Level Up: Gaming Upgrades

Pack the upgrades, it’s gaming season

It’s time to bring some new tech into your life with this new year! Our gaming setup has become more necessary over the years, time for an upgrade? Yup!

We have divided the gaming upgrades according to your place of play! Whether you’re rocking the mighty PS5 or sniffing the monthly givings of Xbox Game Pass. There’s something for everyone, even iOS gamers!

One for All: Curve the way you play

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210R | Price Rs. 54,990

To the human eye, curves have always appealed better than flat surfaces. It’s not a fact, but we think it should be when choosing the right gaming partner… We’re talking about this monitor just to clear any fetishes you might have gathered in your head.
The 3210R has a thick rear and a curvy front. This is a monitor. And like all BenQ Mobiuz monitors, the silver and orange accents highlight the playful nature of the series. However, the silver at the back adds a hint of premium touch that is usually missing from all BenQ monitors. That 1000R curvature offers the most pleasurable viewing experience as of now because it sits nicely around the peripheral vision of your eyeballs.
There is a 2.1 Channel (2Wx2 + 5W woofer) speaker system on the monitor so that added thickness on the monitor is very well utilized. The BenQ also brings a 90% P3 colour gamut that actually puts it at a spitting distance compared to Samsung Odyssey G7.
So first-person and racing games look absolutely immersive on the curved monitor. The 2K resolution is spread across the 32in screen of this VA panel, and it can reach 165Hz of refresh rate. It’s got an achievable refresh rate along with a 1ms response time and P3 colour gamut but blurting out the spec sheet isn’t going to make it the best and that’s why BenQ has plonked powerful speakers and a remote to control every aspect of the monitor. It’s a great package and one that we would keep for good. If you’re heavily into gaming with immersion at the centre, the Mobiuz EX3210R makes a lot of sense. Just make sure your wallet is ready for the walloping!
Stuff Says ★★★★☆

The PC Option: Masters of their craft

Zotac GeForce RTX 3080 AMP Holo | from Rs. 1,66,000

Pushing a full-fledged GPU upgrade is not practical at the moment but the market seems to be recovering from low supply units. Albeit, the pricing still touches the roof and moon.
However, you might need a money heist to pull this one into your gaming setup. Armed with 8,704 Cuda Cores and 10GB of GDDR6X VRAM, the RTX 3080 takes a shy step back from the overall VRAM count compared to the 2080 Ti but doubles in transistors and theoretical performance.
AI smarts have also been amped up to deliver twice the number of frame rates with DLSS enabled. The new Ampere architecture has better RT and Tensor cores for increased Ray Tracing and rendering performance.
So how’s the performance? If you want the absolute best Ray Tracing chops with high-resolution support at a high refresh rate, the Zotac is still an undisputed champion in the GPU race. Much of those benefits are due to the triple fans sitting under the GPU with a massive heatsink to cool the thing rapidly. The top and bottom metal build is also very solid and quite heavy. So make sure your cabinet is cut out for this beast.
Latest triple-A games like Deathloop, Ghostrunner, Battlefield, MFS2020, Snowrunner and others run at higher settings and deliver more frames than the stock GPU. It also stays much, much cooler than any other GPU in the biz. For a few extra grand, you can also get the 3080 Ti but yes, you’ll have to befriend Ambani at that point for a marginal boost in work and gaming performance.
Stuff says ★★★★☆

Play: Far Cry 6

The Far Cry series has morphed into a giant that is known to produce extravagant villain personalities who tread the fine line between blockbuster performance and objective delivering monarchs. With Far Cry 6, the separation has become nearly impossible yet it is easily the most ‘Far Cry’ the series has ever been.
Giancarlo Esposito breathes ambition and taste into what villainous villains can do to make you grind for ‘let’s save the day’ possibilities. He plays Antón Castillo who is the El Presidente of this fictional world called Yara. It’s based on modern-day Cuba and even if Ubisoft didn’t pour in the heart to build the same fictional yet culturally equal world as it does with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Yara is still quite convincing. It’s the NPC characters that make Far Cry 6 feel livelier.
It’s a tasteful explosion of all the known ingredients from the previous Far Cry games and the fun and chaotic elements of a Far Cry game are deeply rooted here. Aside from having a plethora of guns and vehicles to shoot and rampage, Amigos offer a fun way to poke and tease your enemies into humiliating defeat. Imagine getting killed by an angry rooster or a bullet-sponge Crocodile. There’s plenty to do here and also wonder how Giancarlo Esposito fits into the series. He’s also not always plastered on your screen so that’s a bummer but taking down a dictatorship is quite compelling.
Stuff says ★★★★☆

Now add this:

Intel 11th Gen (from Rs. 25,999)

The Rocket Lake family of CPUs from Intel are notorious for heating up but once you fan them with the right cooler, the gaming performance gains are tremendous.
Intel has pushed the i5, i7 and the i9 CPUs to their absolute limits but it’s still sticking to lower thread and core count. Which gives AMD a small lead in performance other than gaming.
However, the 11th Gen CPUs are still clocking higher boost clock and delivering that much-needed punch to intensive tasks like PC gaming. And if you’re into tinkering the whole damn thing to maximise gaming potential, the overclocking lid can be popped open like a bottle of champagne on a wedding day and out pours performance fresh on the tap. Make sure you have the cooling in place though.

Vertagear (from Rs. 28,499)

Vertagear has been silently sending warm hugs to your buttocks through Amazon India and they’ve started it from the S and the P series lineup. The S series is also answering the age-old question; will gamers ever need RGB on their chair? The answer is a simple $300 upgrade. However, you don’t need to pony up that RGB upgrade cash. The RGB kits for the headrest and the base are sold separately. 
The lights can be controlled wirelessly and even sync with your music and games. What’s better than RGB? Effortless hygiene. The Coffee Fiber Padding and the Silver Lining Embroidery reduce odour and have microbial control properties. It’s a swanky and expensive upgrade to sink your money and to get the Twitch audience to accept you quickly. 

The PlayStation Option: Into the Deep Blue

SteelSeries Arctis 7P (from Rs. 25,899)

When Sony launched the PS5, the wow factor around its Tempest Audio was curbed by the exceptionally capable DualSense controller and lack of support for the audio format. The SteelSeries Arctis 7P brings the Tempest Audio to the front and centre of your gaming experience. Play the right games and you’ll see a difference in immersive audio that will not be available on regular headphones. 
The plastic built quality is not on par with some of the best gaming headphones out there. It could’ve been better than the JBL. The white and blue matching colour scheme goes really well with your already white and blue PlayStation 5.
These wireless cans use a 2.4Ghz connection using a USB-C dongle. It’s plug and play so everything just works out of the box. The mic too is housed within the left earcup and can be pulled out when needed. Like we said, play the right games that support Tempest Audio like Ghost of Tsushima and Returnal and the difference is night and day. Lower frequencies are cleaned and placed in the virtual surround really well. Immersive worlds like this also have trinket hunting and exploration based on sound cues. So if you close your eyes, the audio can transport your senses to the island Tsushima. The clarity and sound stage delivered from the Arctis 7P is phenomenal when played with Tempest Audio supported games. Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy doesn’t support the Tempest Audio so typical sound quality is warm with less emphasis on the surround stage. It still works really well for pin-pointing footsteps in competitive shooting games but Tempest is where the magic sits. 
Stuff says ★★★★★

Play: Hotwheels Unleashed

Think Hotwheels and your childhood memories might flash before your eyes or if you’re part of the Tiktok generation then you might not be familiar with this iconic franchise. Tiny racing toys racing on orange coloured tracks that looped around various objects in your house. That was the best way to enjoy these toys. Now they’ve been reduced to mere collector’s items but thankfully the digital era has recreated the feeling of playing with Hotwheels again. 
Hotwheels Unleashed will spend most of its time on your console only to be booted up when you find a player two to jump in. The single-player missions are plenty but they often get stale with repeated tracks and a lack of bold and imaginative steps to breathe new life into the franchise. Hotwheels Unleashed plays it safe by recreating the exact feeling of playing with Hotwheels. The cars come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Enough to make a grown person glee. The old iconic designs are here and the cars look and feel like real-life Hotwheels. The tracks are big and ambitious. Often circling around everyday home furniture and into nooks and crannies of modern-day homes. It brings back the sentimental value of the Hotwheels brand very affectively but it doesn’t recreate a new sense of direction for the brand. Racing through study shelves and the kitchen sink is still very fun in co-op. 
Stuff says ★★★★☆


Now add this:

DualSense Controller (from Rs. 5,390)

No matter how many articles you read or how many videos you watch, you can never truly understand how great the PS5 controller is until you actually hold the damn thing in your hand. It’s single-handedly the most innovative PlayStation gear we’ve ever used. So adding another one to your arsenal really helps even if you don’t have a player two around the house at all times. 
The haptic feedback is so precise and the controller sends inch-perfect sensory feedback through its brilliant vibration motor. This makes it quite power-hungry and you can’t simply swap the batteries like the Xbox controller. So keeping an extra around saves you from being interrupted while gaming. Many co-op games are also making use of this sensory love.

WD Black SN850 (from Rs. 14,490)

New consoles have made room for expandable storage to swoop in and make space for your games. However, unlike Xbox, Sony hasn’t really made the process monkey-easy. You have to yank the side panels of the PS5 and then screw in a traditional NVMe SSD to the correct side. 
Very few made it to Sony’s recommended list of SSDs and the WD tops that list with ease. The rapid load times from the internal and the WD Black SSD are near perfect. The speed is there to load all graphically intensive games in a blink. Just buy the heat sink with the SSD though. The non-heatsink variants start for cheap but you’ll need to pony up extra for a heat sink and that heat sink is very necessary to keep the SSD from frying your load times.

Join the green revolution: The Xbox option

Seagate Storage Expansion Card (from Rs. 23,999)

If you’re rocking the latest Xbox Series X or S this expansion card is the only option you have to increase the storage capacity of your console. You won’t need an MBA masterclass to use this. Simply unbox it and plug it into the dedicated port on your console. That’s it! Once it’s slotted, the expansion card will work just like the internal drive. That means you’ll be able to use the Quick Resume feature and switch between games seamlessly. We’ve tried it and it works as advertised. In addition to having 1TB of storage you also get rapid load times. Games load as fast as the Xbox’s internal storage. 
There’s actually no difference in how you use your Xbox Series X or S. Even if you remove the card while cleaning your system, putting it back will give you access to all the games you’ve installed on it without any hassle. Seems like an Apple product now doesn’t it? That’s precisely why the steep asking price. It’s monkey-easy to use and the benefits of Xbox’s Velocity architecture are here too.
However, right now your storage options are limited with only 1TB available in India and the others might come later. Although, the WD storage for the PS5 is priced the same so it’s a matter of which console you spend on. 
 It’s also the only storage expansion option available that works as good as internal storage. If you use any other storage drive via the USB port, it won’t let you play games off it. You can store your Series X and S games on it but you’ll have to shift them to the internal SSD before playing. This is serious storage tech for serious money aka the rich club!
Stuff says ★★★★☆

Play: Back 4 Blood

Left 4 Dead was an iconic game that was synonymous with zombie video games. It’s the same folks behind that legendary franchise and even now the original formula seems to be undead… As far as the lore goes, Back 4 Blood is as good as FIFA when it comes to storytelling. Which is to say don’t expect one. There are barely any cut-scenes or any type of story building aspect. Although, it’s purposefully done to not obstruct your zombie killing joy.
Visually, though, the game speaks volumes. The zombies do look pretty – in an undead-and-half-eaten-by-your- mates kind of way! It’s a level-based progression game, and each section of the map looks nice, but there’s not a lot of variety here. Sections of the maps are reused and after a point, the game simply puts your mind on autopilot and the only thing you look forward to is the randomized ammo, weapons and health pack spawn. But this is made to be played with friends. Solo fun is rather half-hearted and coordinating attacks, card decks and balancing the squad has a substantial impact on how you enjoy this game. That said, the game has cross-play enabled and it’s available on Xbox Game Pass as well. So the option to bring friends over for zombie shooting mayhem is right there. Enemies are fierce and the game also increases the challenge by throwing in debuff cards as you progress to the next safe house. 
Stuff says ★★★★☆

Now add this:

LG OLED C1 (55IN) (Rs. 1,69,990)

The perfect partner for your Series X. The LG OLED C1 is packed with specs and power to deliver the best console gaming experience you can find on a telly. LG has also partnered with Xbox to get Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision to old and new games and as an official partner, you can be certain that the 120Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time will be set in stone for the C1. 
The 4K resolution and high refresh rate are fantastic for gaming but the OLED blacks on the LG are superb. We’ve got our hands on the telly so watch out for the full review in the next issue. LG has also partnered with some game devs for HGiG support that makes sure the games look and work in HDR as intended by the developer. There’s also WiFi 6, Stadia and Twitch support built into the telly. 

JBL QUANTUM 600 (Rs. 12,999)

JBL’s first-ever range of gaming headsets in India is catering to every possible gamer out there. From the wallet-loving JBL Quantum 100 (₨3,999) to the wallet-crushing JBL Quantum One (₨29,999). Every headset is designed with JBL’s Quantum Sound Signature and will work with all gaming platforms. 
Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox and PlayStation are the primary places for sticking a gaming headset but these will also support folks using VR, mobile and Mac. All of them will also have a flip-up to mute or detachable mic that focuses on voice and kicks out background noise. Although, our favourite is the Quantum 600 which offers wireless connectivity with no audio lag and a brilliant audio quality to match.

All in the wrist: Apple devices


Apple iPad Mini (2021)

Getting dizzy from all that Console and PC upgrades which don’t apply to you? Try handheld.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 13 and its subsequent Pro and Mini models, the air seemed to be covered in what I’d say an ‘S’ feeling. Till the iPad Mini surfaced and stole our attention, and now that it is in our hands, it has stolen our hearts too.  There’s no keyboard but with the Smart Folio cover to keep it upright in landscape mode, Pokemon Unite looks absolutely jaw-dropping.
The 8.3in display practically feels like an unfolded Samsung Fold smartphone. It’s unfortunate that the screen doesn’t fold like the Korean giant’s but in Apple’s world there are more ways to enjoy bigger displays and that’s through quality. The LED display looks razor-sharp and has the rich colour fidelity that we have come to expect of Apple, even at this size. However, stick to Netflix and you’ll easily forget the Mini’s most prized achievement — the fast processor! The A15 Bionic is a steam engine compared to Android’s motorbike speed. Like all current Apple products, the Mini has never been faulted once in performance. And when it comes to pure graphical grunt, the iPad Mini is easily our favourite handheld device to play games on. Pokemon Unite runs flawlessly with stable 60 frames. Even our Nintendo Switch struggles at times and has constant frame drops. The iPad Mini is relentless when it comes to gaming. It’s small enough to hold nicely and big enough to feel immersive for gaming in bed or while travelling.
Stuff says ★★★★★ 
The Mini beats the expectations of what a small tablet can do!

Play: Pokemon Unite

The only time Nintendo ever let anyone take control of the world-famous yellow mouse is if they were purchasing a Nintendo device. Somehow, Pokemon Unite has all the givings of a great Pokemon game along with the absence of Nintendo’s trademark buy this-to-play-that strategy.
If you’re familiar with League of Legends and Dota 2, Pokemon Unite will feel right at home. This is an online battle arena game where you take control of a Pokemon and team up with four other folks in a 5v5. The objective is to push two lanes and capture the enemy base by scoring points.
It’s fantastic and quite addictive. The initial rank games can be done in a breeze but once you hit Expert level, the game pushes you to team up with like-minded people and approach every game through a strategy. Balancing the team with Pokemons that are Attackers, Speedsters, Defence, Melee, Range and more. The variety of Pokemons and their abilities are incalculable and that creates room for different winning possibilities. However, the free game is heavily driven by cosmetic and item purchases. The ‘held items’ that level up outside of the actual game create an unfair advantage to those who spend money and boost the level of these items. They had buffs to Pokemons and if you match it perfectly, it can really dent the playing field. You can still have a great time playing the game on iOS, Android or the Nintendo Switch with crossplay.
Stuff says ★★★★☆
One of the best multiplayer Pokemon games to land in our hands

Now add this:

SteelSeries Nimbus+ (Rs. 7,549)

Packed with all the official certifications from Apple’s headquarters, the Nimbus+ is designed and sold for one purpose only, gaming on Apple products. A solid addition to your walled garden, the list of Apple products that the Nimbus+ supports is countless. From Apple TV to iPhones and iPads, heck even the iPod Touch. Combine this with the Apple Arcade subscription and you’ve got a powerful handheld gaming device.

The battery life is stated to be around 50hours and that’s great if you’re taking a flight to the pole opposite side of the Earth or simply hate cables. SteelSeries has also worked on the tactile response of the buttons with the Nimbus+. There’s a proper 8-directional Dpad with L3 and R3 buttons as well, even the triggers have a smooth and consistent press. The controller also charges using the Lightning cable and has a smartphone clip in the box for easier gaming. 

However, it doesn’t support any sort of vibration or rumble feedback which in our opinion can be a dealbreaker for some. If you want to use this with the mobile clip then the vibration motor won’t matter but with Apple tvOS the vibration could’ve raised the gaming experience up a notch. Pokemon Unite still needs to add support for controllers. Most Arcade games support the SteelSeries Nimbus+, especially graphically demanding games like Samurai Jack, The Pathless, Castlevania, The Last Campfire and Oceanhorn 2. The battery life is well suited for these big games and the only benefit of not having a vibration motor is that you get better battery life from the SteelSeries Nimbus+ controller.