Is your loved one still rocking a beige IBM mouse and keyboard combo from the ’80s? With all its attention on $300 CPUs and $500 graphics cards, the world of custom-built PCs often forgets that the most noticeable upgrades are what your hands actually touch daily. As such, we’ve compiled a list of recommended input devices for your holiday gifting needs.
Cheap & Cheerful: CM Storm Xornet ($29.99)
When we reviewed this mouse back in October, we were impressed by its compact-yet-ergonomic design, its respectable 2000 DPI sensor, and its overall simplicity. Although small “claw-grip” mice often lead to cramped fingers after prolonged use, the width of the Xornet and the padded pinky rest made it one of the most natural-feeling mice out there. Of course, at its $30 price point, there are some features you’ll be expected to make do without–the keys aren’t programmable, for example, and the sensitivity levels are fixed–but, to be honest, the Xornet is a respectable performer despite these omissions, and it’s one less piece of software to worry about. The Xornet is affordable, comfortable, and very usable, and therefore earns a place on our list.
Midrange: Razer Deathadder ($59.99)
The Deathadder has been on the market for some time now, but it’s had a long life for a reason: it’s a good piece of equipment. In its five-year life, the most drastic changes have been its upgraded sensor (now 3500DPI, up from the original 1800) and its color. It’s lightweight (if you like that sort of thing; the weight isn’t adjustable), responsive, quick, and comfortable, making it one of the most well-rounded mice in the segment. It has no gimmick, instead relying on rock-solid performance to win the hearts and minds of users. Notably, it’s also one of the very few ergonomic (read: non-ambidextrous) mice that’s also available for southpaws, so there’s every reason to pick one up for your favorite left-handed gamer.
You spent how much? Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Albino
The R.A.T. 7 isn’t so much a mouse as it is an exercise in engineering. Every panel of the mouse is adjustble or replaceable to fit your personal needs–it comes with three palm rests and three pinky rests–and the buttons are adjustable on-the-fly to give you a total of 15 programmable commands at your fingertips. The Albino edition has an upgraded 6400 DPI “twin eye” sensor and a programmable “Precision Aim” button. Aesthetically, the entire line of R.A.T. mice is unmistakable, the 7 even more so because of its striking white paint job. It’s also available in the original black, and in an even more expensive and over-the-top wireless version as the R.A.T. 9 ($149.99), but for those who’ve been complaining that black is the new beige, your solution is (literally) at hand.
Entry-Level: Razer BlackWidow ($79.99)
Like the Deathadder we mentioned earlier, the original Razer Blackwidow is an icon that’s been with us for a while now, but if anything it’s only gotten more impressive as the price drops. It’s one of the few fully-mechanical keyboards under $100, making it price-competitive with many of the rubber-dome gaming keyboards on the market. Its Cherry MX Blue switches are well-suited to both gaming and typing, meaning the Blackwidow will see you through your heated Starcraft 2 tournament and then bang out that ten-page paper you were putting off in record time. It’s got a few hit-or-miss features, though: the glossy surface is a dust and fingerprint magnet, and there’s no backlight (you’ll have to step up to the $129.99 Blackwidow Ultimate for that).
Midrange: Corsair Vengeance K60 ($109.99)
Yes, Corsair makes keyboards. And damn good ones, at that. The Vengeance K60 sports a brushed aluminum chassis and laser-etched keys, ensuring that it’ll put up with considerable abuse. Unlike Razer, Corsair opted for the more gaming-oriented Cherry MX Red switches in the K60, a testament to its enthusiast pedigree. It also comes with a set of replacement key caps for the WASD and 1-6 keys; these are rubberized and textured for better feel while gaming. A padded ergonomic wrist rest supports the left hand , although there is no right-side equivalent, as your right hand should be on the mouse. The K60 is aesthetically restrained enough that it wouldn’t look out of place at an office workstation. But, really, that’s not at all where it belongs.
We can’t afford rent now, can we? Das Keyboard ($129.99 – $134.99)
The Das Keyboard has accumulated something of a cult following among the PC gaming bourgeoisie for its bulletproof reliability, its tactile and audible feedback, and its feature set. Available in Professional or Ultimate versions (laser-etched and blank keys, respectively), the Das Keyboard is the current king of a keyboard philosophy that traces its origins to the legendary IBM Model M of the ’80s. It is classy and understated, as befits is German design, and it uses Cherry MX Blue switches (like the Blackwidow), making it suitable for all tasks. Less obvious features, such as available N-key rollover through its PS/2 adapter, give it that slight advantage over others. For those who want the tactility of a mechanical keyboard without the noise, a Silent version is also available which uses Cherry MX Brown switches instead.