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Before you even start thinking about what gear you might need you need to have an overall idea of what makes of a good gaming setup – and by gaming we mean competitive gaming. This guide is not necessarily ideal for those who are looking to get comfy while searching for bottle caps in the virtual wastelands with a retarded dog. But if you are going for that precious Global Elite or even further pursuing an esports career this is where you should start. Or if you are just looking for gaming setup ideas in general this is a good framework to build around to.
As you keep on reading this you might think to yourself if this guide applies to other games than Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and the answer is yes. The thing is, CSGO and its predecessors (CS 1.6 and CS: Source) have always been the most extreme competitive games out there. Counter-Strike is all about the accuracy and the millisecond fast reactions. So yes, the gear we are about to introduce will be completely suitable for other competitive games like Dota 2, Overwatch, Call of Duty and so on. The only exception would be MMORPG games like World of Warcraft where you might want to prioritize more mouse buttons for macros over the ultimate precision and feel.
Complete Guide For Building Your Gaming Setup
This is what you might think of when someone says “a desktop” or “pc”. The first setup is indeed very nice, clean looking and definitely a pleasure for the eye. That setup might be ideal for graphic design, editing and such but it is nowhere near even usable in the way we look at things. The thing is, for some people their computer setups are a part of nice decoration, not an environment that allows you to train yourself into a headshot machine. The second picture shows a setup that everyone has seen at someones home: the computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse and even the speakers are all from the same box and the mousepad was given as a freebie at a trade fair in 1999.
This is more like how your gaming setup should look like. If you are new to competitive gaming you might not spot the differences so easily – there is a monitor, a mouse and a keyboard in both types of setups after all so whats all the fuss about? Well, this kind of thinking is like comparing a Volkswagen Passat to a Lamborghini Aventador. They both have four wheels, an engine and front lights, right?
Let us break down what you should see here.
Five Step Guide to Building Your Gaming Setup
1) Allow enough space for your mouse
…and of course get a mousepad large enough to cover as much as possible of that space. You might think that you don’t need all that space but believe me: you can never have too much mouse space. At Counter-Strike accuracy is everything so you want to set your mouse sensitivity somewhere around 2 at 400 dpi (a very rough generalization).
Soft Pad or Hard Pad?
Obviously there is no single best mousepad for CS:GO or games in general. Generally you could say that on hard pads your mouse moves a bit faster than on soft pads but this has some variables to it. Different mice move differently on same pads and not all hard or soft pads are made of the same material.
It is impossible to know that which type suits you the best without trying out different surfaces but I would unconditionally recommend SteelSeries QcK+ to anybody. It is the standard size (450x400x2mm / 17.7 x 15.7 x 0.1 in) for any “normal” sensitivity players allowing you to flick your mouse for those neat 180’s. To learn more about mouse pads see our mouse pad buying guide.
Some people even use both – Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert, a former professional player for teams such as Cloud9, used a hard pad on top of a soft pad “to keep it consistent” as he puts it.
2) Gaming Mouse
This one is pretty obvious. A mouse for a CS player is what a scalpel is to a surgeon. A device that needs to function at the highest level possible whenever it is used. A malfunction of a millisecond could lead to a dead patient or a lost match. This is why you want your mouse to be wired, though as technology has evolved there are wireless options available if you have to compromise. It also has to fit perfectly in your hand for the operation to be as successful as possible. For more detailed info about gaming mice see our guide about the best mice for CS:GO. You might even want to consider getting a mouse bungee if you want to go hardcore.
Finding Your Sensitivity
There are lots of videos on Youtube explaining methods to do this, but if you don’t feel like opening a calculator I have a much simpler method for you. This is based on knowledge about pro players’ sensitivities and my personal experience as I have played with both super high and low sensitivities over the years.
- Set your true sens at 800 (400 dpi & 2 in-game or 800 dpi and 1 in-game etc)
- Play a game or two and feel it out
- Increase or decrease the in-game sensitivity by 0.5 depending on how you feel
- Play a game or two and test it out
- Start fine tuning it to perfection
- After around 3000 hours you may or may have not found your perfect sensitivity
You might think that this is some kind of a joke but it really isn’t. I just disagree with those “find your perfect sensitivity” videos. There is no such thing as a perfect sensitivity. Even pro players change their settings every now and then.
If you like to play aggressive like an entry fragger you might want to have a high sensitivity as you are the one clearing all corners. If you play more passive and like to hold angles then you might want to have a lower sensitivity. It’s all preference and it changes over time.
The only settings you should worry about as a beginner are m_rawinput 1 or at least setting your Windows sensitivity at 6/11. Raw_input bypasses any Windows settings on your mouse so you don’t necessarily need both. What this setting also does is that it disables your in-game mouse acceleration settings, which are bad for beginners in terms of building muscle memory.
If you want to see other methods, I would recommend beginning with the one by adreN (formerly of Team Liquid).
DPI: dots per inch, the higher it is the faster your cursor moves
In-game sensitivity: a value you set in CS:GO
True sens: DPI x in-game sens
Mouse acceleration: in short, you turn a wider angle in-game when you move your mouse at a faster speed. So if you move your mouse for, say, 30 centimeters at a slow speed you might turn 30 degrees. If you do it with a higher speed you might turn 90 degrees. NOTE: the numbers here are purely hypothetical to keep it simple.
3) Monitor with high refresh rate
As of 2020 this means at least 144 hertz. Regular or even high-end monitors made for graphic design or video editors run at 60 Hz. These numbers tell you how many frames per second the monitor will show you. So at 144 Hz you see 144 images in a second and so on. The higher the number the smoother the game will look and feel. A 144 Hz monitor is something you do want to consider even if you are a casual gamer – you just have to see the difference with your own eyes and once you see it there is no going back.
See this short video for a comparison between 60 hertz and 144 hertz:
Refresh Rate and Response Time - Do They Really Matter?
Yes, yes and yes. In a game like CS:GO where you can either win or lose in a time span of milliseconds, they do. Having a quality gaming monitor won’t improve your reactions but it will enable you to utilize your full potential not only in terms of reflex shots but it makes tracing (moving your crosshair on a moving opponent) and spraying feel so much better when the action on your screen is smoother.
For more about monitors see our article about best gaming monitors.
4) Proper headset or headphones
“Oh my god what are you doing you HEARD him go there” – if you tend to hear this a lot from your teammates it is probably a good time to get a proper headset. Personally I would recommend getting quality headphones made for music listeners but from my experience most gamers prefer headsets (headphones with a microphone). This is all preference – for me the decision was easy as whenever I am not playing CS I listen to music (and my taste in music is really broad unlike most gamers *cough* dubstep *cough*).
5) Quality keyboard
This one does not necessarily apply to gaming in general but for Counter-Strike it does. Understanding and learning the sophisticated movement mechanics of the game are pretty much integral on your path to mastering the game and if you want to be as fluid as possible a mechanical keyboard is definitely worth the money. It won’t make you a bunnyhopping god but it certainly helps you to get the feel that you need when you start practising. I would also recommend buying a mechanical keyboard if you do a lot of writing for school or work. If you are looking for a perfect gaming keyboard check out our keyboard buying guide.