The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 Headphones Combine Budget and Performance - review

A pair of SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones in front of the box on a kitchen marbled counter
Credit: StealthOptional

A pair of SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones in front of the box on a kitchen marbled counter
Credit: StealthOptional

SteelSeries is one of the most well-known brands for PC and gaming peripherals, offering keyboards, mice, and headsets that all ooze quality. The Arctis Nova line of headphones are easily some of the best gaming-centric options on the market, but the Arctis Nova 7, Arctis Nova 9 and Arctis Nova Pro headsets don't come cheap.

Thankfully, SteelSeries has now released a new budget-friendly option that sits between the middle ground of the Arctis Nova 3 and 7 - the Arctis Nova 5. Releasing at $129.99 (£129.99), the Nova 5 gives players an option that is light on price while maintaining good performance, offering a wireless headset that oozes the same quality the company is known for, with a great battery life to boot.

Much like the rest of the Arctis Nova line, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones come in two variants, the 5X and the 5P. Not much is different between the two, aside from the fact that the former works with Xbox, and the latter works with PlayStation. Both are compatible with PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices as they don’t require specific wireless connections to function fully.

A pair of SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones laying down with the inside of the earcups on show
expand image
Credit: StealthOptional

While the Arctis Nova 5 can connect via Bluetooth, the best option is using the included USB-C dongle that provides a 2.4GHz connection to your gaming console or PC. From my experience of walking around the house while wearing the headphones, you can easily get a few meters away from your console and still stay perfectly connected.

The Nova 5s arrive with mesh earcups that feel soft to the touch, with a completely plastic design that feels sturdy, but bends enough to easily remove and put on the headphones without creaking or breaking. (Looking at you, Xbox Wireless Headphones.) There's a cloth headband that lets it comfortably sit on the top of your head, one that many other SteelSeries headphones offer too, like the Nova Pro or the Nova 7/9.

Considering the headphones are wireless, there should be no surprise that the Nova 5s use a USB-C port for charging. Fortunately, you can still use the headphones while charging (at least, if you charge it using the same device). According to SteelSeries, the headphones will last over 60 hours on one charge, but using the 2.4GHz connection primarily has given me around 30-40 hours of use. Still, that's plenty enough, especially thanks to the fast charging that USB-C provides.

I did find myself missing the hot-swappable battery of the Nova Pro headphones, which is easily one of the best wireless headphone solutions to the age-old battery life problem. However, you can still get a great amount of playtime out of them before they need to recharge, and using a Bluetooth connection should get more battery life out of them.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones with the power button and USB-C port on show
expand image
Credit: StealthOptional
Have an opinion on this article? We'd love to hear it!

The microphone on the device is fully-retractable, hiding away from plain sight with a simple slide in. I love this design on the Nova Pro headphones too, but it's a shame that this means you'll have to place the foam filter on whenever you'd need it. However, I've been using the microphone without it for a few weeks now, and I've never had any complaints from friends or colleagues that I sound terrible.

Wearing the SteelSeries Nova Arctis 5's feel comfortable for long gaming sessions. The lightweight design makes it almost forgettable that it's on your head, and while I think the tightness can be a bit too constricting at times, it's easy to adjust the headband or the strap to loosen it slightly.

Of course, it's no good having wireless headphones that feel and look great, but sound like dollar store AirPods clones. Fortunately, while the sound isn't the best I've ever heard, the Nova 5s are admirable for their price tag. So like: Don’t expect the quality sound of the pricier Bose QuietComfort Ultra headphones, but for the price you’re paying, the Arctis 5s shine.

Playing Ghost of Tsushima, hearing the wind in your ears or the cinematic score enter as you fight Mongols feels superb, or hearing footsteps nearby in Call of Duty feels equally satisfying. It’s a neutral sound overall, not opting to go hard on bass, and while it's not as great as the Nova Pro headphones, it's also $200 cheaper.

Someone holding the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones' left earcup showcasing the volume wheel and the mute button
expand image
Credit: StealthOptional

While a lot of the brilliance comes from the headphones' great value, the Nova 5's are further boosted by SteelSeries' Sonar software. This software can fully adjust your headphones, allowing you to finetune the EQ to your preference, and on-board memory allows you to keep the same settings no matter which device you're connected to.

If you hate messing around with settings, then you're in luck. The Sonar software also has a huge range of presets created by SteelSeries for certain games. Competitive titles like Modern Warfare 3, or singleplayer titles like Assassin's Creed can all be found via the presets, giving you an easy option to change your profile on-the-fly. It even works via the mobile app too, which is excellent to see.

Of course, I'm not likely to switch out my Nova Pro headphones for the Nova 5's any time soon, but I'm still hugely impressed by my experience with the Nova 5's. SteelSeries has managed to cut the costs in the right areas, offering a budget-friendly pair of headphones that sound great, are extremely comfortable, and offer a decent amount of battery life. Some small flaws aside, the Nova 5 headphones are easily a great value proposition, especially when using Sonar.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headphones
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5 headset is an excellent pair of budget-friendly headphones, offering great sound quality and a comfortable build without breaking the bank. While the material may disappoint some, the intuitive software and good battery life should appeal to many.
9 out of 10
This Article's Topics

Explore new topics and discover content that's right for you!

ReviewsHardwareTechNew Peripherals
Have an opinion on this article? We'd love to hear it!