Brands often slap a “gaming” label on products to charge extra for their supposed performance benefits. Skepticism aside, some gamer-focused products can deliver a genuinely superior experience that’s worth paying for. Gamers aren’t the only people who can benefit, either.
A monitor’s refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), is the number of times the display is updated every second. A 60 Hz monitor refreshes 60 times per second, outputting 60 frames per second (fps). If the computer renders at higher than 60 fps, you won’t get any benefit from this because the monitor can’t keep up.
This isn’t to say there aren’t any benefits to playing with higher refresh rates than those supported by your monitor (reduced input lag is a big one). However, that’s one of the main reasons many gamers turn to high-refresh-rate monitors. Generally, high-refresh-rate monitors start at 144 Hz and go all the way up to 240 Hz.
With the right hardware driving the monitor, playing games at 144 Hz or better is noticeably smoother than a basic 60 Hz experience. Many professional eSports players use high-refresh-rate monitors to reduce input lag and improve response times.
A higher refresh rate improves games, but it also improves the entire computing experience. It makes your computer do everything buttery smooth. From dragging your cursor across a window to scrolling a website, who wouldn’t prefer a hardware setup that just feels better?
If you’re looking to add some sparkle to your desktop, high-refresh-rate monitors are no longer prohibitively expensive or restricted to disappointing twisted nematic (TN) panels. You can now buy in-plane switching (IPS) panels with an excellent contrast ratio that hit response times of one millisecond at 144 Hz.
It’s not just computer monitors that are embracing high refresh rates, either. Many Android phones now offer increased refresh rates of 90 Hz or better, for that responsive edge consumers love. Apple had the same thought in 2017, when it introduced 120 Hz displays in the 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros.
Whether you’re a receptionist, coder, or just spend way too much time on Slack, your keyboard can make your job significantly more pleasant. You don’t have to buy an exorbitantly priced, ergonomic keyboard, but a mechanical one might be worth the investment.
While cheap keyboards usually have a rubber membrane with a simple key mechanism above it, the mechanical kind have individual switches for every key. The benefits of this are huge. Mechanical keyboards deliver a more consistent typing experience that’s deeply tied to the type of switches used for the keys.
These switches are produced at a higher standard than nonmechanical varieties, which means they’ll last longer. Since each key has its own switch, you can replace the switches when they break relatively inexpensively—and that goes for the keycaps, too. They’re also really easy to clean, as they come apart easily with a keycap remover.
So, what about the typing experience? Well, that depends on what you expect from your keyboard. The switches you choose determine the characteristics of the keyboard. Some are loud and “clicky”, while others are quiet and dampened for coding or typing at speed.
Different switches have different intended uses. Cherry MX is the world’s best-known manufacturer of mechanical keyboard switches. The company’s Red switches offer linear switching mechanics, with no audible click. The Blue switches have an audible click and tactile switching characteristics.
Different manufacturers (like Razer) categorize their switches differently, though, so you can’t choose based on color alone. The best way to determine which is the right mechanical keyboard for you is to spend some time using one. Head to a store or take advantage of a free trial offer from an online retailer.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a mechanical keyboard. Even one that costs under $40 will still provide a better typing experience than a comparably priced membrane keyboard. It will likely last a lot longer, too.
Poor posture can impact your life over both the short- and long-term. While standing desks were supposed to save us all from the perils of a sedentary lifestyle, most people still prefer to sit while working. If you’re one of them, do yourself a favor and get a good desk chair.
If money were no object, we’d all be lounging around in a Herman Miller Aeron. But most of us can’t justify dropping a grand on a chair, even if it’s tax-deductible for the self-employed. The next best thing might be a gaming chair. These are designed to look like they cost $1,000, but, often, they only cost a few hundred.
DXRacer is one of the most recognizable brands of gamer-focused chairs, thanks to endless YouTube sponsorships and eSports tie-ins. These chairs all cost less than $400. They’re also finished in PU (vegan) leather and include a lifetime warranty on the frame.
Unfortunately, the gamer chair aesthetic isn’t for everyone. Finding one that suits a “grown-up” office environment might be a challenge. Many gamers lament the obnoxious detailing and loud branding, but swear by the comfort these chairs provide.
Maybe you can convince your boss on health grounds? If you work from home, the comfort might be worth the gaudy design.
Fancy Gaming Mice
Gaming mice have more precise sensors than their mainstream counterparts to give competitive gamers an edge in online shooters. They offer higher polling rates for smoother precision movements.
This offers some clear benefits, regardless of what you use a mouse for. Even if you’re just browsing the web, a more precise mouse is more pleasant to use. For tasks like photo editing, a more precise mouse could make life significantly easier.
Gaming mice are often covered in additional wheels and buttons. While these might be a bit dizzying at first, they’re productivity hacks that can help you get more done in less time. These mice are frequently accompanied with custom software that allows you to customize each button.
This means you can set up dedicated shortcuts on your mouse, like cut, copy, and paste. You could use one button to launch your email client, and another to lock your computer. The buttons on the side of the mouse could go back- or forward in the web browser. The less often you need to move your hands from one peripheral to another, the less time you waste.
The caveat with gaming mice is the same as the chairs and keyboards: they often have an over-the-top gamer designed. Expect to find programmable RGB lighting and obnoxious branding that won’t fit in at more professional offices.
Solid State Drives
Solid-state drives (SSDs) aren’t just marketed to gamers, but you won’t see many from most hardware manufacturers that produce workstations for home and office use. For example, Apple was one of the first companies to go all-in on SSDs in MacBooks, yet, it doesn’t include one in the base iMac model.
Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) store data on metal platters. A mechanical arm moves across the platter to read various parts of the disk, which can be a time-consuming process. Thanks to a reliance on moving parts, HDDs are also prone to spontaneous (and not-so-spontaneous) failure. They’re notoriously slow and susceptible to physical damage.
SSDs do away with moving parts entirely, which results in much faster read and write speeds. Drives are less prone to fail because there are no moving parts. Any process that relies on data retrieval (like launching an application) or creating new data (like copying files) gets a significant speed boost.
This has led to SSDs becoming one of the best upgrades you can make to any computer. Almost every aspect of general use will be improved by switching to an SSD. It’s also quite easy to do—you’re just switching one storage device for another.
You don’t even have to store everything on an SSD. By installing your operating system and most-used applications on an SSD, you’ll see a leap in performance, even if you continue to store personal files and other data on a traditional hard drive.
High-End PC Hardware
The most important part of a gaming setup is the computer. Chairs, keyboards, and high-end monitors are worthless if the machine that powers it all isn’t up to scratch. While you don’t need the latest, greatest hardware, it pays to know where to spend your money to get the most performance bang for your buck.
For a gaming PC, you want a powerful CPU and a GPU (graphics card) that can handle your desired level of visual fidelity and resolution. If you want to run the latest games on ultra settings in 4K, you’ll be spending over $1,000 on a GPU.
But acceptable results are very achievable on a much more modest budget. AMD’s Ryzen family of CPUs offer excellent performance at a price that gives Intel a run for its money. Similarly, you’ll be able to play most modern games in full HD at respectable quality settings if you spend around $400 on a graphics card (even a used one that’s a year or two old). Throw in a decent amount of RAM and an SSD, and you’re flying!
All that power won’t go to waste when you’re not playing games, either. With a decent CPU and enough RAM, you can flick through 100 open tabs with ease. Resource-intensive web pages and spreadsheets with thousands of cells won’t grind your machine to a halt
Editing native 4K video is possible with a powerful enough GPU. Tasks like RAW image editing can cause Photoshop to choke if you don’t have a dedicated GPU. Other processes, like running virtual machines, data analysis, compiling from source code, video transcoding, or even using your machine as a makeshift server, would all benefit from better-than-average hardware.
Beware of Inflated Prices
If there’s one thing manufacturers have realized, it’s that virtually anything can be turned into a “gaming” product with the right branding. Often, this is just a ploy to get more money.
However, high-end products that focus on power and precision offer a superior computer experience. So, give those “gamer” products a look, even if you don’t game or like the aesthetics.