The top PC-based kit to keep the entertainment flowing away from the comfort of your own home, even after too much turkey.
- Steam Deck
- Razer Blade 15
- HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless
- Steam Deck official dock
- Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2
- Anker 537 Power Bank
- Belkin HDMI 2.1
(Image credit: Getty/Mint Images and Valve)
Ah, the holidays. That special time of the year when you fix your parents’ Wi-Fi, take their TV off store mode, and finally install the video doorbell you bought them last year. For many, these winter traditions leave them in sore need of some relaxation and time spent gunning down aliens or sending massed tank formations to kill Nazis. In short, PC gaming is required.
How to achieve this? Well it’s not unknown for there to be some excellent bargains around, and the chance to load up on top-notch electronics at the expense of generous family members, a rotund gentleman in red (if you’re a believer), or just because you darn well deserve it after a stressful year, should not be missed.
If you’re spending the festive season with your family this year, you’ll need a survival kit, so here we’ve picked the best PC gear for a week spent in your childhood bedroom, trying to avoid the people you grew up with.
Deck the halls
(Image credit: Future, FromSoftware)
As we said in our Steam Deck review (opens in new tab), the Steam Deck is the multitool of gaming devices, a jack of all trades you can use to play FPS or RTS or any other gaming TLAs you can think of. This makes it ideal for those moments—hopefully few—over the holidays when you might not be in possession of the TV remote.
Sit back on the couch with one of these and you’re in your own world while your annoying relatives watch Elf again. You don’t need a controller—there’s one built in. You don’t need a mouse, there are perfectly good trackpads and a touchscreen available. Keyboards can be a bit of a problem, but Valve’s clever system can work around that.
An example of excellent engineering in both hardware and software, the Steam Deck shines as a portable gaming platform, with possibly the greatest game lineup of any handheld console ever. And as more and more titles are made playable through Valve’s remarkable Proton software, and more new releases get a dedicated Steam Deck version on release, it’s only going to get better.
Jingle Blades, Jingle Blades
(Image credit: Razer)
Steam Decks are great, but sometimes you need something even more versatile. Sure you can install Windows and other apps on the Deck, but the screen is small and you need a keyboard for some things. That’s why the gaming laptop is still going strong, and the Razer Blade 15 (opens in new tab) currently sits on top of our list of the best gaming laptops.
You can spec an Intel i9 CPU and Nvidia RTX 30-series GPU for games that look utterly gorgeous and don’t compromise on frame rate, and gaming on this 15-inch screen, in resolutions up to 4K, is a distinctly merry experience. Compared to its bigger brother the Blade 17, the Blade 15 is more portable, so perfect for packing in a bag to take with you, the aluminium chassis and solid build quality are sure to stand up to a sleigh ride or two.
As long as you can set up near an electrical outlet, there’s little reason to interact with anything else this Christmas. With the Blade’s ability to run not only games but any other app you can think of, the only thing it can’t do is answer the door for you when the pizza guy rings.
Silent night (because I’ve got a headset on)
(Image credit: HyperX)
Happy are those who find a HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless (opens in new tab) under the tree this Christmas. For they will be able to blot out carol singers and movie re-runs, and do it wirelessly.
Apart from the excellent audio quality, the best thing about the Cloud Alphas is the exceptional battery life. The manufacturer claims you’ll get 300 hours of listening out of a charge, which even if you use them for just five hours a day is around two months’ worth of listening without needing to plug them in.
It helps, of course, that the headset sounds so good. It’s equally capable for music or gaming, and its positional audio abilities shine in titles where you can locate items by the sound they make.
And while it may not boast active noise cancelling—the reason, perhaps, for that looooong battery life—the padded earcups do a good job of sealing out exterior noise, and coupled with the padded top band mean it’s comfortable to wear for long periods.
Deck dock merrily on high
(Image credit: Valve)
Got a Steam Deck but wish it was more like a proper PC, covered in USB ports and stuck on a desk? Valve has the accessory for you. Possibly the most useful thing about the official Steam Deck docking station (opens in new tab) for a holiday visit home is the full-size HDMI port on the back, so you can easily hook your Deck up to the family TV for some big-screen Vampire Survivors action once everyone else has gone to bed.
The port conforms to the 2.0 HDMI standard, so you’ll get 4K at 60Hz or 1440p at 120Hz, which is more than good enough for the Deck. If your parents haven’t upgraded to a new TV recently, and are stuck at 1080p (if they’ve still got a CRT we can’t help you) then you can game at 240Hz, though this may be asking too much of the Deck and more likely to come from a gaming laptop.
The docking station reminds us that the Steam Deck is a proper computer, just as capable of running Excel as it is Exo One (opens in new tab), so you’ll be able to keep track of all your presents in a spreadsheet.
While shepherds flicked their sticks by night
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Yes, yes, yes, the Steam Deck is a controller. Other machines don’t have that luxury, however, and you’ll need two if you’re forced into playing splitscreen multiplayer with younger members of the family on the big day.
This offering from Microsoft (opens in new tab) is a luxury choice that offers superior features to its predecessor, the Series 1. It connects over Bluetooth, and offers 40 hours of use from a charge. There are replacement parts in the box, allowing you to alter things like the D-pad and sticks, also adjusting their tension until you’re happy with your controller setup, whether it’s for FPS or fighting games.
Sure, it’s a bit heavier than many other controllers, and expensive too, but it’s the perfect thing to nudge an otherwise unimaginative relative into buying you as a present, and we feel it’s worth every penny.
Charger of the bells
(Image credit: Anker)
Portable power is a must in this era of smartphones and Steam Decks, and having a power bank to juice up your Deck when available outlets may be thin on the ground is essential. Did you know that some homes don’t have eight-socket plug bars hanging off every socket? Us neither.
This one from Anker fits the bill in two ways. It has a capacity of 26,800mAh, which is enough to completely charge a MacBook Pro, so should easily be enough for a Steam Deck or gaming laptop. It also outputs at 45W over USB-C, more than some wall chargers, to ensure your downtime is as limited as possible.
It also accepts 60W of charge when refilling, able to go from 0 to 100% in less than 3.5hrs, and even comes with its own charger in the box.
Oh come, all ye cables
(Image credit: Belkin)
We’re really doing this, huh? Yes, despite the fact a cheap HDMI cable often works just as well as a more expensive one assuming it’s not physically falling apart, there are differences between the leads, and we’ve got a full guide (opens in new tab) to prove it.
Getting a good link between your PC and the TV is essential for impressing your console-owning cousins with how good your PC games can look this holiday season, so why not go with the best? You’ll also need a high-speed cable for sending 4K video at more than 60FPS from your rig.
This Belkin cable does the job nicely. It’s an HDMI 2.1 certified model, so if you’ve got an RTX 30-series or Radeon RX 6000-series GPU in your PC (and the right sort of input in your TV) you can take advantage of higher resolutions and refresh rates (4K at 144Hz is possible). We also liked it because it’s a recognisable brand, so less likely to fall apart, and is future-proof: you’ll still be using this fast cable when you’re gaming in 10k.