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If you think about it there are so many cool features on gaming peripherals that are specific to a particular brand, but what if we were a step closer to having some of these cool features be more standardized across the entire industry.
I’m not talking about honeycomb shells or USB pocket receivers for wireless peripherals, I’m thinking bigger. I have divided this into 3 categories for gaming audio, keyboards, and mice, all with a genuinely interesting list of features that I hope to see more of in 2021.
Let’s begin with the first category of gaming mice and explore the diversity in customization. The ROG Chakra mouse is absolutely loaded from a feature standpoint, but the main thing I love are the swappable micro switches, specifically having the option to go with the crispy click, which are the blue switches, or the slightly softer click which are the beige switches. ASUS is still one of the only companies to offer this with their mice, but I feel like this should become more widespread just because some mice have mushy clicks, while others are are too loud, so this option would definitely add more to the customization to something so important as the primary triggers.
Then we move onto the shape customization with custom backplates to change the shape of the mouse to fit your grip style better, like on the new XTRFY M42. The default back is slightly more flat and low-profile, while the extra plate adds more body. I did not realize how amazing this feature is until I swapped out for the second back and the mouse went from unusable because it wasn’t comfortable to 100% awesome and I can see myself gaming with it. Now we have seen interchangeable side plates with larger mice that are mainly MMO focused and more brands are now starting to include grip tape for better handling and to remove any slippage. This is mainly seen on lightweight options, but I really think that back customization options should become more widely available in 2021 just so that you can have a mouse that can fit multiple grip styles and hand sizes.
I also love the trend towards lightweight mice that do not have any of the honeycomb or perforations throughout the body to remove the weight. I will admit that it was a cool visual distinction for the lightweight movement in the beginning, but now over time that I have used all the perforated mice things get gunky and things just fall right through the body. And so I appreciate the full solid shells we see from Razer and Logitech that are still incredibly lightweight designs, but without the holes. I also would not mind seeing more hybrid shells like with the Ducky Feather, where only the sides have the minimum perforations, but the main top is solid. And I guess as we see more gaming mice get solidified, we will stop seeing the comments about Trypophobia whenever we release a new mouse review that is perforated.
Next let’s move into the fun space with cool mouse colours and mouse pad options too. We are not in the black and white zone all the time, but with some colour variety through the whole peripheral. I love game specific themes, the Cyberpunk Razer mouse is done better than the game itself, and is truly one of a kind still. CS:GO specific colourways are always my thing too, and I kind of wished that the grip tapes were coloured and something specific. I just think we need to see more colour experimentation in 2021, because we have an abundance of variety of black and white peripherals, but when it comes to colour that space just needs to kind of build up in terms of stock and options. Hopefully gaming company will experiment, but we shall see.
Mousepads & Stands
Moving on, I did not realize just how much wired mouse pads have evolved. Aside from having traditional USB passthrough for SD card readers or other peripherals, the ROG Balteus has both RGB lighting and Qi wireless charging built-in, which can charge your phone or a compatible wireless mouse. If you are going from the RGB mousepad anyway, Qi charging is a nice added feature, especially because of that clever high placement where it’s out of your mouse movement area so it doesn’t interfere.
I guess it’s kind of a trend with ASUS peripherals because they even have Qi charger on there headset stands, plus the base acts as a bit of a hub with full speed USB 3.0 ports on the side, a four-pole headset jack at the front and of course RGB lighting illumination. The Razer stand has similar lightning, but it does not have Qi charging.
In the keyboard space it’s not often that we see the spacebar get the proper macro treatment. Let’s ignore the split functionality of this keyboard because it’s the multi-switch cluster for the thumb that is really my jam. This is the proper way to utilize different macros for shortcuts without having to move your hand to a different area of the keyboard. I would love this feature to become more standardized as it’s the only way I can see myself using macros. There are some companies that offer a hot-swappable switches for the spacebar, so if you want a big one just install one and if you want multiple switches in the spacebar area that is also possible. I would love that to become a bit more standardized. Then we get into the modular element of the keyboard, where we go beyond the hot-swappable switches, but instead attach different accessories with USB-C connection. I know this is one of the more difficult elements that requires proper hardware and software integration, especially with these digital multi-function dials or even separate number pads. I’m really happy this exists in the market now, and I hope that more competition follows and perhaps some collaboration where you could attach different USB-C accessory to your keyboard that isn’t from the same brand as the original keyboard.
Next up is an analog control pad that is a cool addition to your TKL keyboard if you only occasionally use those extra buttons. I really like the apps specific keycap sets that lets you turn your keyboard into this macro work course or a game specific shortcut keypad. These sets are designed for the control pad, but nothing is stopping you from just pimping out your editing keyboard or your gaming switch cluster. I really wish that more gaming keyboards included accented keycaps that would just add a bit more flair to the product.
Then we have this keyboard movement towards optical switches that are technically superior to traditional mechanical switches. I particularly want to highlight the new ROG STRIX Scope RX keyboard because I have not felt such smooth motion with beautiful resistance on linear switches yet. Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries, Wooting, and many others already have optical switches in the gaming space. Having another option is excellent, but to be honest the ROG RX Red switches feel incredible. Furthermore, the stabilizers are fantastic. We have this weird privacy button that minimizes all your windows to desktop. Your pinky will appreciate the oversized control key if you crouch often, but also because of this the bottom layout is not standardized. You can really feel this optical push in 2021, so definitely expect more optical keyboards this year.
Now I do have one small honorable mention with the Roccat Vulcan TKL keyboard that has the best volume wheel I have ever felt on a keyboard. I know this is not a new feature, but I wish it was done well more often. The knob is easy to manipulate, the scroll steps are super defined and the adjustment is in real-time without any delay. All the gaming brands have a thing or two to learn from Roccat when it comes to volume wheels.
Finally, for our last audio category let’s appreciate replaceable ear cups on good headset designs, like the Drop + Sennheiser PC38X. Both options are comfortable, easy to swap and clean, and most importantly flavor the sound in unique ways. The different cups either allowing the audio to breathe a bit more and sound more open or closing it in for some extra bass and proximity. I also appreciate headphone designs that are more widely used. Therefore OEM ear pads are sold separately without the need to go back to the original seller. The ear cups in my experience are the first thing to go when it comes to long-term wear and tear, so having a good quality gear pad replacement design is appreciated. Then I love it when we have proper driverless noise cancellation built into a headset microphone. I love a good quality microphone on the gaming headset, but all the software based noise cancellation from Razer, Corsair, and others just sounds terrible or doesn’t cancel out enough of the background noise.
I have already covered this AI noise canceling USB-C adapter, which is awesome, but now it’s actually built into the ROG Delta S headset. The AI noise canceling is excellent, it is driverless and completely plug-and-play, and it’s going to be competing a little bit with likes of RTX Voice. Whereas you have to install that utility it is being built into the headset itself. Also it could be used for smartphones because of the USB-C connection on the headset itself.
All right, that is my list of cool features for gaming peripherals I would love to see more of. Let me know what you think and share your thoughts about what you would like to see more of in 2021.