It is that time of year again when we tackle the task of selecting gifts for those special folks on our holiday shopping lists. If you have a dedicated PC gamer to shop for, selecting the right gift can be a daunting task. Unlike consoles, where you can buy a single box and be done with the process, PCs are often built from a collection of parts or upgraded throughout their life cycle. Even if you know next to nothing about PC gaming or which parts give the best bang for the buck, this guide will have you covered. We will provide the information you need to choose the best PC gaming gifts for the 2018 holiday season.
PC Gaming Holiday Gift Guide 2018
Graphics Cards (aka GPUs)
When it comes to gaming PCs, the single most important component is the graphics card. Also known as GPUs, these add-in cards are responsible for powering the visuals that allow PC games to wow players with the latest in cutting edge technology. Almost all enthusiast-class gaming GPUs come from either AMD or NVIDIA. Each company offers an extensive amount of options for every price bracket, with the more expensive cards offering higher performance.
Selecting the right GPU for your build or for a loved one comes down to a few factors. The resolution of the display the gaming PC uses is the most important. If a 1080p monitor or TV is being used with the PC, buying a high-end GPU may not be the best use of your money, as the most expensive models will offer no perceivable gameplay difference than a mid-range card. If you or your loved one uses a 144Hz monitor or a display with a 1440p or 4K resolution, the high-end GPUs make more sense. You can also pair lower-end GPUs with high-resolution displays, but you will have to lower in the in-game graphical settings to maintain a smooth experience.
If you wanna buy for a PC gamer just getting their start or looking to upgrade an older machine, you’ll get the most for your money by going the the AMD Radeon RX 570. Available in 4GB and 8GB configurations, this GPU is capable of playing any game at high settings at 1080p and many games at 1440p with high settings. You can often find the 8GB variants for the same price as the 4GB models when on sale. The 8GB variants will be good for those using 1440p or higher resolutions, or for better future proofing. Look to spend around $150 for this GPU, depending on the brand and cooler quality. AMD is currently running a promotion that allows buyers to get two free games from a set that includes Resident Evil 2, The Division 2, and Devil May Cry 5, making the RX 570 a scorching hot deal this holiday season. You can shop for Radeon RX 570 cards on NewEgg.
If you want to step up to the next level of performance, keep any eye out for NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070 and GeForce GTX 1070 Ti GPUs. These cards comes with 8GB of VRAM and are capable of running the newest games at 1080p with maximum settings at high framerates. 1440p and above with higher settings is also in their wheelhouse. Expect to pay around $350 for the GTX 1070 and a little more for the GTX 1070 Ti. Go with the GTX 1070 Ti if the prices are close, as it is a noticeably faster card. NVIDIA is also running a promotion for the GTX 1070 Ti GPUs that gives buyers a free copy of Monster Hunter World and in-game currency and items for Fortnite. You can shop for the NVIDIA GTX 1070 and GTX 1070 Ti at NewEgg.
On the top end of the performance spectrum, you’ll find the best deals by opting for the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64. For around $500, you’ll get great 1440p performance (provided you have a strong power supply) that is 10-20% faster than the GTX 1070 Ti. You can find these cards at NewEgg (with the same great 3-game bundle found with the RX 570). For rock-solid performance on a 1440p 144Hz display or a 60Hz 4K screen, we recommend going with NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080. This GPU replaces the legendary GTX 1080 Ti at the $700 price point and offers slightly better performance with much less power draw. You can find these cards at NewEgg, with some models including a free copy of Battlefield 5.
Solid state drives (SSDs)
PC gamers will always need space to store the latest games and those games continue to grow larger with each new release. Solid state drives (or SSDs) are the fastest drives available, offering the best load times and, when used as an OS drive, make for the most enjoyable computing experience. Thankfully, SSD prices have plummeted in recent months. You can score big drives at all-time low prices. These drives come in two form factors, 2.5-inch SATA and m.2 (SATA and NVME). Refer to your motherboard manufacturer for compatibility information on m.2 drives.
Lots of companies offer SSDs and virtually all of them are much faster than traditional platter drives. Some models stand out from the rest of the pack. Samsung, Intel, Crucial, and HP offer a few of the most popular drives for PC gamers and enthusiasts. With current pricing, it makes the most sense to start with 500GB capacity drives. They will set you back anywhere from $55 to $85 dollars. Models to look out for: Samsung Evo 860, Crucial MX500, and Intel 545s. You can find the 2.5-inch versions of these drives at NewEgg. You can find the m.2 SATA-based SSDs here.
Some m.2 drives support the PCIE interface. These are known as NVME SSDs. They can offer performance that is much faster than traditional SSDs for certain workloads and are slightly more expensive. In practice, these drives offer no meaningful benefit for gaming, but make excellent OS drives. You can find some great options at NewEgg.
Sleeved power cables
Gamers who have windowed cases love to show off their hardware. They have rigs full of LED fans and RGB strips. One of the best ways to customize the look of a windowed gaming PC is to swap your power supply cables with custom-sleeved replacements or to add sleeved extensions to your existing build. These sleeved cable kits come in a variety of colors to match the visual theme of the gaming PC. Swap out those boring mustard and ketchup-colored cables for something with more style.
The best basic sleeved extension kits are available from Phanteks and Antec. The Phanteks cable extensions are available in several colors and a few combination color schemes. They come with clear cable combs to help you straighten the wires and get that perfect look. The Antec sleeved extensions are slightly more expensive, but come with a heavier gauge wire and better sleeving material. These extensions are easier to train into the shape you want and don’t show gaps in the wires. They include lots of cable combs so you get that perfect look.
If you own one of the high-quality power supplies from EVGA, Seasonic, Corsair, or ASUS, you may want to opt for a set of fully-sleeved cable replacements. This kind of kit plugs directly into your PSU so you don’t need to cable manage the extra length created by using extensions. CableMod offers an extensive variety of cable kits that are custom made for you power supply. Their Pro-Series kits offer heavy gauge wires and all the cables you need to trick out your build.
There’s nothing an avid PC user loves more than a quality mechanical keyboard. While some players prefer the loud clickin’ and clackin’, others opt for the quieter precision gaming switches. Keyboard manufacturers have you covered, offering a variety of boards with a full selection of switches, keycaps, and backlighting options.
When it comes to selecting the best keycaps for the person on your list, it’s a good idea to know their preferences. For the purposes of this guide, I will refer to the industry standard Cherry MX switch type, as most manufacturers that offer other switches will directly compare their designs to the Cherry MX. For fast key response and minimal noise, PC gamers love both the Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Speed switches. Typists will love the feel and tactile bump provided by Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Green switches. For a switch that mixes the best of both those worlds, opt for a Cherry MX Brown or Cherry MX Clear switch.
Mechanical Keyboards come in a wide variety of sizes. The most common size is known as “full size”. This size board has a full complement of keys and will include a numpad. Tenkeyless (or TKL) boards are a smaller size thanks to the omission of the numpad. An even smaller type, known as a “66% board”, further shrinks the desktop footprint down by closing the gaps between keys and omitting the function keys. Backlighting is also an important consideration. Some gamers prefer RGB backlights while others want a simple board with no lights.
Some of our favorite boards include Coolermaster’s MasterKeys Pro series. The MasterKeys Pro L has RGB backlights and Cherry MX Switches on a full-size board. The MasterKeys Pro M is the same board in a TKL format. Corsair fans will love the new Strafe RGB MK.2. This board is full-sized with a wrist wrest and Cherry MX Red switches, along with a highly customizable RGB backlight. The Vortex Poker is one of the most popular 66%-size keyboards available. You can get it in a variety of keycaps and switches. The Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition Chroma offers Razer’s exclusive gaming switches and RGB lighting that can be synced with other Razer peripherals.
If you weren’t able to find to the perfect gift for the PC gamer on your list from the selections above, consider a set of premium headphones or a set of desktop monitor speakers. I wrote an extensive guide to the best headphones for music listening earlier this year that is full of suggestions that would be a surefire hit for any PC gamer. If your PC gamer prefers real speakers to headphones, our desktop monitor speaker guide covers all the bases and ensures that you’ll find the perfect gift this holiday season.
For more great gift ideas for the gamers or tech-lovers on your list, make sure to check out all of our 2018 Holiday Gift Guides.