SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 Review The new design is extremely comfortable, adjustable, and very lightweight to ensure you can play for hours on end
The highly-praised Arctis family of SteelSeries headsets has been updated for 2022, with all-new designs and a slightly less confusing product lineup. The Arctis 5 has been dropped entirely, and been basically rolled into what is now the Arctis Nova 3 headphones. Featuring the same fantastic audio drivers as its older sibling, the Arctis Nova 7, and sporting some fancy new RGB lighting on the exterior, the Arctis Nova 3 is a great budget pair of headphones for both gaming and general entertainment.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 – Photos
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 – Design and Features
As with the rest of the Arctis Nova line, the Arctis Nova 3 is headlined by the new Nova Acoustic audio system – and it sounds fantastic. Featuring 40mm drivers, the Nova 3 cranks out quality audio whether you’re gaming, watching a movie, or listening to music.
The Arctis Nova 3 is constructed from a lightweight, plastic frame and features an updated design compared to the previous generation. Now, the headphones include fully adjustable height and a retractable microphone that sits flush with the headset when not in use. And, because of its plastic frame, the Nova 3 is actually quite flexible – able to twist and bend without much sign of wear. Did I mention this headset is extremely lightweight? Weighing in at just 253 grams, the Arctis Nova 3 is lighter than both the PS5’s DualSense controller and Xbox Series X|S’s wireless controller.
Both earcups feature a rotating design and are wrapped in SteelSeries’ ultra plush AirWeave memory foam cushions. They are soft, yet breathable, and sit nicely around the ears. Also, glasses-wearers rejoice as this headset doesn’t press much against your frames and makes for a comfortable experience for hours on end.
The stretchy overhead band makes a return, as well, which allows the headset to rest comfortably on top of your head without adding any additional pressure. It still remains one of my favorite features of the Arctis line of headsets, and to this day I haven’t found a more comfortable pair of headphones for gaming.
The Arctis Nova 3 also added a customizable RGB ring around the exterior of both earcups for some additional flare, and includes a switch on the side to easily disable the lighting on the fly. As with most RGB-enabled peripherals, you can choose from 16.8 million colors, and enjoy dynamic lighting effects when connected to a device via USB.
The headset also features an updated fully retractable ClearCast 2 noise-canceling microphone that sits flush when not in use. Similar to the Arctis Nova 7’s, it’s powered by an AI algorithm to intelligently filter out unwanted audio such as noisy fans or loud keyboards to ensure your comms are clean between you and your teammates.
The Arctis Nova 3 is compatible with any USB-C device such as PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Android mobile devices, Oculus Quest 2, and even some iPads that feature a USB-C connector. Additionally, you can connect to just about any other audio device that features a 3.5mm auxiliary port, such as an Xbox controller, however you won’t get to take advantage of the RGB lighting. If you do opt for the USB connection, the included 4-foot-long USB-C cable is rather short, but it does include a USB-C to USB-A extension cable that adds an additional five feet of length.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 – Software
I have nothing but great things to say about SteelSeries’ new Sonar audio-enhancing software included in the latest version of the SteelSeries GG app on PC, and the Arctis Nova 3 takes full advantage of its incredible features.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 – Software
On PC, you can adjust just about any of the audio EQ settings to your liking, including enabling preset settings for specific games if you’re not comfortable tinkering with the abundance of sliders. This allows for an easy one-click solution to optimize your audio settings for many of the most popular games, including Apex Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, League of Legends, and many more. For a detailed rundown of what Sonar is capable of, be sure to check out our review of the Arctis Nova 7 headset.
The only difference in customization options available when it comes to the Arctis Nova 3 is the addition of customizable RGB settings. You can choose from 16.8 million different colors for a static color effect, or opt for a couple different dynamic settings such as a breathing effect or shifting between two colors. It’s not the most comprehensive RGB customization options I’ve encountered, but the actual lighting ring on the outside of the headset is rather subtle by nature, so it seems fitting.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 – Gaming
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 takes full advantage of 360-degree spatial audio on PC through SteelSeries Sonar, as well as PS5’s 3D Tempest audio and Microsoft’s Windows Sonic on PC and Xbox.
I tested the headset across a variety of different platforms including PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, and on a USB-C enabled iPad Pro. From an audio perspective, it’s nearly identical to the Arctis Nova 7 since it utilizes the same audio drivers, and I have no complaints on that front.
Most of my time with the headset was spent while playing through the reprised King’s Fall raid that returned to Destiny 2 recently, and I wore the Arctis Nova 3 during the entirety of my Day 1 experience. The virtual surround sound was fantastic, as it gave me plenty of time to react to the hordes of Thrall and other Hive enemies that would spawn from various corners of each encounter. My teammates had no issues hearing my callouts using the included microphone, and everyone came through loud and clear. The only drawback that I found when compared to the Arctis Nova 7 is the lack of a ChatMix dial on the headset. This meant that I had to manually adjust game audio through Windows at times in order to hear some of the quieter players.
Over on the console side of things, I was pleased with my experience, as well. PS5’s 3D audio sounds fantastic on the Arctis Nova 3 as I explored the Forbidden West in Horizon and endured another couple runs through Atropos in Returnal. I tested both the direct USB-C connection on the front of the PS5 as well through the 3.5mm auxiliary port on the bottom of the DualSense controller – both providing identical audio experiences.
With the removal of the Arctis 5 from the lineup, the Arctis Nova 3 occupies a very odd position in the Arctis Nova family. It’s virtually identical to the less-expensive Arctis Nova 1 – save for the RGB lighting, AI-powered microphone, and USB connectivity. If you’re planning to utilize the Nova 3 with a PS5, Xbox, or Switch and don’t care for the external lighting effects, you’re better off saving yourself $40 and grabbing the Nova 1. On the flip side, if you want a wireless audio experience with simultaneous Bluetooth support, a more premium build quality, ChatMix dial, and more, it’s worth springing the extra $80 for the Nova 7. That being said, the Nova 3 is a great budget headset that absolutely won’t disappoint, but ends up feeling a bit like the middle child.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matthew Adler