The best hardware gifts for gamers in 2020

The best gift ideas for the gamers in your life.

Photo via Soumil Kumar

With the holidays rapidly approaching, the need to find the perfect gift looms. But finding the best gift for that gamer friend can often be a struggle.

You can’t get them a game; they often buy the ones they want right away. Gift cards are welcome but often impersonal. And a new console is too expensive. Hardware gifts are good, but what do you get? 

We’ve compiled the 10 best hardware gifts for the gamer on your list. Prices vary depending on which one you pick and the brands of the items. We have the type of item and then a suggested brand or model, but you’re welcome to find others that are more suitable for your price range.

Controller for console/PC: Razer Wolverine Ultimate

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Consoles come with controllers, but don’t limit yourself to the basics. There are some great aftermarket controllers that work with both consoles and PC. Because consoles come with their own, we’re mostly focusing on those that are compatible with PC. Console compatibility is a good bonus. 

It might seem odd that a PC player would want a controller, but some games just play better with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard. PC hardware far surpasses the best consoles, with many of the same games. Perhaps your gamer wants to play Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on the PC but wants the comfort and capabilities of the controller. There are many options out there. A basic Xbox controller will work on any Windows PC. That’s fine if you own an Xbox, but if you don’t, we recommend the Razer Wolverine.

There are three options for the Razer Wolverine: the basic V2 edition, Tournament Edition, and the Ultimate Edition. The Ultimate Edition is the most expensive but has the most functionality with extra buttons and the ability to swap the thumbsticks. It is designed for PC and Xbox. It will not work for PlayStation consoles. 

Controller for the Nintendo Switch: Kinvoca C25 Joy Pad Controller

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Controllers are a good idea for the Nintendo Switch as well. It has different needs than its bigger console cousins. There are a couple options when dealing with the Switch. The first is the issue of Joy-Con drift. Unfortunately for users, Nintendo has said Joy-Con drift isn’t a problem and will no longer repair affected Joy-Cons for free. If your gamer is already struggling with Joy-Con drift, replacing the controllers with Nintendo’s official Joy-Cons is an option. It is probably not the best option as the drift may happen again on any official Switch controllers. 

For those that are sick of the drift and don’t trust the Nintendo Switch official replacements, there is the Kinvoca C25. This controller is similar to the original Joy-Cons and will snap into place like the originals. It can be used wirelessly and each side can be used separately as well. The controller has better ergonomics to cut down on wrist or thumb pain when playing. They may not be compatible with all games (such as Ring Fit Adventure) and they won’t fit in a carrying case. But if your recipient wants a Joy-Con like controller without the headache, these are a good, cheaper alternative.

External hard drive: Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive

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This suggestion is geared more towards PlayStation 4 and Xbox One fans, but PC players can benefit from the extra storage.

External hard drives expand storage space. In this digital age and the reducing number of disc drives, external hard drives are necessary for long-time gamers with an ever expanding library. Seagate has many options from PS4-specific ones to more general ones. There are many size options, but the price increases with size.

Portability isn’t a big deal for PC players but might be worth something to console gamers. For console players, an external hard drive will connect to the next generation consoles and allow you to play your favorite games without transferring them or downloading them. A general 2TB hard drive that is supported on multiple platforms is a good option that covers multiple bases. We recommend the Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive. 

Headset: Razer Kraken Tournament Edition

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After storage, audio is an important part of gaming. A quality headset will give you a good sound range, be comfortable for long wear, and ideally will have a built in or detachable microphone.

There are many options available for multiple platforms at a variety of prices. There are wireless and wired headsets. Both wireless and wired have their pros and cons. Wireless headsets have more freedom and won’t disconnect from voice chat or the game if you leave the room. Some wireless headsets will connect to your phone through Bluetooth and let you answer calls while in game.

As cool as wireless options are, they are still subject to battery life and the bugs that go along with charging. Cables fall out, headset just doesn’t charge, the battery dies well before it should. Wired headsets may not have the freedom, but you don’t need to worry about battery life or odd charge related quirks. 

Corsair and Steelseries make good headsets. We recommend the Razer Kraken Tournament Edition, though, because it is compatible with all platforms, although some of the functionality may be lost on consoles. Most headsets have a corresponding app that lets players control aspects of them. These are only available on PC. For most headsets, the bells and whistles might be disabled on consoles, but the sound quality and comfort will still be there.

Headset stand: Corsair ST100 RGB Premium Headset Stand 

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A headset stand isn’t something many gamers consider. Headsets spend the majority of their time in use, but when not in use, odds are they’re just sitting on the desk, waiting for someone to walk by and bump them. A headset stand will create more space, organize a desk, and keep headsets out of the way when not in use. 

We recommend the Corsair ST100 RGB Premium Headset Stand. It is more than a bland piece of plastic. It will plug into a PC via USB and has RGB capabilities. It has two additional USB ports for charging phones, plugging in USB drives, and more. 

Keyboard: SteelSeries Apex 3

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Keyboards are an exclusively PC gamer hardware item. And like all gaming items built for PC, there is a massive range on types, quality, and functionality. Keyboards can be loud, tactile, and clicky; just clicky with little tactile feedback; quiet and tactile; or quiet with no tactile feedback. If your gamer likes the idea of typewriters and classic keyboards, tactile and clicky keyboards will be the best option. If they do not, looking for less clicky keyboards is your alternative.

For a decent middle ground we recommend the SteelSeries Apex 3. It has a good midpoint price for those looking to gift something useful but not overly expensive. It has RGB capabilities and has “whisper quiet” switches. 

MicroSDXC for Nintendo Switch: SanDisk 256GB MicroSDXC

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The Nintendo Switch is a great platform for all ages, but it lacks the storage space of its competitors. While an external hard drive is nice for consoles as a bonus, extra storage is required for the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch will only accept MicroSD cards. These range from small amounts of storage to massive 256GB sizes. As with the external hard drive, price goes up as you increase in size. We recommend bigger sizes for more storage. Games take up a lot of space and the smaller cards will fill up fast. The Switch will need to update and will do so automatically when you insert the card, for certain sizes. 

We recommend the SanDisk 256GB MicroSDXC card specifically for the Nintendo Switch. It has a good amount of storage and is licensed by Nintendo for the Switch.

Mouse: Logitech G502 Hero

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A gaming mouse is specific to PC players. There are a variety of gaming mice on the market from a variety of prices. Gaming mice tend to vary with types and functions. Some are designed for MMOs and will have anywhere from 13 to 17 customizable buttons. Others are more minimal, designed for FPS games and will have a small handful of additional buttons. There are also wireless or wired options. Wireless mice may struggle with battery life issues but won’t get caught on hardware or cables.

Your needs will vary based on what kinds of games your recipient plays. A standard mouse with a good midpoint price range is the Logitech G502 Hero. It has 11 on board buttons that can be customized. The buttons are not as clunky as the standard MMO mouse, giving it enough flexibility for any game. 

Mousepad: Razer Firefly Chroma Hard Gaming Mousepad 

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If you have a mouse, you will need a mousepad. Mousepads can come in multiple styles, sizes, and materials. For the purpose of this, we’re looking at the harder, higher tech ones. A flat cloth one causes a lot of drag and can reduce movement in competitive environments. A hard mouse pad will eliminate some drag and let players react faster and with better precision.

Many of the hard mousepads will also plug into the PC via a USB port and have some extra lighting or other visual effects. If you’re looking for a midpoint price, Razer’s Firefly Chroma is a good hard gaming mousepad for the cost. It works with Razer’s Chroma to personalize lighting effects. Corsair makes some good mousepads but they run at higher prices than Razer’s. 

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