ALIENWARE have a very good name when it comes to computers, laptops, and monitors – and as it turns out, they can add headsets to that ensemble.
The Alienware AW920H Tri-Mode Wireless Headset brings the company’s distinctive design flavour and aesthetic to headsets, and manages to be a serviceable product in its own right as opposed to an afterthought put out for branding/add-on sales reasons – although it’s not without some shortfalls.
The name gives a significant clue to the headset’s major selling point – it has three different ways of connecting to a device (Bluetooth, 2.4Ghz wireless dongle, and 3.5mm jack)
In essence, this means you can connect to more or less any gaming device out there, be it a PC, laptop, console, mobile phone or tablet. It also means you can use the headset across multiple devices, which certainly helps if you’ve got more than one way to game in the house.
It’s obvious the Tri-Mode wireless headset is designed to be a companion peripheral to the Alienware laptops and PCs – it has the same sci-fi design and comes in the same colours as the computers too.
The headset is well-made and I liked the covered headband, which certainly helped with comfort. The earcups are round and while I had concerns about what they’d be like to wear for an extended period of time due to the shape, I didn’t have any issues at all on that front – although, being closed-back with leather cushioning, I did find my ears getting a bit warm when outside in the Queensland sun.
Connection was straightforward and I didn’t have any problems getting things set up – all three connection modes are established technology now anyway (and it’s a bit hard to mess up plugging in a 3.5mm plug cable), with the wireless and Bluetooth having respectable range and no connectivity issues that I experienced.
Of course, the main purpose of a headset is to provide sound and the Alienware Tri-Mode headset does that well.
The sound is provided by 40mm drivers with a 32 Ohm impedance, and I found the quality to be surprisingly good, especially for the bass. The soundscape was exactly what I’d expect on a headset at this price point (RRP AUD$272) – in other words, also very good.
What’s even better, though, is the presence of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). While not as good as some of the super-high end headsets from Sony or Bose, it was still very effective and blocked out household noises, airconditioner and fan sounds, and that sort of stuff.
As well as the sound aspect, the headset also has a detachable boom mic, which plugs in via a 3.5mm jack. There’s also customisable RGB lighting on the alien logo on the side (I guess for streamers? It’s not like the wearer can see it, after all).
The battery life is also respectable – around 55 hours on Bluetooth and about half that using the 2.4Ghz connection, according to Alienware. While I didn’t have the chronograph out or anything, that certainly seemed about right to me – I got a couple of days of on-and-off use out of them before needing to plug them in for a charge.
While the audio quality itself is very good, the controls are not – and specifically the volume controls.
Most (if not all) gaming headsets generally have a volume knob or dial on them somewhere accessible, so you can – all together now – change the volume easily.
Not so with the Alienware Tri-Mode Wireless Headset. The volume controls are 100% touch based and you have to swipe up or down on the right-hand earcup to adjust it. I’m sure it sounded great in the pitch meeting – after all, touch audio controls are not new (the Sony WHX-1000MX5 headset, which is amazing, has them) but I found the way they are implemented here to be suboptimal indeed.
The graduations in volume level are extremely small, and I found I had to repeatedly flick my finger up or down the earcup to get a useful change, which is really not helpful when you’re desperately trying to turn the volume of a scene with LOUD NOISES down, or when you’re trying to turn the volume up so you can hear the dialogue in a moment properly.
The main challenge the Tri-Mode faces is that it’s not really offering much of a point of difference from some of the other headsets on the market – for example, the Epos H3 Hybrid headset is AUD$199 and has Bluetooth, USB-C and 3.5mm plug connectivity.
While the combination of Bluetooth, wireless, and 3.5mm plug certainly provides compatability across a wide range of gaming devices, I’m trying to remember the last time I needed to connect a wireless headset to a gaming system without Bluetooth and not coming up with much – even the Nintendo Switch has it now.
Probably the biggest attraction with the Alienware Tri-mode headset is for people with Alienware latops or pre-built PCs. The headset is made in the same style, with the same design language and aesthetic, so will complement one of those computers very well.
While the Alienware AW920H Tri-Mode is mostly a decent, if unremarkable, headset, the lack of a volume control dial or knob, combined with my frustrations with the capacitative touch feature mean this is best suited for someone determined to keep an Alienware theme with their gaming setup, rather than someone looking for a good all-round gaming headset.