The SteelSeries Arctis 3 are well-built and stylish, making them ideal for use in multiple environments. You won’t find any RGB lighting or other over-the-top features on the Arctis 3 and they’d fit in fine on a bus ride as much as they would at a LAN tournament. The Boreal Blue color does stands out, though I would lean towards the standard black unit if I were purchasing the Arctis 3 for myself, as the blue was just a bit too attention-grabbing for my liking. If you are going for a blue setup or have an infatuation with the Smurfs, you’re going to love the Boreal Blue Arctis 3. The upper headband of the Arctis 3 is covered with soft touch plastic and has a rubber piece lining the inside. While most of the Arctis 3 is made of plastic, the connecting pieces where the swivels meet the band, the headband suspension clips and upper band are made of aluminum. The Arctis 3 has a very solid, durable feel to it, while not being too much of a tank.
Unlike most of the other gaming headset on the market, which rely on typical material-covered foam padding for the headband, the SteelSeries Arctis 3 uses an adjustable suspension headband that is made out of cloth and is replaceable. While the headband may look a bit odd and you may question its function, it works extremely well at keeping pressure even across the head and is adjustable, giving range for the largest of heads. I found the default adjustment from the factory to be perfect for my head. This headband keeps the head from touching the top headband of the Arctis 3 in most scenarios, though larger heads will probably still make some contact with the top bar, which is rubberized and soft, so comfort isn’t an issue.
The ear cups of the Arctis 3 each carry the SteelSeries logo in a tasteful black font. These ear cups are stylish and have an oval shape that flows well. There is a small indented ring that goes around the outer perimeter of the cup, this is where the RGB lighting ring is on the Arctis 5.
The Arctis 3 are capable of being folded completely flat, allowing them to sit around the neck when not being used, or stored in low profile storage cases. The swivels on the Arctis 3 have clean movement to them and there isn’t any creaking or other noise presented when using the Arctis 3, even when moving my head a lot. The AirWeave cushions cover a nicely padded foam material that feels great on the ears, while holding well and firm. The material on the AirWeave cushions is very similar to the material you’d find on a pair of workout shorts from Adidas. While I like this material and find it breathes well, my wife said it was a bit too scratchy and she prefers the leatherette material on my HyperX Cloud Alpha headset. The S1 drivers do sit pretty close to the ear and may actually touch some ears, depending on their shape, but I never had any comfort issues.
The Arctis 3 has all of the controls on the left ear cup. I think they could have used the right ear cup to get rid of some of the clutter, but really, there are only two controls the user will ever use on this side. The volume rocker is easy to use and offers a nice, clean action, without any play or slop. Unlike wireless or USB gaming headsets, the Arctis 3 volume dial actually controls the resistance in the headphone rather than the Windows OS volume, so it works with any device. There is an easy to press mic mute button that pops out when the mic is muted, making it very easy to tell your current microphone output situation. Beneath the proprietary connection for the included audio cable, there is a 3.5 mm audio jack. This jack allows you to daisy-chain the Arctis 3 to any other headset or audio device with 3.5 mm input. I could see this jack coming in useful at a gaming tournament where a single team were on the same audio chain, perhaps.
The ClearCast microphone of the Arctis 3 is the same microphone SteelSeries uses across all of their headsets. This version doesn’t have the LED indicator that is present on the Arctis 5 and 7, which let the user know if the microphone is muted. The ClearCast mic has a rubberized cable that is very easy to maneuver into place and is bi-directional, with capsule inputs on both sides of the microphone. SteelSeries claims the ClearCast microphone is the best microphone you’ll find on any gaming headset, which is quite the bold claim.
Let’s take a look at the SteelSeries Engine 3 Software and see how the Arctis 3 performs in real-world testing.