May the holiday force be with you.
This guide focuses on the video game hardware and accessories primarily for the PS4 and Xbox One. The game-focused High-Def Digest's Video Game Holiday Gift Guide 2015 can be found here.
As 2015 draws to close, now is the best time for anyone to jump into video games, whatever the platform. This happens to be especially true for video game consoles, with the various companies and retailers competing to put together enticing bundles. Naturally, buying a new console is a jumping off point, and there are some very important accessories for both new and veteran gamers.
Wow, what a year for console bundles! Not only are there several proper special editions (with rare and distinct paint schemes), but the game bundling and (finally) increasing hard drive offerings are as big as ever.
Star Wars LE 500GB PS4
It's not just that 'Star Wars Battlefront' is a huge game, but its focus on the original trilogy is very indulgent. This special Darth Vader PS4 (550GB) is one to notice. The console and controller are covered in little details. The Deluxe version of 'Battlefront' is included along with four classic 'Star Wars' games.
Call of Duty LE 1TB Bundle
For 'Call of Duty: Black Ops III,' there is indeed a special PS4, which is certainly distinct and includes the game along with the remade classic Nuk3town map. This is a 1TB PS4, which makes it very ready to go right out of the box.
Uncharted Collection PS4 & Battlefront Standard PS4
These are two vanilla bundles, which include a game and console for the standard console price. There is a 500GB PS4 plus 'Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection' bundle, and the standard non Vader 500GB PS4 plus 'Star Wars Battlefront.'
Elite 1TB Xbox One
The Elite Xbox controller is a huge hit (see here), and one that is hard to find. Bundling it with a special Xbox One was a pretty smart move by Microsoft. This Elite Xbox contains a 1TB Hybrid SSD drive, and is the only Xbox to offer this feature.
Forza 6 LE 1TB Xbox One Bundle
'Forza 6' is a great racing game, but it may be overshadowed by the beautiful special edition 1TB Xbox One that has been made in its name.
It even has special sounds:
The 'Forza 6' branding can be seen from the side:
From the top:
Halo 5 Limited Edition 1TB Xbox One Bundle
For '< ahref= http://games.highdefdigest.com/11214/halo_5_guardians_xbox_one.html>Halo 5: Guardians,' Microsoft went with the cool colors of Spartan Locke, and the results show very well. This particular bundle includes the 1TB LE console, complete with 'Halo' console sounds, a digital version of 'Halo 5,' 14 REQ packs (that's exclusive game multiplayer game content) and even more digital 'Halo content.
Fallout 4 1TB Xbox One Bundle
'Fallout 4' is huge, and all of that vastness is perfect for anyone who enjoys playing single-player, offline stuff. (Plus, it includes 'Fallout 3' digitally as well.) In a bundle with a 1TB Xbox One, this might be the best of the vanilla Xbox One bundles.
Wii U Bundles
Not wanting to leave out the Wii U, Nintendo has fortunately listed their bundles here, and as indicated, Amazon is not the place to get them. There are two new bundles to really note, the 'Super Mario Maker Deluxe Set,' which has a black 32GB Wii U, a download of 'Super Mario Maker,' a Super Mario Bros. 30th Anniversary Mario Modern Color amiibo, and a Super Mario Maker Idea Book. This bundle is a Walmart exclusive, (order here).
The more thrifty bundle, the 'Smash Splat Special Edition Deluxe Set,' is coming Black Friday and will include a 32GB black Wii U with 'Super Smash Bros. Wii U' and 'Splatoon' for $249.99
EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SSC
On the PC side, I can't think of a better recommendation in terms of price versus performance for playing today's games on the PC than the Nvidia Geforce GTX 970. Assuming the PC can be upgraded, this EVGA variant is a great upgrade option and will get great results with some of this year's biggest games, including 'The Witcher III' and 'Fallout 4.'
Hard Drive Upgrades
Whether it's a new console or one that has been around for a few years, a new hard drive could be exactly what is needed. These days, game libraries take up terabytes of space, and beyond that, a faster drive can make a nice impact.
For the Xbox One, one extreme option I favor is a 4TB 7200RPM Toshiba drive, but an easier way for both the Xbox One and Wii U is a Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB. It's just a simple USB 3.0 connection (which will be USB 2.0 for the Wii U).
For the PC, a SSD is the way to go. It can really be the difference maker with openworld games like 'The Witcher III' and 'Fallout 4,' and it also improves the response of the operating system in general. The SanDisk X210 has been good to me, so I'm recommending the newer model, the X300s.
For better or for worse, both new console owners, old console owners, and PC players can generally all do with a new controller. The oem options on PS4 are all cosmetic. The 20th Anniversary version is this year's most eye-catching while the 'Call of Duty: Black Ops III LE DualShock 4' is hard to miss, and the Glacier White is still a nice option.
Things are a lot more exciting on the Xbox One. The controllers are natively supported by Windows, so these controllers double as PC controller recommendations. The Elite Xbox controller is the pricey, but still preferred way to go. (See here). Unfortunately, the Elite controllers can be hard to find. Still, the standard controller was redesigned this year to have a built-in headphone jack. It also has a redesign for the bumper buttons. The two different 'Halo 5' designs are pretty stunning and like other special edition Xbox One controllers, these are full of little details.
An important accessory that is all too easy to overlook in terms of the Xbox One, is a rechargeable battery pack. The Charge and Play kit includes a lightweight battery as well as a nice micro USB cable.
One more thing to consider for the Xbox One controller, and that's its use on the PC. The Xbox One controller works on Windows by way of a micro USB cable. Recently, Microsoft added Wireless support through a special USB dongle, the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows. This adapter was originally limited to Windows 10, but now is supported in Windows 7 and 8.1.
The PS4 finally has a respectable media remote, which is explored here. The PS4 isn't as media centric as the PS3, but this is still a perfect gift for a huge majority of PS4 users. The remote uses bluetooth with the PS4, but it also has IR for controlling other devices.
The Xbox One Media Remote is not new, (see here) but it's still a great accessory. It's not just good for media, either. This IR remote is nice to have when you want to boot up the console, download a new game, install an update, and so forth without draining the controller's batteries.
There are now, finally, several great headset options for both the PS4 and Xbox One, many of which are also good to use on the PC and even the Wii U. First up, I think the Turtle Beach Stealth 500P (review here) and Ear Force 420X (review here) are great wireless options for the PS4 and Xbox One respectively.
For those looking for the maximum amount of cool features in a gaming headset, the Turtle Beach Elite 800 (for PS4, review here) and Elite 800X (for Xbox One, review here), make for an excellent choice, especially in terms of the Xbox One. The Elite 800 and 800X sport DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound in a nice wireless form factor, host a Bluetooth connection (for a wireless connection to a second device, like a smartphone), active noise cancellation (for those that game in noisy areas), customizable presets, and Android integration. The Elite 800 and 800x also have nice charging bases (the headset can be charged by micro USB while still being used), which have an optical pass-through.
Sony's own option, the PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset is another one to consider. It looks good, sounds good, (Sony's own Virtual Surround Sound and custom EQs are nice features), feels good (very comfy), and is very simple to use to boot. (See here.) Even better, this year, there is a 20th Anniversary version.
On the Xbox One, ASTRO has an impressive offering with the ASTRO A40 + MixAmp M80 combo. The special 'Halo 5: Guardians' version is extremely stylish, and I think it will make a great gift. (See the review here.)
With the Polk Striker Pro, Polk has put together are great option that does well on the PS4, Xbox One, Wii U and PC. (See the review here.) I have even used it hooked straight into my AVR when playing rhythm games.
Meanwhile, the newest offering on this list is the Creative Sound BlasterX P5. These are a premium in-ear sound isolating design and are surprisingly excellent for use when gaming at home or listening to music on the go. (See the review here.) This is due in large part to the clarity of the audio which is balanced against the right amount of bass. The ported design helps the bass be expressed without being overwhelming. The P5 also has an interesting dangle mic, which with the braided cabling, help set this design apart.
Unlike the PS3, the PS4 requires a PlayStation Plus membership in order to play online. One PS Plus membership will get the user free monthly games on the PS4, PS3, and Vita for the duration of the subscription as well as cloud backup for saves. Xbox Live Gold is the very much the same deal as it enables online gaming, discounts, and monthly free games on the Xbox One and 360.
In 2015, digital versions of console games became hugely important as publishers are embracing digital first and customer demand continues to rise. Even for those that stick to discs there are all kinds of add-ons (like Call of Duty maps) that require PSN or Xbox Live digital credit.