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KitGuru Annual Awards 2012

Gaming and Accessories

With thousands of man-hours spent testing the CPUs, GPUs, cooling solutions and storage – it’s sometimes easy to lose track on why many of buy this stuff: To get online and frag the arse off enemies foreign and domestic.

Having been through a lot of products, we’re going to give one award to each of the major components that you need to be in physical contact with in order to win: Keyboard. Mouse, Screen and Audio.

Keyboards, mice, headsets and screens have come a long way. When milliseconds can mean life or death, it's important you have the right kit for the job. Just for you: We've tested the rest - here's a short list of the best.

This year saw some valiant attempts in the keyboard arena from companies as diverse as Cooler Master, Xebec and the usual suspects like Microsoft and Logitech. Even though we got our hands on some of the latest units from Razer Black Widow Ultimate and the Roccat Isku as well, the one that stood out the most in 2012 was the Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches (like ‘black’ but with lower actuation pressure).

Although specifically marketed as an MMO keyboard, it works well in all conditions and we love a clicky response here at KitGuru Labs.

There are specialist mice, but as soon as you set up for an RPG, you have complaints from the FPS brigade screaming that a vital head shot was missed because a minor button was accidentally pressed. Having worked our palms around a huge number of these devices, one product stood out (once the manufacture worked on a solution to a minor issue on the initial units shipped).

Originating in Hamburg, Germany, Roccat has managed to put a tremendous amount of pressure on Razer over the past 5 years and the Electronic Sports League (ESL – 4 million registered users) is now delivered in partnership with Roccat. Once we got to grips with the Roccat Kone XTD 8200 mouse, it was clear why this had been appointed ‘flagship’ status by the Germans. Very impressive.

Here, we look for a balance of crisp gaming and professional-level colour reproduction – without taking the piss on price. It wasn’t long ago when a serious monitor could set you back several hundred pounds. These days, you can get some very impressive products under the £300 mark.

If money is no object, then we’d all go for 30″ cinematic panels for £1k, but at the price point we’re considering, we wanted certain tick boxes checked. Can we get an IPS panel, that’s at least 24″, with proper colour calibration, that’s set up near-perfect straight from the box, with a strong contrast ratio and fast response?

Asus PA248Q ProArt Monitor - a great monitor and well priced

At £279, the Asus PA248Q delivers on all of those criteria. It’s also built like a tank, with tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments to make your experience as perfect as you can get for this kind of money.

Some will prefer headphones, while others go for speakers. At KitGuru, we prefer the idea of speakers being part of your AV set-up, while your PC is more normally used with a headset – either for Skype calls, team talk or music etc – so that’s where we’re going to focus.

The Chao Dracco unit we had in from Thermaltake was certainly the brightest of the year. Not in terms of audio, but you have to say that a yellow/white/gold unit is unlikely to be lost on the average gamer’s desktop.

Cooler Master’s gaming brand, Storm, unloaded the Ceres 400, which was judged to be ‘ok’, and the Sonuz at £50 which was a lot better. We tested them on someone with really big ears (without explaining the nature of the test) and they declared them ‘Very comfortable’, which was good.

So we come to top spot. Tough one.

With the Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand pushing through the Vulcan ANC headset into exactly the same space as the Storm Sonuz, there is a lot of competition around the £50 mark. But the benefits of moving closer to £100 are all too apparent.

Bear in mind that even at £100, you are still toward the low end of ‘serious headphones’. If your budget can stretch to the £100 mark, then the SteelSeries Fnatic 7H and Asus ROG Vulcan Pro come head to head. For pure gaming, the SteelSeries unit is a very attractive deal, but – in overall use by the enthusiast sector – the additional electronics that Asus has put into the built in soundcard take its headset into a different area and the active noise cancelling really works. Our choice in this category is the Asus ROG Vulcan Pro.

Peripherals are like Hi-Fi separates. While we can tell you what's best in each category, the likelihood is that most people will make a 'scientific selection' for the product they rate 'most important to them on a daily basis' - then buy the rest to match.

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