The Arctis 3 Bluetooth is the latest gaming headset from SteelSeries – and this time we have a gaming audio product that’s as happy on the daily commute as it is during late-night gaming sessions.
It’s the addition of Bluetooth to the classic Arctis design that makes this possible, and as such the headset can be used wirelessly with PCs, consoles and TVs. This does introduce a couple of issues, however, and while the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a fantastic headset, there are some compromises.
SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth – Design, build and features
The Arctis is one of the smaller headsets on the market. Its beauty lies in its simplicity; it’s an attractive bit of kit that will easily pass for a trendy pair of wireless headphones.
The headset is constructed from plastic in the main. While the earcups are crafted from a rather lovely soft-touch take on the material, the headband skeleton feels a little cheap by comparison. The band itself is great, however: the outer fabric self-adjusts to your head shape and size, and can be swapped out if the default option isn’t your style.
Like the headband, the ear cushions are user-replaceable, and feel fantastic to the touch. Over the ears, the level of gripping force applied is perfect. As such, the headset alway felt comfortable, whether worn at my desk or on the go. That said, I’d have preferred the use of a thicker foam beneath the cloth pad, as my ears sometimes scrape the speaker when adjusting position.
There are plenty of connections on the headset, with micro-USB for charging and a 3.5mm input for analogue use. Since the Arctis opts for Bluetooth transmission, a USB dongle isn’t required for wireless audio. However, cables are provided for wired operation.
The controls are located on the ear cups, with a simple-to-use button for Bluetooth pairing and power. However, the volume wheel proved annoying, being easily knocked when sitting on a sofa or lying on the bed.
Things become a tad complicated when we start talking audio quality: the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is good, but perhaps not everything it needs to be.
In terms of raw performance, the Arctis offers a well-balanced sound signature that’s just as suitable for music as it is for games – SteelSeries has done a great job. That said, there’s a slight lack of clarity to the sound and, like the rest of the Arctis range, the Arctis 3 don’t quite match up to a proper pair of dedicated headphones. You’d expect aptX on Bluetooth cans at this price.
The microphone is excellent, though; it’s easily one of the best available on any gaming headset. If you’re playing in Discord, making calls in Skype or anything other than professional recordings,you’re in for a treat.
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The main issue I have is that wireless Bluetooth tech isn’t actually meant for gaming. Instead, SteelSeries claims it’s designed for music listening and voice chat. This is due to the latency penalty that Bluetooth suffers. Tense games of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, therefore, may be killed off prematurely by delayed audio. It isn’t hugely noticeable in more laid-back games such as The Witcher 3 however, and I was easily able to adjust to the delay when watching TV programmes – but the latency is indeed present.
You’ll probably end up using the included cables for gaming audio then, which isn’t a huge concern. However, spending close to £150 on a wireless headset that you’re recommended to use in wired mode feels disappointing – especially when the regular Arctis 3 can be found for almost half the price.
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a great headset for anyone who wants a single audio solution that can be used at home and on-the-go without fuss. The audio quality is solid, and the flexibility on offer has to be commended. Having said this, a set of dedicated Bluetooth headphones will sound much better – and a ‘gamer’-style headset will deliver better wireless gaming performance. The Arctis 3 is a solid all-rounder, but perhaps consider the Arctis 7 instead. It may lack Bluetooth, but it’s a much more complete gaming package.
An excellent jack-of-all-trades headset hybrid, but a master of none.