A recommended gaming setup for February 2012

blog_nvc_recommendedgamingsetup_february2012

The majority of gamers about to view this article will, probably, already know i’m a massive gaming peripheral nerd. This is the second recommendation article for the Level Up TV website, and includes updates in almost all categories since it’s predecessor back in November 2011. 

Disclaimer: This post contains the sole opinions of the author and does not represent the opinion of Level Up TV, or the opinion of any affiliates. Also, neither the author or Level Up TV are currently affiliated with any of the companies or products mentioned in the post.

Monitor:

  • Samsung S23A700D / S23A750D / S23A950D. Same panel in all 3. (1920×1080 16:9).
  • Viewsonic VX2268WM 120hz LCD Monitor (1680×1050 16:10).  now discontinued :(
  • LG W2363D 120hz LED Monitor (1920×1080 16:9). now discontinued :(

All gaming monitors use TN panels (put simply they are the fastest), but they do have an unfortunate downside… viewing angles and colour reproduction are a little behind the other more expensive panels that you may need for other areas of work. That said, who cares; we’re gamers and we want 120hz awesomeness.

Unfortunately the 2 best 120hz LCD’s are now discontinued, leaving just the Samsung panels as to what i believe are now the only viable option. There are no reviews of the S23A700D available, only customer related, but it’s bigger brothers (750D and 950D) both use the same panel of which has had pretty good reviews. I suggest you check the S23A750D review on PCMonitors.org yourself and make your mind up from there as to whether you’d take the gamble on the S23A700D having the same performance (just because the panel is the same, doesn’t mean the electronics behind it are). I have not tested the Samsung monitors myself, but with both of my actual preferred monitors now discontinued since the last recommendation article, i at least wanted to give you guys something to consider… so do some research (If the 700D has the same performance as the 750D, it would be a great purchase considering the price). If you dislike glossy panels you should stay away and instead try to find one of the other two elsewhere (viewsonic 16:10 + lower resolution = more in-game fps). I personally find glossy panels to look fantastic and provide richer colors, as opposed to matte panels that, in my opinion, are better suited to mobile phones and laptops of which you’re often unable to monitor lighting conditions. This topic of discussion however, is very much up for debate, but most of your HDTV’s will have glossy panels if you want to reference a similar viewing experience when ordering online and not in-store.

I find it hard to recommend other monitors as i quite honestly haven’t tried anything away from Samsung 2233rz, Viewsonic vx2268wm, LG w2363d and BenQ xl2410t / xl2420t. I do however recommend that you make efforts in not getting sucked into the “pro gamer monitor” hype that some manufacturers push through their marketing strategies. For example, I have tried both of the BenQ 120hz panels that are pushed extensively toward gamers (both casual and professional), and I feel less than satisfied with the price vs performance they offer. To elaborate, when it comes to the overclocking of their pixel response from 5ms (default TN panel response), to 2ms (g2g) via BenQ’s AMA technology, instead of producing a sharper image with less ghosting, it produces a sharper image plus large overshoots in the form of heavy inverse color ghosting behind everything that moves on screen. This issue is significantly more noticeable the faster paced a game is. It’s of my opinion that this company doesn’t just want somebody to tell them what we want, but someone to tell them what we don’t want too… because i bought the XL2420T expecting this issue to be remedied… it wasn’t. To be clear, most manufacturers incorporate some form of pixel overdrive technology to reach their rated 2-3ms response time, but thankfully some do it better than others (e.g. the ones i’ve recommended), and some just have better panels to begin with meaning the overdrive implemented doesn’t need to be as aggressive. Some manufacturers even go as far as to add multiple levels of overdrive so that the user can decide what they want (e.g. the Samsung monitors listed above offer “normal, faster and fastest”). Let’s take a moment and be clear though, the low input lag is absolutely fantastic in the BenQ offerings, and the 24″ 1080p plus it’s flexible stand is amazing value for money. If you don’t care much for anything beyond personal performance in a video game (my aim didn’t suffer whilst using it), then finding it for a reasonable price (i will not define what’s reasonable) could potentially be a good purchase for you… but it wouldn’t ever be a monitor for me regardless of price, due to the issue i listed.

Mouse:

  • Razer Deathadder 3.5g (palm grip + no prediction + 2 sidebuttons). orRazer Abyssus 3.5g (claw grip + no sidebuttons). or
  • Logitech G400 (palm grip + prediction + 2 sidebuttons). or
  • Zowie EC1 (palm grip + prediction + 2 sidebuttons). or
  • Zowie EC2 (claw grip + prediction + 2 sidebuttons).

The 3.5g sensor in both above Razer mice is the best performing of all on the market (with the exception of high lift off distance that is easily fixed), need i say more? Some people will say the same sensor in the Abyssus has jitter, and whilst i can’t confirm nor deny this entirely in my experience, i can say that testing the product for jitter at 1800dpi on a desktop resolution of below 1680×1050 is NOT a legit way of proving your theory.

Gone too are the days of manually overclocking ports to achieve 500hz and above (125=8ms aka default, 250=4ms, 500=2ms, 1000=1ms) and installing mouse fixes to remove accelleration, steer clear of the Microsoft WMO, 1.1A and 3.0 fanboys and get something that both outperforms them and is LAN friendly, it’s almost 2012 people. (p.s. microsoft, an updated 3.0 with 1000hz, no acceleration and optional prediction would be amazing thanks).

If you’re a prediction sort of person, the G400 is the LAN friendly version of the successful MX518 (great), and the Zowie mice are takes on the Deathadder/3.0 but with similar tech to the Logitech counterpart.

I’d also recommended waiting around for reviews of the new CM Storm Xornet, a new varient on the CM Storm Spawn, but more on that another time.

**UPDATE – 15 January 2011**
Logitech has informed us that a G400 with a Product ID (PID) of “LZ13333″ or above will now come without prediction (or Angle Snapping as they call it). Lower PIDs have angle snapping. There is no way to specify in online orders which version you are going to get, and there is no way to change this via firmware… you get what you get and that’s that.  As time goes on, it is more likely that you will receive a non-angle-snapping version as stock of the older version is depleted, but keep your receipt handy just incase.

Keyboard:

  • Razer Arctosa (medium sized keys).
  • Steelseries 6gv2/7g w/ MX Black switches. or
  • Filco TenKeyLess w/ MX Black switches. or
  • CMStorm Quick Fire w/ MX Black or Red switches. or
  • Noppoo Choc Mini w/ MX Black or Red switches.

The Razer Arctosa is a Razer Lycosa without lights, it’s also £40 cheaper (duh)!

If laptop style keys arn’t for you though, you really need to go Mechanical! Cherry MX Black switches are purely linear (non-tactile) making them ideal for FPS, whilst Cherry MX Red switches are simply a rarer variation of the black with a lower compression point and a lower operating force i.e. for me i find MX Red switches are better and allow for quicker double tapping without tiring you out over time!

Once you know which switch type you want though, a Filco keyboard would be your first choice… however they are expensive! The other keyboards listed offer the same height key for key but at a more affordable price. I won’t tell you which one to buy, go and check out reviews at GeekHack, this is just a ‘my recommendations’ article. Although i personally own the Noppoo Choc Mini w/ MX Red switches, which is also the first keyboard in the world to support full N-key rollover (NKRO) aka “Anti-Ghosting” i.e. All keys on the keyboard can be held down simultaneously and will register correctly.

You should read up on NKRO yourselves, and with that on X-key rollover (XKRO) – where X represents an integer. Some of the above keyboards only feature 6KRO e.g. the above Razer Arctosa (+ Windows modifier keys), this is because 6-key rollover is the standard limit of USB… my keyboard is one of the now few exceptions. Usually full NKRO is acheived via PS2.

Mousepad:

  • Steelseries Qck+ Fnatic Edition (4mm thickness). or
  • Razer Goliathus Speed: Fragged Edition (4mm thickness). or
  • Puretrak Talent (4mm thickness)

I’m not a fanboy, it’s just that the Qck+ fnatic edition feels much better than the Qck Heavy! It’s also 2mm thicker than the standard Qck+ (and 2mm thinner than the Heavy) i.e. just about right. Steelseries are definitely up there in potential first place for their Qck mousepads alone, in close second is Razer and if you want to try something different… the Puretrak talent is a great alternative albeit harder to find too.

Headsets (not headphones):

  • Sennheiser PC360 Open Headset (good at home). or
  • Sennheiser PC350 Closed Headset (better at LAN). or
  • Razer Moray+ in-ear Headset (preference).

Don’t buy a open headset if it’s sole purpose is for using it at LAN… you won’t hear your team mates on comms (OR ANYTHING IN GAME) with loud surroundings. That said, the additional bass and clarity that comes with an open headset make it just great for home and multi purpose use, so think about your purchase carefully. Sennheiser do make great headsets though (the microphones are brilliant), and the above PC360′s are perhaps the closest you’ll get to true audiophile headphones (with the pc360’s being comparable to the hd595’s) without buying 2 separate products (which can be both cheaper + better, but once you go that route it’s hard to put a budget on great sound), but i like the combo of headphones and microphone in one… less cables. If you don’t mind cables, I can at least help you with a separate microphone… you’ll either want an expensive desktop mic for voiceovers/commentary such as the Audio Technica 2020 / Blue Yeti, or something new, awesome and significantly less expensive such as the modmic to clip to your headphones.

Away from the norm, sometimes we just want to wear something light… and that’s where the Razer Moray+ in-ear Headset comes in (i wouldn’t suggest wearing them over long periods though, they can hurt). Quick fact though, if you can find some “helicopter headphones” at an event, wearing them over a pair of in-ear headphones/headset would be the best combination for any important LAN match with a loud audience!

An extra piece of advice, if you don’t go “true audiophile” and pick up a pair of Sennheiser PC360′s, you should check out the Asus Xonar DG PCI Sound Card. It has an inbuilt headphone amp that does a fantastic job of pushing up the volume, without distortion.

Feel free to leave your comments below, i’d be interested to hear about any products i may have missed that you beleive deserve to be in the above list, or any products you think I shouldn’t have included… i don’t own everything!

British based gamer and commentator Ziggy Orzeszek, is better known by his alias “nVc”. A graduate, Ziggy has commentated some of the largest events in esports and is the lead live events broadcaster at Level Up TV. As Managing Director Ziggy is in charge of driving the Level Up TV brand and it's talent forward.

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