Every once in a while I look at the gear we use to play the game. I've talked a little in the past about headsets and mice, so I thought I'd talk a little more about the rest of the equipment we use.
Obviously, in general you need to have a computer capable of playing the game. Fortunately, the hardware demands aren't too intensive and it's fairly cheap to get a computer that will allow decent game play.
My old (5+ years) computer finally fizzled out about the time of the 4.0 patch, so it was time for a replacement. Desktops are obviously better in terms of price/performance, but I needed something I could take on the road when I travel for work or teaching. So, what kind of laptop is needed? The good news is that even relatively inexpensive laptops can run the game fairly well, but I'd advise investing in at least a moderately good graphics card. As a 'non-techie' person, I focused on pre-built models and was intruiged by Dell/Alienware's M11x, which I'm sure would have done the job. In the end, however, I went with Apple. I was a little nervous about the 13" Macbook Pro's ability to run the game, but I needn't have worried. It runs the game on good to excellent settings more than adequately, even in aoe-heavy 25-man raids.
In the end, we're lucky that in the interests of accessibility, Blizzard has kept a balance between pretty graphics and pixel-punishing gameplay, allowing the everyday person to afford to play on moderately decent computers.
More important from my perspective is the choice of input devices. I've already discussed mice in the past. There are many options, but in general I'll just reiterate a point or two: you want one with little lag time, which almost always means a wired mouse. Second, more buttons on the mouse means less hunting for keys. Find what works for you. Razer's Naga ends up being too many buttons for me, but I know a lot of players, particularly healers, who love it. I like Logitech's products, but Razer's Mamba is my current favorite for comfort, performance, and button layout/feel.
Finally, the keyboard/keypad. There are a lot of options out there besides the 'vanilla' keyboard that came with your computer. Sure, you can 'asdf' your way through raids, and I'm sure that's exactly what most people do, but I think in the end, your performance can be signficantly improved by changing up the keyboard you use. As an Apple user, there are quite a few devices that won't work, sadly. So, there are a few that look promising, but I haven't had the opportunity to try. Regular gaming keyboards have the traditional qwerty layout with some added functions and snazzy looks. Those are fine, I guess. I've always wanted to try a Zboard. But what can really transform your gameplay is a keypad that makes reaching your important keys a lot easier in the long run. Pads like the Cyber Snipa or the classic Nostromo N52 look fantastic and get consistently positive reviews. I've attempted an older Nostromo and didn't like how hard the keys were to press, but I've heard the newer ones are better ergonomically. What you see on my desk is the Wolfking keyboard that utilizes a circular layout to make keys more accessible to your fingertips. Don't try typing with it though! I use the laptop's keyboard for typing text.
My main point in here is that we do want to have the best, most effective gear we can, and even though sometimes there is a little extra expense, if you can afford it, in the long run I think it's probably worth it.
Why now? Well, I'm posting in part because I just got the new comp, but also because now is an ideal time to try a new gear setup. It generally can take a solid 10-20 hours to get your brain rewired around a new keyboard/keypad setup and you'll want to be ready to go when Cataclysm comes out! Good luck, and happy shopping!
*(note, I'm not reviewing products, nor am I endorsing any in particular. I couldn't give two farts which ones you choose, nor am I being compensated in any way for anything in this article).