Logitech G430 Gaming Headset Review (PC / Any*)

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These days, a game’s graphics are often the most talked-about aspect of it, but an often-overlooked area is how a game sounds. Aside from providing a new level of immersion, a really great sound system can give the gamer a huge advantage,  being able to hear other players more clearly or even the direction they’re coming from. So when a game has truly great sound direction, you’ll need a good sound system to take advantage. While TV audio is fine, and external speakers can take this up a notch, you’ll really need the complete package to get the most out of your game’s audio, and the most hardcore audiophiles will throw down hundreds of dollars to get the best listening experience.

Logitech has tackled this part of the entertainment equation with a long history of high-quality speaker systems and headphones, providing an excellent audio experience at a reasonable, competitive price. Their latest foray into the gaming audio arena is their G430 Gaming Headset. Sporting built-in Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, a huge bass response, and a noise-cancelling microphone, the G430 promises the complete package for PC gaming audio at a relatively-low price of $80. Can Logitech’s newest gaming headset give Turtle Beach or even Bose a run for their money? Read on and find out.

Form: 5/5

A common characteristic of gaming headsets is their look and feel; they need to be extremely comfortable for long gaming sessions, but owning a high-quality headset comes with a certain sense of pride and swagger. Thankfully, the G430 passes both tests with flying colors. The headset sports an attractive black and blue color scheme that really pops, and the ear cups features sharp, unconventional shapes and angles to make a headset that looks great. The ear cups are big enough to cover just about any ear size, but remain comfortable even after hours of play thanks in part to the G430’s lightweight design. The headband is a bit stiff out of the box, but once “broken in” feels like practically nothing thanks to the stitched padding on the ear cups and headband. The G430’s comfort is further enhanced by its design; the headband’s size is fully adjustable like most headsets, but the ear cups also swivel around a vertical axis to fit the shape of the user’s head, making them extremely comfortable even during marathon gaming sessions. The ear cups can even be rotated to lay flat with the rest of the headset to wear around your neck or to easily store when not in use.

The G430’s retractable microphone is built rigidly and placed at just the right angle to pick up your voice without overt exposure, but can be finely-adjusted thanks to its soft metal skeleton and rubberized outer layer. The microphone can also be rotated upwards against the left ear cup when not in use, but I found the microphone to be so non-intrusive that I didn’t even have to unless I didn’t want to look like an aviator pilot in public. Finally, you have the G430’s braided audio cable. Not only does its stitched (non-rubber) enclosure avoid tangling and grabbing your clothes, but it’s also extremely long – roughly 4 feet in length, and also comes with an attached Velcro strip to allow for adjustment. All in all, the G430 is an extremely comfortable and attractive headset, and more impressively, sacrifices no practicality for it.

Function: 5/5

A headset is worthless if it doesn’t have the sound quality to garner its purchase. Thankfully, Logitech has a lot of experience in quality sound engineering, and every bit of it is leveraged with the G430. Simply put, the sound output it provides is stunning.

The showstopper is the G430’s built-in Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound system which delivers a truly immersive audio experience. The G430 simply makes other sound systems seem flat by comparison. With other speaker systems or even headphones, your ears can distinctly tell that the sound is coming from either the left or right channel. However, the G430, with its combined 7.1 system and sound-isolating features (a byproduct of the ear cups’ over-the-ear design), you really feel like you’re in your own isolated audio zone, like having a private concert hall all to yourself. It’s really hard to describe in words how incredible the G430’s audio experience feels. The headset’s 40mm drivers and 32-Ohm impedance provide deep, rich bass, and its 20Hz-20kHz frequency response ensures you hear all of the action crisply and clearly. The 7.1 system also provides the most precise directional audio around, so you can hear the action going on from every direction.

I’ve tested the G430 with several audio-intensive PC games, including Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2, Guild Wars 2, and Battlefield 3. The sheer increase of audio quality over my previous headphones and 2.1 speaker system made all the difference. This was especially noticeable in the massive, frantic battles taking place in BF3. Hearing bullets and explosions from every direction was intense and engaging, but the boom of a fighter jet flying overhead literally sent shivers down my spine. I’ve never had such an immersive audio experience as I have with the G430. Mass Effect 3 also excelled in my tests, likely by the virtue of being another game whose sound design was headed by DICE, a studio known for jaw-dropping audio. Dialog was crisp and clear thanks to the G430’s center dialog speaker, and battles were explosive and intense. The G430’s directional audio really helped when making tactical decisions, deploying squad mates and picking targets to take out, and the fullness of sound was excellent when combining the game’s unique sound effects with its masterful soundtrack, which sounded better than ever with the G430.

While gaming audio is obviously the G430’s focus, it functions excellently when playing music as well. The previously-mentioned “concert hall” feeling was prominent when playing any genre or tone of music from my PC, and the added richness of sound and booming bass response brought the music-listening experience to a whole new level. The G430 features 3.5mm audio jacks for the speakers and microphone, so they function quite well with an MP3 player or smart phone, and the long audio cable can be kept in check with the previously-mentioned Velcro strap. When not in use, the G430 can rest on your neck and lay flat. Since the headset needs the USB adapter to get the best-quality sound, the G430 really isn’t optimized for game console use, but it will get the job done. I hooked up the audio jack to my TV’s audio out and the microphone jack to my PS3 using the included USB adapter – this is required for the PS3 to recognize the G430 as a microphone input device – and I was able to hear game audio and voice chat while also being able to broadcast my voice to others. After playing a few games of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 with them, I can say that the game still sounded great, but didn’t have that same surround quality as it did when playing on the PC using the adapter. If you want a headset that can give you 7.1 quality on a gaming console, the G430 isn’t the best fit.

The G430’s noise-cancelling microphone functions at the top of its class, letting your allies (and enemies) hear you with crystal clarity, even in the face of background noise. Many gamers use VoIP software like Skype and TeamSpeak during gameplay, and a poor microphone can turn a tactical advantage into a chore. I performed my own test using Mumble, a VoIP program famous for high audio quality and low latency. After running through Mumble’s audio wizard to get my settings perfect, I hopped onto my Guild Wars 2 server and chatted up my guild mates. They immediately noticed a difference in how I sound, saying that my voice came through crisp and clear. I have a penchant for listening to TV in the background while gaming, and while that’s a normally-accepted condition to my friends on Mumble, the G430’s microphone was able to render this background noise nearly silent, placing the emphasis on my voice.

The cable features an inline audio control panel, allowing you to adjust the speakers’ volume and mute or unmute the microphone on the fly. The G430 also comes with a USB adapter which accepts the 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks and plugs into your PC. The headset comes with a USB adapter to connect the headset to a PC, and it’s required to really unlock the full potential of the G430 and to get the fullest, richest surround sound. The USB adapter also enables you to use Logitech’s excellent Gaming Software, allowing you to control every aspect of the G430’s audio delivery, from enabling or disabling 7.1-channel enhancement to adjusting the bass or treble, or even fine-tuning the audio output with a full equalizer and individual channel volume support. This level of control is only possible when using the USB adapter, so I’d recommend using it whenever possible.

The only caveat of the availability of the software for PC is its lack of availability for other platforms, including Mac OS X. While the headphones certainly work on a Mac computer, users on that platform won’t have the same level of fine control available to PC users. This is true for other platforms as well, such as consoles and smart phones. However, the lack of OS X software support is easily remedied in the future, and the G430 still delivers a rich audio experience without it.

Value: 5/5

One reliable aspect of Logitech’s products are that they deliver a solid, dependable experience at a fair and competitive price. This is true for the G430, with a suggested retail price of $79.99. That may be a hefty chunk of change to throw down for a more casual gamer, but considering many other gaming-grade 7.1-channel headsets often run for a much higher price, it really comes out as an advantage for the buyer. The prices of its nearest competitors, the Turtle Beach Earforce DPX21 and the Razer Tiamat 7.1, retailing at $149.99 and $199.99 respectively, are proof-positive of this, showing that you can get top-notch gaming audio at an affordable price, and the best part is that the G430 really doesn’t sacrifice anything to accomplish this.

X-Factor: 4/5

Aside from the compelling price-point mentioned above, the G430 features an intriguing detachable ear cup system. Let’s be honest, in the heat of the most intense of gaming sessions, things can get a little…sweaty. No problem for the G430 – each ear cup cushion can be easily removed from the headset for cleaning. Logitech recommends washing the cushions by hand, then patting dry with a paper towel and letting them rest to air-dry before replacing them; if you want these babies to last, avoid machine cleaning and do it the old-fashioned way. The Gaming software also provides a level of fine-tuned control not available on other gaming headsets, which may appeal to the strictest of audiophiles.  The fact that the headphones work without a USB connection is also of note, since most other gaming headsets require the power draw from a connected USB device , such as a computer or game console, to work.

One surprising absence in the G430’s packaging is the lack of an included carrying case or pouch. While they may be less costly than comparable headsets, the G430 is definitely a small investment, and some measure of protection would have been nice to keep them in pristine shape. However, any microfiber cloth bag big enough to fit the headset should work.

FINAL VERDICT: 19/20 = 9.5 out of 10

The Logitech G430 may be the most ground-breaking gaming audio device to come out in recent history, not necessarily for creating a new, unheard-of gaming experience, but for taking top-shelf gaming audio and putting it at a price most can afford. The G430 looks good, sounds even better, and is built with a level of quality that belies its price tag. At $79.99, it’s hard to do better than the G430.

PROs:

+ Stunning 7.1 surround sound audio in a personal headset package

+ Attractive, eye-catching design and color scheme

+ Very inexpensive compared to its closest competitors

+ Logitech Gaming software allows for fine-tuning of audio settings

+ Fully-functional without the need for a USB-connected power source

CONs:

– Logitech Gaming software is not yet compatible with Mac OS X

– No included carrying case

– USB Adapter required for the best sound experience

This article is an unsolicited review for the Logitech G430 Gaming Headset. The reviewed product was purchased and tested by the author.

PDP Pelican PS3 Dual Trigger / Joystick Cap Review

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One of the biggest advantages the Xbox 360 controller has over its PS3 counterpart is, arguably, its superb rear triggers. Their concave shape lends them perfectly to shooting and driving games, where reliability and lightning-quick responses count but authenticity can really bring out the most fun in a game. There are certainly many options out there for those looking to emulate this feel on the PS3, but with so many on the market, it can be tough to choose which is the best bet.

Thankfully, Pelican has gone above and beyond the call with their Trigger and Joystick cap combo pack. At the time of writing, they’re available from most retailers for $6.99 USD. This is very cheap considering that many similar products containing only the triggers run for that amount.

The triggers themselves are simple plastic attachments that snap onto your PS3 controller’s existing triggers. The setup is extremely simple, but the product is reliable and does what it advertises. There’s really no other way to describe the triggers on the controller other than to say it just feels right. The concave curvature and size lend themselves perfectly to be used as secondary triggers (in the classic Playstation style) or swapped with L1 and R1 as main trigger paddles. They don’t have the same grip as similar silicone triggers available on the market, but they don’t need to either. You’ll never find your grip slipping even in the most intense of gameplay moments. Even playing fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, I felt the triggers were just as responsive as using L1 and R1 for aiming and shooting, respectively, but the added reliability and authenticity really made the game come alive for me. The triggers add a bit of size to the controller’s profile, but are well worth it for their added improvements on gameplay and control. In fact, I found that the rear triggers made the whole controller more comfortable to hold onto when equipped with the trigger attachments, however this will likely come down to personal preference. To be honest, I never planned to use L2 and R2 as primary triggers in my games, but after trying it with Pelican’s trigger add-ons, I’ll never go back.

The included joystick caps are, quite frankly, a selling point all their own as well. These silicone, rubberized covers feature several ridges that grip your thumbs as you roll them around each joystick. Installation is similarly simple; just flip them inside-out, place them over each joystick and revert it back to normal. Once they’re on, they’ll stay on through even the most grueling marathon gaming sessions. The added grip and control is a perfect fix for the PS3 controller’s smooth joysticks. I never found my thumbs sliding off-center after slapping these covers on. The fact that they’re bundled along with an excellent pair of trigger attachments is just gravy.

It’s really hard to find any fault with this product. For PlayStation Move owners who may be looking to equip their Move or Navigation controllers with these add-ons, be warned that the trigger add-ons do not attach to the Move controller’s T-trigger. You can attach one trigger and joystick cap to the Navigation controller, however Pelican doesn’t currently offer a single pack of each as of yet, so you’ll need two Navigation controllers to make the most of this. Other than that, you may find it hard to go back to playing without the attachments – but obviously I’m grasping at straws at this point.

All in all, Pelican’s hit a home run with this trigger and joystick add-on pack. Whether you’ve tried the 360 controller’s triggers and wanted something similar for your PS3 set-up, or are just looking for a way to add some extra control and authenticity to your games, Pelican’s combo pack is hard to beat at this or any price.

LifeProof iPhone 4/4S Case: An In-Depth Analysis

While mobile gaming may not be as hardcore as it is on the consoles, there’s no denying that Smartphones are becoming a legitimate entertainment platform. And just like a console gamer, mobile enthusiasts need the right gear to play at their best. There’s a few areas where (most) mobile devices fall short: ergonomics and comfort, durable build, and sound quality. Many cases are simply built for giving your device a little more protection, but don’t address many of the issues more heavy-duty gamers might need.

So my interest was piqued after I got my hands on LifeProof’s iPhone 4 case. While not advertised as a gaming accessory, there’s more to the LifeProof than meets the eye. The company advertises the case as being dirt, water, snow, and shock proof, and at first glance, the case certainly looks like it can handle anything thrown at it. I wouldn’t say I’ve done any extreme testing, but after putting the case to the test against water and shocks, I’m very impressed. LifeProof shows images of users taking underwater photos on their site, and if you’re the adventurous type who wants to game in a pool or bath tub, their case will work for you. The case comes with a notice that you need to test the case’s waterproof seal before putting your phone in it, and all of the instructions are outlined on LifeProof’s site. Interestingly enough, the case is slimmer than you might expect – noticeably slimmer than the tank-like Otterbox series of cases.

The LifeProof case comes in a beautiful assortment of colors for just about anyone.

For gamers, this covers the first necessity mentioned earlier – ergonomics. The iPhone 4 is a bit small in my hands, and I begin to feel them cramp after a fairly short game session. On the other hand, Otterbox’s cases are also quite bulky and a bit too big for long gaming sessions. But for me, the LifeProof case fits just right, and while holding it landscape like a controller with the Home Button on the left, it feels perfect. The phone’s polycarbonate and elastomer material feels just right, providing the grip of a console controller without feeling “grabby” like rubber, also making it pocket-friendly. As for the build quality, the case is a tanker – it can take drops, thuds, and crashes and still keep your phone secure and untouched. Any mobile gamer will appreciate the case’s ability to keep their device safe. However, I won’t comment on its ability to protect your phone if you throw it in frustration, and I don’t recommend you do – it’s just common sense.

So the LifeProof case covers two bases – durability and comfort. That only leaves sound quality, and your mileage may vary here depending on your taste. The LifeProof case is built with what they call the “Sound Enhancement System” – the case changes the way sound travels through it, making bass and low tones more pronounced but silencing treble and higher tones a bit. In a quiet environment, this is a nice improvement, as strong bass is a tough thing to find on a smaller mobile device. However, you’ll find in louder places that sometimes you might even miss notification sounds when the phone is in your pocket. This can be remedied somewhat by opening the case’s door that covers the charging port, but this makes holding the case landscape more uncomfortable and breaks the case’s water-tight seal until the door is closed again. The case will also noticeably vibrate while playing sound and music, which is a feeling some users might have to get used to. Given the way sound travels through water though, a more adventurous user might want to try playing music while going for a swim for a really interesting experience. The case’s speakers, microphone, and earpiece are all protected by a special material that allows sound through but keeps water out. For the most discerning of gaming audiophiles, the headphone cap can be removed to allow access to the headphone jack. For headphones with a larger or oddly-shaped plug, the case also comes with an adapter that substitues the headphone cap, allowing any pair of headphones to connect through the case.

For the purposes of this review, I mainly tested the case with two games – Punch Quest (review found here) and Extreme Road Trip 2. Punch Quest’s audio mostly ranged on the higher end of the spectrum, so overall the sound was more muffled, though some punching noises had a little more “oomph” to them. The game’s controls are simple, but were very responsive, even through the case’s screen protector. Since Punch Quest often demands lightning-quick reflexes, I appreciated the better grip and feel the case provided. Overall, despite the sound trade-off, Punch Quest was much more enjoyable with the case than without. However, Extreme Road Trip 2 was a much better experience overall. The control benefits were certainly welcome, but the case’s acoustics paid dividends with Road Trip 2’s mostly bass-filled sound effects and music, making the case a huge improvement to the game across the board.

Some concessions need to be made for the protection the case provides.

A few last details round out the package. The case comes in a variety of colors that look great regardless of whether you have a black or a white iPhone 4/4S. All of the phone’s controls are completely accessible, including volume and Home buttons, the silence switch, lock button, touch screen, and front and back cameras, as well as the LED flash. The case includes a built-in screen protector, and while it feels a bit more grabby than the screen by itself, it is by no means obstructive and feels totally natural. The glass covers over the cameras are crystal-clear and take photos and videos as well as a naked iPhone. The only two mild inconveniences are in the form of the headphone screw-in cap (which can be tedious to switch in and out) and the door cover for the charging port, which doesn’t fit all chargers like a naked iPhone would. My car charger’s larger-than-stock connector didn’t fit in the case. These are two necessary evils to maintain the case’s waterproof seal, however. LifeProof offers an adapter for sale on their site to fit all chargers, but some may be peeved at the need for an extra purchase, especially considering the case’s already-substantial $70 price tag.

When it comes down to it, the LifeProof case isn’t really a gaming case. More than anything, its appeal to gamers is more of an accidental result of its build quality and features. However, this doesn’t diminish its value as a great case for everyone, whether you do a lot of heavy-duty mobile gaming or not. At $70, it’s a pretty hefty investment, but you definitely get what you pay for, and those who can cope with the case’s acoustic characteristics will find the LifeProof is one of the best available on the market.

Special Note: The LifeProof case is also available for the iPhone 5 and iPad. Android users, don’t fret: a LifeProof case for the Samsung Galaxy S III is in the works!

A special thanks to Jonathan R. Wegner and Natalie Barreiro for providing us with a LifeProof case for the purposes of this review!