Best PC upgrades under £100: get a faster PC for less

What are the top PC upgrades if you've got a strict budget?

For the laptop crowd, a new mouse can really help too. Most trackpads, let's be honest, are far from responsive, so a mouse can really change things up. Decent little wireless mice - like the excellent Roccat Pyra optical mouse - can be found for around £30.

For serious gaming though, a laser mouse is where it's at. An accurate, sensitive laser sensor on a gaming rodent isn't just about sending the mouse pointer flying across the screen at the slightest twitch - a better sensor will make all mouse movements smoother and easier to judge. It's not just about looking for the highest DPI setting a mouse is capable of either, as some of those can be incredibly twitchy and not at all that smooth.

Recently, we have seen a range of 8,200 DPI mice arrive - possibly using the same Avago LaserStream sensor - with exceptional tracking performance. Given that the likes of Razer are throwing out mice for £110, you might reasonably expect something with such a high DPI capability to be hitting the same sort of sky-high price tag - but the best mice are easily within our budget.

Corsair has really started to make a name for itself in the peripheral market over the last year or so, and the update to the M60 mouse - smartly named the M65 - comes with the Avago sensor and that incredible tracking capability. So how come the Corsair isn't our recommendation then?

Well, newcomer to the UK market Shogun Bros is also looking like it's using the same sensor in its Ballista MK-1 gaming mouse - and while it will retail for around the same price as the Corsair, it has just a little more functionality and style about it.

Primary among the extra functions is the addition of a pair of programmable buttons positioned along the side of the right mouse button. They're easy to get at and provide more control for your mouse hand.

To be perfectly honest, either the Corsair or the Ballista mice will give you a fantastic experience, so if you can't find the one, the other will still impress. Though it's worth noting that the Corsair one is available in stormtrooper white. Yes, we know.

Recommendation:

Shogun Bros Ballista MK-1
Price: £50
Manufacturer: Shogun Bros
Web: www.shogunbros.com
DPI: Up to 8,200
Sensor: Laser
Customisable buttons: 10
Polling rate: 1,000Hz
Connection: Wired

Gaming keyboard

Still the primary input device of choice, so make it a good one

Gaming keyboard

The humble keyboard is probably one of the last things you'd really considering upgrading. After all, that grint-stained, crumb-infested beige board you've been using since you bought your first PC is still functioning.

But after the mouse, it's the secondary input device for your rig, and in-game is on an equal footing with the rodent for priority. The mouse/keyboard combination has come to be a talisman for PC gaming community, but if you just spend the cash on a good gaming mouse and neglect its keyboard companion, you're doing all of PC gaming a disservice. Okay, that might be a tad emotive, but a good quality keyboard can really enhance your gaming experience, as well as improve any work you happen to do on the side too.

As we've seen over the last few months you can now spend an absolute fortune on a gaming keyboard should you so wish. The Razer DeathStalker Ultimate, despite its overly hyperbolic name, is a decent keyboard with a few light teething problems - but it comes with a ridiculous £250 price tag.

There's also the Mad Catz STRIKE range, with the 5 and 7 in the series hitting £150 and £250 respectively. But neither of those boards come with the one thing I look for when I'm spending cold, hard cash on a gaming keyboard, and that's mechanical switch keys. If you're upgrading your board then you want to make sure it's got the finest keyboard tech.

Insane membrane

Membrane switch keys are the standard tech used in most keyboards for the simple reason that they are cheaper to produce and can be used to make the fashionable chiclet key style of low-profile boards. Unfortunately, they're not particularly durable or responsive, something that you'd really want your keyboard to be, especially if you're spending a ton on one.

Mechanical switch boards come with that familiar clickety-clack sound when you strike them, making you feel like you're typing along with Stephen J Cannell at the start of The A-Team. They're also incredibly durable, lasting long after the membrane switches have perished, and are far more responsive. That's also what makes them such good candidates for gaming keyboards - we love them.

Of all the keyboards I've tested recently, somewhat bizarrely, it's Gigabyte's Aivia Osmium keyboard that I've fallen in love with. In fact, this entire article has been lovingly typed on my chunky Osmium board. It may be rather plain-looking - despite the bright LED backlighting - but its one of the most responsive, sturdy and functional boards I've ever used.

It's got simple macro functionality for the casual MMO enthusiast, media controls, independent wheel controls for the lighting and system volume and it's also the only board that manages to jam in a USB 3.0 pass-through for good measure.

I genuinely wasn't expecting to fall so convincingly for the Osmium, but its simple aesthetic and rock-solid build quality - coupled with its overall responsiveness - makes it my favourite gaming keyboard out there. It may not have a fl ashy LED display, but I would wager it'll outlast many a pricier board.

Recommendation:

Gigabyte Aivia Osmium
Price: £100
Manufacturer: Gigabyte
Web: http://uk.gigabyte.com
Layout: Europe 105-key
Keyboard tech: Mechanical switch
Interface: Wired USB 2.0
Macro keys: Five
Extras: USB 3.0 pass-through