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Noblechairs Legend gaming chair review: almost flawless if it wasn’t for the inconsistent pricing
6:00 pm | July 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Noblechairs Legend: Two-minute review

The Noblechairs Legend might just be the slickest gaming chair out there. Yes, it’s white, and yes it’s PU leather, but it’s nothing if not classy. From its ergonomic design to plush padding and silver accents the Noblechairs Legend White Edition is an outstanding premium option for anyone looking for a no-fuss gaming chair. This could have been ripped from a modern sports car, it looks that good.

There is one caveat to that though, and it all depends on where you pick one of these up. The pricing is a little haywire depending where you are in the world. Grab one of these in the UK and you’re looking at paying £400 including tax up front, jump over the Atlantic to the US however, and the price lands at $630, that’s a 25% price increase. 

It does lack some of the features of its competitors like SecretLab or AndaSeat. Speaking very specifically of the AndaSeat Kaiser 3 XL. By comparison to that chair, the Noblechairs Legend doesn’t bag you magnetic pillows or armrests, and it’s a little less plush, and a little more drab in some of its finer build elements. The overall material quality, particularly with its armrests is also somewhat underwhelming. But then it looks a lot classier, and as it’s a similar price to the Kaiser 3 XL, you can sort of let that slide.

Bump that price up by 25% though, as seen in the US, and it becomes a case of spending considerably more for far less. That’s particularly compounded by the fact that you can pick up a Kaiser 3 XL for just under $470. So the question is, is it one of the best gaming chairs out there? Well, it entirely depends on which part of the planet you’re sat. 

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair on a wooden floor in front of a grey wall

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

Noblechairs Legend: Price and availability

  • Pricing varies wildly between regions
  • Good value in UK
  • Special editions cost more

Buying from Noblechairs directly, the Legend will set you back a whopping $630 minimum (Amazon currently sells these for $680) before tax. That’s 25% higher than the UK pricing, and again that’s before tax. In that scenario, comparing it to something like the SecretLab Titan Evo, or AndaSeat Kaiser 3 XL which come in at $100 - $200 less, for arguably a far better spec, and similar design language, really puts a dent in the overall appeal of the Legend.

The Australian market is somewhat more reasonable, seeing only a 12.5% increase in overall cost, but we can forgive Noble here, given the distance these chairs have traveled to reach that point, but even so, that’s still a price increase.

Noblechairs Legend: Specs

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair on a wooden floor in front of a grey wall

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

Noblechairs Legend: Design and Features

  • Less ergonomic, more cushion
  • Super clean design
  • Looks fantastic in white

Noblechairs has been in the business of chairs for nearly a decade now. It arguably was one of the first brands to really cement itself in that custom PC gaming chair space, with products such as the Hero and Icon, in particular leading the charge. The Legend, however, is categorically quite different from those designs. It moves away from the 'gamer-y' bucket seats designed to hold in all of those extreme G-Forces you experience during your Helldivers 2 descents and looks to be a more refined office executive styling instead.

I’ve been testing gaming chairs like the Legend, since 2015, and have in fact been there since the very beginning, sitting in all manner of Noblechairs as well. The Legend, unlike a lot of those that came before it has redefined its overall style.

That said, it’s not perfect, and the gaming chair market has now become quite competitive with the likes of AndaSeat, SecretLab, Vertagear, and even the big brands such as Corsair, Razer, and Logitech getting in on the action too.

Anyway, let's get to the brass tacks here. What is the Noblechairs Legend like to use on the day-to-day? If I’m honest, it’s an absolute treat. For reference, I’ve had the Noblechairs Hero for around five years at this point. It’s stylish, classy, and plush, as you’d expect for a chair of that caliber, but the one thing that’s always put me off about it is the seat base. Namely, the fact that it’s seriously stiff and over time can become quite uncomfortable. 

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair on a wooden floor in front of a grey wall

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

Now, Noblechairs did say back in the day that this was an ergonomic consideration more so than a cost reduction, as stiffer bases typically meant your muscles wouldn’t atrophy quite as badly compared to a soft supportive cushion base, and there is evidence in the scientific literature to support that. However, it was a heavily criticized point at the time, and it seems the company has relented on that fact. The Legend in contrast is far more comfortable than my aging five-year-old Hero is. The seat base itself is slightly more rounded, more supportive by design, and plush as a result.

On top of that, you still get the usual array of gaming chair staples as well, including adjustable lumbar support, four-dimensional arm-rests, a five-wheel steel framed base, tilt, and recline adjustments, as well as some solid overall construction too (the stitching and branding are seriously top-tier).

Noble also sells the Legend in a number of colorways (admittedly not quite as many as Secretlab) including, Black, Dark Brown, Red/White/Black, and White (as shown here), alongside two special editions, (namely a Starfield variant, along with a Shure version as well). The latter two are a touch more expensive as a heads-up. If fake leather’s not your thing, you can opt to go for a cut-down fabric variant instead, which is slightly more affordable, you can read our full Noblechairs Legend TX review here.

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair on a wooden floor in front of a grey wall

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

Noblechairs Legend: Performance

  • Unboxing could be better
  • Build straight out of 2015
  • Needs more magnets

The construction process for the Noblechairs Legend, is, generally, pretty average, as is the packaging. It’s not out of this world, like the Andaseat Kaiser 4, (relatively speaking for a gaming chair), but you get all the components you need, and an easy-to-follow instruction manual.

Construction is generally a breeze, assembling the base and adding the castor wheels is easy enough, although it gets somewhat trickier when you get around to attaching the seat back to the base. There are no sliding brackets or anything to help align your chair here, you have to carefully line it up with the bracket hinges on the side of the base, hold it in place one-handed, thread the bolts through with the other, and secure them with the included allen screws (Noble, like pretty much all manufacturers, do provide you with everything you need to do this). In my model, one of the topmost bolts was a bit troublesome to install, and it did require a lot of back and forth loosening all the other bolts, and eventually using a larger Allen key to secure them in place, but, otherwise, it’s a fairly seamless process. 

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair on a wooden floor in front of a grey wall

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

The bracket covers aren’t magnetic like those found in Andaseat or Secretlab’s chairs, however, and there are no special screw cover caps here either. It’s all very basic. If you built this chair today, and one in 2016, the process, and features would be basically identical.

That said, once it’s built, the Legend looks and feels immaculate, the PU leather is surprisingly plush, and breathable, not too fine a grain, and there’s some serious comfort here overall, in fact, it may well be one of the most comfortable gaming chairs out there. If you’re thinking about the white version and have any form of household pet that sheds hair, be prepared for a fur-covered chair almost immediately, but a quick blow duster will clean that up sharpish.

Otherwise, over long periods the Legend is fantastically comfortable. The base is far superior to that of the similarly priced and styled Noblechairs Hero, and it really does look the part, even without all the mod-cons of some of its competitors. All-in-all, it’s an impeccably well-rounded chair, the only issue is of course those price discrepancies per region throwing a particularly large spanner into the works.

The Noblechairs Legend gaming chair caster being held in a hand

(Image credit: Future/Zak Storey)

Should I buy the Noblechairs Legend?

Buy it if...

You want a classy-looking office chair
The Noblechairs Legend has a fantastically clean design that looks just as good in a professional enterprise office as it does in a sophisticated gaming den. It’s comfortable too, and packs in a lot of ergonomic considerations that you’d expect for a chair at this price.

You live in the UK
Without a doubt, if you’re in the UK, and see this chair at £400 or less than that, it’s a fantastic deal. Ok, it doesn’t have some of the mod cons, but they just aren’t that important at this price point.

Don't buy it if...

You want all the mod cons
Without a doubt, the Noblechairs Legend’s overall build is starting to show its age. Aside from slightly tweaked cushioning and overall design shape changes, there’s little here that differentiates it from chairs launched seven years ago.

You live in the US
Similar to the above, the Legend is only available in the States for 25% more than what you’d find in the UK. This greatly impacts the value proposition it offers in the US at its standard pricing. As a result, it’s one to keep an eye out for during sales periods.

Also consider...

If you're not completely sold on the Noblechairs Legend, or just want to weigh up some more options then check out these other two chairs that we've reviewed as fine alternatives. 

Andaseat Kaiser 3 XL
Larger than life and designed for the taller human, the Kaiser 3 XL is brimming with all the mod-cons and packs in some serious comfort too. It’s not flawless, and there are a lot of similarities between it, and the Secretlab Titan Evo range, but it’s quite a bit cheaper, and well worth considering.

Here’s our full Andaseat Kaiser 3 XL review 

Razer Iskur
Razer may be a relatively new name in the world of gaming chairs, but that’s not stopped it from producing some top-quality seats. The Iskur is all about that robust lumbar support and lets you fine-tune it to the max. Add all of that juicy Razer styling and the Iskur XL is a surefire pick for any looking for a larger gaming chair.

Here’s our full Razer Iskur review 

How I tested the Noblechairs Legend

  • Tested in all seating positions
  • Cross leg approved
  • Sat on by multiple people

I spent two weeks with the Noblechairs Legend using it as my daily office chair. I’m a 5’8.5” human (174cm) and weigh 165lb / 75kg. I completely built the Legend in my home office on my own and tested it sitting in a number of different positions over the two week period. I used it in video calls and during long gaming sessions in an office varying in temperatures from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. I also tried a number of different lumbar positions and pillow configurations as well, documenting the entire process.

Additionally, I got a number of friends and colleagues to sit and try the chair, giving me their feedback, people ranging from 5’5" to 6’2" (165 to 180cm)  and all manner of shapes and sizes in between, to get a good varied gauge on how it performs regardless of the person sat in it.

Final VR3000 review: immersive earbuds that are great for gaming and VR
3:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming Gaming Accessories | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Final VR3000: Two-minute review

The latest model of gaming earbuds from boutique Japanese audio brand Final, the Final VR3000 are designed to deliver some seriously immersive sound. Made with a focus on binaural recording, they are nothing short of a massive success. It's hard not to be blown away by the large and highly detailed soundstage that has been crammed into these tiny buds.

From a gaming perspective, this means that audio has a clear sense of direction. Footsteps in competitive shooters such as Counter-Strike 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are easy to track, giving you a distinct advantage in online matches, while cinematic hits like Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 sound exceptionally rich and life-like than ever. There was even a moment during my testing when an unseen door was opened behind my character in Hitman 3 and I instinctively turned around in real life, thoroughly convinced that the sound was really coming from behind me.

This high level of immersion makes them a great fit for virtual reality (VR) play too, where the earbuds do an excellent job of staying put thanks to their comfortable and secure design. They’re also very light, coming in at just 0.7oz / 20g in total which helps prevent fatigue over lengthy gaming sessions. A generous selection of five pairs of ear tips is included in the box, alongside some removable ear hooks, making it easy to find the perfect fit.

As impressive as this all is, there is still some room for improvement. The earbuds feature an in-line microphone, which is built into a small controller with two volume buttons and a pause button. The microphone itself is okay, offering slightly muffled recording that is just about good enough if you’re chatting with friends in an online match but nothing to write home about, though the volume controls and pause button only seem to work on mobile devices. This isn’t a huge dealbreaker, but it does sting given the more premium price point of the Final VR3000 compared to alternatives.

A shot of the Final VR3000 earbuds on a wooden table.

(Image credit: Future)

Final VR3000: Price and availability

  • $79.99 / £69.99 / around AU$120
  • Available via Amazon
  • First released in December 2020 

The Final VR3000 earbuds retail for $79.99 / £69.99 / around AU$120 and are readily available at Amazon in the US, UK, and Australia. This price tag puts them towards the higher end of the wired gaming earbuds market, where they begin to compete with some wireless options and even full-size wireless gaming headsets. Still, this seems like a fair price to pay given the high audio quality on offer here and the fact that Final is a more premium specialist brand. 

Final VR3000: Specs

Final VR3000: Design and features

The Final VR3000 are compact and comfortable to wear, with an overall design that shares a lot in common with many professional in-ear monitor (IEM) earbuds. They have a modern, angular shape that allows each bud to slot neatly into your ear with the cable pointing upwards. Like a pair of IEMs, you then hook the cable around the top of your ear which adds some extra support. Because of this, it takes a few seconds to get the earbuds into place but the fit feels extremely secure. I moved around a lot throughout my testing period, particularly when I was playing more intensive VR titles like Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice and Beat Arena, and the buds never became loose or came close to falling out.

A total of five pairs of alternate ear tips are included in the box, ranging from extra small to extra large in size, so you have lots of options to tweak the fit if the default configuration doesn’t work for you. Each set of ear tips is color-coded, with one side sporting a bright red or pink band on its underside. Final states that this is designed to allow you to more easily tell the left and right earbuds apart in low light conditions, which is a great touch and shows some real attention to detail. A pair of small ear hooks are also bundled in, though I found that these were fragile and awkward to install.

The alternate ear tips of the Final VR3000.

(Image credit: Future)

The inside of each earbud is clearly labeled with a small printed left or right indicator, in addition to the Final logo and the model name. They are constructed from a hard matt plastic and connected to a 4ft / 1.2m long cable. Some basic audio controls in the form of a clicky volume up, volume down, and pause button are built into the cable connected to the right earbud, as is a tiny in-line microphone. The materials of the Final VR3000 all feel uniformly premium and the earbuds come with a small black fabric carrying pouch for easy transport.

Final VR3000: Performance

The performance of the Final VR3000 is incredibly impressive in almost every respect. In a game with well-implemented binaural sound, like Escape from Tarkov or Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, they are nothing short of perfect. Environmental sounds are clean and crisp, further elevated by an eerily life-like sense of direction and depth. The overall tuning is on the bass-heavy side, which might cause you to lower the volume a little in titles with lots of punchy sound effects like gunfire or explosions, but it gives in-game soundtracks a really satisfying weight. Moments of emotional climax in The Last of Us Part 2 and Alan Wake 2 were just sublime.

The earbuds are also perfect for VR gaming. Paired with the Meta Quest 2 VR headset and my PC, the intricately detailed city of Half Life: Alyx came through with impressive clarity, and everything from the distant hum of vehicles to the chatter of nearby civilians was recreated beautifully. The same was true when it came to a range of native Meta Quest 2 games and I was pleasantly surprised that the earbuds didn't cause any noticeable fatigue during my sessions. If you’re looking for a pair of earbuds to use specifically with a VR headset, then the Final VR3000 are very easy to recommend.

Given this excellent performance, I was a little disappointed to discover that the microphone here is just average. Friends reported that I sounded slightly muffled but still intelligible, and on work calls the buds let in a lot of background noise. It’s also a shame that the onboard controls only work with mobile devices. Having to navigate to a menu on your console or PC in order to adjust the volume isn’t the end of the world but is still pretty inconvenient.

The Final VR3000 gaming earbuds placed on a wooden surface.

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Final VR3000?

Buy it if...

You want more immersive audio from your earbuds
The Final VR3000 offer highly immersive audio with a real sense of direction and depth. Pick up a pair if you want the very latest games to sound incredibly life-like and rich.

You need earbuds for VR
These earbuds have a design that is absolutely perfect for virtual reality. They help VR games sound their absolute best and stay comfortable and secure while you play.

Don't buy it if...

You want the best mic
The microphone of the Final VR3000 is bang average. You can find cheaper earbuds that offer comparable (or even sometimes better) microphone performance. See the comparison below for some other options.

Also consider...

If you’re not fully satisfied with what the Final VR3000 has to offer, these two cheaper alternatives are well worth your consideration. 

Final VR500
They lack the punchy bass of the Final VR3000, but these budget-friendly gaming earbuds are also from Final and are the definite way to go if you want some impressive sound at a much lower price.

For more information, check out our full Final VR500 review

SteelSeries Tusq
What the SteelSeries Tusq loses in overall audio quality and build, it gains in microphone fidelity. These affordable gaming earbuds feature a removable boom mic that makes them the best option for chatting.

For more information, check out our full SteelSeries Tusq review.

The Final VR3000 earbuds plugged into an Xbox Wireless Controller.

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Final VR3000

  • Used for more than two weeks
  • Tested with a wide range of platforms 
  • Evaluated against other gaming earbuds 

I used the Final VR3000 as my primary gaming earbuds for more than two weeks, using them almost daily. During that time I tested them with a wide variety of platforms including PS5, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Steam Deck OLED. I played a wide variety of games in order to assess their performance, including Counter-Strike 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Escape from Tarkov, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Luigi’s Mansion 2, The Crew Motorfest, The Caligula Effect 2, and more.

I also tried plenty of VR games using my PC and a Meta Quest 2 headset, such as Gun Club VR, Half-Life: Alyx, Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice, and Beat Arena. I chatted with friends and recorded a selection of audio files in a variety of settings using two separate PCs in order to assess the performance of the microphone. Throughout the testing period, I compared my experience with my hands-on testing of other gaming earbuds such as the Final VR500, SteelSeries Tusq, Turtle Beach Battle Buds, and more.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed June 2024

JBL Quantum Stream Studio review: versatile and stylish
7:00 pm | June 30, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

JBL Quantum Stream Studio: one-minute review

JBL may not be a brand best known for its microphones and streaming kit, but they are a hardy brand with an excellent reputation. The brand’s Quantum Stream Studio is one of its first stabs at a premium streaming microphone for you to shout into, and by and large, it’s a solid option that’s well-priced and specced. It looks great with an entirely integrated design and thoughtful touches such as an integrated mute button, on-board gain control with LED lights for gain and monitoring volume, and a choice of four polar patterns.

Elsewhere, the Quantum Stream Studio performs well with a clear, well-rounded pickup with both a fair bit of low-end and excellent clarity. Those four polar patterns make it versatile too, as it can be used for single-person recording, as well as in one-on-one interviews, or when recording in a group. Not many other microphones for streaming and gaming offer this function in 2024, so it’s a welcome addition to JBL’s option.

However, the Quantum Studio has a couple of shortcomings compared to more established options, such as its sub-par noise rejection. The software here, while functional, is also on the basic side, sticking with options also found physically on the microphone’s control panel, such as gain control and choice of polar pattern.

JBL Quantum Stream Studio microphone on a desk in front of a monitor

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

JBL Quantum Stream Studio: Price and availability

  • $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$199.95
  • Available in the US, UK and Australia
  • Solid value for money

In the context of premium mics for content creators, streamers, and that kind of audience, the price tag of the JBL Quantum Stream Studio is decent and offers robust value. Against some of our favorite streaming microphones, JBL’s option retails for slightly more than the Blue Yeti in the USA, but identically in the UK, while also being comparable to options from audio giants Audio Technica and its AT2020 USB-X with its $149 / £116 price tag.

With this in mind, the Quantum Stream Studio is also much more affordable than premium choices such as the SteelSeries Alias, which goes for $179.99 / £179.99. In Australia, JBL’s mic becomes even better value than SteelSeries’ option, given its price is half - it’s AU$199.95 against the Alias’ AU$399. Across the board, the Quantum Stream Studio represents solid value for money with its feature set.

JBL Quantum Stream Studio: Specs

JBL Quantum Stream Studio microphone on a desk in front of a monitor

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

JBL Quantum Stream Studio: Design and features

  • Sleek, cylindrical chassis
  • Intuitive controls
  • Simple connectivity and lighting

Compared to some of the more avant-garde designs seen more recently with microphones such as the SteelSeries Alias, the JBL Quantum Stream Studio sticks to something more conventional. Its main body is cylindrical, with a tall stature that carries presence when plonked on a desk, while there is a mute button on top and convenient controls on the front fascia.

The pop filter on the Quantum Stream Studio is integrated, meaning there aren’t any unsightly protrusions here, keeping JBL’s microphone looking clean. The chassis here is almost entirely metal too, exuding a high-quality finish that matches the price tag.

Elsewhere, JBL’s mic also comes with a small stand, which echoes the marvelous quality found elsewhere. It carries plenty of heft and keeps the Quantum Stream Studio in place well, although allows for some movement out of the box. This can be alleviated by tightening the dials on each side, as well as on the base. The underside of the stand also provides a strip of non-slip rubber to prevent the Quantum Stream Studio from sliding around unnecessarily on a desk. It worked well both on a desk and on my mousepad in testing.

The controls on the Quantum Stream Studio are wonderfully simple to use and easy to access, being contained on the front panel or on the top and bottom sides of the cylinder. The front panel is home to a dial, giving you quick access to gain control or monitoring volume if you’ve got headphones plugged into the mic’s 3.5mm jack on the back. You can also choose between a balance of the two by clicking the dial-in until it reveals a half-and-half pattern. The dial also has a small LED which can be used to monitor levels without trawling through software, which is nifty.

JBL Quantum Stream Studio - a close up of the dial

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

Also contained on the front panel are four white LED lights at the bottom which allow you to pick between the different polar patterns that the Quantum Stream Studio has, much like the Blue Yeti can do. These are accessed with a button on the bottom side of the mic, marked with a P. Click it in, and it’ll change the pattern with ease.

On the top of the Quantum Stream Studio’s chassis is a big mic mute panel, which operates as more of a pad than a button. Press on the mic mute icon, and the LED on the top changes from green to red, giving you a convenient visual indication that no one can hear you. You do have to be quite precise with your finger placement to ensure the microphone mutes, as pressing anywhere but directly on the mic mute icon does nothing.

The back side is home to a USB-C port for connectivity, as well as that 3.5mm jack for monitoring. Interestingly, the Quantum Stream Studio itself doesn’t have a thread mount for putting elsewhere other than the desktop mount. However, the base of the desktop mount unscrews for putting into a standard boom arm mount. Nifty.

JBL Quantum Stream Studio - a close up of the rear and ports

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

JBL Quantum Stream Studio: Performance

  • Clear, full-bodied pickup
  • Versatile with four pickup patterns
  • Basic software configuration

Out of the box, the Quantum Stream Studio offers reasonably solid pickup with decent clarity and body. The default cardioid pickup pattern is best suited for vocals and instruments and provides good comms in both chatting with friends over Discord, in-game chats on Counter-Strike 2, and when testing in Audacity for recording my own dulcet tones.

The initial thesis with the cardioid pickup pattern is that with it picking up noise solely from the front, it should reject noise from the back and sides. However, at least in this pattern, the noises of my custom mechanical keyboard a few inches away from the back of the microphone were picked up. The distinct lack of any form of noise cancellation or rejection is a shame, especially when other premium streaming microphones offer much better performance in this particular area.

The other polar patterns are less useful for individual recording, but they are useful if you’ve got multiple people involved to huddle around one microphone. The omnidirectional pattern means the Quantum Stream Studio will pick up sound from all directions, making it ideal for podcast recording with a singular microphone. It essentially opens up the soundstage, and isn’t the best for single-person recording, picking up a lot more background noise.

The underside of the JBL Quantum Stream Studio microphone

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

There's also a bidirectional pattern, where the microphone captures inputs from the front and back - ideal for one-on-one interviewing. This option did a solid job of isolating noise elsewhere than the front and back in testing. The final pickup mode is arguably the most interesting, as the Quantum Stream Studio has a stereo mode, which can be used for recording instruments or if you’ve got two people on the same side of the microphone. 

The mic’s software comes in the form of the Windows-only JBL Quantum Engine, which installs automatically when you first plug the Quantum Stream Studio in. As opposed to offering a plethora of customization with its own mixer, as SteelSeries’ GG does, the  Quantum Stream Studio’s software is a bit more basic. 

Quantum Engine allows for on-the-fly adjustment of the levels of gain and monitoring, as well as allowing you to choose the polar pattern. You can also customize the color of the lighting for the mic’s built-in level indicator which shows around the volume wheel on the front so you know you can be heard without being too loud. Otherwise, that’s pretty much it, apart from a cool graphic of the mic’s outline itself which rotates around in the bottom right corner.

JBL Quantum Stream Studio sitting on a desk next to a patterned mouse mat

(Image credit: Future/Reece Bithrey)

Should I buy the JBL Quantum Stream Studio?

Buy it if...

You want the flexibility of multiple pickup patterns
Not many microphones offer the convenience of multiple pickup patterns these days, and the feature has almost gone out of fashion. If you want a mic that offers it in 2024, the Quantum Stream Studio is an excellent one. 

You want a mic that’s simple to use
The Quantum Stream Studio is one of the simplest mics to use in its price range, with it requiring no assembly or poking around online for software installation, and will be up and running shortly after being plugged it in. 

Don't buy it if...

You want more advanced software
JBL’s option lacks more advanced and granular control within its software, which is a shame if you’re looking to really adjust every minute detail or option. If you’re after more in the way of configuration, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

You want class-leading noise cancellation
In all of its four pickup patterns, the Quantum Stream Studio lets in a fair amount of background noise which is a consideration for those looking for quality sound isolation and rejection. 

Also consider...

If you’re still not sold on the JBL Quantum Stream Studio, here’s how it stacks up against two similar options.

Blue Yeti
If the JBL Quantum Stream Studio isn’t for you, then the Blue Yeti makes sense. It’s a veteran of the mic world, and our current top ranker with its four polar patterns, sublime pickup and versatile colour choices. You may not get RGB, and it is only a single mic setup internally, but the Blue Yeti is excellent

For more information, check out our full Blue Yeti review. 

HyperX DuoCast
The HyperX DuoCast is also a solid alternative to JBL’s mic, netting a position as the best USB mic we’ve tested for the purpose of podcasting. This is not only because of its excellent pickup across both its cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns, but also because it comes with a shock mount and boom arm adapter included, meaning you’re ready to go right out of the box. While the software can be a bit finicky, the DuoCast is an excellent plug and play option for podcasters.

For more information, check out our full HyperX DuoCast review

How I tested the JBL Quantum Stream Studio

I used the JBL Quantum Stream Studio as my main microphone for two weeks. I tested it with both Audacity for test recordings, as well as when chatting with friends over Discord and in games such as Counter-Strike 2 for in-game chats. I also made sure to install the additional software to best test its functionality on Windows.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed June 2024.

Nitro Deck+ review: a slick upgrade, but not a transformative one
3:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Peripherals manufacturer CRKD is back with the Nitro Deck+, an upgraded version of its fantastic Nitro Deck handheld Switch dock/controller. While said upgrades here essentially boil down to a handful of quality-of-life improvements, these changes make the Nitro Deck+ unequivocally the best product the manufacturer has put out so far. But it’s not necessarily the one that offers the best value for money.

The Nitro Deck+ features a slick translucent shell not unlike the Crystal Collection limited edition variants of the original model. It offers six remappable buttons as opposed to the original’s four, comes packaged with an HDMI adapter that allows you to play on the TV and an improved kickstand that feels notably less stiff and fiddly.

Performance remains excellent across the board, with class-leading Hall Effect thumbsticks that effectively eliminate the risk of drift. The face buttons, extra remappable buttons, and bumpers all still feel snappy, responsive, and tactile - though the mushy triggers of the original Nitro Deck sadly remain here. It, unfortunately, hasn’t lost any weight off of the original model either, meaning that one of its few real drawbacks - the overall bulkiness - hasn’t been improved upon.

Price is also a bit of a sticking point, costing notably more than standard edition Nitro Decks while coming in at the same price as its many special editions. On top of this, the bundle that includes the HDMI adapter costs slightly more on top. As a result, it’s tough to recommend the upgrade to existing Nitro Deck owners when the overall improvements are slight.

That being said, the Nitro Deck+ is still easily one of the best Nintendo Switch controllers and one you should consider if you haven’t already purchased the original Nitro Deck. It also helps that customization via the CRKD Ctrl app is excellent, allowing users to fine-tune the feel of the controller and its various modules to a high degree.

Nitro Deck Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

  •  $69.99 / £69.99 list price 
  •  $79.99 / £79.99 for the controller bundled with a HDMI adapter 
  •  Considerably more than the standard Nitro Deck ($49.99 / £49.99) 

If you’re looking to purchase the Nitro Deck+, it’s available to buy right now from CRKD’s website for $69.99 / £69.99 (around AU$99). At this price, you’re getting the peripheral itself as well as a lovely microfiber string bag that I feel is a cut above most carry cases thanks to its luscious build quality and adjustable strap.

At $79.99 / £79.99, you can nab a bundle that includes the Nitro Deck+, carry case, and a USB-C to HDMI adapter that’ll transfer the Switch’s output to your TV, allowing you to play on a larger display while your console is still docked in the Deck.

The Nitro Deck+ is a good deal pricier than the standard Nitro Deck model ($49.99 / £49.99) and the same price as most of its limited edition bundles ($69.99 / £69.99). You’re also looking at $10 / £10 more than that for the inclusion of that HDMI adapter. Unless you really like the idea of playing on your TV with the Nitro Deck+, we’d recommend opting for the version without the adapter to save yourself some cash.

Specs

Nitro Deck Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Design and features

  •  Exceptional build quality 
  •  Like a suit of armor for your Switch 
  •  Fairly bulky with Switch docked 

The Nitro Deck+ brings a number of improvements to the table in terms of build quality and aspects of its design. Like the base model, it feels sturdy in the hands while you’ve got the Switch tablet docked in. And while we’re happy its superb build quality carries over to this new model, there hasn’t really been any effort to shed some of the device’s size and weight. If you’re heading out and about, expect that half-a-kilo weight (including the Switch) to feel quite bulky during lengthier play sessions. Thankfully, the included carry case, made from lovely microfiber material, does alleviate this with its high-quality design and over-the-shoulder strap for ease of portability.

There have been some excellent improvements over the base model, mind. The new metallic thumbsticks feel fantastic, backed up once again by Hall sensors that help to greatly reduce the risk of stick drift. We also noted that the rear remappable buttons feel a good deal more tactile here, and the addition of two more on either side of the Nitro Deck+ is welcome if you want to customize your button layout to a higher degree.

On the back of the Nitro Deck+, you’ve still got an adjustable kickstand and an eject slider used for undocking the Switch tablet. These both feel far sturdier here; on the original Nitro Deck, the kickstand was quite fiddly and often refused to click back into its resting position. That’s no longer the case with the Deck+, making it excellent for setting up on your desk for YouTube viewing or for playing touch-based games.

Nitro Deck Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

  •  Improvements to sticks and remappable buttons 
  •  Fantastic mobile app-based software 
  •  USB-C to HDMI connectivity is more suited to playing on a monitor 

The Nitro Deck+ remains a fantastic option for handheld play, thanks to improvements to its various modules as mentioned above. While face buttons, D-pad, bumpers, and triggers are all comparable to the original model, those upgraded thumbsticks and remappable buttons make portable play feel more responsive and tactile than ever.

We found the Nitro Deck+ to be a fantastic controller for the recently-launched Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble. Its tiltable obstacle courses often require pinpoint precision with the analog stick, and the Deck is more than up to the task here thanks to ultra-responsive sticks and Hall-sensing technology.

One thing worth noting is that the analog stick layout has been swapped around on the Nitro Deck+. The sticks here are symmetrical, as opposed to the asymmetrical layout found on the base Nitro Deck. This did take some getting used to, being so familiar with that original design, and there’s certainly some awkwardness involved in having to move your thumb downwards to access the face buttons. But after a period of adjustment, it felt no worse to play the best Nintendo Switch games here.

Now let’s talk about the Nitro Deck+’s HDMI compatibility. The USB-C to HDMI adapter allows you to play games on your telly while your console is docked in the Nitro Deck+. It’s perfectly responsive, and we didn’t note any kind of intrusive input latency playing games this way. However, we feel it’s an incredibly niche way to play your Switch games and somewhat defeats the purpose of the Nitro Deck’s incredible portability factor. 

Furthermore, the cable is extremely short, meaning you’ll likely have to play sitting quite close to your TV. That being said, it is a solid option if you have a monitor and gaming desk setup, and this feels like the intended way of using that HDMI adapter given the shorter distance required.

Lastly, the accompanying CRKD Ctrl app - available for both Android and iOS - is an extremely robust app that lets you perform firmware updates for your Nitro Deck+, as well as customize pretty much every aspect of your controller’s performance. That includes stick dead zones, remapping those ancillary buttons (as well as all standard buttons, bumpers, and triggers should you desire or need), vibration strength, and trigger sensitivity. It’s one of the most intricate pieces of software we’ve seen for a Nintendo Switch controller and is perfect for players who really like to tailor their play experience to their specific preferences.

Nitro Deck Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Nitro Deck+?

Buy it if...

You want the best handheld play experience on Switch
With superb customization and luxurious build quality, the Nitro Deck+ is essential for players who prefer going handheld with their Switch console.

You enjoy customizing your experience to a granular degree
The CRKD Ctrl app is fantastic for tailoring a personal play experience. With it, you can adjust your stick’s dead zones, trigger sensitivity, rumble strength, and more.

Don't buy it if...

You already own a Nitro Deck
The $69.99 / £69.99 asking price for the Nitro Deck+ is pretty steep when the experience is quite comparable to the base model outside of some slight upgrades.

Also consider...

If the Nitro Deck+ isn’t quite what you’re looking for, we recommend checking out the following Nintendo Switch controllers. We recommend these in confidence if, say, you’re after something cheaper or would simply prefer a more traditionally-designed gamepad.

Nitro Deck
The standard Nitro Deck tops our best Nintendo Switch accessories list for a reason; it’s simply the finest portable experience you can have with the console at its price point. It’s very similar to the Nitro Deck+ minus a few improvements. We’d consider checking out this base model if the Nitro Deck+ is a little beyond your price range.

Read more in our full Nitro Deck review.

8BitDo Ultimate
One of the very best third-party Nintendo Switch controllers, it packs phenomenal value for money by coming with its own charging dock, 2.4GHz dongle as well as PC and SteamOS support if you prefer to play on Steam Deck.

Read more in our full 8BitDo Ultimate review.

How I tested the Nitro Deck+

  •  Tested over two weeks almost every day 
  •  Compared against the standard Nitro Deck 
  •  Played in handheld, and on TV and a gaming monitor via the HDMI adapter 

I tested the Nitro Deck+ over the course of about a week and a half with several Nintendo Switch games including Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Splatoon 3, and Endless Ocean Luminous. I felt that these games are all well-suited to the Nitro Deck+’s improvements including those lovely metallic Hall effect sticks, gyro support, and a wealth of remappable buttons.

I made sure to test the device across all supported formats, including handheld as well as play on TV and a monitor via the USB-C to HDMI adapter. While I maintain that there’s niche appeal to the latter methods, playing on a gaming monitor with the Nitro Deck+ was a fantastic and responsive experience that’s well-suited to Switch games’ relatively lower resolutions.

First reviewed June 2024

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition review: a marvelous remaster of a game that’s aged tremendously
2:07 pm | June 28, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release date: June 25, 2024 (July 12 for the physical version) 

A good half a year since Ubisoft confirmed its existence, Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition is finally here. The 2003 action-adventure game is a cult hit, broadly considered to be one of Ubisoft’s best games. And now, it’s available to play on modern hardware thanks to this absolutely superb remaster that does the original the justice it thoroughly deserves.

Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition is one of the most thoughtful remasters we’ve seen in years, expertly enhancing textures, shadows, and lighting while still retaining the iconic look and feel of the original game. There are a handful of welcome additions like a development gallery, unlockable cosmetics, and even a brand new questline that ties into Beyond Good & Evil 2 (so, fret not; it seems Ubisoft still plans on releasing the prequel eventually).

What’s also notable is the incredibly fair $19.99 / £17.99 price tag. In an age where remasters often charge a premium for much less (oh hello, Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD), it’s very refreshing to see Ubisoft put out Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition at a more accessible, great-value price. 

Beyond belief

Screenshots of gameplay from Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

In Beyond Good & Evil, you play as Jade, a reporter who doubles as a guardian to orphaned children at her lighthouse home. After an attack by the DomZ - a mysterious alien race - threatens to destroy her home and kidnap the children, both she and her adoptive uncle, Pey’j, embark on a mission that slowly unravels the truth behind the world they live in, the enigmatic DomZ, and the Alpha Sections - the militant security force that governs it.

Both Jade and Pey’j are incredibly likable characters. They have fantastic chemistry, bantering with each other as they progress through the game and sneak behind enemy lines. This also applies to Double H, Jade’s big-hearted resistance companion who joins up roughly halfway through the game. Beyond Good & Evil’s world of Hillys, in general, plays host to a range of incredibly charming characters, many of which offer dialogue that provides hints on optional objectives throughout the game.

The game world is incredibly compact; not exactly fully open-world, but it offers plenty of avenues for optional exploration. In doing so, you’ll typically find pearls that can be used to upgrade Jade’s hovercraft, adding things like a homing blaster and jump thrusters that are required for main quest progression. Alongside this, a game-spanning optional quest involves Jade taking pictures of Hillys’ wildlife, which grants her Credits she can spend on upgrades and healing items in addition to more pearls.

Open-world design has come on leaps and bounds since 2003, but Beyond Good & Evil’s approach to the formula is still quite refreshing to this day. It’s completely free of the bloat found in many checklist-style maps and the relatively bite-sized design makes it incredibly manageable to fully complete in just a couple of sessions. 

In the thick of it

Screenshots of gameplay from Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

General exploration aside, the main missions in Beyond Good & Evil typically involve segments of combat and stealth. Combat is actually one element of the game that hasn’t aged as gracefully as others, feeling somewhat stiff as Jade hard-locks onto her nearest target. It’s also a one-button affair, with Jade performing combos with her staff or a more powerful charged attack after a few seconds of holding down the button.

Best bit

Screenshots of gameplay from Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Simply seeing one of my all-time favorite games receive such a respectful and content-rich remaster was a joy. Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition is the definitive way to experience the game, and I was relieved to discover the world of Hillys has aged so gracefully.

Her companions are also quite useless in direct combat, often getting themselves hurt or immobilized unnecessarily. They pick up the slack, though, with their ‘Super Action’ which stuns enemies for a few seconds, allowing Jade to either launch them off cliffs, into other enemies, or simply for bigger damage opportunities. Combat overall does feel somewhat inelegant and simplistic, and this also extends to the handful of boss encounters, which all have a small set of mechanics to avoid before a brief damage window makes itself available.

Stealth sections are more compelling, however. It’s an extremely simple affair in Beyond Good & Evil, typically requiring Jade to stay crouched and out of sight to avoid the Alpha Sections’ cone of vision. Combat strictly is not an option here, with the Alpha Sections troops posing very dangerous threats should Jade be spotted. However, she is able to neutralize these enemies with a swift kick to the behind, which is always hilarious.

While stealth can be good fun and plays into Jade’s skill set as she sleuths around restricted areas looking for photo evidence against the Alpha Sections, these parts can occasionally feel imbalanced. Huge chunks of levels are dedicated to sequences of stealth gauntlets, offering increasingly trickier challenges. As a result, they can often overstay their welcome when you just want to press on with the objective and return to the world outside.

A stupendous remaster

Screenshots of gameplay from Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Overall, Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition is an expertly-crafted remaster. It vastly improves the game’s shadows and lighting while smartly up-dressing textures and even adding texture depth to characters and their clothing. On PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC, you can get 4K resolution at a near-flawless 60 frames per second (I only noted two major dips during sections with dense particle effects). It’s also a remaster that avoids overdone changes like excessive bloom and wonky upscaling.

As for new content, there’s a good amount to enjoy. A handful of outfits for Jade and her companions have been naturally implemented, as well as unlockable liveries for the hovercraft and late-game Beluga spacecraft.

Most impressive of all, though, is a brand new questline that ties into the upcoming prequel game Beyond Good & Evil 2. This sends Jade on a treasure hunt across the game world, unlocking new hand-drawn and voiced cutscenes that explain Jade’s ties to the prequel. It’s a lovely little quest that adds roughly an hour of time to your playthrough. Plus, it’s just superb to finally have the follow-up game acknowledged in such a charming and thoughtful way. 

Should I play Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition?

Play it if...

You have fond memories of the original
Ubisoft clearly has a lot of respect for the 2003 game, and it shows with this near-impeccable remaster that’s blissfully free of bugs and visual oddities.

You’re in the mood for a game that can be beaten in one or two sittings
Beyond Good & Evil is a relatively short game, even with the new content. This allows it to be very well-paced for the most part and makes it quite replayable. 

Don't play it if...

You can’t hack the awkward combat or simplistic stealth
The game’s combat does show some signs of aging poorly, and none of its mechanics are particularly deep. If you want something meatier, you may wish to look elsewhere.

How we reviewed Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition

My PS5 playthrough of Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition took 10 hours during which time I completed the story, obtained all pearls and wildlife photos, as well as cleared the new optional side quest. I also started a new game by way of the new speedrun mode, clocking in an overall total of 14 hours played.

I played Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition with the DualSense Edge controller on an LG CX OLED TV, at 4K resolution. I also paired the experience with the JBL Quantum 910P gaming headset in order to enjoy the game’s wonderful soundtrack. 

First reviewed June 2024.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD review: solid, but not spooktacular
4:00 pm | June 25, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 27, 2024 

If you’ve played Luigi’s Mansion 2 on Nintendo 3DS, then you already know exactly what to expect from Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD. This is a fairly basic port of the ghost-hunting adventure with a few minor changes to accommodate the move to a new system with a single display, such as the repositioning of the in-game map and health meter from the second screen to a newly designed overlay. The visuals have also received a bit of a boost too, with higher-resolution textures and noticeably better anti-aliasing throughout.

Even so, the age and portable nature of the original title is very apparent. The lighting is rather drab, objects are built from simplistic shapes, and character models lack any real detail. This is partially by design, as Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD sticks to a highly exaggerated cartoon-like art direction, but still means that it absolutely pales in comparison to the look of the seriously stunning Luigi’s Mansion 3 or even the more atmospheric style of the first entry back on the GameCube. 

It’s also evident in the level-based structure, which splits exploration of its five haunted mansions into bite-size stages that last roughly 15 to 20 minutes each. It’s easy to feel a little frustrated in the moments that you’re ripped out of the action and forced back to a level select screen before being allowed to continue, but this system isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It suits the pick-up-and-play nature of the Nintendo Switch down to a tee and makes this installment a decent option if you’re just after something to keep you entertained on public transport or during moments of downtime on a vacation.

Mario and Boo-igi

Luigi looking at a DS-like device in Luigi's Mansion 2 HD.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While I ultimately don’t think this will wholly justify the $59.99 / £49.99 asking price for many returning players, Luigi's Mansion 2 HD does still have plenty to offer to those who haven’t experienced it before. Like other entries in the spinoff series, it follows Luigi as he combats rogue ghosts at the behest of Professor E. Gadd - an eccentric scientist and creator of various wacky gadgets. One of his inventions is the Poltergust 5000, a modified vacuum cleaner and your main weapon in the fight against the paranormal. Fitted with a bright flashlight, the bulk of the game is spent entering rooms and tapping a button to stun ghosts before sucking them into oblivion in order to deplete their health and trapping them in your rucksack with a satisfying slurp.

It sounds quite basic on paper, but it’s a highly satisfying formula that is cleverly expanded as you progress. New ghost types, like strong brutes or flabby creatures that spew toxic bile, are introduced at a good pace, helping to keep things fresh. The Poltergust can also be used to collect coins hidden in various nooks and crannies. Poring over each environment to uncover removable rugs or other secret spots is well rewarded too, as increasing your total number of accumulated coins grants access to useful equipment upgrades.

Luigi searches for collectibles in Luigi's Mansion 2 HD

(Image credit: Nintendo)

You also get your hands on the dark light quite early on, an inverted flashlight that reveals hidden objects. All of these tools are leveraged to create some quite memorable environmental puzzles throughout your adventure. Some favorites include using the Poltergust to blow fans in order to open up hidden areas and a brilliant sequence involving a surprisingly creepy haunted doll. A number of enemy encounters also stand out, like an amusing moment where you walk in on an unsuspecting ghost in the shower to much mutual surprise.

Best bit

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD makes good use of many Nintendo Switch hardware features. The act of sucking up a ghost is accompanied by satisfying vibration from the HD Rumble while several sections include optional gyro controls. 

While your primary goal is to acquire key items or reach a new location, some stages focus on more interesting objective types. This includes tracking down Toad helpers who have become trapped inside supernatural paintings and leading them to escape points or chasing after the Polterpup, a fast-moving ghostly dog that can jump through walls. Each world also features a boss encounter with an enemy that has their own slew of engaging mechanics, though one, in particular, stands out as easily the lowest point in the game. 

You’re put behind the wheel of a makeshift snow sled armed with a cannon and have to shoot bombs at weak points on a possessed ice monster from a first-person perspective. It’s a good idea on paper, but the execution is simply awful. The bombs are incredibly frustrating to aim and there is an unnecessarily long cool-down period between shots. This wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the strict time limit, which sees the boss frequently regenerate health at the most annoying possible moments and even leads to a complete game over once an arbitrary meter fills up.

There are no checkpoints within any of the levels either, presumably due to their usual short length, meaning that you have to start this entire fight again from scratch every single time. All in all, it took about five agonizing attempts to pull the fight off and my success felt more like the result of pure luck rather than anything else. This fight was also widely regarded as an abysmal nightmare by fans of the original release, so it’s difficult to imagine why no changes were made to its mechanics this time around. The simple removal of the time limit, or even just the option to skip the sequence entirely after a few fails, would be a dramatic improvement.

Creepy co-op

A multiplayer session in Luigi's Mansion 2 HD.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The ScareScraper multiplayer also makes a return largely unchanged, again offering support for up to four players both locally and online. It takes place in a randomly generated skyscraper and features four unique modes to try: Hunter, Rush, Polterpup, and Surprise. Hunter challenges you to explore a set number of floors while working together to collect every ghost, while Rush sees you hurrying to find an exit against a very strict time limit. You can extend this time limit by a few seconds by tracking down the collectible timepieces hidden on each floor, which makes for quite an exhilarating challenge.

Polterpup mode brings back the ghostly canines from the main game and has you tracking them down on each floor with your dark light to progress. As the name would suggest, Surprise is then a mixture of all three, alternating between objective types with each subsequent floor. Although the high-pressure nature of Rush meant that it was comfortably the most compelling, I enjoyed my time with each of the modes and would definitely recommend spending an hour or two in each if you manage to scrape together some friends or find a populated online lobby. 

ScareScraper also includes a small handful of unique ghost variants to collect which, while nothing beyond basic cosmetic changes, does give dedicated completionists a compelling reason to keep coming back for more.

 Accessibility

Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD includes very few accessibility features. It offers the ability to disable the gyroscope controls or invert the Y and X axis. You can also increase or decrease motion sensor and thumbstick sensitivity. As the game features little spoken dialogue, subtitles are used throughout, but there are no dedicated settings to edit text presentation.

 Should I play Luigi's Mansion 2 HD?

Luigi stands near a fire blowing the Poltergust in Luigi's Mansion 2 HD.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Play it if…

 Don’t play it if…

 How we reviewed Luigi's Mansion 2 HD

I played Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD for over 13 hours on a Nintendo Switch OLED. During that time I completed the main campaign and then revisited a number of stages to search for additional collectibles. I also spent an hour in the multiplayer as part of a four-player session organized by Nintendo in which I experienced the Hunter, Rush, and Polterpup modes. I played in both handheld and docked mode, assessing the performance of each. While in docked mode, I used a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

GameSir Kaleid review: one of the best PC controllers, now available for Xbox
6:42 pm | June 24, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

One-minute review

The GameSir Kaleid fixes one of the few problems I had with its predecessor, the GameSir T4 Kaleid (for the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to it as the ‘T4’ from now on): it lacked compatibility with Xbox consoles, despite having the console’s ‘ABXY’ face button layout.

Now, GameSir has released a version of one of the best PC controllers that's compatible with Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and PC. However, the Kaleid does lose the Nintendo Switch compatibility enjoyed by the T4, so it isn’t the definitive option if you have to choose between the two based on your console of choice.

The GameSir Kaleid is identical to the T4 in almost every way. If you’re familiar with the T4 and its excellent micro switch buttons and Hall effect thumbsticks, you’re getting those same features here. The only notable differences are the darker translucent shell, a mildly improved D-pad, and a slightly higher price tag.

GameSir Kaleid

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

  •  $49.99 / £59.99 
  •  Pricier than the T4 Kaleid ($41.99 / £41.99) 
  •  US and UK availability (not currently available in Australia) 

The GameSir Kaleid launched on May 30, 2024, and can be bought either from GameSir’s website or the brand’s Amazon store page. It’s priced at $49.99 / £59.99, which is a good bit more than the T4 in the US ($41.99), and significantly more than in in the UK (£41.99). Overall, it’s similarly priced in comparison to the Xbox Wireless Controller ($59.99 / £54.99), though the GameSir wins out here in terms of overall features and customizability.

It’s worth noting that if this will be your first time purchasing a GameSir product, you can pick up the Kaleid from the brand’s official website with an 8% discount as a new customer. This brings the price of the Kaleid down to $46.99 / £56: a small saving, but noteworthy all the same.

Specs

GameSir Kaleid

(Image credit: Future)

Design and features

The new GameSir Kaleid is practically identical to the T4 in terms of features. That includes Hall-effect thumbsticks to practically eliminate the risk of drift, plus welcome ancillary features like remappable rear buttons, and a central multi-function button useful for adjusting trigger stop distance, the brightness of the controller’s RGB effects, overall RGB patterns, thumbstick dead zones and button layout profile creation.

Yes, that delightful RGB lighting remains in the new Kaleid. And despite the darker translucent shell, the lighting still manages to shine brightly. In fact, I think the subtler translucency helps the RGB effect stand out much more effectively here; it looks great encased in that darker shell.

Otherwise, this is, by and large, the same controller as the T4, albeit with Xbox console compatibility in place of Nintendo Switch. This nicely positions it as a top contender for one of the best Xbox controllers in its price range. 

The new Kaleid retains that same Xbox Wireless Controller-adjacent build and button layout, and the central GameSir-branded Home button is replaced with the official Xbox logo. And yes, the Kaleid features the ‘Designed for Xbox’ seal of approval, meaning it’ll work with Xbox consoles out of the box with no fuss. 

GameSir Kaleid

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

The T4 is one of my favorite PC controllers and my go-to controller for fighting games in particular, owing to its snappy micro switch buttons and drift-resistant Hall effect thumbsticks. Both of those are found here and feel just as excellent to play with.

One thing of note is that the new Kaleid’s D-pad is a step up from the T4's. Like the face buttons, it’s now micro switch-based, feeling much more tactile and responsive as a result. All other modules, meanwhile, including the shoulder buttons, triggers, sticks, and central Home and sharing buttons, feel practically identical. It also shares the T4’s lack of wireless functionality, unfortunately, so you’ll be relying on a wired USB-C connection (a cable is included in the box). This may be a dealbreaker if you typically prefer wireless play.

It’s also worth noting that you can further customize the Kaleid with the GameSir Nexus app, available on PC and now Xbox consoles as well. The dedicated controller software is genuinely excellent, allowing you to adjust thumbstick dead zones, RGB lighting patterns and brightness settings, trigger sensitivity, and map the functions of the extra rear buttons. Much of this can also be done via the controller’s multifunction button, by holding it down and referring to the button inputs found in the included manual. However, I preferred having a visual guide for my changes via the app, making it much easier to fine-tune my controller’s setup.

gamesir kaleid

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the GameSir Kaleid?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider...

If the GameSir Kaleid isn’t quite what you’re looking for, consider the following two options, which we believe are strong alternative picks.

GameSir Kaleid

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the GameSir Kaleid

  •  Tested nearly every day for a week 
  •  Tested with Xbox and PC games 
  •  Compared with other recommended and affordable Xbox controllers 

I tested the GameSir Kaleid over a week, starting on Xbox Series X with titles including Halo Infinite, Elden Ring, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 5. I downloaded the GameSir Nexus app on the console and created numerous custom profiles based on a variety of game genres for an enhanced experience with each. I also tested the controller in conjunction with similarly excellent Xbox gamepads, such as the Xbox Wireless Controller and the Victrix Gambit.

Moving over to PC, I tested the GameSir Kaleid with a range of Steam titles, including Elden Ring once again, Final Fantasy 14 Online, and Tekken 8. My experience here was largely similar to that of the T4, given that they are, by and large, identical. As such, less testing was required here as it provided a similarly high-quality experience overall.

First reviewed June 2024

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble Review: rolling, tumbling, and flying high
5:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: June 25, 2024 

The Super Monkey Ball series has had its share of ups and downs since rolling onto the scene 20 years ago. For many fans, the physics-based platformer series from Sega has never quite reached the heights it achieved with its GameCube originals and various sequels during this early golden-age era, succumbing to gimmicks and lackluster level design in later installments. 

There’s a simple appeal to rolling a monkey in a ball around some levels like a hamster, but it’s hard to do well. After years in the wilderness, Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble, developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, is exactly what the franchise needed.

Ignoring an HD remaster of Banana Blitz in 2019, it was in 2021 that the franchise finally came back on the scene with a greatest-hits selection of levels in its first new console entry to the series in almost a decade. Yet even this lacked a sense of novelty by existing more as a mishmash of levels from the series’ earliest titles. Banana Rumble is a grand return to form, a Nintendo Switch exclusive promising 200 all-new levels, customization, online competitive and co-operative modes, and more, to bring us what is perhaps the best Super Monkey Ball game since the original. 

Monkeying around

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

(Image credit: Sega)

For those unaware, the concept of Super Monkey Ball is simple: you’re a monkey in a ball, and your goal is to roll into the goal at the end of each stage within the time limit. The twist? Rather than controlling the monkey, you tilt the stage itself. In this entry a minor story has been concocted about our familiar simians living on Juicy Island when a new monkey named Palette joins this cast of familiar faces, recruiting them to help her find her papa. However, this is more a framing excuse to travel to different themed locations to provide a varied backdrop for the levels.

Especially for a series that has struggled to move beyond its nostalgic peak, it can be difficult for a new entry to step beyond that legacy. Banana Rumble throws enough variety while being both welcoming to newcomers and challenging to even the most ardent of fans and speedrunners that I was bowled away. Retaining the simplicity of its core concept, the only additional mechanic layered upon those initial foundations is a Spin Dash. Hold the B button to charge this in order to boost at high speeds in one direction, with a brief cooldown before the mechanic can be used again.

Many of the 100 levels across 10 varied worlds - ranging everywhere from a tropical jungle to a futuristic space concert - that exist in the base adventure mode will feel relatively mundane for experienced players. However, this will change upon reaching the final world, and 100 additional extra stage (EX) challenge levels revisiting these themed worlds with harder variations will cause even veterans to break a sweat. 

In this configuration not only is the Spin Dash a natural complement to the fundamentals that remain satisfying all these years later, but it provides an additional layer of optional challenge on even the simplest of levels for those willing to take up the mantle.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

(Image credit: Sega)

In many cases, the move opens the door to numerous solutions of varying difficulties at almost every stage. You could take the intended path, or you could use a boost to skip sections and reach the goal faster. Such considerations are even baked into the game design, with unique challenges for every level to collect a certain number of bananas, a special Golden Banana, or complete a level in the fastest times. Many of these require risky uses of the boost in order to reach awkwardly-placed bananas or achieve strict goal times only possible by sending a Hail Mary towards the goal.

If you are struggling, however, the game is here to support you. A neat helper function will show a ghost and recommended route to complete the level if you’re stuck. You won’t score points for the level, but you can always go back with your new skills and do it again, ensuring newcomers aren’t left behind.

With only a few duds in level design and encouragement for diehards and speedrunners to tear the game apart, there’s never a dull moment, at times reaching heights rarely seen for the franchise since it first burst onto the scene. It’s also possible to compete on every level and world in co-op either locally or online, although once you enable collisions between players and notice the looming leaderboard scoring your bananas and completion times, dark thoughts of throwing your friend into the abyss for victory will almost inevitably cross your mind.

Indeed, between the ability to spin around with friends and the challenge on offer from a mind-boggling amount of levels with rarely a miss in sight, the Adventure is a near-perfect distillation of the franchise’s core appeal. That being said, those with a heart for the franchise’s beloved minigames may be somewhat disappointed. There's no Monkey Tennis here.

Monkey Balls of Fury

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

(Image credit: Sega)

One of the key appeals of this new game in the series is the 16-player online multiplayer modes, with five Battle modes for players to compete in against a range of real and CPU opponents. You can participate in a simple race to the goal, collect the most bananas in Banana Hunt, take part in Mario Kart-style free-for-all battles avoiding the bomb in Ba-Boom, collect the most goals in teams in Goal Rush, or destroy robots in Robot Smash.

While there isn’t really a bad mode in any of these, and it runs with surprising stability even with the maximum number of players when online (it does drop from a buttery-smooth 60fps in handheld or docked mode to 30fps, but never drops a frame from this point), there’s a disappointing lack of variety among them. Even ignoring the lack of stages in each mode ranging from a maximum of five in Race to a disappointing two in most others, what made franchise favorites like Monkey Target or Billiards appealing is how they retained the titular monkeys while switching up the gameplay for something that felt far removed from the single-player adventure.

Even with a competitive edge and more than a few laughs when playing with other people, these multiplayer modes soon grow stale because they don’t offer enough of a change from the rest of the game. Whereas those aforementioned modes would be something I could return to time and time again, I can imagine after a few sessions with these modes they’ll stand mostly ignored after a few weeks.

It’s a testament to the quality of this new installment in the Monkey Ball series that a lack of varied multiplayer stands as my only real disappointment with my time playing Banana Rumble. With a strong and beefy adventure mode whose Time Trial Mode competing on global leaderboards for best times will leave you with hours of grinding in order to be the best, the game soars in a way the franchise has rarely been able to in recent years.

After many years, Monkey Ball is truly back, and hopefully this time it’s for good. If you’re a fan of reaction-testing puzzle platforming or are just after a good time on Nintendo Switch, it’s hard to fault this grand return. 

Accessibility

Accessibility features are minimal, though the game does offer thorough options to adjust cutscene subtitles, whether you use accelerometer, camera controls, player movement, and more. That being said, with such busy level design and so much going on at once, colorblind modes to make it easier to follow for those who need it would certainly be a welcome inclusion. 

Should you play Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble?

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

(Image credit: Sega)

Play it if...

Don't play it if...

How we reviewed Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble

We put in roughly 10 hours completing the main story and many of the EX levels, while also duking it out in a few online rounds with another player and a whopping 14 AI enemies. All battle modes were tested. The game was played primarily in handheld and tabletop configuration on a Nintendo Switch OLED model, with game audio either playing from the built-in speakers or through AirPods Pro via Bluetooth. 

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 review: all about value
6:00 pm | June 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Turtle Beach Stealth 600: one-minute review

It’s easy to make a premium headset - just pile on the features and get everything hand-made by artisans. Hitting the sub-$100 price point in 2024 as the Turtle Beach Gen 3 Stealth 600 does is much tougher. But if you’re keen to stick to that budget for your next headset, Turtle Beach really has your back here.

It’s included an 80-hour battery life and some very welcome physical controls for chat mix, volume, EQ presets, and a quick swap button between 2.4GHz wireless and Bluetooth 5.2 connections, along with plenty more tweaking via the Swarm mobile or desktop app. 

The feel and comfort do give away that concessions have had to be made in order to hit this pricing, and you get that same sense from the overall sound, which falls short of great and lands merely at good. But that’s to be expected.

Certain features like the smart mic noise cancellation and mic EQ presets feel like they’re visiting from a higher-priced model, and the easy multi-device compatibility across PC and consoles is a real asset. If you can plug the full-size USB dongle into it, the Stealth 600 can work with it. You might not get all the features on every device, but for the price, this is a real workhorse of a wireless gaming headset.

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 on a wooden surface next to a laptop

(Image credit: Turtle Beach)

Turtle Beach Stealth 600: Price and availability

  • List price: $99.99 / £99.99 / AU$179
  • Wireless headsets don’t get much cheaper
  • Stacks up well against Corsair and SteelSeries at this price

It’s possible to find a wireless headset for less than the Stealth 600’s MSRP - but not by much. The Corsair HS55 Wireless Core is available for $10 / £10 less, while the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headset is comparable at a slightly higher $130 / £130. 

As always, UK gamers are slightly fleeced by conversion rates here but the convention of parity between US and UK pricings didn’t begin with Turtle Beach.

Turtle Beach Stealth 600: Specs

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 on a wooden surface next to a laptop

(Image credit: Turtle Beach)

Turtle Beach Stealth 600: Design and features

  • Smart but exciting looks
  • A bit tight
  • Plenty of controls

Let’s be clear off the bat: if you look for tells that this isn’t a premium headset, you’ll find them. Construction materials are exclusively plastic and pleather, and the feel of the foam padding around the earcups and inside the headband isn’t quite as spongy and luxurious as you find about $50 further up the market.

How it stacks up against similarly priced models from its rivals is more revealing, though. Although it’s similar in appearance to Razer’s Blackshark V2 Pro for Console, Razer edges it for feel and aesthetics to our eye. The same is true of the Steelseries Arctis Nova 5, which also offer greater comfort. The closest comparison can be drawn between these and the Corsair HS55 Wireless Core since they’re both chunky and robust designs with a blackout color option, but in our subjective view, the HS55’s variation of materials and finishes edges it. 

It’s not the most attractive wireless headset, then, but it feels built to last. It can withstand a good deal of pulling and twisting force without revealing any obvious weak points and, returns to its shape. There’s also very little noise when moving the earcups around, with no discernible creaking. 

There’s an unusually snug fit to this headset. The clamping force is definitely on the tight side, and the earcup mounting design to the headband means that there’s more of that force being exerted on the lower half, below your ear, than on the upper half. We found that we started to notice that pressure after a couple of hours of play.

We also became aware of the headband’s pressure on our head at around the same time each play session. There’s not quite enough padding here, and although this certainly isn’t a heavy headset at a shade over 10.5oz / 300g, you do become aware of the contact points quite quickly.  

Happily, though, it’s feature-rich for the pricing. The rear of the left earcup has power, mute, EQ preset select, connection switch, and pairing buttons, along with two notched wheels for volume and - the holy grail - chat mix. These are remappable too, via Turtle Beach’s Swarm app giving another string to its bow as a PC gaming headset.

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 on a wooden surface next to a laptop

(Image credit: Turtle Beach)

Turtle Beach Stealth 600: Performance

  • Nice rounded mic audio
  • AI noise cancellation works well
  • EQ tuning favors bass and mids

Does this value-end Turtle Beach headset feature Stealth-wealth when it comes to audio quality and gaming performance? Well, it gets the job done admirably for the price. 

The tuning of its 50mm drivers is definitely geared towards accentuating the low mids and lows, creating a powerful bass response that sounds visceral and immediate in shooters and captures the throaty roar of a car’s engine nicely. 

However, that authoritative response at the lower end of the frequency response spectrum means a compromise higher up. Pricier headsets capture a bit more sparkle from sounds like breaking glass or voices. Compared with both the Arctis Nova 5s and the Blackshark V2, we noticed a slight loss of detail in the mix when listening to music which we couldn’t relocate by cycling the 10-band EQ presets. Turtle Beach’s ‘superhuman hearing’ preset is part of that lineup, intended to amplify important sound cues in shooters and drown out the rest. Perhaps an elite-level player might find this useful, but in our usage it sounded too tinny to put up with for longer than a couple of rounds.

Let’s not lose sight of the intended purpose, though - it’s a multiplatform headset for gaming, and it does that job well, producing clear and at times bombastic sound whether connected via 2.4GHz wireless or Bluetooth 5.2 on either our PC, iPhone, or being deployed as a PS5 headset. There’s a trend towards either-or wireless connections rather than simultaneous wireless and Bluetooth at the moment and the Stealth 600 Gen 3s follow it - but it’s handy to have the connection switch ready at the press of a button. 

The Swarm app on PC or mobile gives you a lot of tweaking options, from the amount of noise cancellation to custom EQ presets. We were particularly impressed by the AI-assisted noise cancellation, and by the quality of the mic audio itself.

Finally, plaudits for the 80-hour battery life. That’s a huge number for this price, and it held true during our testing period. 

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Turtle Beach)

Should I buy the Turtle Beach Stealth 600?

Buy it if...

Don't buy if...

Also consider...

If the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 is flying under your radar, alert yourself to these other candidates.

How we tested the Turtle Beach Stealth 600

  • Over a week of daily use during testing
  • Used with competitive games, retro titles, and Discord chat
  • Battery life and recharge time measured

We used the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 3 as our daily drivers for a full week during testing, keeping tabs on battery life and the USB-C charge time while indulging in PUBG sessions, keeping in comms via Discord, and checking back in with old favorites Unreal Tournament ‘99 and Quake 3 Arena

Read more about how we test

First reviewed June 2024.

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds review: perfect for PS5, peerless for PlayStation Portal
1:09 pm | June 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds: Two-minute review

The PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds are excellent gaming earbuds that are easy to recommend. If you’re on PlayStation 5, PlayStation Portal, or PC you won’t find better-sounding earbuds. 

The sound quality is simply superb. I’ve never heard such clear, detailed, rich, and high-quality audio from a pair of earbuds in all my years of testing them. The first-class audio is supported by a robust mic that came in clear through party chat; a solid design and build; splendid connectivity between the buds, PS5, and PlayStation Portal handheld; and a sturdy charging case that offers fast charging. The result is a robust portable package. 

It’s not all good news, though. The lack of active noise-cancelling, the just-okay battery life, and the fact that you’ll likely need some third-party foam tips to get the best comfort and sound out of the Pulse Explore will irk some. We wish they were a little cheaper too. 

If you can look beyond those shortcomings, you’ll get some of the best gaming earbuds for PS5 and PlayStation Portal on the market and some of the best audio we’ve ever heard from gaming earbuds in general.

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds on a wooden surface with a white brick background

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds: Price and availability

  • List price of $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$249
  • Premium pricing…
  • …but discounts and price drops are becoming common

The PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds launched in December 2023, a few weeks after the PlayStation Portal remote-play device came out. There were some wobbly stock levels at launch, but now the buds are widely available at all major retailers and from Sony itself.

They're expensive for gaming earbuds, sitting right at the top of the premium band of pricing. However, since their launch, we’ve seen them go for under the list price, particularly in the UK, so it's worth keeping an eye out for price cuts and sales events.

That lofty list price pitches them against some other big-hitters of the gaming earbud market, namely Sony’s own Inzone Buds. Coming in at an almost identical price ($198 / £179 / AU$249), the Inzone Buds have a few key differences despite also offering Sony’s audio prowess.

They’re also more expensive than the JBL Quantum TWS, and way pricier than some of our favorite wired buds like the SteelSeries Tusq

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds: Specs

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds on a wooden surface with a white brick background

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds: Design and features

  • Distinct form factor, comfy fit
  • PS5-inspired design language
  • Battery life is middling

The design of the Pulse Explore earbuds is very in keeping with the PlayStation 5 console and suite of accessories. There are sweeping (as much as there can be on small buds) curves of white plastic across the earbuds and charging case, which makes them look at home next to the console and the PlayStation Portal. The inner parts of the buds and the tips are black, punctuated by metallic charging points.

The charging case also has that aesthetic and shares the buds’ top-notch build quality. It’s got a neat LED light on the front, and while it’s chunky to the point of not being quite pocket-friendly, I've been able to fit it inside two different PlayStation Portal cases. One more so than another, admittedly, but keeping the buds and Portal together in one carry case is eminently doable.

Onboard the Pulse Explore buds, there are just two buttons: one volume rocker button, and one PlayStation Link button. The former is a simple, single-function affair with one exception: you can’t use it to change volume when connected via Bluetooth. This is a slight annoyance and seems like something that’s only a meager software update away – and given there have been a few of those already, I’m a little baffled as to why this hasn’t been patched in. The latter button has several functions depending on the press, ranging from connecting to the last device, connecting to Bluetooth, wiping connections, and resetting your charging case. The charging case itself has one button, which can be held down for varying amounts of seconds to get functions such as Bluetooth pairing mode, and deactivating or activating the most recent PlayStation Link connection.

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds on a wooden surface with a white brick background

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

The Pulse Explore buds connect to your PS5 and Portal via PlayStation Link - Sony’s new proprietary audio connection system. This promises swift, crisp, and robust connectivity that will mean lossless audio with super-low latency. It hasn’t ever let me down in my testing. It also means that the buds can connect directly to the PlayStation Portal and are one of only two devices (at time of writing) that offer that - the other being the PlayStation Pulse Elite headset.

The quoted five hours of battery life - though I got about six out of them in my testing - is a bit middling, even if supported by some extra charge in the case (10 hours). This might be enough for most gaming sessions and is supported by a quick charge function which will get you 1.5 hours in 10 minutes, but we’d hoped for more from earbuds that cost this much.

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds on a wooden surface with a white brick background

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds: Performance

  • Audio quality from planar magnetic drivers is sublime
  • PS5 and PlayStation Portal performance is seamless and excellent
  • Require extra foam tips to get the best comfort and audio

Putting it simply, the audio quality on offer is superb. Much was made of the Pulse Explore offering planar magnetic drivers in gaming earbuds for the very first time, and boy can you hear and appreciate that. In every game, and across media, the earbuds sound terrific. From light environmental sounds of rustling leaves and water dripping on the Beira D in Still Wakes the Deep or characters brushing through grass in A Plague Tale: Requiem to chaotic firefights in Helldivers 2 and Diablo 4 the buds excel at providing beautifully detailed audio. Alongside the richness, the amount of bass is particularly impressive, given the buds’ small stature. In short, the sound quality will surprise, thrill, and delight whatever you play or listen to, and they really hold their own as a PS5 headset option.

If you need to alter the sound a little, you can. There are options on the PS5 to mess with the EQ, so there’s some versatility and customization on hand if you need to optimize the soundscape for particular games or genres.

You may have to do a little work to get the very best from the buds, at least, that’s what I’ve found after nearly two months of testing. Don’t get me wrong, out-of-the-box audio is exquisite, but I have found that experimenting with comfier foam earbud tips boosted the earbuds’ audio volume levels and quality and made them far more comfy, too. I bought a set for less than $10 / £10 Amazon that did the job.

Connecting the buds to the PS5 and PlayStation Portal is simple and effective. PlayStation Link makes the process seamless with the included dongle and it hasn’t hiccuped once in my weeks of testing the buds. Now that the PlayStation Portal has had an update to boost its usage capability when away from home, the Pulse Explore earbuds are slightly more attractive given that PlayStation Link-powered direct connection.

PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds on a wooden surface with a white brick background

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

Using the buttons takes some getting used to. The volume button is slightly more accessible than the PS Link button, but both need relatively firm pushes to engage. This can feel like you’re jeopardizing their fit every time you press them, given the force needed.

As mentioned briefly above, the battery life is very middling for buds. I’d call it ‘just about good enough’ on a practical level. The quoted battery life of five hours is about right, though I have got more than that – definitely at least six hours – out of them on more than one occasion. The fast charge function is a lifesaver, but you’d be forgiven for hoping for more from $200 / £200 gaming earbuds.

The microphone has never let me down when using it for multiplayer gaming on PS5 – in Helldivers 2, Diablo 4, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, specifically – but I will say it’s not anything spectacular. It’s robust and clear enough for comms in such online games, and when using the earbuds on PC for work meetings and voice calls, but, naturally, it won’t hold a candle to a headset boom mic.

Overall, I’d prefer the earbuds to be a bit cheaper, and the shallow battery life in particular holds these buds back a bit, but I still wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for top gaming earbuds for PS5 - especially so if the PlayStation Portal needs to be taken into consideration too. Planar magnetic drivers in gaming earbuds are now here, and I’m all for it. 

Should I buy the PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider...

If you want to keep your options open for gaming earbuds then the below alternatives should be food for thought. It’s worth mentioning that if you’re looking for a decent alternative for the PlayStation Portal device, the PlayStation Pulse Elite headset is the most viable candidate given it’s the only other audio device that can connect to the Portal directly. That said, here are two other sets of earbuds for consideration.

How I tested the PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds

  • Tested for weeks with PS5 and PlayStation Portal
  • Compared against other gaming earbuds and PS5 headsets
  • Tested with multiple devices and third-party tips

I used the Explore earbuds with my PS5 and PlayStation Portal for nearly two months; incorporating them into my daily and weekly gaming schedule and habits. I used them to play single-player games such as Still Wakes the Deep, GTA 5, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Rise of the Ronin, and to revisit A Plague Tale: Requiem to get the platinum trophy. I also tested all these on the PlayStation Portal, with the Pulse Explore buds connected to the PS5, as well as directly to the handheld. Elsewhere, I played Helldivers 2 and Diablo 4 online with friends to test the mic, while also using the buds on my PC for meetings and voice calls.  

I was able to compare them with the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless buds (2nd gen), which I use every day I commute to see how they stack up against some established competition, particularly in terms of music and listening to podcasts or radio. As an extension of this comparison testing, I also compared the buds with other headsets in my collection, including the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, Sony Inzone H9, and SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed April to June 2024.

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