Every year, a new and bright-eyed tech firm claims to have cracked the code for a gaming headset that players will want to wear away from the PC. The BitFenix Flo is the newest competitor in the arena making this promise. But, the question remains: should you believe them?
The Flo aims to deliver a smooth transition between PC gaming and music on the go. And though it delivers crystal-clear audio from your mobile device, that the cans' design might shame you in public just might force you rethink your decision.
Aesthetics and build quality
Somewhere along in the design process, something went wrong. There's just something fundamentally off with the look and feel of the headset. Simply put, it's unappealing.
The metal bridge, meant to provide optimal pressure during use, sticks out, creating the illusion that you are only a few bad days away from becoming a cyborg. It also provides very little flexibility when worn. Worse, see those expandable arms? They don't expand much.
Frankly, it's counter intuitive to design a set of gaming headphones that can only extend about an inch on each side. What's worse is that the metal and plastic are fused together so tight that they don't want to seem to give up the inch they have. The result is you fighting a losing war with a pair of headphones. Not fun.
The BitFenix SofTouch Surface Treatment that provides the headphones with their matte finish emphasizes a certain style. Style, however, isn't what I see. All I see is cheap plastic. On a similar note, the mic – which can be removed easily – is made of a thick rubbery plastic that makes it rather stiff.
After an extended playtest, many of these cheap-looking plastic parts proved to be just that. After less than a week of use, the aluminum shell on the wiring broke and slid off, and a few plastic pieces began to break in half. The plastic band also ripped free from one side of the headphone while trying to adjust the expandable rail. After the rip, the headset no longer provided any pressure and simply sagged uselessly on my head.
The strive for functionality does make it so the BitFenix headset doesn't require a USB connection to make the headphones functional. For many PC gamers, especially those playing on gaming laptops, this is tremendous news. No longer will you have to sacrifice a valuable USB port to listen to people shout at you online.
BitFenix claims that the Flo's strength is in its sound quality. In this regard, they're correct. The Flo, with its 40mm neodymium drivers, provide clear and balanced audio for pretty much anything you could possibly want to listen to.
For a relatively cheap gaming headset, the Flo pumps out decent bass and thumps along as you listen to your tunes. And its wide frequency also allows you to listen to everything from hardcore black metal to the complex beauty of Mozart without feeling like you've lost too much on the inbetween.
The quality of the sound is especially wonderful considering that the Flo doesn't require an additional power source. Even without a AAA battery or USB source, the Flo manages to keep up with much more expensive and power-hungry headphones. While they might not win in a fair fight with a quality set ofBeats Studio Wireless or Bose Freestyle headphones, the Flo does manage to hold its ground against music headphones twice its price.
As gaming headphones, though, they're pretty standard. They don't provide clear surround sound, and for gamers who use environmental cues to tell them when someone is sneaking up from behind, this might be a serious drawback. The mic provides clear audio for teamspeak, but unlike more premium brands like the Turtle Beach PX22s, the ability to control microphone volume is lacking.
While the BitFenix Flo doesn't look as good as headsets over double its price, it holds up in sound quality surprisingly well. While the high sound quality and low price – the Flo costs $49 (about £31, AU$56) – are strong selling points, the design is a mess.
Gamers looking for a stylish set of headphones with digital surround sound will want to keep looking, as the Flo doesn't hold up under fire. But, if you can get past cheap-looking, cheap-feeling hardware, you just found yourself a fine budget gaming headset.