You've got an amazing gaming machine and a dedicated play space to enjoy it in, but if you've already upgraded your gaming PC to the max, what else can you do to improve your gaming area? Other than adding a beer fridge, a foot massager and a fancy gaming chair of course.
We've been on the lookout for ways to enhance our gaming experience to make it just that little bit snazzier. Turns out there are a number of pretty awesome bits of kit you can add to your system to make it even more incredible. Some of them are even just software updates too.
NZXT HUE 2 Ambient RGB lighting kit
- Customisable RGB lighting strips for PC gaming
- Software controlled custom lighting options
- Up to 40 LEDs total
- Fits various size monitors
If you're the sort of person that loves bright, colourful backlighting for your gaming monitor, then NZXT has the solution for you.
The NZXT HUE 2 Ambient RGB lighting kit includes right RGB capable LED strips that allow you to backlight your monitor with ease. These strips come in two different lengths with up to 10 LEDs per strip. A simple installation process simply requires you to run the strips across the top and sides of the rear of your monitor. Those strips then connect to a control box that plugs into your PC and a power supply.
These sticky-backed RGB strips are, for the most part, a doddle to install. The varying sizes and number included in the kit allow you to fit them to a variety of monitor sizes up to 35-inches. In this example, we fitted the kit to a 34-inch ultra-wide monitor and still had one strip left over as a spare.
Clever design features mean you can tidy the cables away mostly out of sight, including sticking the control box to the back of the monitor. We would, however, recommend testing placement beforehand as any mistakes can cause mishaps with the durability of the sticky backing.
Once installed and plugged in, these lights can then be controlled via the CAM software.
The software gives access to a variety of customisation options which make this kit highly flexible. Lighting options include numerous colour presets that can be customised according to your liking. Including the ability to tweak it over two different channels and set to anything from fixed to breathing, fading, pulsing, waving or flowing in a variety of colours that includes rainbow options.
More intelligent lighting options include setting the lights to change colour according to your PCs stats - adjusting to show temperature changes in your graphics card or CPU, for example.
If you're obsessed with frame rates, but don't want a counter constantly displaying while you game, you can even set the lights to change according to the FPS you're getting.
The HUE 2 Ambient lighting kit also allows you to sync with music and audio according to levels, bass or gain. If that's not enough, you can also take advantage of settings to respond to in-game goings on. Though we didn't find that as flexible or as immersive as Phillips Hue Light Sync.
If you want a fully customisable lighting system that won't break the bank, this is it. At around $99.99/£89.99 this is an affordable system that's a great addition to your gaming space.
Corsair light syncing
- RGB lighting across various gaming peripherals
- Lighting sync via Corsair iCue software
- Fully customisable lighting settings
- Dynamic lighting based on in-game events
If you've seen our guide to building your own gaming PC, then you know that Corsair offers a number of RGB fans and lighting options for your machine. These work as brilliant upgrades to your gaming rig or as part of the build when you're initially putting it all together.
Like other gaming peripheral manufacturers, Corsair also sells gaming mice, headsets and keyboards that support RGB lighting. Now, with a recent update to the company's software, you can synchronise lighting across all these devices.
The new Corsair iCue software allows you to create lighting effects that work across each of your devices. Whether that's ensuring all the colours match or watching as lights move across the keyboard and mouse into your case and then back out again.
There are a variety of different settings and effects available here and we have to say, they're all pretty awesome. Especially if you're a fan of RGB lighting customisation. A mass of customisation options means you can program your setup just the way you like it and even change it depending on what you're doing.
These updates also include compatibility with certain games, which mean the game can change your lighting to affect your experience as you play.
In Far Cry 5, for example, the lighting initially glow in the colours of the Stars and Stripes when you load up the game, but turn a haze of red when you've been spotted by enemies or are in danger. Subtle or not, this lighting syncing and dynamic adjustment are impressive, incredible and a brilliant upgrade to any gaming setup.
We were running the Corsair K95 Platinum, Corsair Glaive mouse and the LL120 RGB fans and RGB lighting strips for testing and the results are certainly spectacular. If you already have Corsair hardware, it's easy enough to download the new software - which replaces the previous Corsair Cue and Corsair Link software and puts all the controls in one place.
Philips Hue Light Sync
A while ago, Philips announced a new update to its smart lighting range that allowed for the creation of "Entertainment Areas" in your home where lights could be synced with your TV if you had the right equipment.
Now, an update to Philips Hue Light Sync means you can easily setup Hue lights to respond to what's happening on your PC or Mac.
For gamers, this means immersive and reactive lighting which changes according to what's happening in the game you're playing.
If you already own Philips Hue lights then setup is a breeze. Simply download the Philips Hue Sync tool for your computer, connect it to your Hue bridge, setup and entertainment area to include the right lights and you're away.
The settings here allow you to do everything from getting the lights to respond to general screen use, games, music and video, as well as adjusting how the lights respond to each. If you have a multi-screen setup you can choose your preferred screen for the app to respond to and even setup keyboard shortcuts for quickly switching between modes.
This setup works with any colour Philips Hue lights you have in your gaming area, so it's an easy setup to get started with.
If you don't have any lights currently, we'd recommend purchasing a Philips Hue LightStrip and Bridge kit. This is an excellent way to add back-lighting to your gaming area and really enhance your gaming experience.
Nanoleaf light panels
- Customisable RGB lighting panels
- Google Home, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT compatible
- Works with Apple HomeKit
If custom lighting appeals, then Nanoleaf is another excellent option for upgrading your gaming area. Nanoleaf is a fully customisable lighting system which is consists of triangular lighting panels which snap together in various different configurations. The limitations of which are mostly your imagination and the size of your wallet.
These panels are app-controlled via Apple or Android smartphones but are also compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT meaning there's plenty of flexibility options. This gives you the power not only to customise the lighting the way you want it via your phone, but also to control it with your voice or setup actions for the lights to react in certain ways - turning on at certain hours, turning off when you go to bed, etc.
Not only can these lighting panels improve your gaming area with enhanced lighting options, but they can also add to your gaming experience too. The Nanoleaf starter kit includes the Rhythm upgrade module which plugs into any of the panels and changes the lighting according to the sounds it picks up - whether that's music playing in the room or gaming sounds blasting out of your speakers.
You can adjust the colours of the lights easily within the app and even choose from a selection of different shades to cycle through in rhythm mode. The results are pretty spectacular.
We love how easy this system is to use too. The light triangles have a port on each side where a small cardboard circuit slots into. These then slot together allowing you to create the various shapes. The panels stick to your wall with 3M stickers, so installation and mounting is a breeze. The system comes with an instruction book with suggested shapes, depending on how many panels you've purchased and you can also get suggestions from the app itself.
You can use the company's own layout generator tool to suggest patterns for your wall if you're stuck for ideas. We'd certainly recommend planning out the shape you want to use first, as the panels aren't easy to take down or move once they're stuck up on the wall.
You can also purchase various mounting accessories for a more secure fit or even allow for angled mounting, which is a nice addition if you want to go from wall-to-wall. An expansion kit is available to buy if the nine panels in the starter kit aren't enough or you can combine multiple starter kits for a magnificent multi-panel design.
These light panels offer support 16.7 million colours including a number of whites to mimic sunrise, sunset and brilliant daylight. You can fill them with one colour or choose from a selection of colours. User-submitted colour palettes are also available to easily download within the app and we loved simple designs like the twinkling of stars at night.
Razer and Philips Hue compatibility
- Razer Synapse compatible
- Lighting sync across multiple devices
- Dynamic lighting across various games
When Philips Hue Light Sync first arrived, Philips partnered with Razer to tie the lighting into the Razer Chroma ecosystem.
This means if you own Razer gaming mice, headsets or keyboards that are Chroma compatible then you can pair these up with Philips Hue lighting in your gaming area. We did this with the Philips Hue light strip and a number of spotlights and the results were pretty impressive.
Setup is pretty simple too. Firstly you need to add an "entertainment group" within the Philips Hue app, then connect the Philips Hue module within Razer's Synpase 3 software. The software then talks you through pairing with your Philips Hue bridge and then you're pretty much ready to go.
Once it's all setup, you can adjust the lighting to your liking. More importantly, when it's turned on your Razer gear and Philips Hue lighting will respond dynamically depending on what Razer Chroma compatible games you're playing.
Playing Worms W.M.D, for example, the Razer gear we were using turned a nice shade of red when we were blown up by enemy worms while during normal play the main keys were highlighted in different colours to make them easily accessible.
This system not only allows for a lot of lighting customisation, but allows for brilliant syncing across a number of devices. Razer also offers an RGB lighting system in the form of the Chroma Hardware Development Kit. This can be installed on your desk, inside your gaming machine or on the rear of monitors to offer some more synchronised lighting that's easily customisable within the Synapse software.
Another highlight of Razer compatibility is its theoretical ability to pair with Nanoleaf - there's an app for pairing but it appears to be in the early stages currently and many users are struggling to get it to work. This is hopefully something that will be fixed in future updates. Nanoleaf also offers integration with Coolermaster gear if you own the right equipment, so there are plenty of flexibility options for synchronised lighting across these devices.
Logitech G560 Lightsync speakers
- 240 Watts Peak/120 Watts RMS
- DTS:X Ultra surround sound capable
- USB, 3.5mm and Bluetooth compatibility
- Headphone jack included on speakers
- Lightsync, audio visualiser and game compatibility
- 16.8 million colour RGB lighting
If all this lighting is getting you excited, then you might enjoy the idea of sound and lighting syncing too. Logitech has recently released a new set of speakers that do just that. These Logitech G560 Lightsync speakers are part of a sound system that's compatible with the company's Lightsync Technology meaning these speakers not only offer RGB lighting options but also tie up with other Logitech products.
These small but powerful speakers include two RGB lighting zones each controllable from the software in a variety of different ways. You can set these speakers with various lighting effects including colour cycle, breathing and fixed colours, as well as syncing with your mouse, keyboard and headset. The real highlights though are in the advanced settings.
Here you can use the audio visualiser system to set the speakers to respond to in-game sounds - flashing colours across your walls as gunfire bursts or music kicks in or lighting up your room to help immerse you in the game.
Similarly, the screen sampler mode allows you to set each lighting zone to respond to specific areas of your gaming monitor. Meaning the colours of the speakers change depending on what's on the screen. This causes the lights to adjust as you move about in-game and colours to change with gaming environment - throwing you deep into the gaming world.
Game developers have also been given the power to customise this experience further by coding games to sync with the lighting dynamically and intelligently. This is more powerful than the screen sampling mode as it's built directly into the game, but the list of current compatible games and apps is fairly short:
- Battlefield 1
- Civilization VI
- Counter-Strike: GO
- Dota 2
- Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Killing Floor 2
- Tom Clancy’s: The Division
- Total War: Warhammer II
As well as offering immersive lighting options, these speakers are also surprisingly capable. They include two tiny satellite speakers and a large subwoofer that deliver some serious punch.
With a maximum peak output of 240 watts, DTS:X Ultra surround sound options and a number of equaliser settings, we found these speakers offered a fantastic gaming experience and worked well for music and movies too. They support a USB connection to your PC, but will also work with a 3.5mm jack and offer Bluetooth connectivity as well, so there are a variety of connection options depending on your needs.
The design makes these speakers capable of lighting a good portion of your gaming area including both the desk and surrounding walls. We were impressed with how bright these speakers can get and how well the immersion works when playing games too. The variety of settings make these speakers highly flexible and it's nice to be able to combine sound and lighting in one single, capable package.
Hi-res audio with Cyrus soundKey PC Gamers Edition
- High-resolution DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) and amplifier in one
- 50mA low power usage
- 24-bit/96kHz audio resolution capabilities
- Micro-USB and USB compatible
- 2 x 138mW into 16 Ohms at 1% THD+N
- Compatible with headphones with impedances between 16 and 64 Ohms.
If high-quality audio is your thing and you think of yourself as a bit of an audiophile as well as a gamer, then you might be disappointed with the range of gaming headsets on offer.
There are a number of hi-res gaming devices available and we've even included some on our list of best gaming headsets, but if you've already got a pair of treasured headphones then there might be an alternative.
The Cyrus soundKey PC Gamers Edition is one such solution. This is a high-resolution audio DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) and amplifier all-in-one. A little box of tricks that offers the power to convert your favourite cans into a hi-res audio solution for all your gaming needs.
Plugged into your computer or gaming laptop via USB, it's automatically recognised as being capable of producing 24-bit/96kHz audio.
Simply plug in your 3.5mm headphones and you're free to enjoy the blissful joy of high-resolution audio in compatible games. We were surprised by how much difference this little box made to our audio experience and how much power it has in terms of being able to boost the levels too.
The Cyrus soundKey also works as a portable amp for your phone too (though you'll need an adapter if you're using an Apple iPhone or modern USB-C powered Android device). Meaning when you're not gaming you can take it with you to enjoy the very best quality tunes while you're on the move too.
For gamers, the Cyrus soundKey PC Gamers Edition includes a mic adapter cable so you can not only enjoy improved audio but keep chatting with your mates too.
If you're looking to easily upgrade your gaming audio without breaking the bank and forking out for a new headset or speakers, then this might well be the solution. It sounds fantastic and works like a charm too. We're big fans of anything that's simple plug-and-play, we're sure you are too.
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