frames per second; though you'll need a system powerful enough to render at that frame rate (more on that later). This will provide you with more frame granularity to pick your shots. The gaming monitor with the highest refresh rate we've seen is Alienware's 25-inch 240Hz AW2518H.
You'll also want a monitor that offers a variable refresh rate. On AMD's side, there's FreeSync; on Nvidia's side, there's G-Sync. These display technologies allow your GPU to control your monitor's refresh rate, which allows you to get the quick response time of disabling V-Sync without the annoying screen tearing.
Your gaming monitor should also feature a quick response time. We're talking four milliseconds or fewer. This ensures that there will be minimal delay between your inputs and on-screen actions.
The last, and arguably most important, aspect that your competitive gaming monitor should have is an ultrawide aspect ratio. While most monitors feature a 16:9 aspect ratio, an ultrawide 21:9 screen could potentially provide you a wider field of view to display more of your surroundings at any given moment. For instance, in PUBG, it could allow you to spot enemies that might otherwise be outside your peripheral vision. Do keep in mind that not all games support 21:9, however.
One good monitor option with many of these technologies is the 35-inch Asus ROG Strix XG35VQ. Not only does this 3440x1440p curved monitor feature a 21:9 aspect ratio, but it has a 100Hz panel and supports FreeSync. It also features a quick four millisecond response time.
Fast Graphics Card
To properly fuel a high refresh rate gaming monitor, you're going to need a powerful graphics card. On AMD's side, the best GPU is the RX Vega 64, which is fast enough to produce high framerates in most games at 1440p.
AMD's GPUs also support a wide variety of features that help ensure smooth performance. Radeon Chill, for instance, is designed to save on GPU power consumption, but it can also reduce VRAM buffering, which can result in a more responsive gaming experience.
In addition to supporting the FreeSync variable refresh rate standard, AMD graphics cards also support what the company calls Enhanced Sync, which skirts around V-Sync issues that cause random frame rate dips on non-FreeSync monitors. It does this by sampling frame rate at the GPU level. This means that even if you're using a 60Hz display without FreeSync, your keyboard and mouse are able to sample the latest frame rate data that your GPU provides. This can make the game feel more responsive.
On Nvidia's side, the company employs Turbo Sync and uses Nvidia G-Sync as its variable refresh rate standard. G-Sync is the company's proprietary technology that's actually built into the monitor. G-Sync monitors typically cost more than their FreeSync counterparts as a result. Nvidia's fastest gaming GPU at the moment is the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, but the company's high-end GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Ti are also great cards at pushing high frame rates. It's important to highlight that all modern gaming GPUs are really expensive right now due to the recent boom in cryptocurrency mining.
Fast, Multi-core CPU
The most important component of a gaming PC should be the GPU, but if your CPU isn't fast enough, it can bottleneck performance. We recommend at least a quad-core CPU, since many games are beginning to be optimized to utilize quad-core processors. For gaming, CPU speed also plays an important role in maintaining a high framerate. Going off PUBG's recommended system specifications, which is one of the more competitive games with steep system requirements, it suggests that you have at least an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or Intel Core i5-7600K. These processors carry boost clock speeds of 3.6GHz and 4.2GHz, respectively.
Fast, Plentiful RAM
For gaming, we recommend having at least 8GB of RAM. For most people, 16GB is really the sweet spot as it provides some overhead in case you have multiple programs or tabs running in the background while you're gaming. When it comes to RAM for gaming, more isn't necessarily better; having a ton of RAM won't boost your gaming performance, but if you don't have enough of it, performance will suffer.
In terms of RAM speed, you won't generally need more than 2666MHz, though some games like For Honor are optimized to take advantage of RAM speeds that hit 3200MHz. Beyond that for gaming, you won't notice much gains, however.
Gaming Mouse With Fast, Accurate Sensor And Necessary Buttons
While you can game with any freebie or cheap mouse, getting an ergonomically comfortable one with a fast, accurate sensor coupled with the necessary buttons that suit your particular playstyle can provide you superior control.
If you're big into MMOs or MOBAs, a mouse like Razer's Naga Hex V2 with its 14 programmable buttons can be of great assistance when you want to quickly fire off abilities. If you're big into shooters, having a mouse like Logitech's G502 with its fast and accurate PMW3366 optical sensor can help you land the best shot possible. Any decent gaming mouse will have a DPI button to change sensitivity on the fly; the G502 allows you to scale from 200 to 12,000 DPI, for example. Features like these could allow you to more easily fine tune your shots when you're sniping.
Even though most modern mice will track on the surface of your table, high-end gaming mice are often tuned specifically to work with mousepads.
There are a wide variety of mousepads that encompass hardtops vs cloth pads, but getting one that allows you to glide or provides more grip are the two main factors you'll want to consider when purchasing one. A mousepad that offers more grip will provide more control and allow you to be more precise, but a mousepad that prioritizes gliding will feel smoother and faster.
Hard mousepads like SteelSeries' 4HD Professional Gaming Mouse Pad are tuned for sliding, whereas mousepads like the Ripper Gamer Mouse Pad offer more grip. What you choose should depend on your playstyle and what type of games you play.
Gaming Keyboard With Fast Switches And Macro Keys
If you're going to get a gaming keyboard, make sure it's mechanical. The tactile feedback mechanical switches provide ensures consistent keystrokes and mitigates second guessing whether or not you pressed a key.
Innovations are also happening when it comes to mechanical switches. For instance, you can get Corsair's K95 RGB Platinum keyboard with Cherry MX Speed switches, which have a 1.2mm actuation distance, shorter than the more common 2mm in many other switches. While Speed switches feel a bit too sensitive to type on as a result, they offer quicker keystrokes. The K95 Platinum also features six programmable macro keys and an optional wrist rest, which could come in handy (pardon the pun) for long gaming sessions.
An emerging tech to look out for involves the advent of optical switches, which use light to record input rather than a traditional mechanical solutions. While these switches largely still use the same mechanical parts as something you would see in a Cherry MX equivalent, namely components like the stem and spring, the send-and-receive signals to and from the keyboard theoretically feature a much faster response time.
For gaming, you'll also want to consider a keyboard that features macro keys, which will allow you to program a string of button commands to a single key.
An Elite Controller
As great as the keyboard and mouse are, some competitive games are just better suited for a controller. A top notch one is Microsoft's Xbox Elite controller. It's made of high-end rubber material coupled with aluminum alloy components, but it also has a bevy of other useful features that help separate it from the competition.
Overall, it provides a lot of customization options. The controller comes with a mixture of concave and convex sticks, which also include a pair of taller convex sticks. You can mix and match these as you please. The Elite controller also comes with an option to swap out the traditional D-pad with the included eight-way disc-like one that's tailor-made for pulling off sophisticated moves in fighting games.
Whereas the bumpers on the original Xbox One controller required a lot of actuation force, the bumpers on the Xbox One Elite controller are much easier on the index fingers and feel much more tactile than its predecessor. The Elite controller also allows you to adjust the travel distance on the triggers, so they can actuate more quickly. You can also use Microsoft's software to tweak the dead zones on the control sticks so that they are tailored to your needs.
Finally, there are four optional paddles on the back, which can be programmed to be whatever button you want them to be. This can come in handy when you're playing a game and don't want to lift your thumbs off the sticks to press a face button.
Quality Gaming Headphones
Different games incorporate varying implementations of positional audio, but a good gaming headset helps ensure that you won't miss important audio cues. While there are many gaming headsets that offer virtual 7.1 surround sound, games like Overwatch implement Dolby Atmos software for more accurate positional audio and suggests that you turn virtual surround off. As a result, an important thing to look for when purchasing gaming headphones is good stereo imaging, so that left and right audio drivers blend accurately with each other. HyperX's Cloud Revolver does this well and it also offers good sound isolation with its large over-the-ear design that lets you focus on the game.
When you're purchasing headphones, it's also important to get one with a good mic so that you can communicate clearly and effectively with your teammates.
Last, but certainly not least, you can't overlook ergonomics. Poorly-made headphones can be painful to wear after an hour or so. Again, the HyperX Cloud Revolver does a good job here with its flexible, self adjusting headband coupled with comfortable ear cups that let you play for long periods without much discomfort.
Gaming glasses won't make you a better gamer, but computer eyewear like Gunnar glasses with their yellow tint can mitigate eye strain from the blue light that monitors give off. Considering practice makes perfect, computer eyewear can potentially come in handy if you're constantly cramming multi-hour long gaming sessions.
If you don't feel like wearing glasses, you can get a similar effect by downloading a program like F.lux, which can limit your monitor's blue light by pushing more yellowish hues.
Fast, Wired Internet Connection
The last piece of the puzzle to ensure that you're playing with optimal performance is a speedy Internet connection to mitigate lag spikes. For serious competitive online play, you'll want a low ping rate so you can get a quick response time. We're talking 20 milliseconds of ping or less. Considering it's difficult to pay for service that offers a specific ping rate range, however, one guideline we recommend is to use a wired Ethernet connection on an internet subscription that offers at least 6Mbps down.