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Holiday Hardware Buyers Guide
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by Techgage Staff on November 15, 2006 in Staff Editorials

The holiday season can be a rough time if you are not sure what you buy, or ask for. We have taken out the hassle and delivered a comprehensive guide of our top picks that covers every type of component inside your computer.

Update: We’ve added a gadgets page!

Peripherals


Keyboard

The keyboard has remained unchanged for a very long time with the exception of the way it connects to the PC. While the QWERTY layout remains, the designs of keyboards have gone from dull and beige to elegant and sleek. If I were to choose one keyboard that has captured my attention the most it would be the Saitek Eclipse II. Back in September, we took a look at this keyboard and our reaction was incredibly positive.

The quality of the keyboard was high and the layout well done. Using a standard USB connection for power and connectivity, the backlit keys could be a bit brighter but are still easily recognizable for all but the basic of users. There are the obligatory media keys in the top right corner of the keyboard. The keys are small and surround a dimmer knob for the backlit keys. As stated before, Saitek could certainly up the power going to the LEDs so the dimmer is pretty much useless. All in all, the Saitek is getting this editor’s recommendation for anyone in the market for a high quality keyboard, perfect for gamers and everyday users alike.

The Saitek Eclipse II can be found online for approximately $50 (US.)

Mouse (Wired)

For anyone looking for the ultimate control from their gaming mouse, look no further than the Razer Copperhead. We were fortunate enough to have one to review shortly after launch. Since that time, there hasn’t really been any company to produce an equal when high a DPI is of the utmost importance. The gold plated USB plug ensures an optimal connection with your PC and the laser eye of the Copperhead is fully customizable up to an amazing 2000 DPI. In fact, this eye is so impressive; Microsoft has chosen a variable of it to power their next gaming mouse, the Habu. Leave it to Razer to make an enviable product. The only downside to the mouse is that its design and shape might not be for everyone. It took me a good long while to get used to it but I have talked with many who can’t live without theirs.

The Razer Copperhead can found online for approximately $60 (US.)

Mouse (Wireless)

This is an easy one, the Logitech G7 wireless gaming mouse. Logitech has pretty much had the PC peripherals game on lock for more than a decade. With the G7, you get laser precision, on the fly DPI adjustments and a pair of rechargeable battery packs that can be swapped out in a hurry all while the G7 communicates with your PC via a 2.4 GHz wireless signal. The G7 also comes with the comfortable Logitech styling and for this editor; the feel of Logitech’s mice can’t be beat. Look for this under trees near you!

The Logitech G7 can be found online for approximately $60 (US.)

Mouse (Notebook)

Should your PC of choice be a notebook, we have the hook up for you as well. Most people are either not used to the touchpad of their notebook or just don’t want to use it. For those people, we can recommend the Logitech VX Revolution. Logitech dropped the boom hammer when it released its Revolution line of mice. We took a good long look at the MX desktop mouse back in August and its little brother is very similar in all but size. The VX is a wireless (2.4 GHz RF) 7 button mouse that has a tilt wheel and programmable software. The VX uses a laser eye for mind numbing precision and is small and portable so it’s easy to throw in your notebook bag and get back on the go. Connectivity, as stated before, is 2.4 GHz (RF) and is connected through a small USB thumb drive sized device.

The mouse is rather painless to use and can be found online in the ballpark of $80 (US.)

Headphones

Gamers have brought the use of headsets to an all time high. No gamer is going to be caught dead at a LAN party with speakers as most LAN events strictly prohibit the use of anything but headphones. The headset I personally use and recommend is the Steel Sound 5Hv2. I have been using these headphones for the past month and a half and each day, I learn to appreciate them more and more. The sound is top notch and the ability to break them down into three separate pieces is a welcome feature if you attend many LAN parties or just like to store your things away. The 5H headset has an inline volume controller that also allows you to turn your microphone on and off. Speaking of microphones, the 5Hv2s have a built in microphone that can retract into the left ear pod for safe and convenient storage when not gaming or the microphone is not needed.

The Steel Sound 5Hv2 can be found online for approximately $70 (US.)

Thumb Drives

We all need extra storage. Being an IT professional (yea right!), I have to have a lot of data at my disposal at all times. Sometimes it software, a lot of the time its router configurations, and sometimes it just music and por…. stuff. Whatever it might be, the ability to make important data readily accessible at any PC with an open USB port is awesome. With that said, there are 2 thumb drives that truly stand out in my mind.

The OCZ 4GB Rally thumb drive is a fast storage solution for those of you on the go. The 4GBs of storage should be more than enough for you to store anything you really need to access or install on any and all PCs that you might be in front of, all through the convenience of USB.

If 4 gigs of storage aren’t enough, then perhaps you can opt for the 8GB Corsair Voyager. Despite the huge density, Voyager remains a small size.

Both of these drives offer far more space than any flash drive did last year and that my friends, is the beauty of progress. The concept of mobile data isn’t new, but with these thumb drives, you now have the power to fit a DVD worth of data on a small drive that will fit in your pocket as well as remove that data and start over should you feel like it. Times are good. Thumb drives for the masses!

The OCZ Rally can be found online in the area of $80 – $100 (US) dollars while the Corsair Voyager can be had for a stonking $160 (US.)

For a few years now, there have been many companies to released portable MP3 players but there is really only one major player.

Launched back in 2001, the iPod has taken off and with many different varieties, hasn’t looked back. You can now buy iPods with screens on them, without screens, flash based, hard drive based, with video and picture support…. you get the picture. Or perhaps you don’t if you have the shuffle (iPod joke, I know, I’m lame.) Well, just as companies always release new products, Microsoft has their “iPod killer”, the Zune. Just as they did with the XBox, Microsoft is going for the gusto and throwing their financial fists directly at the face of Apple. Will it work? Time will tell.

The Zune, as stated before, is an all new MP3 player manufactured by Microsoft. Offering 30 GBs of storage, FM radio, video and music playback and WiFi, the Zune looks to be an all in one portable media center. The Zune can also connect with Microsoft’s XBox 360, allowing the user to stream media off of the Zune, and onto the TV and speakers that are hooked up to the 360.

On the other hand, the iPod has been a vanity item for a long time. It was almost as if it was a social status indicator that divided those with from those without. I personally own the 30GB flavor if iPod and overall, I have been happy. Another positive about the iPod is that because of it’s popularity, every company under the sun makes add-on hardware for it. Hell, if car companies build cars with your product in mind, you without a doubt have a good thing going for you.

The Microsoft Zune will retail for $250 (US) while the iPod can be found for anywhere from $145 (US) for the 2GB Nano up to $340 (US) for the whopping 80GB Video iPod.


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