Hello and welcome to 2021's GamesRadar Hardware Awards.
While the story in gaming hardware this year has been dominated by strangled supply chains, mass stock shortages, and scalpers taking advantage of an inflated resellers market, there have been some absolute gems released over the past year. Every corner of the tech world - from accessories and headsets to gaming screens - has enjoyed brilliant products, particularly because the PS5 and Xbox Series X now have a year under their belt (the peripheral market for both systems has exploded in size since they arrived last year). Similarly, we can't avoid the spectacular new graphics card ranges from both Nvidia and AMD.
That's encouraged us to grow our Hardware Awards this year, so we're celebrating 26 categories this time around - building on the 17 from 2020 - with a host of winners that we've had the pleasure of testing during 2021. PC players, console gamers, and general tech fanatics are all represented here.
Anyway, enough chat - let's get into who the winners of the GamesRadar Hardware Awards 2021 are.
Best gaming TV - LG C1
The LG C1 picks up right where last year's CX left it: brilliant picture quality, excellent gaming support, cracking design, and that exquisite OLED tech.
The C1 is the OLED screen every new-gen gamer should aim fr this year, and is the obvious front runner for best gaming TV, and best OLED TV, of 2021. Housing four 4K 120Hz-capable HDMI inputs, a dedicated and excellent Game Optimizer control panel, it takes playing games seriously. There's even VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), NVIDIA G-Sync, and AMD Freesync, as well as ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) to accentuate how gaming-focused this television is - with whatever device you want to plug into it.
And when you add that characteristic, sublime image quality, which leans more heavily on AI smarts than previous editions, then you get spectacular native 4K content as well as beautiful up-scaled HD content: there's the deepest of blacks, the most vibrant of colours and hues, and almost three-dimensional levels of detail to be enjoyed. Bonus features include elements like the still-slick TruMotion Smooth and also a Cinematic Movement option which manages to make pictures look incredible filmic. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the HDR performance is some of the best we've seen this year across all TVs too. It really is the complete package and will be the pride of any gaming setup, and is on balance the best TV for PS5 and Xbox Series X right now.
- Read more: LG C1 review
Worthy mention - Samsung QN95A
The Samsung QN95A is the leader in gaming TVs 'other' tech: QLED. This Mini-LED-powered 4K flagship has deep blacks, terrific quality, vibrant colours and contrasts, and exquisite HDR management. There's also a new Game Bar which is a dedicated interface that allows you to make tweaks and changes on the fly. A great, bright, colourful gaming TV. (Note: the closest TV to the QN95A in the USA is the QN90A which has a slightly different OTS audio profile, and no One Connect box.)
Best gaming monitor - MSI MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR
Ultra-wide and super curved, MSI’s MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR monitor is a mean 34-inch gaming machine.
In a busy year for the best gaming monitors, it is the MSI MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR that caught our eye a bit more than most. This 34-inch, 3440 x 1440p gaming monitor offers a single screen solution for gaming but has a design that is perfect for any other use too. If there's ever been a contender for a quality, single curved gaming monitor giving a dual-screen setup a run for its money, then this is it.
This is an incredibly immersive panel, due to both its extreme 1000R curve and the VA that MSI has employed. If you take these characteristics, throw in a very strong monolithic backlight, the result is punchy peak brightness and a monitor that monitor delivers the best HDR experience we’ve seen this year - especially from a panel with no local dimming. The likes of CyberPunk 2077 on this beauty are truly experiences to behold. And once you round out the gaming spec list with a 1ms response time, a 165Hz refresh rate, and AMD FreeSync support and you have one heck of an overall package. For PC gaming, this monitor is a bit mad - but in the best possible way.
- Read more: MSI MPG ARTYMIS 343CQR review
Worthy mention - AOC 24G2/24G2U
Offering exceptional value for money, the AOC 24G2 was another highlight from 2021. It offers a high-refresh, IPS panel, 1080p option for those on a budget and absolutely nails the sweet spot for compromises, price, and performance. The gaming speeds alone on this monitor put it at the front of any 1080p gaming lineup. (The 'U' denotes the addition of a USB hub only.)
Best gaming chair - Secretlab Titan Evo 2022
The Titan Evo ensures Secretlab remain untouched in term of quality.
Secretlab has once again improved upon what was already the best gaming chair in the business. Merging the old Secretlab Omega and Titan series into one was a smart move and there are plenty of size options available for all users.
The improved built-in lumbar support can be manually adjusted in multiple directions to ensure you can get it set just right for you. The memory foam head cushion now attaches via magnets instead of a strap, keeping the chair's stylish looks on point and also giving you the option to set it at a height of your choosing.
The hard edges of the old Omega series have been banished giving everyone a wider seating position for more relaxed sessions and the build-quality in every aspect of the chair makes other brands, many that charge even higher prices, look cheap by comparison.
- Read more: Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 review
Worthy mention - Respawn Specter
The Respawn Specter is an excellent option for a gaming chair if you're looking for something a little more on the subtle side. Its lightweight mesh design doesn't scream 'gaming chair' at you and it would be just as much at home in an office setup but with the added bonus of upper back and head support too. The lumbar support is excellent and the mesh design is excellent in hotter climates or during the more intense online battles.
Best gaming SSD - WD Black SN850
We’ve continued to be impressed by the WD Black SN850 since we first got our hands on it for its incredibly fast write speeds, and overall stellar performance when doing just about anything. As you might expect from a Gen 4.0 NVMe SSD, the WD Black SN850 can reach sequential speeds of 7,000 MB/s and 5,300 MB/s, read and write respectively, which is likely to be as quick as you could ever possibly need.
In our testing, we found that the SN850 largely lived up to its lofty expectations through CrystalDiskMark with fantastic scores of 6996 MB/s read and 5205 MB/s read so it very much is the real deal for anyone looking for the best SSD for gaming this year. The SN850 doesn’t come cheap, but it’s the gold standard in terms of what to expect out of this generation of M.2 SSDs right now.
- Read more: WD Black SN850 review
Worthy mention - Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
For a second-generation PCIe M.2 SSD, the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus offers up consistently quick performance across the board and manages to keep its cool while doing so. It may not the absolute fastest drive that you can plug into your PC right now, with more than respectable read and write speeds of around 5,000 MB/s and 4,400 MB/s, but it’s in the synthetic performance where the Rocket 4 Plus pulls ahead, managing to topple the Samsung 980 Pro and even WD Black SN850 in ATTO benchmarks.
Best VR headset - HTC Vive Pro 2
HTC's latest headset offers an incredible VR experience that simply can't be matched.
Virtual reality is often defined by compromise; tradeoffs between visual fidelity and processing power turn sessions into an exercise of "it's great, but..." However, The HTC Vive Pro 2 shows what the medium is capable of when those limitations don't exist. While you're certainly paying for it, the result is nothing short of exceptional.
Boasting '5K' resolution with 120Hz displays that provide smoother framerates, the Pro 2 is an impressive show of technological wizardry. It also means that you don't have to put up with a downgraded PC gaming experience if you're pivoting to VR; games look their best even when run through the headset. The fact that it sidesteps the screen door effect (and offers a more natural 120° horizontal field of view) is another feather in HTC's cap.
Because the package is rounded out by base stations and the already-excellent Vive controllers (both powered by SteamVR Tracking 2.0), you're left with a sense of accuracy that's as close to one-to-one as makes no difference. It's an applause-worthy addition to the VR stable.
- Read more: HTC Vive Pro 2 review
Worthy mention - Oculus Quest 2 (128GB)
Even though Oculus Quest 2 headsets arrived back in 2020, the 128GB version that launched this year improved on the formula with a beefed-up memory for the cheapest option. Besides doubling the base model's 64GB capacity for the same price, it allows you to enjoy more of the Quest 2's games with their sharper visuals and higher refresh rates.
Best gaming laptop - Razer Blade 14
The first Razer Blade laptop to combine Nvidia and AMD components is an absolute triumph, offering power, performance, and prestige.
The Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop offers the best of both worlds in a portable powerhouse: an AMD CPU and an Nvidia GPU, and it is this combination that produces performance fireworks. And it all comes in a small 14-inch package, which feels like witchcraft. This 14-inch chassis and build, however, houses what is arguably the best part of this machine - or, perhaps, the thing which makes it strike an exceptional performance level. And that is a 1440p, 165Hz screen. This enables the components within to shine - neither being too overpowered for 1080p gaming nor stretching that little bit too far with 4K gaming. And the results are breathtaking: exceptional graphical fidelity and excellent frame rates. Having something as powerful as this, as portable as this, is a true joy and its diminutive size doesn't detract from the complete gaming package it offers.
Combining some of the most powerful components on the market, a brilliant, slimline form factor, and a tremendous 1440p screen that presents the perfect display and this is easily the best gaming laptop of 2021.
- Read more: Razer Blade 14 review
Worthy mention - ASUS TUF Dash 15
The ASUS TUF Dash 15 gaming laptop offers an excellent balance of price and performance and enables players to get into Nvidia's new generation of graphics cards without breaking the bank. The well-thought, considered builds on offer span a range of component spectrums so there's a host of budget-friendly models on offer - ad you're getting it in a terrific slim build, and ASUS-quality build.
Best gaming PC - Acer Predator Orion 3000
The new Orion 3000 gaming PC is a true powerhouse and offers great bang for buck value in 2021.
With a compact build and form factor that houses customisable RGB lighting, the Orion 3000 certainly looks pretty slick, and certainly looks like the best gaming PC of the year 2021. But it also performs just as well as it looks: the Orion 3000 can easily handle the most graphically intensive games, and there's not a hint of overheating too. It's a machine that hits the sweet spot of 1440p, but it can run many games at 4K without much compromise in quality or framerate too, making it a terrific proposition for those who want the best of both resolutions and who don't mind tinkering with their settings to get the best out of their machine.
The machine offers excellent storage and connectivity options too, which provide a strong supporting cast to those core, headline components, and the layout of the PC means that upgrading parts and putting your own stamp on it in the future should be easy. It’s hard to deny that this is a quality gaming desktop for the price, and worthy of being the top gaming PC of 2021.
- Read more: Acer Predator Orion 3000 review
Worthy mention - HP Omen 30L
The new aesthetic and Omen chassis present an excellent gaming PC exterior - and one that is brilliantly powerful on the interior. The case really is a success with tempered glass panels, easy access and excellent ventilation all designed in. Able to fit a whole host of configuration and component combinations within, the Omen 30L proves that HP is back in the game with pre-built gaming PCs.
Best gaming mouse - Razer Basilisk V3
Razer’s latest Basilisk mouse offers some truly excellent upgrades that elevate the whole experience.
Razer expanded its range of Basilisk gaming mice again in 2021, bringing the Basilisk V3 to market in September. From the switch upgrades to the underglow RGB effects, there’s plenty of cool new tech to dig into under the hood, and it all comes together to create an incredibly versatile pointer.
While ticking all the boxes for the best gaming mice (there’s a 26K DPI sensor, ten programmable buttons, 50g acceleration, and five onboard memory profiles), it’s the extra features that really make the Basilisk shine. The smart HyperScroll wheel can automatically adjust its tension depending on how it is being used; swapping between being clicky and controlled and free-spinning. While other mice have offered the option to switch between these two settings, none have done so in such a satisfying manner as the Basilisk V3. Plus, with tilt functionality you’re getting additional customization options.
With all that tech packed in, the Razer Basilisk V3 still feels excellent under the hand as well. The classic ergonomic design has remained in the latest iteration, and while the overall form is slightly heavier than those looking for a competitive device will need there’s a satisfying feeling of control and precision baked in.
- Read more: Razer Basilisk V3 review
Worthy mention - Corsair Sabre RGB Pro
The Corsair Sabre RGB Pro is built for speed first and foremost, which makes it an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a more competitive fps mouse. However, it’s the fast, tactile switches that really make this pointer a force to be reckoned with. There’s very little travel time here, which means you’ll be reacting with twitch reflexes at impressive speed.
Best gaming keyboard - Razer Huntsman V2 Analog
This Razer keyboard is a unique, bold experiment that brings something new to the table.
The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog does something we've never really seen before; it merges the feel and function of a controller analog stick with what is already a contender for our list of best gaming keyboards. Thanks to variable actuation points and dual-step actions, you can use degrees of pressure to get a different in-game response. Push harder on a key and your car will speed up, for example. Ease up and your character will take their foot off the gas. At the other end of the scale, you can half-press a key to equip grenades before pushing it the rest of the way down to throw.
This may seem like Razer is late to the party considering how long the best PC controllers have been around, but it's a clever idea that combines the best of both approaches. Keyboards offer versatility but aren't exactly subtle, so the Analog giving the WASD keys more precision than they've ever had is a big deal. If nothing else, it means you'll no longer be pinballing around a city because you forgot to hit the 'walk' function.
Yes, it's expensive. But if you have the budgetary bandwidth, this is an experiment worth investing in.
- Read more: Razer Huntsman V2 Analog review
Worthy mention - Roccat Pyro
The Roccat Pyro took us by surprise with its responsive keys and reasonable price; for the money, it's superb value that you'll struggle to beat. Because the keyboard's action feels pleasingly smooth yet snappy, it's a real contender for those who don't want to break the bank when completing their gaming setup.
Best graphics card - Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti
A faster clock speed, and more CUDA cores to work with, make the reinforced RTX 3070 Ti worth your time and money for serious PC gaming this year.
The RTX 3070 Ti may not be the biggest upgrade over its original model which was released in 2020, but for its price point, and the sheer performance output in not only Full HD but 1440p and 4K, too, we’re confident in recommending it to any PC gamer looking for outstanding value for money. Now, this reinforced edition of the video card features a bump up to 6144 CUDA cores and a higher base clock speed of 1.58GHz as opposed to the first edition’s 5888 and 1.50Ghz.
Numbers aside, what this means in real-time performance is around a 10-15% increase in performance over the stock RTX 3070 while costing an additional $100 / £60, which is a more than fair proposition given just how capable this GPU is. If you’ve been after outstanding peak performance in 1440p, or want rock-solid native 4K60, then the RTX 3070 Ti will do just that, and it’s likely to be all the graphics processing power you need for a long time to come.
Worthy mention - RTX 3080 Ti
While the RTX 3080 was, rightfully, our number one pick for the best graphics card last year, the reinforced RTX 3080 Ti, while being extremely powerful benefiting from an extra 2GB GDDR6X VRAM (for 12GB total memory), however, it's priced more closer to the RTX 3090 than the original model.
Best PC controller - Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro
A brilliant controller for PC and Xbox in every way, the eSwap X Pro is a leader in accessibility and customisation but also offers sheer excellence in performance too.
The Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro blew us away this year. It offers more versatility, customisation options, and button remapping options than one could ever want from the best PC controller, but it also does this in a unique modular, accessibility-enhancing way. The swappable thumbstick and D-pad units are critical to this and mean that one controller can offer a player a symmetrical layout as well as an asymmetrical one, all in one gamepad. This is a great accessibility feature but also versatility, allowing players the ability to switch, almost on the fly, between the two layouts.
It's a wired controller so there's no latency, and it's also compatible with Xbox consoles so can offer a cross-platform functionality - and top performance on those machines too - and you can even add your own aesthetic flourishes with different coloured modules and grips, which now extend to this year's LED units. The Thrustmapper software enables the controller to be remapped and customised to your every need, whatever you play, and however you play it. The Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro is as close to the complete PC controller as we've ever seen.
- Read more: Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro review
Worthy mention - Nacon Revolution X Pro
The Nacon Revolution X Pro controller has a great aesthetic, is well-designed and built, feels terrific in the hands, and gives you all the customization options that you could ever want from a controller. The value it offers is also excellent, bagging players a lot of high-end features without breaking the bank.
Best PS5 controller - Cosmic Red DualSense
The one and only gets a new colorway.
It wasn’t too difficult to decide on the best PS5 controller of the year, after all - there can only be one. However, 2021 did bring us a swanky new colorway for the DualSense controller. If you weren’t a fan of the black and white design of the console, the start of the new generation was a disappointing one. However, in June Sony gave those looking for a splash of color a far more appealing option.
The Cosmic Red DualSense is the first alternate colorway to hit the official PlayStation 5 lineup, but still packs all the groundbreaking features of the original controller. You’re still getting all the excellent haptic feedback, adaptive trigger and built-in mic action that made the PS5 DualSense controller one of the best features of the new generation and a must-have PS5 accessory.
Sony also released a Midnight Black variant that eschews the console’s white exterior for an all-black design, but the Cosmic Red model will definitely be far more eye-catching in your collection.
Worthy mention - Midnight Black DualSense
If you want to keep your setup as the Sony lords intended, opting for the Midnight Black model will keep everything within that two-tone aesthetic. This colorway was released alongside the Cosmic Red model and blends the color all the way around the gamepad itself for a shadow aesthetic.
Best Xbox controller - Turtle Beach Recon Controller
The headset specialist has proved that you can add 'pro' features to a controller without jacking up the price with this deadly piece of tech.
We love a good deal here at GamesRadar, and when Turtle Beach released this controller with a range of extra features we couldn't believe the price. At only $60/£50 this really embarrasses most of the competition of other feature-rich third-party controllers that are often priced three times (or more!) than a standard pad.
Remappable buttons, rear paddles, fine-tune aiming, on-board audio controls, EQ presets, and audio enhancements for positional audio have never been seen for such an affordable price, making this a fine alternative to the standard Xbox controller for those looking to try some pro features for less than the Elite Series 2 and Scuf Instinct Pro.
It feels fantastic in the hand too thanks to a sensible design, extra grip on the handles, and even a best-in-class textured finish on the triggers which we loved for shooters and racing games alike.
- Read more: Turtle Beach Recon Controller review
Worthy mention - Victrix Gambit
The Victrix Gambit has only just been released, but it's already one of our favorites on Xbox. Priced around $100/£100, it's still fairly affordable and comes rocking a range of swappable analogs, D-pads, rear paddles, multi-depth trigger locks, angled gates, and even a swappable faceplate with a hard white plastic one, or a soft rubber purple cover to choose from. There's even a surprisingly deep software app to adjust dead zones and biting points, which is something you usually have to pay a lot more to tweak in a controller.
Best PC headset - Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT
Offering a complete gaming headset package, the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT offers impeccable sound, features, and quality.
This is a PC headset for gaming that offers a premium gaming experience in every way possible. The Wireless XT's sound quality is impeccable, with clear mids, loud bass, and unmuddied highs that mean gaming audio doesn't come much better in 2021 - but this also extends to music, movies, and any other entertainment. It's just that good.
The design of the headset is both individual enough to stand out in the headset market in 2021, as well as restrained enough to look high-quality and avoids being garish. The aluminium and leatherette build is solid and allows the subtle RGB lighting to shine out attractively.
The detachable mic is equally excellent and has very minor compression, while the headset's multi-connectivity means you can use the Virtuoso XT with almost any device. The cherries on top include Dolby Atmos which provides excellent surround sound and a battery life that will last a good day's usage. A quality PC headset and one of the best in gaming headsets in 2021.
- Read more: Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT review
Worthy mention - ASUS ROG Delta S
Offering a lightweight and comfortable fit, along with some excellent audio, the ASUS ROG Delta S was another stand-out in this year's PC gaming headset lineup. Working beautifully with the companion software, the Delta S has an enormous amount of potential and flexibility, offering settings for every kind of gaming. The default sounds is superb, but the options are nearly endless once this headset's potential is unlocked…
Best PS5 headset - Turtle Beach Recon 500
Doing things slightly differently to most, the new Recon 500 headset is a triumph of a wired PS5 headset and offers some of the best sound of 2021.
Following a storm of PS5 headsets that launched with the console, 2021 has been a bit leaner, but this meant that headsets like the Recon 500 could shine through and show exactly what it offers.
Introducing a brand-new 60mm into the headset's cups, the Recon 500 breaks out of the Recon tradition and is clearly offering something different - and it works. The sound on offer is immense and with an aggressive price point, the value is terrific too, such is the sound quality. The 60mm drivers break out of the oft-muddy and murky sound that 50mm drivers can offer, and delivers tight and precise game audio.
This lightweight headset has a safe design and build, but its inoffensive aesthetic means it melts into any setup, and the detachable mic is great too, staying in position when you place it and delivering your voice clearly and faithfully across the internet.
While not a tether-free set that will continue to be the desirable PS5 headset design, the Recon 500 is a reimagination that succeeds in offering some of the best audio going on PS5, which elevates above many others vying to crack the PS5 headset market in 2021.
- Read more: Turtle Beach Recon 500 review
Worthy mention - Razer Kaira X for PS5
Razer's first PS5 headset may be the 'X' variant of the Kaira range - which often denotes the budget or entry-level model of a Razer series - but it offers some serious bang for buck. The audio on offer is exquisite, with the hardware brand's own TriForce 50mm drivers shining through. The mic is clear and crisp, and the wired connection means you're sure to have zero latency and also retain flexibility. A fine PS5 headset for the money and one that indicates good things to come from Razer for its PS5 Kaira range.
Best Xbox headset - Microsoft Xbox Wireless headset
Want a premium, feature-rich, Xbox headset without breaking the bank. You've got it!
Microsoft came out of nowhere this year with one of the best Xbox Series X headsets ever made. Packed with top-notch features for a super low price of $99/£89, Xbox fans eagerly scrambled for Microsoft's headset en masse. So much so, it's generally been sold out since release.
If you can find it as the MSRP, you won't get a finer pound-for-pound wireless headset at such a reasonable price. The uncluttered design benefits greatly from the rotating cup covers to control volume and chat/game balance and removes the need for fiddly buttons. The headset also comes with its own equalizer app on the console so you can really fine-tune it to your own tastes.
The wireless signal to the Xbox is excellent and the mic quality is great for frantic multiplayer or casual catchups. You won't find better (or louder!) bass performance without spending a lot more money on a headset and the surround sound proves you don't need a fancy home cinema setup to enjoy immersive audio.
- Read more: Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset review
Worthy mention - Corsair HS75 XB Wireless
The wireless Corsair HS75 XB is more than worthy of your attention thanks to one of the best mics we've tested all year and excellent all-round performance. This is a larger headset in size than most others we've tested in 2021 and that includes the roomy earcups that offer excellent positional audio thank to the headset coming with free access to the premium Dolby Atmos app. And if you're really looking for a louder sound, the beefy 50mm drivers are ready to rock too.
Best Nintendo Switch headset - Razer Barracuda X
A focus on simplicity means the Barracuda X offers fantastic value for money and high-quality audio all in one.
It can be difficult to find a solid pair of wireless gaming headphones for under $100, but the Razer Barracuda X stepped into the arena in the summer of 2021. Priced at just $99 / £99, you won’t find any fancy PC-oriented EQ settings or a high-performance microphone on here, but you will pick up a headset with an extraordinary focus on sound quality and battery life for its price. That, and the USB-C wireless connection, makes it a go-to Nintendo Switch headset for players who don’t need the additional features of some of the more costly headsets, but still want the sound quality they can provide.
Weighing in at just 250g, one of the lightest headsets on the market, these cups will see you through long sessions in comfort, especially thanks to that spongy padding. The design is subtle enough to pass for commuting as well.
Razer is taking a refreshing step back with the Barracuda X. While other brands are focusing more attention on the eSports market, at the expense of some of their everyday players, this latest release is perfectly placed to offer a 2021-level auditory experience without costly extras.
- Read more: Razer Barracuda X review
Worthy mention - Corsair HS70 Bluetooth
The Corsair HS70 Bluetooth model was specifically released with Nintendo Switch in mind. At the outset it offers a strong sound profile without the grinding bass that sometimes accompanies sub-$100 headsets like this and a comfortable design. However, it’s the ability to dual-connect via both Bluetooth (to your Switch) and a cable (to your phone) for easily running chat audio through your console that really makes it stand out here.
Best gaming phone - Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
The foldable phone we've all been waiting for, gaming on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is an unparalleled experience in the world of smartphones.
What if the best gaming phone was also a tablet? The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the best foldable phone yet, and opening it up into its full 7.6-inch, 120Hz potential reveals just how far we’ve come.
As an everyday driver we were impressed by the multi-tasking features afforded by that larger internal display, pro mode photo settings, and the potential of the horizontally open Flex mode. While a little pricey still, this is brand new tech after all, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is finally delivering on the promise of foldable tech, with a far more polished experience and attention to detail.
Of course, compared to the other best gaming phones on the market, the Fold 3 offers an experience like no other. The sheer size of the internal screen is a given, but the 120Hz refresh rate and comfortable control placements means the latest games are elevated to another level here. We were running Call of Duty mobile on high settings without feeling much heat, and keeping the image crystal clear on the 11.2:9 display. With a bright screen and Dolby audio, there’s plenty of tech packed in here to help the everyday gamer get more out of their smartphone.
- Read more: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
Worthy mention - iPhone 13 Pro
We’re still gathering our thoughts on the iPhone 13 Pro, but we can already tell that this latest model steps further into the realm of gaming phone than previous iterations dared to. The 120Hz display and variable refresh rate contribute massively to the overall gaming experience, but we also noticed far fewer heating issues compared to the 12-Series and a stronger battery life as well.
Best PS5 SSD - Seagate FireCuda 530
The complete package from the console storage expert - excellence in design, performance, and power
One of the first models of SSD to break cover as being compatible with the PS5 this year, the FireCuda 530 is one of the absolute best options to go for, and can easily see off the competition.
Cutting to the chase, this premium-level PS5 SSD offers best-in-class performance with enormous claimed read speeds of 7,000/7,300 MB/s and write speeds of 3,000-6,900 MB/s write - and proves the perfect companion for a PS5, in full accordance with Sony's recommendations. Throw in a great endurance level of 2,550 TBW (for the 1TB model) and the FireCuda 530 is all the PS5 SSD you could ever need. A proprietary, built-in heatsink means that the drive is also well protected from the off. It has all the hallmarks of a premium PS5 SSD and can easily hold its own against the other big boy units out there.
If you want a PS5 SSD that'll perform superbly, and reliably, and last forever, then the Seagate FireCuda 530 is that drive.
Worthy mention - Patriot Viper VP4300
A PS5 SSD that came out in 2021 and kept a little quiet, the Patriot Viper VP4300 is an excellent PS5 SSD option that offers performance at an aggressive price point. It doesn't compromise on speeds - offering up to 7,400MB/s read & up to 5,800MB/s write - comes with a reliable heatsink and the 1TB model costs comfortably less than the similar-speedy drives from the big boy manufacturers. An excellent, affordable PS5 SSD option of 2021.
Best CPU - Intel Core i5-11600K
One of the best CPUs for gaming got a whole lot better this year with an impressive bump up in clock speed to keep up with intensive tasks.
The Intel Core i5-11600K is a very powerful chipset for its aggressive asking price, especially when compared to its main rival, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600x which retails for an extra $80 on top. The newest iteration of the 11th generation i5 processor is built upon 14nm, no surprises there, but it benefits from higher clock speeds than what we saw with last year’s 11th gen offerings from the manufacturer.
In terms of the best CPU for gaming, the Intel Core i5-11600K is the best Intel processor for the money right now from a price-to-performance perspective. We’re confident in recommending this processor for anyone putting together a new gaming build on the LGA 1200 socket, then you really can’t go wrong with this 6-core (12 threads) chipset this year.
Worthy mention - AMD Ryzen 9 5900x
It's a little on the pricey side, but the AMD Ryzen 9 5900x is an absolute monster of a CPU for the most intensive of tasks you can throw its way. It's armed with a 12-core (24 threads) framework for some seriously impressive single-core performance, as well as being able to outperform not only the Intel Core i9-10900K but also steamroll through the Intel Core i9-11900K in terms of gaming and application performance, too.
Best gaming projector - BenQ X1300i
Built and designed for gaming, the BenQ X1300i delivers superbly offering an outstanding picture not only meets the needs of gamers but caters explicitly to different types of games.
Truly a projector for gamers, BenQ's X1300i stood head and shoulder above others in 2021.
With true, genuine gaming specifications such as an 8ms input lag, and a 120Hz refresh rate, this projector gets as close as it seems possible to gaming monitor levels of performance and retains the ability to present high-quality imagery all the while.
Three game modes are incredibly tuned for role-playing games, shooters, and sports, and a custom slot allows users to craft their own image profile. Each mode offers genuinely great looks and feature differences that very much set each apart. Despite being a 1080p projector, the pedigree, feature set, and overall quality of the BenQ X1300i mean this is easily one of the best projectors for PS5 and Xbox Series X.
The 4LED DPL technology not only gives great image quality but sees the unit run cool and quiet, meaning it won't overheat in long gaming sessions. This tech also ensures the X1300i can be the full package of a projector too: the default picture, and the different modes, are exquisite for other media, be it entertainment, and movies, or sports. A true gamers projector that is the best of 2021.
- Read more: BenQ X1300i review
Worthy mention - XGIMI Horizon Pro
With 4K projectors becoming more and more desirable for gamers in 2021, the XGIMI Horizon Pro offered a way into that combination but at a sensible value point and with great image quality, and features. The sharp 4K resolution is genuinely fantastic, offering warm, rich, bright pictures, and the familiar, easy-to-use Android os of the projector makes for a solid base. A strong 4K projector contender this year.
Best gaming earbuds - EPOS GTW 270
With fantastic sound quality and the ability to connect to a multitude of devices, the EPOS GTW 70 Hybrid delivers for mobile gaming.
A triumph in mobile gaming audio, the EPOS GTW 270 earbuds are the best gaming earbuds available in 2021. Able to make your games sound great whether you’re playing on Nintendo Switch or mobile, and offering the ability to make music sound vibrant, rich, and detailed when listening on the go is what really makes these earbuds stand out.
However, they're also extremely comfortable to wear for hours at a time, and their connectivity is easy and straightforward, with the Bluetooth also being strong enough to withstand great range and potential interference. The USB-C dongle makes connecting to any device a cinch and, when the buds are paired, the controls are easy to use on the fly. The buds charge easily, offer up to 20 hours of life, and also have a compact, solid, and robust design. The earbuds really are the full package.
A premium set of gaming earbuds the EPOS GTW 270s absolutely are and stood above all others in 2021.
- Read more: EPOS GTW 270 review
Worthy mention - Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Gen 2
Building on the solid groundwork that the first True Wireless earbuds offered, the Gen 2 variants take it all to another level. Now with bigger and better audio, with actual bass thumps you can feel, the Gen 2 earbuds area a triumph in tiny audio. The low latency game mode also ensures they offer a gaming edge, while a dash of RGB lighting means the buds are even more attractive than ever. Good battery life, and being quick to charge completes a well-rounded package.
Best board game - Descent: Legends of the Dark
A clever companion app elevates this dungeon-crawler into a must-play tabletop adventure.
It's clear from the start that Descent: Legends of the Dark means business. Pop the top off this enormous, multi-section box and you'll find 40 ridiculously detailed miniatures, cardboard scenery to spare, and choice-driven gameplay that feels like a blend between PC roleplaying games of old and the best tabletop RPGs.That makes it an experience with both literal and figurative layers.
Much of Descent's success can be laid at the feet of its clever companion app. Acting as a Dungeon Master of sorts (the kind you'd see running the best Dungeons and Dragons books), it dictates what will happen next in your story. Besides deciding which monsters you'll face and telling you what scenery to put down, it handles any number-crunching that needs doing as well. This allows you to actually play the game rather than dusting off your math skills every time you attack an enemy or take damage.
Cutscenes with dialogue options and decisions that carry over from session to session also make it a little deeper than what you'd normally expect from the best board games. Throw in the ability to level up your character abilities over time and you're left with one hell of a great board game for adults.
- Read more: Descent: Legends of the Dark hands-on
Worthy mention - Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game
There's something really satisfying about the core loop of Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game. After teaming up with your friends as one of four unique hunters, you'll track, stalk, and take on robot monsters to get loot. You'll then spend it all on upgrades that allow you to challenge even nastier beasties and get even more treasure in the process. It's a gratifying concept that'll keep you coming back, making this adaptation one of the best cooperative board games in 2021.
Best racing wheel or joystick - Thrustmaster T248
A truly great new-gen gaming steering wheel that gives you a close connection to the road through exquisite force feedback.
This is the steering wheel that we've been waiting for. Feature-packed, extremely well-built and designed, and featuring best-in-class Force Feedback, the T248 was easily the best racing wheel in 2021.
The T248 has a design that features easy to reach button placement, and a wide selection of additional elements which when combined with that excellent force feedback means it is the complete package.
Dual-encoder controls, magnetic paddle gear changers, and an LED telemetry display which can be used in a number of ways by titles like F1 stand ut in particular, but there's even room for great customisation to cater for your own preferences too: the brake pedal can be configured to four different pressure modes, for example, and you'll also have the run of 25 remappable buttons, and an LED display in the centre that can be configured to show you a range of data in supporting games giving you insight into how your racing is going, and how you can improve.
Offering a deep sense of realism through its motor and resistance, and all the above features, the T248 immerses you in the driving experience more than ever and changes the way you can play racing games in 2021.
- Read more: Thrustmaster T248 review
Worthy mention - Thrustmaster T. Flight Full Kit X
As well as dominating the wheel and controller markets this year, Thrustmaster's T., Flight Full Kit X package offered an affordable and excellent way into immersive flight experiences this year. A well-built, robust set of gear, the T. Flight Kit X immerses players in flight games like Star Wars Squadrons and Microsoft Flight Simulator, ensuring that intuitive controls and a genuine feel for flight translates the experience to your hands while playing on a console. At a great value price point, this set means that players have realistic aviation at their fingertips and allows them to have their 'this is pod racing moment.
Best microphone - Shure MV7
Rich and full of detail straight out of the box, the MV7 from Shure is a worthy winner for best microphone in 2021.
The MV7 offers truly professional audio reproduction, a flexible setup due to its dual USB and XLR output system, and even an effortless means of recording backups. And all this comes in a microphone that is extremely robust, and solid, and well-designed.
The key feature that is the dual input in the Shure MV7 is genuinely useful - it's not a gimmick. Because not everyone has an audio interface with XLR inputs, the USB connection is perfect. And if you do have an XLR, then recording a track via the USB creates a handy failsafe, and can be used as a dry performance track to sit beneath an affected track in your DAW.
The touch controls on the front of the mic work well and are in keeping with the chic design of the microphone too. The aesthetic is more from the world of pro audio than a microphone for streaming games, perhaps, but it's cool and the capsule form of the mic would still blend into any setup. Supreme audio quality caps what is easily one of the best mics of recent times.
- Read more: Shure MV7 review
Worthy mention - Yeti Blue X World of Warcraft
Despite the World of Warcraft skin implying that this is nothing but an aesthetic refresh, it's absolutely not the case. Retaining everything that makes the Yeti Blue X microphone awesome, the World of Warcraft variant adds a voice changer, making it perfect for playing the MMO itself online, as well as engaging in tabletop RPGs too. Combine this with the already excellent audio quality, four polar patterns on offer, and the LED smart control, and this is a top microphone.
Best webcam - Razer Kiyo Pro
The gulf between Razer's latest webcam and the competition is vast.
Most of us have become a lot more familiar with webcams over the past couple of years, and we can safely say that the Razer Kiyo Pro trounces the lot of them. Despite making some big promises, it lives up to those lofty ideals to become one of the best webcam options in 2021.
Designed to sit somewhere between day-to-day webcams and streamer-style DSLRs, the Pro has a laundry list of impressive features. Alongside its wide-angle lens toting an Adaptive Light Sensor that works wonders, this version of the Kiyo provides a built-in omni-directional microphone, lenses that can handle 103°, 90°, or 80° fields of view, uncompressed HD at 60fps, HDR at 30fps, USB 3.0 for passing signal at 5GB per-second, and STARVIS technology that's normally used in surveillance cameras to "create high-quality images from visible and near-infrared light regions." 'Impressive' doesn't cut it.
While this all sounds good on paper, the Kiyo Pro puts its money where its (proverbial) mouth is. That Adaptive Light Sensor is sheer magic; providing a far clearer, cleaner picture even in low or overexposed lighting conditions, it makes a tremendous difference and puts the Pro head and shoulders above most of the competition.
- Read more: Razer Kiyo Pro review
Worthy mention - AverMedia PW315
Dipping a toe into the streaming space? Hoping to get a webcam that'll ace work conference calls? The AverMedia PW315 fits the bill nicely. A high-performing bit of kit that won't cripple you financially, it crams excellent picture quality and impressive specs into a small, durable design that's matched by solid companion software.