Aug 09, 2023

Gadget Awards 2023: Gaming

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Handheld consoles and an at-home arcade cabinet that will keep you entertained for days.

Ready to have some fun? This is the best gaming gear we’ve tested from controllers to full-sized arcade cabinets. We’ve spent hours putting these toys through their paces to ensure their battery life, build quality, and performance hold up under even marathon sessions.

While Valve’s Steam Deck laid the framework for the handheld PC market, the ASUS Rog Ally runs with it. Its higher-resolution 1080p screen, offset joysticks, and lighter weight are condensed into a design that’s both more comfortable and attractive, complete with RGB lighting. Plus, it runs Windows 11 out of the box, so you won’t have trouble installing third-party game services like Epic Games Store, Xbox Game Pass, and like you do with the Steam Deck. The whole rig is powered by a strong Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor and RDNA 3 graphics technology for moderate performance gains in both graphical fidelity and frame rates compared to the Steam Deck. Its greatest strength is its “Turbo Mode.” This performance option can double the resolution and lock in high frame rates to play some of the most demanding titles the Steam Deck struggles with at the cost of greatly reduced battery life.

Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 creates the most immersive VR experience, complete with a 4K HDR resolution, eye tracking, and haptic adaptive triggers that provide tactile feedback for digital actions like pulling the weighted trigger of a virtual firearm. Since the headset taps into the PlayStation 5’s computing power, it renders photorealistic 3D environments and has a roster of exclusive games such as “Gran Turismo.” The eye-tracking cameras are used for a process called foveated rendering. This advanced technique displays graphics at the highest resolution where your eyes are centered, while reducing the quality in your peripheral vision. This reduces processing demands so developers can use sharper textures and fit more interactive objects into their virtual worlds.

When it comes to recreating the authentic feel and style of an arcade, Arcade1Up takes the lead. “The Fast & The Furious” Deluxe Arcade cabinet has a sturdy build with explosive speakers and an immersive 17-inch LCD screen. While the wheel feels slightly smaller than the original, it’s grippy and comes complete with vibrating feedback. Each side button provides a satisfying click when selecting car views or customizing your vehicles. Its addictive gameplay loop is simple. You control real-world vehicles like a Ford Mustang GT, Pontiac Fiero, and Nissan 350Z as you race across cityscapes overtaking competitors and drifting around streets in the United States and Japan. There are over 20 maps, and the game is rife with replay value, thanks to online leaderboards and the ability to adjust computer difficulty levels. But its ability to link with multiple F&F cabinets (up to 4) for local competition with friends on separate machines is a first for the home arcade space. No other company’s cabinet has successfully translated the original arcade experience to a scaled-down home version so well.

Sony’s answer to the Microsoft Elite Series of controllers is a beastly piece of tech with a textured grip that feels more comfortable to hold during long gaming sessions. The DualSense Edge has a leg up over the competition thanks to the haptic feedback and adjustable triggers like those found on the PSVR 2 controller. This lets you feel in-game actions like tension when pulling on a bow string or heavy drops of rain for a higher level of immersion. Its extensive customization ranges from trigger travel distance to extra rows of buttons so you can streamline the controls to be more competitive in games. In addition to having back paddles that the standard PS5 controller lacks, there are also two new function buttons on the front. You can use these for things like switching button profiles or adjusting chat volume. While it works as a Bluetooth device with a variety of systems like tablets and phones, it thrives on PS5 and PC.

SteelSeries’s Nova Pro Wireless headphones provide the best audio performance and customization of all the gaming headsets we’ve tested. Keep in mind that the steep price also accounts for a standalone audio control deck, spare hot-swappable battery (and charging deck) to ensure the headphones always have a charge, and hi-fi 40mm drivers for nearly reference-level sound on par with the best wireless headphones. We recommend the Xbox edition (even if you don’t own one), as it works wirelessly across all platforms over Bluetooth and 2.4-GHz radio frequency, and supports the Xbox wireless protocol should you need to connect to one in the future. Thanks to the lightweight steel construction, the Nova Pros are sturdy but don’t clamp down on your skull with excessive pressure during marathon sessions. They have built-in active noise cancellation to block out distracting sounds, and their microphone manages to create a fuller, more natural sound free of tinniness or distortion.

Gadget Awards 2023: Video

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