The SteelSeries Arctis 3 has long been one of the few gaming headsets that you can actually wear out in public, thanks to its subtle, stylish design. It only makes sense, then, that it’s now been outfitted with Bluetooth capabilities, making SteelSeries’ headset an even more attractive option for enjoying some tunes away from home once you’re done gaming. The $129 Arctis 3 Bluetooth makes one of the best gaming headsets around even better, though you will pay a high price for the extra privilege.
Same Great Design
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth is nearly identical to the regular Arctis 3 — and that’s a great thing. You get the same curvy, all-black design that looks more like a slick pair of headphones than an aggressive, LED-laden gaming peripheral.
Most of the headset’s connections and controls are on the left ear cup, where you’ll find a volume slider and mute switch as well as ports for micro USB, analog audio and SteelSeries’ proprietary detachable audio jacks. The right cup houses the Bluetooth button for syncing devices and pausing/playing tracks.
Like the standard Arctis 3, the new Bluetooth model includes a removable audio cable with two swappable extensions: a single 3.5mm jack for console controllers and mobile devices like the Nintendo Switch, as well as dual 3.5mm jacks for connecting to your PC’s headphone and microphone ports. This makes SteelSeries’ headset wonderfully versatile, especially when you factor in Bluetooth.
This latest Arctis once again sports SteelSeries’ signature ski goggle headband, which conforms automatically to your head and eliminates the need to do any tinkering to get a good fit. This, along with the headset’s roughly 10-ounce frame and soft fabric ear cups, made the Arctis 3 a joy to wear, whether I was walking around Manhattan or kicking back on my couch.
Better with Bluetooth
Thanks to its added Bluetooth functionality, the Arctis 3 has gone from a great gaming headset to a major part of my day-to-day routine.
The ability to use SteelSeries’ headset as a wireless pair of headphones has simply made me want to take them out more, whether I’m riding the subway to work or blocking out the world at my desk. I was able to pause and skip tracks with a few quick taps of the headset’s Bluetooth button, which meant that I never had to pull my phone out.
Better yet, you can enjoy Bluetooth audio from your phone and wired game audio from your console at the same time, which I utilized to catch up on podcasts while playing Star Wars Battlefront II.
This is especially a game changer for the Nintendo Switch, which currently requires you to use a separate mobile app to chat with your online friends. Thanks to the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, you can talk to your online pals via Skype, Discord or Nintendo’s own shoddy app on your phone while still enjoying wired game audio for titles like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Audio and Mic Performance
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth retains the same great audio quality of the original model, offering a good mix of sharp highs and solid bass. While you won’t get to play wirelessly on your PS4, Xbox One or Switch (the Bluetooth is for mobile and PC only), you’ll still enjoy impressive sound regardless of the platform.
The headset sufficiently immersed me in the epic wars of Battlefront II, allowing me to hear where every piercing laser blast was coming from while adding a satisfying sense of impact to every explosion. It was just as impressive for the decidedly less-intense action of Super Mario Odyssey, in which I was able to pick out the tiniest taps of Mario’s shoes while enjoying its delightfully sunny soundtrack with full clarity.
I spent quite a bit of time listening to music on the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, and while it won’t outperform an expensive set of wireless cans, it’s still a great way to enjoy tunes on the go. When playing bouncy rock jams from bands like Thrice and Speak the Truth, I heard sharp guitars, clear vocals and snappy drums. I could have used a bit more bass, though.
The Arctis 3’s microphone is crisp, providing plenty of clarity for your online teammates to hear you. It’ll do the trick for multiplayer gaming, though its somewhat low volume makes it less than ideal for serious streaming or podcasting.
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth charges over micro USB and is rated for 28 hours of active listening time, which lines up with my testing. Even after using the headset on and off during my subway rides for weeks, I’ve yet to fully drain the battery.
The SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a better version of an already excellent headset. But is it $50 better than the standard Arctis 3? That’s harder to say.
The new model is more expensive than the $99 Arctis 5, which sports RGB lighting and wired USB support for PCs. And it’s only $20 cheaper than the Arctis 7, which is our favorite overall gaming headset, thanks to its excellent wireless performance across all platforms. The $79 Arctis 3 remains an excellent value, so long as you’re fine with a standard 3.5mm analog connection.
If gaming is your only concern, you’re better off saving your money by getting the standard Arctis 3, or splurging for the Arctis 7. But if you want a uniquely versatile set of cans that can be your gaming headset at home and your Bluetooth headphones everywhere else, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth fills that niche very well.