If you have a gaming PC, it doesn't necessarily need to be tied to your desk and to a tiny monitor. PC monitors are pretty good, but they don't give you a very cinematic experience -- they're just not big enough to make some games really pop. If you get your PC out into your living room and connect it to your big-screen TV, you're in for a great time.
Gizmodo's PC summer special is presented by the ASUS Republic of Gamers G20 -- the world's most powerful compact desktop PC. The portable, ultra-quiet 12.5L design makes the G20 your one-stop HD gaming and multimedia entertainment system, with customizable lighting effects showcasing up to 8M colours.
TV gaming image via Shutterstock
Our Favourite Wired And Wireless Controllers
The Steam Controller, Valve's attempt at making the perfect peripheral for navigating around its Big Picture interface and for making PC gaming just as fun on a controller as it is on keyboard and mouse, is one of our favourite wireless choices so far. There's one big issue -- it's not actually available just yet. There are a few less innovative but perfectly reasonable alternatives, though, so here they are.
The Xbox 360's wired controller has to be the best way to play games on your PC that isn't a good ol' fashioned keyboard and mouse. It's easy to install -- if you're on Windows 7, you just have to install the appropriate software, plug in your controller and you're ready to go. If you're on Windows 8 or 8.1, you don't even need to do anything other than connect the controller and voila.
If you want a wireless controller, then it naturally follows that the Xbox 360 wireless controller is the one to choose. It's effectively the same controller as the wired version, but has a 2xAA battery pack and you'll have to buy Microsoft's Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver -- or a third-party equivalent -- to make it work.
Of course, if you're playing a driving game, then there's a whole range of steering wheel controllers on the market. As a general rule, you don't want something too cheap -- make sure it has good force feedback, and if possible you should opt for a controller with a physical shifter and three-pedal setup if you're serious about getting the most out of your driving games. A good starting point is the Logitech G27, although it's easy to spend more and get something more professional like Fanatec's much more powerful and customisable devices.
You can use a PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller on a PC for gaming, but it's a little more of a workaround. You'll have to use a piece of software called DS4Tool, and drivers for the Xbox 360 controller, to fool Windows into thinking that you have the 360 controller attached.
Top Tips For Connecting Your PC To Your TV
Use HDMI. Unless your TV is some amazingly high-tech and modern thing, chances are the best quality audio/video connector you can use is HDMI -- the high definition media interface standard that TVs and PCs alike have been using since before we had 1080p and Blu-ray. If you have a half-decent PC or any modern computer produced within the last three or four years, even if it's just a laptop, then there's a very good chance that it uses the trapezoidal HDMI connector. HDMI is one of the smartest digital connectors and will default to the highest possible resolution. Other potential A/V connectors include DVI, DisplayPort and mini-DisplayPort.
Check your refresh rates. In most cases, you want your refresh rate on your TV to be as high as possible when you're gaming, ideally the 60Hz refresh that most computer monitors also run at. There's one caveat with this, and it's that some non-HDMI 2.0-compliant devices can't run at the full colour space at 3840x2160pixels and 60Hz, so you lose a bit of colour information which makes video and Web browsing a little less beautiful -- but gaming generally still looks pretty good, thankfully. We've seen this on the LG 40UB800T in the past.
Choose the right resolution. This is a tricky one. If you're running a powerful high-end gaming PC, by all means choose the maximum resolution that your 1080p or even Ultra HD TV can display -- and enjoy the top-notch image quality that this brings. If you have a less powerful PC, but still want to play new games, then you might want to choose a lower resolution -- maybe 720p, or maybe even 480p -- to allow your PC to process those games' graphics at a reasonably smooth frame rate.
Use A Steam Box or Media Centre PC To Stream Games
If you have a super-powerful gaming PC, and you want to play it on your big-screen or high-res TV, it makes sense to put that PC right near your monitor and just run an HDMI cable between the two. But if you want to keep that PC in a separate room -- perhaps attached to an Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync monitor optimised for gaming, or as part of a serious multi-monitor gaming setup -- there are a few ways you can get the video from your gaming PC into your lounge room.
If you have an Nvidia graphics card and a decent network inside your house, then GameStream with a Nvidia Shield or Shield Tablet seems to be one of the best solutions going -- just plug that into your TV, relax with a Shield Controller, and you're ready to go. If you're going to be running your games through Valve's Steam interface, though, then In-Home Streaming lets you stream the graphics output from one powerful PC over your network to a less powerful box connected to your TV.
Buy A Wireless Keyboard And Mouse To Control Your PC Remotely
There's nothing more annoying than finicky wires trailing across your living room from wherever your gaming PC and TV are to wherever you're sitting. There's one simple solution to that, though -- just go wireless. You can get some excellent wireless keyboards and mice, even ones optimised for PC gaming, from companies like Logitech and SteelSeries.
Among plenty of other choices, we're big fans of wireless rechargeable gaming mice like the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless and the upcoming hardcore Logitech G602. Even a standard wireless keyboard and mouse, without the fancy lights and mechanical switches and extra macro keys of a gaming 'board, will make your entire couch-bound PC gaming experience much, much more fun.
Optimise Your PC's Audio For Gaming From The Couch
It might seem less important than video, but good audio really is half of the entire equation when it comes to gaming on your big-screen TV. If you're going to be engaging in a spot of multiplayer Battlefield or Call Of Duty, then you need a good microphone and headphone combo -- preferably wireless, like the Turtle Beach Ear Force Elite 800 and Astro Gaming A50.
Even if you are happy without a microphone or headset combo, then it pays to get slightly better sound from your TV. External speakers that can connect directly to your TV or your PC, like the KEF X300A Wireless or the Audioengine 5+, aren't that expensive and can genuinely add another dimension to your gaming -- especially when the integrated speakers in your skinny flat-screen TV aren't that great.