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Creative is known amongst the gaming community for their top quality gaming headsets.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at their Sound Blaster ‘Blaze’ gaming headset.  Now, this is a budget gaming headset, available for around £33 at the time of writing this review (on Amazon UK) – will it be worth the buy?

 

 

First up, as always, the packaging, and, what’s in the box.  The box is nicely designed, sporting both, the Creative & Sound Blaster logo’s.  The red and black design works really well, and there is also a transparent plastic window that gives a nice preview of the headset.  On the front and back of the box, is a great deal of information about the Blaze, and is also available in different languages.  When you slide the headset out, it sits nicely in a red plastic housing, secured with a couple of cable ties.

 

 

 

Upon removing the headset from the box and plastic insert, the first thing that I noticed was how light this headset is!  The colour theme works really well – the red SB logo sits nicely on the matt black earcups.  The material on the earcups is a nice velvet material, which is very soft; this material is also found on the underside of the headband, which makes the comfort levels soar.  The left earcup sports a 3.5mm port to plug in the detachable microphone, as well as the cable that runs from the headset to the source you wish to plug it into.  Also found on this cable are the in-line controls.  This allows you to control the volume levels, as well as muting and unmuting the microphone.  At the end of the cable, there are two 3.5mm connectors – green for sound and pink for the microphone.  I had a 3.5mm splitter cable so hooked it up, and I can now use the headset with my Xbox One & PS4 controllers, as well as connecting directly to the PC.  Lastly, the headband.  As mentioned above, the material and padding on the headband is extremely comfortable. On the outer side of the headband is the Creative logo in a silver/grey colour, which is a nice touch.

 

 

The Blaze headset contains precision tuned 40mm drivers, which provide crisp and clear sound.  In games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, the game sounds are easily distinguishable, especially when it comes to listening out for enemies approaching, weapons reloading, and hearing which direction enemy fire is coming from.  In games such as Forza Horizon 3, the engine sounds really make you feel as if you are actually sitting in the car, the crowds cheering is as you would expect it to sound, almost like they truly cheering you on.  The microphone quality is also spot on.  People who were in party chat while I was using this headset commented on how clear my voice was, and it was coming through at a comfortable volume.

When it comes to other audio sources, such as movies and music, the Blaze does not disappoint.  I tried watching one of the many Transformers movies to see how well the headset handled the bass and volume levels, and I am extremely happy to say that, again, the headset provides quality audio.  The bass, while not as bassy as high-end headsets, there was enough in the bass levels to make the explosions sound as they should, which added to my viewing pleasure.  Listening to music was just the same – enough bass to enjoy the music, yet not too much to make the music sound distorted, even at max volume.

 

 

 

I feel that the Blaze headset is definitely worth the lower end price tag.  It has style, feels very nicely made, and the comfort level is outstanding.  I would happily recommend this headset to anyone who is on the lookout for a decent gaming headset.  It really has exceeded my expectations.

When it comes to choosing a new headset for your gaming needs, there is definitely a lot of choice about.  As well as having a large selection of headsets, there are also many different price ranges to choose from.  Do you buy something cheap and cheerful, something in the middle, or splash out on top of the range gadgets with 5.1 this and 7.1 that? Well, I’m hoping that the Afterglow Prismatic Wireless headset from PDP (Performance Designed Products) will show that you don’t have to spend huge amounts of cash to get decent, all-round quality.

As always, with any product, the first thing you notice is the packaging.  The box for the Prismatic headset is easy on the eye.  The front shows a view of the headset from the side, showing the different colours available for the illuminated earpieces.  It also gives you a list of devices that the headset is compatible with.  In this case, you can use the Prismatic headset with the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii & Wii U, PC, and mobile devices.  It’s worth noting that with the Xbox One chat adapter, you can also use this headset with the Xbox One console, and I’m assuming that it works in the same way for the PS4, although I am unable to try this as I do not own one.  The sides of the box has a feature comparison chart, as well as a run down of the custom audio profiles (see images).  Lastly, the back of the box shows a list of what the headset can do – from extraordinary sound, to the easy slide microphone.

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Now for the box contents.  To state the obvious, there’s a headset in the box!  As well as the headset, there is a large collection of wires – 2.5mm to 2.5mm (chat cable for Xbox 360), 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, RCA cable with a 3.5mm connector, mini USB cable, and the wireless USB dongle (which is connected by default to the RCA cable via the 3.5.. connector).  As you can see, there is a cable for every occasion!  It is recommended that you charge the headset before using it for the first time, something that I did not do.  I soon charged it once I noticed a low hum while wearing the headset.  To charge, simply hook up the included mini USB cable and watch the lights in the earpieces flash away until the charging is completed, in which case, the flashing stops.

The headset itself seems to be very well built and sturdy.  The earpieces are made of a polyurethane leather type material, which only adds to the comfort of the ‘around the ear’ design.  The earpieces themselves are a decent size, but could possibly be a little bigger for those people with bigger ears.  The headset has a nice amount of flexibility, and is adjustable, although the earpieces do not rotate. The headband is made of plastic and sports the Afterglow branding and when adjusted, you can see the thin metal reinforcement strip that foes through the headband to the earpieces.  Lastly, the inside of the headband has a very nice padding which adds to the comfort factor when in use.  The left ear cup is where all controls can be found.  On the outside of the earpiece itself, there is a transparent plastic design.  Being able to see through to the inside allows you to see the circuit boards, etc, which actually looks quite nice! On the outer side of the earpiece is where the volume wheel is, as well as the mixer slider for voice and game sounds, connections for the 2.5mm Xbox 360 cable input, line in, and the mini USB port.  The front of the left earpiece is where the microphone can be found and pulled out for use, next to which is the Mode button that allows you to choose which lets you select the audio profile that you wish to use.  Lastly, on the outer left earpiece is where you’ll find the power/mute button.

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Now for the fun stuff!  Hooking the headset up to the PC was as simple as it could have been.  Simply plug the USB dongle into a free USB port on the PC itself, and then connect the 3.5mm jack to the speaker/headphone port on the sound card.  Once the drivers have installed themselves, you are good to go!  To turn the headset on, simply press in the button on the left earpiece until it lights up blue and you’re good to go.  Unfortunately, because of the amount of devices I have hooked up to my PC, there is a bit of a hum – this is only present on the PC and with the sound turned down slightly, the hum is not always noticeable.  To set the colour to one that you prefer, simply hold in the Mode button for a few seconds until it starts cycling through the available colours.  When you get to your desired colour, stop pressing the Mode button in and it will stay on the selected colour until the headset is powered off and back on again, or until it is changed manually – if you would rather stay colourless, you can depress the Mode button when you come to the part of the cycle that doesn’t feature a colour. The Mode button also allows you to choose one of the three audio profiles – Pure Audio (blue), Bass Boost (red) and Immersive (purple).  It’s easy to keep track of which profile you have chosen as there is a light at the end of the microphone that changes colour as you cycle through the profiles.

Even though the Prismatic headset is primarily a previous gen headset, I was unable to try it with an Xbox 360 as I sold it literally the day before it arrived.  I did, however, hook up the 3.5mm audio cable to the headset and also to the chat adapter connected to my Xbox One controller and was able to use it for both game audio and chat.  I was informed by friends that my voice came across nice and clear, and it was the same for me whilst listening to them.  I’ve also connected it up to my phone to listen to music, and as previously mentioned, it has been used on the PC.  My partner even likes to take it upstairs at bedtime and hook it up to the TV so that he can watch without disturbing me.

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As far as sound quality goes, I have no gripes with the headset.  Game play was clear and I was able to decipher which location footsteps and gunshots were coming from whilst playing Call of Duty, and hearing the revs of engines in Forza 6 was just mind-blowing.  On the other hand, watching TV and listening to music were both impressive, even more-so with the bass boost audio profile in play – I like to think that the 50mm speakers played a nice role in this!  While on the subject of the bass boost audio profile, the bass levels are more than adequate when in pure audio and immersive profiles – having that bit of extra oomph never hurts though.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Prismatic headset.  The sound quality is great, the build quality is sturdy & makes the headset feel like it can withstand every day uses with ease, and the fact that it can be used across multiple platform makes the whole package worthwhile.  Althought the lights are a cool feature, I can’t see myself sitting here each time I use the headset and scrolling through all of the colours to choose the one I want.  A great headset that won’t break the bank as much as other gaming headsets.  You can currently grab this headset for around £70 on Amazon UK (at time of posting).

Be sure to head over to the PDP website, visit their Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages!

When it comes to gaming headsets, I’ll be the first to admit that there are more than a few to choose from.  So when it comes to actually splashing the cash, you want something that can withstand regular use, as well as providing outstanding sound quality.  Is this where the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80  Mixamp comes into its own?  I’ve had a blast finding out!

As soon as the headset arrived, the packaging was the first thing to impress.  It comes packaged in a weighty cardboard box which is mightily impressive.  The box itself has a matching colour scheme so that it goes hand in hand with the headset itself.  The box is held closed by magnets and upon opening the box (after removing the cardboard sleeve), you are greeted by the headset, which is held in place by a moulded plastic casing.  As well as the headset in the box, you have the M80 Mixamp, a 3.5mm audio cable, and all documentation.

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The A40 headset itself, simply put, looks amazing! The eye catching sky blue and grey colour scheme is stunning, and the build quality feels top grade.  The headset feels not only sturdy, but also very well made.  The build quality does not leave the headset feeling overly heavy or as if it would cause discomfort during use – something that I’ll get to a little later.  The ear pads are made of a cushioned, breathable material, which provides not only comfort, but also keeps the sweat at bay!  When you combine the cushioned ear pads with the swiveling ear cups, a good fit is pretty much guaranteed for heads of all shapes and sizes.  The swiveling cups also make it easy to sit back between games, and take some time out from the headset, making it incredibly easy to twist the cups and lower the headset down so you can wear it around your neck without being prodded by them.  Lastly, the ASTRO branded head band has a strip of the same cushioned material, which only adds to the comfort, making long gaming sessions more enjoyable.  While it felt as if the headset was hugging my head, it was in no way uncomfortable.  I felt reassured that the headset would not end up sliding off my head!

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Before hooking up your headset to your controller, make sure to check that your controller is updated via the console so that you are good to go.  ASTRO even provide a Micro USB cable in the box, making it easier for you.  Once that is done, you simply connect the M80 Mixamp to your controller – that’s it!  Now, ASTRO are known for their famous Mixamp which is used by gamers all over the world.  Combining the Mixamp with the chat adapter, the M80 was born – and it’s just as easy on the eye as the headset itself!  On the Mixamp itself, there is a switch on both the left and right side – you use these to balance out the voice chat and game sound to how you like it.  There is also a volume dial which is found on the bottom of the M80 – there is also a button in the middle of the dial that you use to mute the microphone.  This button lights up red when you are muted, which helps eliminate the whole “hello, is this mic on?” phase. Between the two switches on the sides of the M80, there is the button that gives you control of the equalizer.  There are three preset EQ settings that are as follows.

  • Pro: Boosted high frequencies for competitive gameplay
  • Core: Balance for single player gaming
  • Media: Enhanced bass, for movies and music

I will admit that I tend to keep mine set to Pro (I am definitely no pro!) because I tend to play Call of Duty a lot when playing online.  IF I need to change it, it’s a simple button click, with the LED lights across the front of the M80 telling me what I have it set to.  I will also say that distinguishing sound direction, etc, while using the Pro EQ setting, is a breeze, and being able to set the mix between game sound and voice chat is a massive help!  All buttons on the M80 are very well placed and there is not much chance of you hitting the wrong one if trying to change levels without taking your eyes off the screen.  The overall sound quality from the A40 headset is beyond impressive!  I have used my fair share of gaming headsets in the past, and I can quite honestly say that the quality from this headset blows the rest out of the water.  Everything comes through crystal clear, and when watching a video or listening to music, there was no interference or crackling at all!

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Cable wise, you have the cable that runs from the M80 to the headset itself.  This is only detachable from the headset end, and with the cable running into the M80 at a slight angle, you do have to be pretty careful not to damage it as you’d need a whole new unit, not just the cable.  Also included is the 3.5mm audio cable that enables you to use your A40 headset with a smartphone, or other device of your choice.  I do this quite often, usually just through my phone, and I love the fact that ASTRO actually provide a cable for you to do this.  I am a huge fan of how well they worked while listening to music through Spotify on my phone.  Personally, I wouldn’t use them outside for listening to music on the go as they are a bit big for me to walk around with.  Lastly, there is an app available (iOS only as far as I know) that adds to the whole experience.  Since I only have an Android device, I have been unable to see what features are available.

If you are new to ASTRO products, then I doubt you are aware of the customisable speaker tags.  These tags are held on to the outer side of the ear cups by magnets, and you can design your own, or order set designs from the ASTRO website.  The ones provided with this headset match the theme, sticking with the sky blue and grey colours.  Another very handy thing to mention is that not only can you swap out the speaker tags, but also the microphone.  Simply disconnect the microphone, un-snap the tags, choose the side that you want to use the microphone and then replace the speaker tags again.  It really is that simple!

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Whilst on the subject of the microphone… Not only can it be attached to the ear of choice, it is also extremely flexible and can be moved into a position that suits you, with ease.  During my online game sessions, I have been informed numerous times that my voice is coming through nice and clear, and there was an noticeable difference when compared to my previous headset.  There was no annoying noise caused by my breathing – an issue that I did have previously – and it doesn’t even pick up the sound of the oscillating fan that has been used daily since the horrible warm weather began.

When considering all of the factors of this headset, I have to admit that the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80 Mixamp is by far the best headset I have used.  With its comfort level, mic quality, and other small features like customising the speaker tags and being able to swap the mic from left to right, it all forms a neat package that any gamer would like to have.  The price tag could be what stops many gamers from getting this headset, but you really do get what you pay for!

This headset is also available in orange & grey.

It is fairly safe to say that Razer are best known for their wide range of gaming peripherals.  Today, I have the Blackwidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (2014) for review, and I can’t wait to get started!

The keyboard arrived in a well designed box, as always.  On the front there is a small window that gives you the opportunity to give a few keys a press to see how they feel and to test the switches.  Also on the front of the box is a nice view of the Blackwidow Ultimate itself, as well as some information relating to the keyboard and the new Razer mechanical switches.  The back of the box gives a more in-depth description of the switches, including the differences between the previous blue switches and the new green ones, as well as the features of the keyboard.

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Upon removing the keyboard from the box, things are kept pretty minimal.  You have the keyboard, and some documentation for the keyboard – the quick start guide, warranty information, product registration details, and lastly, the Razer stickers that are included with each purchase.  The keyboard itself has a nice matt back finish and the keys seem to be decently sized.  Along the top row of keys, they double up as media keys, backlighting control keys, and gaming mode On & Off keys – these aren’t dedicated though, so the use of the Function button is required.  Along the bottom of the keyboard is a nicely placed Razer logo that illuminates once plugged in, along with the backlighting that lights up the rest of the keyboard.  Down the left side of the keyboard there are five programmable macro keys, and lastly, there is a decent sized braided cable that has two USB plugs at the end, as well as two 3.5mm jacks that you can plug into your PC.  One of these USB plugs powers the keyboard, while the other powers the built-in USB port on the right side of the keyboard.  More about this later though.

Above the number pad is where you will find the notification lights.  These let you know if Gaming Mode is enabled, if Caps Lock is on, Number Lock, as well as letting you know when Macro Recording is active.  I quite like this area of the keyboard because if you have all of the above options turned off, the top corner section of the keyboard just looks like the rest of the keyboard.

In order to program the macro keys, you need to download the Synapse 2.0 software from the Razer website.  This seems to be something that needs doing with each Razer product, so if you have more than one device, luckily only the one download is required.  Once you have it up and running, you can make changes to the Blackwidow layout, lighting intensity, profiles, etc.  There are three tabs under the Keyboard header – Customize, Lighting, and Gaming Mode.  Within the customize tab is where you make changes to the profiles, enabling you to assign keys to different functions, from keyboard keys to mouse button clicks.  The lighting tab is self explanatory – you can adjust the lighting intensity and choose between the Pulsate mode, and the static brightness – levels include Bright, Normal, Dim, or Off.  Lastly, the previously mentioned Gaming Mode tab is where you can disable troublesome keys such as the Windows key and the Alt + Tab key, giving you the option to use the keys freely whilst gaming.  The final second and final header is the Macro header – as the name suggests, this is where you can create and program all of the macros that you require.  Alternatively, you can use the dedicated macro switch on the keyboard to record macros when you want, rather than having to load up Synapse to do so.  As always, any changes you make are saved to the cloud, allowing you to use the same settings from any computer with Synapse 2.0 installed.

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The new switches in the 2014 Blackwidow Ultimate are green, rather than the previous blue Cherry switches.  Razer appear to be very proud of these switches as they are made specifically for gaming, and they are NOT made by Cherry, like others are.  The reset time after clicking the keys now is actually shorter than it is with the Cherry MX switches, enabling you to get more key presses in a shorter time.  I’m sure there are gamers out there that would actually benefit from this, but, I am not one of them as I still press the keys just as hard as I did before.  Old habits are hard to break.

The USB and 3.5mm ports on the right side of the keyboard allow you to plug your headset and mouse directly into the keyboard.  I gave this a try and didn’t encounter any annoying buzzing or static noise with the headphones, and the mouse worked as it should also.  All in all, this feature works really well.  It could also be handy if you are someone who does not like wires sprawled out across the desk too much.  With it being on the right side of the keyboard, it was conveniently placed for me to use, being right-handed.  I’m not sure what left-handed people will think of it though as it would mean having wires going from right to left on the desk.

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Overall, I am impressed with the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard.  It is durable and definitely helps Razer live up to the reputation it has in place for being one of the best for gaming peripherals.  I really like the green backlighting, and having the option to change the light intensity is something is very welcomed.  The ease of creating macros and setting up the keyboard to suit you using the Synapse software should be very inviting, even to gaming keyboard novices.  While I’m sure the new green switches will be appreciated by hardcore gamers, I couldn’t really benefit from them as I’m not into PC gaming as much as others – they did work really well though from what I could tell.  I think the Blackwidow will be a favourite for gamers of all ages, regardless of their PC gaming preferences!

Everybody knows that when it comes to gaming, there is nothing more important than having equipment that does what is required.  Whether it be a headset that picks up footsteps and noises that would otherwise go unnoticed, or keyboards that give you the edge as far as macros go.  Just as important is the mouse.  You want something comfortable to use, something that works seamlessly, and something that delivers in pretty much all aspects of the game.  Does the newly released Logitech G502 Proteus Core Tunable Gaming Mouse live up to expectations?  Let’s find out!  Check out the unboxing video below.

Packaging is always something that catches my eye, and probably the eye of others, too.  The G502 packaging does not disappoint.  With its blue and black colour scheme, and a nice image of the mouse on the front of the box, it’s easy enough to see what you are getting.  The sides and back of the box provides information not only relating to the mouse itself, but also specifications.  Opening the flap on the front of the box, you are greeted with a nice view of the mouse through the clear plastic window.  Removing the mouse from the box is where the real magic starts.

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The G502 itself is actually really easy on the eye.  It is a black mouse all over, apart from the Logitech Gaming logo which illuminates a nice blue colour, and a slight light blue strip on the left side and also on the base.  This blue strip is where you can remove the enclosure on the base of the mouse and access the space where you can add up to five 3.6g weights (included), to add a bit of weight to the mouse if it is too light for you.  Altogether there are 11 programmable mouse buttons, perfect for macro customisation within the downloadable software, and the solid metal scroll wheel has something different about it.  It has two modes – a Free Roll mode and a Restricted mode.  The Free Roll mode is perfect for web browsing as it provides endless, fast scrolling, while the Restricted mode presents the standard scrolling that we are all used to, and what I think gamers would be more inclined to use.  It is also easy to swap between to the two modes – just click the button directly behind the scroll wheel.

After downloading the software and getting the G502 set up and ready to go, it was time to put it to the test.  The software gives you the ability to change the button layout, set macros for in-game use if you wish, and also allows you to fine tune the mouse for use on the surface of your choice.  This is achieved by going into the Surface Tuning section of the software and calibrating the mouse.  There are defaults already present, but you can add your own.  Simple click the Add New Surface button, name the profile with the surface you are using and you are taken through a setup wizard which requires you to move the mouse in a figure 8 pattern while pressing on the Left mouse button until the wizard is complete.  Upon completion, the difference is instantly noticeable when using the mouse on your surface of choice.  You can also make changes to the DPI (Dots Per Inch) within the software.  The range is from 200 to 12,000 (wow!).  Having the ability to customise the DPI this much means that there most definitely should be a setting to suit everyone, and any game of choice.  Lastly, there is an option to enable G-Shift.  This means that when you press the designated G-Shift button the mouse, you can use the assigned mouse buttons to perform tasks such as switching between browser tabs and changing the Zoom on the page.

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g50203Comfort wise, I am yet to suffer any discomfort while using the G502.  My hands are reasonably small and it’s almost as if the mouse was made to fit.  The buttons are all placed within reach so there is no need to reach for them and the slightly grooved space for the thumb provides somewhere for the thumb to sit, rather than balancing it on the edge of the mouse or on the desk.  The rubber grip that is placed on both sides of the mouse adds extra grip for both the thumb, and the outer fingers, something else that I like very much.

Overall, the G502 mouse is actually a really nice bit of kit.  The design and responsiveness is something that I think every gamer will love and the little added extras like the option to add weights, and the ability to change from Free Roll to Resctricted modes on the scroll wheel is a nice touch.  With a price tag of £69.99, I think that the Logitech G502 Proteus Core is a mouse that gamers should definitely pay attention to.