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How to turn your living room into a PC gaming haven

What kind of devices do you need to play PC games away from a desk?

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With previous “console exclusives” like God of War coming to PC, and consoles like PlayStation 5 still difficult to find, you may have wondered about diving into the massive, terrifying world of PC gaming. But console gaming can be tough to move away from, as it’s always had one major advantage over PC: comfort. Consoles are built for the couch and the living room; PCs are built for offices.

Nobody could be blamed for not wanting to sit at a desk for their leisure time — especially in this era of increased remote work. So how do you combine the world of comfort with PC gaming? You build your own computer lab for your living room, of course.

Lucky for you, I have a bit of experience in transforming my living room into a niche gaming setup. Let’s walk through what items you’ll need if you want to put a PC in your living room, and how each fits into your project.

Computer

The most important thing you’ll need in your setup is, of course, the PC itself. You could pick up a mini PC, which will take up less space in your living room and looks like a router (the AMD Ryzen should work OK). However, this kind of PC doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, which will cause problems if you want to play modern games.

It might not be the sexiest option for your living space, but I recommend just putting a desktop tower in your living room and telling respectable guests that it’s a fancy-looking subwoofer. For my living room PC, I use an old work desktop that I replaced last year, and it does the trick. But, if you want to go all out, you can either build a PC using a resource like PCPartPicker or you can buy a pre-built one from a website like iBuyPower.

I’ve gone both avenues in the past, and recommend the pre-built option. It’s easy, the PC just works when you plug it in, and you can pay for it in payments over months or years.

TVs and displays

A Steam window is pulled up on a TCL TV Photo: Ryan Gilliam/Polygon

You’re going to need some kind of display to run your PC through, which is the second most important purchase on this list. While you can use any old HDMI-enabled TV you have lying around — I, for example, use an old 55’ 4K TCL display from 2017, and it usually works fine — you need to consider potential latency problems while playing. Using my setup, I’ve run into some issues with certain games, which can make controlling them difficult, and suck a lot of fun out of the experience.

If you want to do this right, you want to look for a TV with low latency. Two common recommendations are the LG Class C1 Series OLED and the Samsung Class QN90A Neo QLED. Both of these are expensive but have very low latency.

Even with a great TV, you may experience some input lag. Consider messing with your in-game settings — turning vsync off is usually where I start — to help smooth out your experience.

Lapboards and keyboards

A Corsair lapboard sits on a wood table Photo: Ryan Gilliam/Polygon

One of the big problems with PC gaming in the living room is figuring out where you’ll put the keyboard and mouse, as both traditionally need a flat surface to use. That’s where a lapboard comes in handy.

A lapboard is exactly what it sounds like: a piece of furniture that sits comfortably on your lap and provides a flat surface to put things on. When using a lapboard for PC gaming, you have two main options: one with a keyboard built in, and one without.

The more versatile of those two options is a plain lapboard. The LapGear BamBoard has a built-in mouse pad and a place for either a keyboard or a laptop. You can use this for more than just PC gaming, but you'll need a wireless keyboard. Your mileage will vary there depending on the kind of switches you like, but the Corsair K57 will do the job just fine.

While less versatile, a lapboard with a built-in keyboard is the simplest option. I use the Corsair K63 wireless keyboard and lapboard combo. (The combo I have has been discontinued, but you can buy the shell of the lapboard and a companion keyboard on Corsair’s website.) It's easy to charge and turn on or off, and the mouse pad it has built in is generously sized. It’s also cushioned on the bottom, so it’s comfortable to have on my lap for hours at a time.

Mice

A Corsair Harpoon mouse sits on a wood table Photo: Ryan Gilliam/Polygon

Regardless of the surface you’ll be using for your keyboard, you’ll need a mouse to control your PC. And unless your desktop will be sitting next to you, you’ll probably want a wireless mouse with a USB dongle.

For my setup, I use the Corsair Harpoon RGB wireless mouse. This thing can be both wired or wireless, depending on your needs. And, crucially, it does an excellent job of turning itself off when I forget, preserving battery power for when I actually need it.

Controllers

A Xbox Elite Controller Series 1 sits on a wood floor Photo: Ryan Gilliam/Polygon

If you’re playing PC games in your living room, chances are you’ll want to have a controller. Not only is it more comfortable than using a mouse and keyboard on the couch (even with a lapboard), but many games these days just play better with a controller.

The ideal here is the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, but it can be a bit expensive. If it’s too much, consider a normal Xbox Series X controller or a custom one. (Most PC games use Xbox button prompts.)

Alternatively, try the Steam Deck

A Steam Deck sits on a wood floor Photo: Ryan Gilliam/Polygon

The Steam Deck is the best non-desktop option out there, and you should seriously consider it before pulling the trigger on the items above. Not only is it a handheld PC capable of running some pretty demanding games, but you can also plug it into your TV and connect a number of devices to it.

The Steam Deck won’t help you transform your living room (a bonus for some), but if you’re just looking for a way to play PC games on the couch, it’s an excellent option for as low as $399. (If you end up going with the cheapest Steam Deck, we recommend picking up an SD card for increased storage.)

PowerUp Rewards Pro: $14.99/year

Getting your hands on the best gaming gear is harder than ever. With things like PS5s selling as fast as they can stock them and Pokémon cards getting whisked off virtual shelves, knowing where to buy and when is critical. Enter Power Up Rewards, GameStop’s membership program, which offers early access to consoles, trading cards, graphics cards, collectibles, and more. Members also reap additional exclusive benefits including 2% back in points, monthly rewards, and a subscription to Game Informer magazine.

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