What do you want for Christmas, Garnett?
It's the question that can slam the brakes on the holiday spirit; it stopped poor Ralphie dead in his tracks in that fateful moment when he finally got to Santa. "What do you want for Christmas?" So, to help make this the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Kaye, the Shacknews editors present some of our answers for this holiday season to help you be ready for when you get put on the spot during the 2011 Holiday Season.
If my family asks, I'd say...
Dread is probably too strong a word but every year I get tense waiting for the inevitable "what do you want for Christmas?" calls from my mom and dad. My mom is perfectly savvy to games, and, because she is, figures I have everything I want. But she likes to give something "real" as opposed to gift cards. So, for her, I'll answer the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel. I laughed too when I first saw it, then I played Forza 4 with the thing. Yes, it's a controller replacement, not a wheel, but it does a great job of replicating the smooth feel of carving corners with a wheel.
Dad is a tougher nut to crack. The generation gap comes into play and he only loosely knows that I "work with the games." He is, however, a big reader, and there's a book I've wanted to read for a while now. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline not only received good reviews when it came out, a number of my friends enjoyed it. It's a clever sci-fi novel filled with cultural callbacks that resonate with gamers, yet stays on plot to tell a story that involves a very real quest set in a massively multiplayer online game.
If I'm writing my letter to Santa, I'd put...
My wish list begins with the heart of a great gaming setup, the display. I need a new HDTV, and there's a new one that I've been lusting after--Sony's top of the line HX929 series. I've always been a strong defender of plasma screens, as much for their rich blacks as for gaming. The local-dimming tech in Sony's newest LCD, though, measures up comparably. When it comes down to actually pulling the trigger it would be a tough call between this and Panasonic's VT30 plasma, but I've always been annoyed by the buzz plasmas emit. Granted, it's all but impossible to hear over anything but the quietest volume settings but I tend to game rather late into the night, when volumes get turned way down. And the HX929 looks fantastic. Its minimal bezel and thin design give it a sleek look. I wouldn't argue with either of them.
If I hadn't already broken down and gotten it, I'd have to say...
Though I prefer a full speaker 5.1 system, I wind up gaming an awful lot wearing my Astro A40s. I've had them a while actually, and though they're not the most musical headset, I haven't found anything better for gaming. They strike a perfect balance for me of delivering great in-game sound while still being able to hear what's going on in my surroundings so I don't get that freaky sense of headphone isolation. The microphone works great, and its flexi stalk makes it easy to position right where I want.
The real Astro magic is in their mixamp. This year I added the new wireless model, and while not a must-have over the wired version, it's definitely a nice to have upgrade. Even when I have it tethered to my 360 via USB for power, it's easier to have the volume control pod next to me on the couch, with the base unit stashed back on the entertainment system. Performance has been flawless and I've never once noticed any hiccups in the wireless connection.
Astro A40 Headset
When I wind up with gift cards, I'll go get...
While it's not terribly exciting, one of the first purchases I'll be making is a new set of Sanyo's Eneloop AA rechargeable batteries and a good charger. The battery packs for my 360 controllers aren't holding a charge well, and rather than buy replacements, these make more sense. I've already been using some older rechargeables with good results, and it's nice to have regular batteries for the few other things that use them, like, if I want to get out my DJ Hero turntables.
With whatever's left over I'll be looking to preorder my PlayStation Vita. Its February 22 launch date will be here before I know it and coming as it does right after the holiday could make for awkward timing finance-wise. I'll aim to get as much down toward it as I can to help lessen the blow when it comes in.