Alienware Wireless Gaming Headset: AW988 Review

We have spent the last few days living with the Alienware AW988 headset perched on our head and have gotten a very good idea of what the first headset from Alienware in nine years is all about. We gamed, we watched movies, and we listened to a lot of music. We tell you how it did and all the features and build quality.

continued...

Alienware AW988 Mic and Controls

The mic is extremely well done on the AW988. I am personally a big fan of fold-up booms on mics and that is exactly what the AW988 has engineered into it.

Article Image Article Image

As you can see above, when the mic if full retracted, it fits into a slot on the earcup. This is extremely nice integration from a design perspective, but it is utilitarian as well. This makes it much easier to throw the AW988 into your bag should you wish to head out with it. Extending the mic is as easy as grabbing it with your fingertip and pulling it down. There is a detent pin used that the boom travels across that turns the mic on and off, so there is a tiny bit of resistance when moving it across this point. The whole thing is very intuitive once you get used to its operation.

Article Image Article Image

The boom also twists around once deployed so you can position it where you want. The flexible part feels very well built and gives me the impression it is going to stay feeling that way for a long time.

Article Image

Even with the mic deployed and twisted around, it is not hard to get back into place. A little bit of pressure gets it fed back into the channel where it resides easily.

Article Image Article Image

The earcups are padded with an "extreme comfort sports mesh." Think of this material as a wickable microfiber material that you might find in sports shirts and such. I found the material extreme comfortable.

The headband expands a good bit more than the size I need for my 7 3/8ths head. The clicks on the slide bar expand in very small increments so it is easy to fine tune the size. Everything is held together here very securely and has a great feel. The metal slide bar itself has a black anodized brushed appearance to it as well so that it does not detract from the overall look of the headset even when fully expanded. It mixes perfectly with the overall design.

Article Image

Looking down behind the earcup, you can see that it attaches to the headband at a single point. These are done differently than many headsets you see that use a Y-type earlap bracket. This allows the earcups vertical tilting movement to align the earcups with the side of your head. It allows for a small bit of horizontal movement as well, but that is mostly handled by the bracket above the earcups.

Article Image Article Image

The control sets, of which there are two, are both on the left earcup. On the bottom we have only one control. This button will cycle through the sound effect presets that you will find in the Alienware Headset Center software that we will discuss on the following pages.

On the bottom we find a battery status indicator LED, a 3.5mm audio port, and the micro-USB charging port. The USB cannot be used for wired USB operation as the AW988, although you can charge it while using it. Alienware does include a 3.5mm cable that has a mic mute button on it as well. When the mic is muted using the 3.5 cord, it lights up with a red LED. Audio presets do not work when using the 3.5 cord.

On the back side of the left earcup we have three controls. You have a master volume control which is the wheel on the bottom in the picture. The button in the middle is a mic mute button, should you not wish retract your mic to mute it. The wheel on top is the "Game/Chat volume mixer." This wheel allows you to turn up or down in-game sounds along with communications you might be using. With the wheel in the middle, both are turned up to maximum volume.

Article Image Article Image

The AW988 headband covering and cushioning is very unique. It is like a pliable section of very smooth rubber that is stretched across from side to side. It almost feels like it is air-cushioned, but once you press on it with a finger you can tell it is not. It does have a very light padding under it, but the headband feels nearly imperceptible on your head. The covering material has an almost nonexistent drag coefficient and not once did it ever pull on my hair. It slides around with ease when you reposition it.

Article Image

Why is there a big hole in the bottom of the right earcup? This is actual very utilitarian. Your USB dongle will click into place in this slot and stay there. If you want to take your AW988 on the road, you can stick the USB dongle in there and not have to worry about finding the tiny thing later. The unboxing video on the following pages shows this in use.

Article Image Article Image

Both the ear cushions are removable and seemingly replaceable. There are currently no replacement parts listed on Alienware's site however. If you do need to clean these, I don't see any reason why you should not be able to hand wash these should they get dirty. While the ear cushions are very secure, these are easy to take off and on with a simple twist and pull, or push and twist.

The tech specifications on the Alienware website, and what are listed on the box referenced on the first page are different due to it being a "pre-production" box. The AW988 has a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response. An impedance of 16 Ohm is listed. Maximum sound pressure is listed at 107dB. The diaphragm on the drivers is 1.6 inches.