SteelSeries Arctis 3 review: do these headphones strike a balance between quality and affordability?

IF you're looking for an addition to your home office or gaming setup, a new headset could be worth considering.

For our review of the SteelSeries Arctis 3, we've tested the headset over the course of a week — here's everything you need to know to make an informed purchase.


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  • SteelSeries Arctis 3, £51.78 on Amazon – buy here

Pros

  • Solid sound quality
  • Fit is very comfortable
  • Clear microphone

Cons

  • Music performance worse on consoles than PC
  • Customisation is limited
  • SteelSeries software can be finnicky

SteelSeries Arctis 3 review: quick summary

  • SteelSeries Arctis 3, £51.78 on Amazon – buy here

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 headset is an affordable option that works well both with gaming consoles and on PC.

The headphones are really comfortable, and with 7.1 surround sound and solid mic performance, they are a valid option if you're on a budget.

In terms of downsides, the Arctis 3 headset performs better on PC than on consoles when it comes to music. The SteelSeries software is also not very user-friendly, and customization options for the Arctis 3 are not too extensive when compared to similarly-priced options.

Still, all in all, the Arctis 3 are an excellent option for the price. If you can spend a little more, however, we would recommend you buy the Arctis 5 or Arctis 7 instead.

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SteelSeries Arctis 3 review: full review

Design

Aesthetically speaking, the SteelSeries Arctis 3 are quite subtle and ditch the colourful lines and RGB lights of most gaming-focused headsets in exchange for a matte-black plastic design with gloss-black highlights.

While the ear cups are quite large and the microphone protrudes slightly, the sleek design means the headphones can be used daily — I used them while riding the tube, for instance.

Moreover, the size of the earcups is not just for show — everyone in the business knows SteelSeries built its name on a reputation for comfort.

In this sense, the Arctis 3 are no exception, with its flexible headband and plush ear cups making them a breeze to wear and adjust.

Unlike most over-ear headsets, these headphones don’t become too warm on your ears either, so you can easily play for a few hours without overheating.

At 296g, the headphones are also quite light, and thanks to their clever ski goggle-style strap, most of their weight is taken off the head almost entirely.

Sound

  • SteelSeries Arctis 3, £51.78 on Amazon – buy here

Sound in the Arctis 3 headset is rich, with a clear range across the whole spectrum.

The virtual 7.1 surround feature works well enough, particularly in FPS games, contributing substantially to a more immersive gaming experience.

However, it's not quite there, and a USB, hardware-based real surround option would have brought the overall experience up a notch, but at this price, it is more than acceptable.

Since the Arctis 3 are compatible with both gaming consoles and PCs, it is is important to make a distinction here.

SteelSeries are selling separate Arctis 3 and Arctis 3 Console versions of this headset. However, both are completely identical, with the only difference being that the main Arctis 3 product includes a dual 3.5mm extension needed for some PCs, whereas the Console edition does not.

In terms of sound, the headset delivers sound in a predetermined configuration when used with consoles and mobile games. I tested the game with Asphalt 8 on an Android device, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch. In both, the Arctis 3 delivered a solid sound experience.

On PC, on the other hand, the SteelSeries Engine 3 software enables deeper customisation via surround sound and equalization options.

It is worth noting that to get the virtual 7.1 surround and microphone's noise-cancelling software features you'll have to set up an account, complete with a secure password a product key.

Microphone

The microphone of the SteelSeries Arctis 3 is well-designed. When not in use, it retracts almost entirely, hiding inside the left-hand can.

From a design perspective, it would have been slightly better if the mic did not protrude at all, but even like this, it does not detract much from the clean aesthetics.

When pulled out, the arm of the microphone is flexible and can be manually adjusted to achieve the perfect position.

Technically speaking, the microphone can pick up sounds clearly and is bi-directional only on the PC (when used with the SteelSeries software).

Even without the software, the mic can strip out background noise (up to a point) and allow your voice to be heard quite clearly.

Connectivity and Buttons

The left ear cup of the Arctis 3 headset houses a volume-control wheel and a mic-mute button in the back.

The retractable microphone is in the front of the same ear cup, and between it and the buttons are a 3.5mm audio jack port, and one for SteelSeries' headset to 4-pole 3.5mm audio cable (included in the Console version of the Arctis 3).

The right ear cup does not have buttons or ports, making us wonder why SteelSeries did not distribute some of them across both ear cups.

Still, controls and ports are few evenly distributed on the left ear cup, so they don't feel particularly crowded.

SteelSeries Arctis 3 review: the verdict

  • SteelSeries Arctis 3, £51.78 on Amazon – buy here

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 is a solid and comfortable headset, and at roughly £50, is one of the best at this price.

Sound and microphone are both good, and the minimalistic design is a nice added bonus if you're looking for a headset that you can also use on a daily basis.

At the same time, if you can spend a little more, we recommend you buy a headset with a USB, hardware-based surround feature like the Arctis 5 or Arctis 7.

And if you absolutely hate the SteelSeries software, you can also have a look at the HyperX Cloud II and the Turtle Beach Recon 200 Gen 2.

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Looking for a gaming chair to sit on while playing with your brand new headset? Check out our GTplayer Gaming Chair review.

And if you're in for a new gaming table, the Arozzi Arena Gaming Desk is a very good choice.

For more gaming and tech guides, feel free to head over to the main page of Sun Selects Tech.

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