Gear to make your work-from-home PC setup gaming-friendly

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Trying to work in a cobbled-together workspace is hard; cobbling it together to serve as an office by day and video-game sanctuary by night, especially with all the belt tightening everyone’s had to do during this coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic requires even more juggling. Here’s some gear that might make it go a little more smoothly.

Hopefully, you’ve already bought or own the requisite laptop, desktop or tablet necessary to get your work done, but if you’re searching for one suited to both work and gaming, you’ll have to go above the popular $500 ceiling. And thanks to growing numbers of shelter-in-place/lockdown edicts, it’s getting harder to get some nonesssentials shipped (although it’s not clear sometimes why Amazon considers one product essential but a competitor nonessential)

Get all the latest on the coronavirus that’s now been declared a pandemic.

Here are recommendations of some important gaming accessories that will ship or come back into stock within the next 10 years that will also help to kit out your workday home office, most of which shouldn’t blow your limited budget. We’ll try to keep it up to date as they sell out or others become available.

AOC

Cheap multipurpose monitors are almost universally sold out; this surprisingly feature-rich, sub-$160 27 incher did in just the past few hours as I was writing this, but it’s slated to come back into stock within 10 days, which these days passes for “soon.” A $110 24-inch model is still in stock as I write this, but will likely disappear as well. The smaller model lacks one of the more attracting gaming features, though, which is 75Hz refresh rate with FreeSync adaptive-refresh support. It’s more suited for work than some of the cheap monitors that you can still get because it uses an IPS (in-plane switching) panel rather than TN (twisted nematic LCD); IPS has much better color and viewing angle, while TN tends to have a greenish cast straight on and limited color gamut. These days, TN is predominantly used for esports, where exceptionally high refresh rates and pixel response times are more important than anything. This model doesn’t have a VESA mount if you were planning to put it on a wall, though.

Philips

For its low price, this 27-inch model also looks pretty good — especially if you’ve got an older computer, since it has VGA and DVI inputs as well as HDMI. It’s on the dim side, but supports 75Hz refresh and FreeSync, with an attractive slim profile.

BenQ

This 27-inch model isn’t cheap, but if you have the luxury considering something that will last you a while, the EX2780Q is a good multipurpose choice for the money. In addition to its 2,540×1,440 resolution for sharper edges in everyday use than 1,920×1,080, it’s got a gaming-friendly 75Hz refresh rate, 400-nit brightness and a 95% P3 gamut for basic HDR support in games and movies, plus built-in speakers that actually sound pretty good. There’s one drawback, though: you can tilt it, but not raise or lower it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To play keyboard-and-mouse games that require any sort of responsiveness, a gaming mouse is essential. Even an inexpensive one can be better than a standard cheap mouse; many of those choose the pretty form over durable, customizable function. While wired versions can be clumsy — one day I’m going to break something tripping over my cables — they are cheaper with more dependable response. In order to get a decent wireless mouse for gaming you’d have to pay a bit more. For $30, the Rival 3 offers a great balance of low price and capability.

Best cheap gaming mice.

Razer

At its current $30 price — normally $50 — Razer’s wired DeathAdder Essential is also a great choice if you’re more serious about gaming than working. It’s quite customizable for the money. It has a better cord than the SteelSeries as well. (You’ll see complaints everywhere about Razer’s drivers and software requiring an account. That’s not true. It just uses dark patterns to make you think it does, and in fact, you don’t even need to install the Razer software for basic operation. However, it will nag you to install if you unplug and replug Razer’s products.)

Razer

For $45 (t’s over half off), Razer’s Mamba Wireless is a solid budget choice for the no-strings player. Keep in mind that the Amazon reviews for it cover three different mice, and some of the wireless complaints refer to the more complicated and expensive Mamba Wireless Hyperflux.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aukey makes everything from power banks and chargers to dashcams and yes, budget gaming keyboards. The $40 G6 mechanical gaming keyboard uses Outemu Blue mechanical key switches that are clicky, and you’ll have no problem feeling the actuation point as you go through your keystrokes. They are also loud, so if you’re typing or gaming in a shared space be prepared for some side-eye. Also, the keycaps are on the small side, which resulted in a lot of mistakes when typing and gaming. Unless you’re really accurate or have slender fingertips (I don’t) you’ll likely need time to adjust. If you’re just looking for a budget mechanical keyboard with lights, media shortcut keys and a number pad, this hits the spot.

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the mice, I think gaming keyboards are far better for, well, almost everything except looking thin: the controllable illumination and programmable macros are useful for the same reasons as the mouse: working in the dark and speed editing of photos and videos. I like mechanical keyboards like this inexpensive one, and Logitech makes some well-respected ones. But if you prefer something with a softer sound but a mechanically tactile feel, the $90 Steelseries Apex 5 is my current budget go-to.

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

HyperX

If you’re “isolated” in a crowded space, you probably should keep the peace with a quiet keyboard. Some gamers don’t like the feel of membrane switches, but for everyday work they can feel more fluid than clicky, clacky mechanical ones. There are some great dual-purpose keyboards with hybrid membrane/mechanical switches, like the Razer Chroma Cynosa ($60 at Best Buy) and Steelseries Apex 5 ($100 at Best Buy), two favorites of mine for straight-up typing with occasionally keyboard gaming, which I wish I had thought to grab when I left the office in mid-March. But they’re either more expensive or caught in Amazon’s delayed shipping.

If you want a wireless keyboard, you’ll have to pay a lot more for one suited for gaming. Cheap wireless keyboards may be notably glitchy, which is annoying when you’re a fast typist and frustrating if you’re a fast gamer. The best of the midpriced models are from Logitech, which is having stock issues at the moment. 

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want a wireless keyboard, you’ll have to pay a lot more for one suited for gaming. Cheap wireless keyboards may be notably glitchy, which is annoying when you’re a fast typist and frustrating if you’re a fast gamer. This budget wireless keyboard uses rubber-dome switches with a pronounced actuation point, which gives it more of an office-keyboard feel like the Razer Cynosa. Gaming on it requires a touch more force than the mechanical keyboards here and rollover is limited to eight keys. Aside from those, the experience is just fine.

The K57 is a solid, relatively inexpensive model which wirelessly connects to your PC via low-latency Bluetooth or Corsair’s 2.4GHz Slipstream technology that uses a tiny USB-A adapter for lag-free gaming. It can also be used wired with the included Micro-USB cable, which charges up the keyboard, too. While it doesn’t have the longevity of the Logitech when you’re using the per-key RGB lighting, you can get through several days of gaming without needing to charge it up.

Best gaming keyboards under $100.

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