Though many people still scratch their head at the idea of watching people play video games, Twitch and its content creators have proven that the platform is attractive to (even beloved by) tens of millions of people.
Got a friend or loved one who believes they have the skill, personality and wide open schedule to be successful on Twitch? The right gift might get the ball rolling.
(Note: It should go without saying that there is one piece of gear that a Twitch streamer truly needs, and that’s a computer or console to play the game on. Generally, this will either be a gaming PC, a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. Chances are if someone wants to stream games, they’ve already got a platform of choice, so we’re not going to go into detail on what type of PC or console to buy.)
The best place to start when investing in a streaming setup is the mic. Yes, webcams are important (and we’ll get to that), but it’s really taxing to listen to poor audio for any lengthy amount of time, and most gaming headphones just won’t cut it.
Our top choice for a reasonably priced, high-quality mic is the Blue Yeti Pro ($250). It’s a relatively simple plug-and-play product that sounds great. It supports both USB and XLR, giving users plenty of flexibility if they want to use it for multiple purposes (like, say, podcasting) or across various audio interfaces.
It’s not cheap — the Blue Yeti Pro costs $250 on Amazon — so folks looking for a less flexible mic that will simply work with a PC or console, the stepped-down Blue Mics Yeti ($130) should get the job done.
While the point of streaming is arguably to watch the game, and not the gamer, there is something special about seeing someone’s reactions to the game or to the Twitch chat on a stream.
General consensus among the community points to the Logitech C922 HD Pro Stream ($99). It captures 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps video and offers a 78-degree field of view, with particularly good low-light capabilities and solid autofocus. Oddly, streaming under the blue light of the monitor in complete darkness is pretty common, and this webcam can handle just that. As a bonus, the C922 offers background replacement, letting users green screen out everything behind the streamer to show even more of the game. The lower-cost alternative is the Logitech HD Pro C920 ($79), which doesn’t offer background replacement or some other bonus features, like 720p/60fps capture or autofocus.
The C922 also comes with a three-month free trial of XSplit (broadcasting software that will likely be necessary for PC gamers/streamers, but is less necessary for console streamers).
Most people think of a couch and a TV when they think of playing video games, but that is most certainly not ideal for a streamer. For one, where does the webcam go? Secondly, your vision just isn’t as good from 10 feet away on a 40-inch+ screen. Many pros tend to use a 24- to 27-inch monitor roughly two feet from their face — so sitting at a desk is often preferred.
Super high-performance gaming monitors are very expensive, and there are very real trade-offs each time the price comes down. But the ASUS VG245H ($190) is a solid contender at a reasonable price point, managing to pack a punch where it counts.
The 24-inch monitor comes with a TN type panel (which can wash out colors more than ISP) but has a 144Hz refresh rate at a 1920×1080 resolution. At $190 on Amazon, this monitor is a bargain.
Beyond strictly streaming equipment, there are plenty of gadgets that can take a skilled gamer to the next level. Here are a few suggestions:
A gamer that dominates the competition with entry-level inputs (be it a mouse or controller) will absolutely crush it with a gaming-specific mouse or controller.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to PC gaming mice — some think customization is king, while others are drawn to RGB lighting or wireless functionality. At the end of the day, personal preference plays a huge role. For folks switching over from a standard mouse, the best option might be the Finalmouse Ultralight Pro ($70).
It acts and feels like a standard mouse, but happens to be just 67 grams, with the Pixart pmw3360 eSports sensor, integrated illumination, enhanced tracking and a higher framerate. And as a bonus, this is the same mouse that streaming star Ninja uses. If it’s good enough for him, it’s probably good enough for your dear recipient.
For console gamers, there is a clear favorite if you’re looking to upgrade beyond the standard Xbox or PlayStation controller. Scuf Gaming controllers (starting at $150) allow players to use paddles on the underside of the controller. This means that gamers can use their middle and ring fingers instead of multitasking with their thumbs, meaning their thumbs never leave the joysticks.
Switching from standard headphones to high-quality gaming headphones feels like cheating. Suddenly, you can hear everything around you. I’ve personally played with a variety of headphones, and my favorite by a mile is the Astro A50 wireless headset with base station ($300). Tech specs aside, these are some of the most comfortable headphones out there, perfect for those hours-long streaming sessions.
For folks looking for something more affordable, Turtle Beach also has a nice selection of wireless headphones, including the Stealth 700 ($150).
Once they’re streaming, then what? The best thing you can do for your new favorite streamer is interact with their new channel. Subscribe. Watch the broadcast and chat in the stream. And if you have a little extra cash to spare, gift subs to the channel so folks who show up and want to subscribe have no barrier to entry when they get there.
Beeper is a catch-all app by the Pebble guy with iMessage, Telegram, WhatsApp, and more
Beeper is a new app from the guy (Eric Migicovsky) who founded Pebble, one of the first very interesting smart wearable devices in the modern smartphone age. The app Beeper “gives you a unified inbox for 15 chat networks” and makes the whole process relatively simple. This app connects to Signal, Discord, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, and a whole lot more.
The full Beeper support listing also includes Slack, Hangouts, Instagram, Skype, IRC, Matrix, and the Beeper network. And it’s not free. It’ll cost you approximately $10 per month to use.
Beeper opened sourced all of its bridges to allow users to audit how the app connects to each chat network. Each user can verify the security of their own data, and self host if they prefer.
If you wish to self host, you’ll either self-host with the full Matrix+bridges stack, or you’ll run the Beeper install script on your amd64 server of 4GB Raspberry Pi and “run all bridges locally on your own hardware.” This version requires a Beeper subscription, too.
With Beeper, iMessage works on Android, Windows, and Linux. To make this work, Beeper suggests the following. “We send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage,” wrote a Beeper representative. “Or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge. This is not a joke, it really works!”
At the moment, Beeper is holding a line, as is the general best way to get people interested in a product or service here in modern times. As the sign-up process suggests, “Thanks for signing up for Beeper! Over the last 24 hours we have had a record number of people interested in using Beeper.” That could mean so very many things, but for now it means we’re just going to have to sit and wait.
Samsung Display will mass-produce the first 90Hz OLED laptop screens
Samsung Display has announced that it will mass-produce the world’s first 90Hz OLED laptops starting in Q1 of 2021. Initially, the company will produce “very large quantities” of 14-inch 90Hz OLED displays aimed at laptops and notebooks. According to Samsung Displaying CEO Joo Sun Choi, the screens will start production in March.
A 90Hz refresh rate is a significant improvement compared to most laptops and notebooks that currently offer a 60Hz refresh rate. Samsung Display says it’s collaborating closely with global computer manufacturers to usher in a new level of excellence for refresh rates. Samsung believes the adoption of the new OLED panels will happen quickly despite the fact that the panel requires the use of a “high-spec graphics card.”
The faster refresh rate updates static images 90 times per second, making the movement on-screen look more lifelike. Faster updates for changes in motion on screen provide smoother visuals appearing more seamless to the viewer. OLED screens can transition between scenes more quickly than LCD screens with the same refresh rate.
Samsung Display says its 90Hz OLED refresh rate is ten times that of the fastest screen response time on the market today. The company notes its 90Hz OLED offers speed on par with 120Hz LCD screens. The high refresh rate of OLED screens makes them particularly well-suited to gaming and watching movies.
In testing, Samsung Display tested blur length using the same motion picture of a car driving fast and found image drag for a 90Hz OLED and a 120Hz LCD measured 0.9mm and 1mm, respectively. Samsung says that its OLED screens smear very little and offer practically the same rate as faster LCDs. It’s unclear what sort of pricing the new OLED will enter the market at.
iPad Mini 6 leak sounds almost too good to be true
While Apple continues to push the iPads as the next generation of computers, that rhetoric really only applies to its iPad Pro line. The lines between its various iPads, however, have started to blur, especially with the addition of Apple Pencil support all the way down to the bottom. The iPad Mini, however, still remains Apple’s simplest and most affordable entry point, making these details about the alleged iPad Mini 6 sound more like a wishlist.
Right off the bat, the thought that Apple would even dare mar any of its screens with a punch-hole cutout sounds almost insane, given the company’s attention to design and details. Then again, it did introduce a rather large “bucket” notch and never backed out from that design on the iPhones. It’s exactly because of that stubbornness that it feels almost unlikely that the iPad Mini 6 would sport such a hole.
Pigtou, collaborating with @xleaks, still has more to share, though. The iPad Mini 6, the site claims, will have Apple’s first-ever in-display fingerprint sensor, something the company has been rumored to be working on for years. Given the criticism of the technology and praise for Apple’s Face ID, that again sounds like a step backward.
The rest of the iPad Mini 6 will remain the same, though. The camera will still be small and probably negligible affair while the edges still bear the soft curves of previous iPad Minis. In other words, it won’t be adopting the new iPad and iPad Pro appearances anytime soon.
If these do come to pass, the iPad Mini 6 will have a very competitive screen that will be larger than its predecessors without actually increasing the size of the device. This, however, doesn’t sound like the Apple we know but, to be fair, the company has managed to shock everyone from time to time, for better or, sometimes, for worse.
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