It’s often overlooked how much effort goes into the hardware booths at conventions such as PAX as it’s easy to get wrapped up in the newest games, but this is one of the ways that connections between enthusiast buyers and brands are forged. There seems to be roughly 3 types of setups, the flashy, the functional and the pristine. From what I can tell the biggest companies tend to run pristine as they can usually afford to have a fairly low amount of stuff on the show floor to catch your eye. They usually have the luxury of a new or highly sought after product to show off as well though.
The flashy booths tend to be all lights and colours, not necessarily devoid of substance so don’t get the wrong idea. It’s just a tried and true method of garnering attention. What’s nice is that you can usually buy a model of whatever has the most lights that’s cheaper so don’t be afraid to be a moth to the flame sometimes. The functionals are usually the smaller companies that have what they want to show off and little else but are still worth visiting as a focused sales pitch is usually the best one.
I’ll be using another grouping method to organise the photos though, separating the smaller peripheral makers from the larger chipset and full kit manufacturers, and another section for retailers. I’ve tried to get a good selection so that those of you who couldn’t attend get a rough idea of what was on show. There may have been a few smaller booths that I missed or were simply too crowded when I had time to check them out to get any good info or photos so this isn’t even an exhaustive list and we’ve still got 18 entries for you to have a good look at. Without further ado, feast your eyes on some pictures and words that help give them context.
The Big Boys
Firstly we’ve got the bigger brands and their stands. Not all of them focusing on hardware but brand awareness and interaction is just as good for business a lot of the time.
Acer had a good variety of wares on show, their monitors setup alongside their desktops and on a couple of racing sim rigs. What really caught my eye was the dual projector setup that had World of Warplanes running on it. Speaking to one of the people on the booth, it turns out that the game actually has a software feature that allows you to overlap projectors specifically for this sort of setup. It was pretty spectacular but unless you’ve got about $8000 lying around for 2 of them, it might be out of your reach. The specs on the projectors are certainly interesting though. I can see some e-sports bars perhaps investing in one for a good 60fps Twitch projector.
One of the few booths that seemed to have a good amount of space devoted to VR, Alienware/Dell had at least 3 setups, all in use for the vast majority of the time that I was able to observe. The almost comically shaped top of the line PC they sell isn’t as impractical as it looks, showing a lot of space inside for upgrades, should you so desire. The ultrawide monitors stirred some real emotions in me as well, but I feel like their prices aren’t quite reasonable for me just yet.
At the AMD booth there were some pretty great custom PC cases like the gigantic, impractical Quake symbol case along with 2 lesser Quake themed cases, 2 Wolfenstein cases, and the slightly confusing Mimic case from the recent Prey game. You may have guessed that Bethesda partnered with AMD to help draw in the punters and there were some more normal PCs setup with games to play like Quake: Champions as well as competitions against and between pro players.
Asus were the only stand alone booth from a larger brand I found that I could actually buy hardware from. This struck me as odd considering the other reason I wanted to attend this year but that will be covered in another article from yours truly later on. They showed off a very respectable ranges of wares and had a good amount of floor space devoted to players and competitions as well. Not to be outdone, there was a very impractical spherical PC case with a motorized top half but also a quite intriguing taller and thinner than usual model with PC Case Gear branding on it. Time to investigate…
The HP booth was a very smart setup, they basically loaded up a truck off site and drove the thing in, unpacking everything in it and leaving it in place as part of their stand. There was even an LCD panel installed in the side of the trailer showing demo clips and gameplay from the Overwatch matches that were constantly being queued for. Their flagship Omen gaming PC still looks as unwieldy as ever but it certainly stands out.
The Lenovo booth was pretty sparse on the hardware side but did have a great esports setup promoting their Legion brand which was on sale at the Harvey Norman booth and a Star Wars VR event, hosted by none other than Darth Huddo.
LG had exactly one thing on display, and that was displays. But boy were they pretty. Seeing an Ultrawide in action for the first time really impacted my new computer build and I think it guided me to saving a bit of money over all as well. There aren’t a lot of shops that will have a ultrawide setup for demo purposes so it’s definitely worth coming to events like this if you’re on the fence.
Much like last year, Logitech were focusing on League of Legends as their main crowd pull but people often stayed for the racing setups and to check out the newer peripherals that have been released since they’ve done their brand overhaul. I love the idea of an inductive wireless mouse and I’d love to see one that transfers data that way as well to avoid the whole “wireless lag” thing that can happen but I don’t think that’s a technical possibility just yet.
The nVidia booth was fairly simple, showing off some neat rigs by their partners and of course one of the many Player Unknown: Battlegrounds centric displays. The most exciting thing on display was the 1070ti GPU. While not a totally necessary addition to the lineup, I’m hoping that more cards will mean lower prices overall. There was also a preview build of Final Fantasy 15 setup which was unfortunately quite buggy and had quite low frame rates on the fairly substantial builds in the booth. It’s not due on PC until next year so fair enough I suppose.
Razer, not being known for shying away from garish colouring, had a fairly dark booth. I can only assume this was to keep the focus on the brilliant colouration their gear offers. The newest bit of gear on display was the streamer friendly camera that has only recently been released, coming with a ring light to avoid problems that a lot of webcams have with low light. I am quite interested in trying out their controllers, one specifically designed for the Xbox and PS4, with hot swappable parts.
Peripherals on Point
One thing you can most certainly buy in abundance is peripherals. Razer have been added into the previous section as they’re also offering gaming laptops as well these days and tend to have a little more market share than some of the brands here.
Audio Technica had a very focused little booth, you might have guessed that it was focused on sound. Their headphones are top of the line but you’d be sorry if you missed their microphones. More traditional XLR output options are certainly a core part of their brand but USB versions are available for those of us who like to chat without the hassle of having to buy and install a USB audio interface as well.
A very well known brand and a long standing one as well, Coolermaster showing off their cases and input devices in a way that only they can. One of the few booths to show off custom rigs, the highlight being the PUBG box that doubles as a diorama.
Cougar are a brand I flat out haven’t come across before. From the looks of things they seem to have some sort of partnership with Apacer who are an old memory brand but I haven’t been able to find anything that confirms that. They look to be doing quite well for themselves, showing of a nice variety of keyboards, mice, storage components and an interesting semi-open bodied case.
HyperX are an offshoot of the Kingston memory and chip building brand. They’ve only recently sought to capitalize on the growth of the gaming market but they are giving it a red hot go, I tell you what. Just last year Mat reviewed their first mechanical keyboard which you can see below. I am kicking myself for not getting a photo of it’s little brother which is tenkeyless but such is life. I can safely say their headset is quite interesting, the newest model only just released.
Roccat aren’t new to the game by any means but have made their mark. German engineering and a dedication to esports have led them to find a comfortable spot with room to grow. A small booth down the back of the show floor packed with goodies as well as being the only booth that had Path of Exile on their PCs. It’s like they knew I was coming!
Steelseries have made their presence known and are particularly fond of making game themed gear it would seem. I have had a few of their bits and pieces over the years and purchased a new DEX mousepad at PAX. I ended up killing my limited edition Dota 2 mouse about 2 years after I bought it (you can’t blame the mouse, you do A LOT of clicking in Dota) which came with a sweet sword for Juggernaut to use in game which will hopefully last as long as Steam/Valve does.
It’s pretty hard to walk past the Thermaltake stand. These guys always put on a show with their branded cases and some custom boxes that are sure to impress. A long standing brand who do just about everything except for actual hardware inside the tower (they do make power supplies though.) A personal favourite of this year’s event was the Spongebob rig. Built in night lights!
Retailers and Retro
In the last section of this article we’ve got a few choice pics of the retailers booths and the Retro section bonus round!
Jack Huddo was working directly out of the Harvey Norman booth last year but this year it was all about sales and he had other business over in the Lenovo booth anyway. Everything on the floor was for sale and there were some pretty good deals to be had as well, Josh of USM picked up some brand new games for cheap. I did make sure to keep an eye out for anything that fit the build I was working towards, but alas, they didn’t have what I wanted. There were a few hype generators at PAX but nothing gets the crowds worked up like free stuff, Harvey Norman delivered.
I thought MSY would have been selling gear for sure but I was directed to their website by one of the girls working there. Not to worry, there was plenty to queue for other than gear. It was one of the biggest booths and had a huge variety of stuff to interact with, VR kits, racing rigs (one with an articulated go-kart that you sat in for a very realistic experience) and a whole lot of brands stalls for comapnies who didn’t get their own booth otherwise.
The Retro area at PAX is a veritable museum of almost antique devices. Things I’ve never seen in the flesh or even heard of in some cases. Original boxed copies of games that would easily be worth serious money to a collector. Most in pristine condition and locked away in glass cases but not so for the mighty pinball machines, of which there was a fantastic selection. Last year there was a Judge Dredd pinny but I’m sad to say that it wasn’t there again.