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How much is too much for some really nice audio? If you’re a gamer, how important is it for you to experience that game in surround sound? What about having crisp vocal quality while talking to (or laughing at) your enemies? How about staying comfortable for over eight straight hours of gaming?
For me, these are all important points I’m looking for when I’m scouting my next headset. So let’s dive into a pair of pricey headphones, the Dell Alienware Wireless Headset AW988. Are they worth the price tag? Is the audio so excellent it’ll transport you into the scene of the action? Keeping our expectations as high as the price, let’s find out if this wireless pair is worth a dollar-less wallet.
Performance & Sound Quality
Alienware understands that gaming requires some serious audio. If you’re playing with subpar speakers (or a subpar headset), you don’t really know what you’re missing until the first time you play that game with a really powerful headset.
For the AW988, the specs are there. Custom-tuned 50mm 20Hz-40KHz drivers and 7.1 virtual surround sound. What does this mean for the audio itself? Right off the bat, it seems like the quality is just plain solid, not overwhelmingly impressive – which we were demanding at the start of this review.
That’s a pretty big shame considering how much I’d have to shell out for the AW988 and to not be satisfied with the audio is… disappointing. What about vocal quality? I’ve owned some pretty awful headsets in my youth and most of the time, my teammates would ignore the garbled hiss that came everytime I spoke. In this aspect, the AW988 is pretty on point.
While it does sound a bit tinny, it’s forgivable because the voice remains clear and crisp. You definitely won’t be muted by your teammates – always a plus. The mic itself is unidirectional, noise cancelling and flip to mute. This is a great feature especially if you’re after a headset you can wear both for multiplayer online gaming that really requires communication, or a single player game where you can flip the mic up and away from your face, transforming the headset into a pair of headphones.
When you flip open the mic, the headset audibly tells you that the mic is now on, and vice versa when flipping it back up, it alerts you that the mic is off. Was I ever caught singing to myself when I thought my mic was muted? ….No. And if I have, this feature is a nice addition to have so you can have a little peace of mind while gaming.
What else does its rather premium price bring with it? The AW988 is wireless. For me personally, I’m not too bothered by wired headphones, so for a higher price, I wouldn’t necessarily opt for the wireless option, but I certainly understand the appeal.
If you’re a console gamer, wireless is even more appealing because if there’s cables involved, you’re likely sitting with your face pressed against the monitor. (I hear that’s bad for your eyesight). The AW988 provides roughly 17 hours of gameplay before you need to recharge, but if you’re gaming with the AlienFX RGB lights on, you’ll be sapping about half of that battery life for the sake of looking very cool.
Is it worth the shorter battery span? Of course it is. It’s AlienFX RGB. To connect your headphones, all you need to do is plug the wireless dongle into a USB port and you should be good to go. You can then stay connected up to 40ft away. When you’re done, just disconnect and snuggly plug the dongle back into a slot inside the headset itself. Convenient, especially for someone like me who will lose anything the size of my thumb.
To charge the headset, simply plug it in using its micro-USB. Not the most modern addition to this “modern” headset, but if you have yet to give in to USB-C, this is the pair for you.
If you absolutely need to be wired, the AW988 also comes with an Aux-in port and 3.5mm cable to help you stay tethered. Overall, it seems like the performance you can expect from the AW988 is strictly solid. It isn’t wildly impressive, but still gives the sense that the headset was crafted to give you an enjoyable gaming experience.
Can you get better audio elsewhere? You could. For a lower price range, you could look towards Logitech G633 with a similarly solid audio quality. But if you’re an audiophile who doesn’t mind a little extra spend, the Steelseries Arctis Pro is your match. That said, with the AW988, you’re not missing out, you’re just paying more than you probably need to for the brand name. And that’s not a terrible reason for getting them.
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Alienware very rarely disappoints when it comes to the look of their products. Design wise, the AW988 is a killer looking headset. Sleek, modern, matte black design impressively showing off their Alienware logo through AlienFX RGB lights and two thin lines underneath that curve nicely with the slight sloping of the earpieces.
I can’t help it, it’s just nice to look at. The lights themselves are 16.8M RGB LED lighting and customizable. Just access ACC – Alienware’s Command Center application to adjust the lights to your specifications. This is a pretty fun feature to personalize your gameplay and change your lights based on the game you’re playing, your team, or hey, even your mood. It’s a really nice addition to make your headset all the more yours.
The overhead band of course features the Alienware logo, nicely debossed into the matte black material. The earpieces swivel so you can easily wear them around your neck when not in use. Within each earpiece is a convenient L and R to make sure you’re wearing them correctly (unless of course, you prefer having the mic on the back of your head – no judgement). Soft, lightweight padded material offers a very cushioned wear that critics seem to agree stays light and comfortable enough to keep that 8+ hour gameplay headache free.
The AW988 also features onboard controls. The on/off button is the Alienware logo itself, which is nice, while the game/chat volume mixer, mic mute and volume control are discreetly located on the side of the earpiece where they remain out of the way.
I like this layout because you can’t accidentally hit any of them, or find yourself blindly feeling around to find them when you do need to make adjustments. Next to the aux-in and charging ports, you’ll also find the battery light indicator.
All in all, this is a good looking headset. Looking at that first row of related products offered by Amazon, I have to say, none of them look as sleek or as eye catching as the AW988. Are they aggressively sexy? No. But they are understated, polished and modern. Just plain cool. Is that alone worth its premium price?
Well, if you put a lot of weight on aesthetics, then yes, they are worth the money. The design is worth the price and none of those related products – Corsair Void, SteelSeries Arctic Pro, OneOdio (absolutely not), Tyuobox, and LucidSound stand up to the AW988 in terms of look alone.
The AW988 is a pretty large headset, but their stylish design keeps them sleek and wearable despite their hefty appearance. Of course, aesthetics are all in the eye of the beholder, so if you disagree… well, then that’s fine.
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Products always seem to boast about their durability. I have yet to stumble across a product page that bashfully admits that it may or may not break apart in your hand after 10 uses.
So of course, the AW988 is all about lasting you a lifetime of gaming and keeping up with how hard you use them. Unfortunately, I have had my share of bad luck when it comes to the lifespan of my headphones and headsets, so I’ve grown bitterly pessimistic.
Although the earpiece material looks solid, the headset itself has a good looking heft to it, and the price wants to imply it’ll be a lasting investment, I’m just not so sure. The material doesn’t seem to be strong enough to withstand bumps and bruises or the simple passage of time.
The rubber underneath the headband also isn’t particularly sturdy and I can see it wearing away over time. After a year’s use, I can imagine the AW988 showing their age on their surface. For the price point, I would want a headset that can keep up with me and still stay looking stylish and new, but it is only made of plastic so you shouldn’t be expecting too much in terms of long term durability.
I guess you’ll just have to resist chucking them across the room during a tragic defeat…
Looking at the ups and downs of the AW988 headset, I find myself still getting excited about the product. Why? One reason is because they’re just that much better looking than their competition. I know, I know. I’m going on and on about how good they look. But it’s true. They’re not overly gaudy or cheesily trying to look futuristic and “cool,” like some of their competitors (looking at you OneOdio).
The AlienFX RGB lights are a nice subtle touch that help further personalize the product. The flip-up mic is also a pretty cool feature that lets you forget they’re a headset and just wear them like headphones while casually playing alone.
Being wireless for 17 hours at a time while still providing 7.1 virtual surround sound only helps sell this headset, even with the slightly higher price point. Overall, they’re a standout product in a lineup. If you’ve never heard of Alienware before, these will still catch your eye just from their design alone.
When these headphones were first released in 2018, they retailed for $230. Would I spend that much for this particular set? Probably not. But for its current price tag, I’d be a little more open if only to try out a very comfortable set with satisfactory audio quality, a stylish design, neat flip up mic and a chance to build my altar to Alienware.
I’m not so overly impressed with them that I’m eager to tell you to run out and purchase them, but if you’re looking for a solid new addition, this isn’t a bad direction to go in. If less than top-of-the-line quality isn’t something you’re focused on, then I would recommend the AW988. Especially with their discounted price, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your purchase.
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