by Anton Shilov
03/21/2006 | 01:05 AM
XFX is the company primarily known for its graphics cards, however, it is not only selling video boards, but is also targeting other spheres of the business associated with computer gamers with its XGear, Executioner and Revo brands. Such business model perfectly reflects the motto the company had for this year’s CeBIT: “play hard”. In order to play really well and successful you have to own quite a number of devices and it is highly possible that you would look for one stop shopping.
In addition to its graphics cards XFX sells advanced RAID controllers, gamepads, racing sets as well as game controllers. But, in fact, the business goes even further: recently XFX introduced its Mindquake, a headset with built-in shock engines which shock your earphones whenever something from your favourite game explodes or crashes near you, providing additional interactivity and immersive game-play.
We remember that the hardcore Doom III fans advised others to play the highly-anticipated title at night with all the lights off and with your 7.1 audio system turned to the max. That was probably an excellent idea to get yourself really scared, but that is probably an plan for a person who lives alone in his or her own house, otherwise relatives or neighbours will be upset to say at least.
Using a quality headset is a common option for playing at night, or when you need not to bother the others near you. XFX Mindquake, which the company refers as Xgear multimedia gaming headset, is a very interesting solution for those who want to have some additional interactivity from their games as well as do not want to cause any inconveniences for the rest, during a LAN party, for instance. The product was demonstrated during the CeBIT 2006 show in Hannover, Germany, and we found it pretty exciting to try it ourselves.
The XFX multimedia gaming headset comes in a very solid plastic packaging, which is so well-built that it is actually not easy to open it and you have to see tools like scissors to do this. The box is not very large, it is just as big as ordinary packaging for headphones of that size.
The design of the box maintains traditional style of XFX and includes very bright explosion, or something like that. The box definitely catches eye of potential buyers in retail stores, as usually headphones are packed in a little more unpretentious way.
Given that the headset is mainly aimed at gamers, not audio enthusiasts or frequent music listeners, you are not going to find bags for CDs, golden-coated mini-jack connectors along with converters for jack connections inside the package. What you will find is the following:
The XFX Mindquake headset itself with external controller of volume and vibrations. The cord of the headset is pretty long, 2.5 meters, which should provide enough flexibility for the users.
A special USB cable that feeds the XFX FX-audio bass-shock engines that create vibration inside the headphones when low-frequency pumps emerge.
A special box where AAA batteries can be installed for the cases where there is no spare USB port, or it is not possible to use it.
While there is no bundle at all, the device comes ready to use. Being a very affordable product, the XFX multimedia gaming headset is definitely not expected to provide any free additions to itself.
Both headphones of the XFX multimedia gaming headset can be used on left or right ears, as convenient to the particular user. Unfortunately, this means that there is not enough precision in their abutment to the ears and the head, but you should remember that the weight of the headset is not high and the abutment can be maintained pretty easily, as there is a flexible band between the phones.
On the other hand, the lack of proper marking between right and left earphones may cause you to wear them incorrectly, which means that you will not be able to experience accurate 3D positioning in games. In order not to find yourself in such situations, just take into account that the absolute majority of headsets have microphones on the left side.
The microphone that is attached to the phones using a very flexible “goose-neck” can also be set in whatever position the user likes very quickly.
The length of the cable the product uses is pretty long (2.5 meters) and should be enough for essentially everyone. We have to notice, however, that mini-jack plugs for microphone and headphones are attached to very thin cables, which are easy to damage.
Other cables that the headset uses are pretty flexible and not very thin. Nevertheless, XFX could make the product a little better by using a molded connection between the cable and the headset: this would improve durability of the connection. We would also suggest XFX to use retractable spiral cables between the input connectors and volume/bass controller. This would allow gamers to have fewer entangled cables on their desk and would be especially useful for LAN parties.
The length of the cable between the headset itself and volume/bass controller is just normal to use the controller with right or left hands.
A drawback that the Mindquake from XFX has is definitely relatively narrow diameter of earphones. This means that ears of a grown-up will be squeezed by the phones, which, in case the headset is used for several straight hours, causes pain and tiredness.
We would also like to point out that the device is built pretty well in generally. The built is very tidy and sometimes is even better compared to other phones in the price-range of $30: quality of plastic and cables is pretty high and brings fine feeling.
In general, the design and the impressions the device brings are pretty good, however, we noticed several drawbacks which fixing would be much appreciated by gamers.
Any measurements of headphones’ sound quality is very subjective and depends on various factors, like audio card’s quality and peculiarities of listener’s perception. An obvious problem with testing headsets is that there are no available tools to do that.
Overall, the quality of sound that the XFX multimedia gaming headset produces on music is acceptable, but do not expect it to be close to higher-end products, even not very expensive Philips SBC HP840 produces much better quality when it comes to music compared to the XFX Mindquake. On the other hand, for an inexpensive headset with 40mm driver unit and 20Hz – 20KHz frequency range, the XGear multimedia gaming headset plays great. Moreover, it does not distort, like typical cheap headphones on high volumes, at least, until volumes are really high! For games, the headset also provides very fine quality, but the better audio card you have, the better effects and 3D positioning will be.
The quality of the microphone on the XFX multimedia gaming headset is pretty fine as well, but a problem with it is that it is omni-directional and can catch some unnecessary background noises.
The shocks that the device produces whenever the bass sounds are very impressive. It, however, works very simple: the device filters the low frequency bass sounds and whenever they are involved, it turns on the so-called XFX FX-audio bass-shock engines. Unfortunately, the level of vibration produced by the motors is not particularly dependant on the level of bass sound within the game, so, it is not a force-feedback type of headset. Still, it really brings a lot of fun!
Theoretically, the XFX FX-audio bass-shock engines can work pretty well in movies as well, on the other hand, given that the audio part is made very thoroughly in movies, a typical subwoofer should create a more pleasurable effect. So, the real advantage of the XFX Mindquake technology is additional interactivity within video games.
The online price for XFX XGear multimedia gaming headset is around $30 in the U.S., definitely not a lot for relatively high-quality headset with very impressive vibration feature.
If you are a typical gamer who wants some more realism for your games, the XFX XGear Mindquake is something that you may consider buying, as you are going to get very cool vibration effect in games, nice headphones and a microphone to talk to your friends using Skype, Vonage or other VoIP services.
If you are a music lover, buying the XFX XGear multimedia gaming headset is not particularly wise: even its name implies that it is firstly designed for gamers rather than music fans. Therefore, you probably should consider something else, or just acquire the Mindquake solely for gaming.
So, in overall, the XFX XGear multimedia gaming headset leaves a very good impression about itself, but we would remind you about some issues with its design that you should keep in mind when marking purchase decisions. On the other hand, for $30, this is probably one of the best options available on the market, and it also has remarkable vibration feature.
So, let’s sum up all the advantages and disadvantages of the product.