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The best gifts for PC gamers, from laptops to GPUs

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether you're searching for a gift for the gamer that has everything, trying to spread the good word about PCs being "the ultimate way to play" or just hopelessly trying to make sense of the gaming laptop market in an attempt to appease your child or loved one, this is the guide for you.

We quizzed our editors to come up with recommendations in a number of categories. You'll find our top picks for gaming keyboards or mice, gaming laptops at various price points, a VR headset, a GPU, headphones and a sub-$100 accessory that could be perfect for someone looking to start their career as a streamer.

Alienware M15 R2

holiday gift guide 2019

Alienware's second-generation M15 gaming laptops are all about style: They're thinner and feature a sleeker design that hearkens back to classic sci-fi films. (We're partial to the black-and-white model, which stands apart from the sea of all-black gaming notebooks out there.) And of course, they pack enough power to satisfy any gamer in your life, thanks to NVIDIA's latest RTX GPUs and Intel's ninth-gen CPUs. While Alienware was a bit late to the slim-gaming-laptop trend, the M15 R2 proves that it has quickly mastered the art of building portable machines that can play the latest AAA titles. -- Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Buy Alienware M15 R2 on Amazon - $1,800+

Dell G7 15

holiday gift guide 2019

Not every gaming laptop has to cost an arm and a leg. Dell's G7 15 starts at less than $1,000, but it's hard to call it a budget machine when it can be configured with NVIDIA's RTX 2060 graphics and Intel's ninth-generation processors. It's the ideal gift for college students or anyone who'd like to play modern games but doesn't need all the bells and whistles you'd find in pricier notebooks. And while the first round of G7 laptops were a bit bland, Dell managed to come up with some surprisingly subtle designs here. -- D.H.

Buy Dell G7 15 on Amazon - $1,000+

Elgato Stream Deck Mini

holiday gift guide 2019

The Stream Deck Mini is the perfect gift for the budding streamer in your life. It's a little box with six keys that can be programmed to do anything, whether that's quickly switching between audio presets, changing the layout of a stream, firing off a transition, thanking someone for a donation or really anything you can come up with. It's dead simple to use, and unlike some of Elgato's more advanced models, it won't break the bank. If you have a kid who wants to get started or know a YouTuber who's intrigued by Twitch but frightened of the complexity of OBS, the Stream Deck Mini is a great way to push them in the right direction. -- Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor

Buy Streaming Deck Mini on Amazon - $74+

Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Super Windforce OC 3X 8G

holiday gift guide 2019

If you're shopping for a PC gamer with an aging rig, a shiny new graphics card is a surefire way to put a smile on their face. A fresh GPU can provide an immediate boost to the visual fidelity of the games they love and also expand the catalog of games their system can run. The RTX 2070 Super is our choice for an upgrade because it hits the sweet spot of price and performance. That theme rings true with Gigabyte's wallet-friendly Windforce OC card, which is neither the fastest nor cheapest version of the 2070 Super you can buy but hits the middle ground nicely. -- A.S.

Buy RTX 2070 Super Windforce on Amazon - $600

HyperX Pulsefire Surge

holiday gift guide 2019

"Low key" is the phrase in PC gaming right now, which makes Kingston's HyperX $43 Pulsefire Surge gaming mouse the ideal gift. It has some nice design flourishes without being garish, including customizable lighting that wraps around the entire mouse. Performance-wise, the 15,000 DPI mouse is equipped with Omron switches and extra side buttons that you can customize and save to the onboard memory. The most interesting touch is the adjustable weights, which let you add up to 32 grams of extra weight for more precision in either gaming or Photoshop designs. -- Steve Dent, Associate Editor

Buy Pulsefire Surge on Amazon - $44

Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha

holiday gift guide 2019

Every gamer needs a quality pair of headphones, and with the Cloud Alpha, HyperX has crafted one of the best options available. It's incredibly comfortable, with a lightweight yet sturdy aluminum frame and soft leatherette ear cups. Its dual-chamber driver design also lets you crank up the volume without distortion and delivers some serious bone-rattling bass. Best of all, it only costs around $100. And while there's a newer model with virtual surround sound, we think the Cloud Alpha remains the best gift choice, since it's cheaper and doesn't require fiddling with any settings. Just plug it into a headphone jack and enjoy gloriously high-quality sound. -- D.H.

Buy Cloud Alpha on Amazon - $85

Logitech G604 Lightspeed

holiday gift guide 2019

With so many gaming mice on the market, it's hard to choose a single one that makes an ideal gift. But Logitech's new G604 mouse has something for every gamer: lag-free Lightspeed wireless technology, a modern 16,000 DPI sensor and six programmable buttons along its thumb groove, making it ideal for games where you're juggling multiple hotkeys. It's not ambidextrous, unfortunately, but for right-handed players it's the culmination of all of Logitech's latest mouse technology. -- D.H.

Buy G604 Lightspeed on Amazon - $100

Logitech G512 Carbon

holiday gift guide 2019

Gamers love mechanical keyboards, but not everyone wants something super flashy. For the minimalist enthusiast, there's Logitech's G512 Carbon, a compact full-size keyboard with a sleek aluminum case and RGB backlighting. There aren't any special dials or media buttons to deal with -- just the keys necessary for gaming and typing. It also comes in three switch varieties that range in loudness and clickiness, so you can fine-tune your gift for a specific player's taste. It's also relatively inexpensive for such a capable gaming keyboard, coming in around $100. -- D.H.

Buy G512 Carbon on Amazon - $100

Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

holiday gift guide 2019

While we can't promise you the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 will make your giftee a better gamer, it is definitely one of the best gamepads money can buy. The latest incarnation of Microsoft's premium offering includes everything that made the original a success -- customizable hair triggers, analog sticks and D-pads -- and adds even more individuality. You can now switch between various profiles on the fly, adjust analog stick tension with a companion app or add more functions through the controller equivalent of a shift key. Add to that better PC compatibility thanks to Bluetooth support, USB-C charging and 40 hours of battery life and you have yourself a winning gift. -- A.S.

Buy Xbox Elite Series 2 - $180

Oculus Quest

holiday gift guide 2019

Oculus Quest does something other virtual reality headsets can't: It runs as a cord-free, standalone device and also as a tethered one, drawing power from a PC. This duality makes Quest the most versatile VR headset on the market, satisfying both hard-core players looking for the best graphics around and folks who simply want on-demand, immersive fun. Players can take Quest on the go with apps built for mobile interaction or dive into a library of impressive Oculus Rift experiences that are only available on PC.

Though the Quest has been available since May, the ability to plug it into a PC is new. Alongside tethering, Quest now supports Oculus Go apps and Passthrough+, and it's also scheduled to get hand tracking next year. Nowadays Quest is able to do everything the Rift S, Oculus' most powerful headset, can, and it enables mobile play. Surprisingly, the Quest is priced at the same point as the Rift S, $400. -- Jessica Conditt, Senior Editor

Buy Oculus Quest on Amazon - $399

Razer Blade 15 Advanced

holiday gift guide

Razer's Blade series has always challenged expectations of what a gaming laptop can be. The company's (unstated) mission to create a MacBook Pro for gamers is a compelling one, and Razer has gotten closer to Apple's flagship -- surpassing it in many ways -- with each model. The current Advanced model is a no-compromise machine, especially in the configuration we recommend. Our pick is a great shout for someone looking to get into (or already obsessed with) high-frame-rate gaming, with a 240Hz 1080p display, 2070 Max-Q graphics card and 512GB SSD. -- A.S.

Buy Blade 15 Advanced on Amazon - $2,200+

Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition

holiday gift guide 2019

Got a budding eSports player in the family? They're the intended audience for Razer's Huntsman Tournament Edition, a slimmer and lighter version of last year's Huntsman. It features opto-mechanical switches, so it'll deliver the same satisfying typing experience you'll find on most gaming keyboards. But instead of relying on a physical switch to register inputs, it uses an optical sensor. Razer claims this will allow for more-responsive and accurate key presses -- to our fingers, it's just a solid keyboard that any gamer would appreciate. -- D.H.

Buy Huntsman Tournament Edition on Amazon - $130

SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless

holiday gift guide 2019

Finding a wireless headset for your favorite Switch user is a tall order, given the console's lack of Bluetooth support. The SteelSeries Arctic 1 Wireless gaming headset is the answer, as it not only works with an undocked Switch but also delivers excellent sound quality on par with its Xbox One cordless cans. Gamers will hear all the fine details in titles like Breath of the Wild and all the bass during attacks in games like Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The downside is the $100 price, double what the wired model costs. Still, it's a headset that doesn't sacrifice sound quality to let your favorite player cut that cord. -- S.D.

Buy Arctis 1 Wireless on Amazon - $100

The 2019 Engadget Holiday Gift Guide

Images: Will Lipman Photography for Engadget (All photos barring any press images)