SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless Review: The Best Universal Gaming Headset

Eons ago, I worked a retail job selling gaming headsets (among other things) during the PS3 era. Even back then, I was annoyed that most headphone manufacturers had virtually identical versions of the same headset, distinguished solely by whether they were compatible with the Xbox or PlayStation. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless may not be the first headset to put this particular nuisance to bed, but it’s my favorite.

The core of this particular problem comes down to how the different console manufacturers handle wireless audio. Bluetooth is the default system for wireless audio on most devices, but there’s just enough of a latency issue that gamers would notice. Especially if you play online competitive games, where split-second timing matters.

Both Microsoft and Sony have their own proprietary wireless audio systems to deal with this problem, but, surprise, they’re not interoperable. Worse yet, it’s usually too expensive to bother adding support for both into a single headset, since most gamers tend to have either one console or the other. Fortunately, the Arctis Nova 5X Wireless has a handy solution to this problem.

Enter the Dongle

The Arctis Nova 5X headset is designed for the Xbox Series X/S (as denoted by the “X” in its name), but the USB-C 2.4-GHz dongle has a small switch that lets it swap between Xbox compatibility and … everything else. You can use this headset with your PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC, heck even your phone just by plugging this little guy in.

Black headset with cushioned ear cups padded headband and extended mic hooked on a tabletop stand

Photograph: Eric Ravenscraft

This isn’t the first SteelSeries headset with this feature—my previous top gaming headset recommendation for Xbox, the Arctis Nova 7X, included the same dongle. However, it’s still uncommon for most wireless gaming headsets to support such a wide array of devices. Most often, the Xbox is the odd one on the compatibility list.

On top of this, the Arctis Nova 5X Wireless has a separate Bluetooth connection, so you can pair it with your phone or other devices to answer calls, listen to music, or put on your favorite podcast. While the 7X can play audio from both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz at the same time, the 5X only lets you listen to one or the other, though there’s a handy button on the right ear cup to swap between them. In my experience, the handoff was nearly instant. While it won’t help you listen to music while you game, it’s incredibly useful for swapping tasks.

More Power

The Arctis Nova 7X Wireless was a solid contender for a while, but the battery life on the 5X puts it to shame. SteelSeries advertises about 60 hours of battery life on a single charge (compared to less than 40 on the 7X), though that can be cut quite short if you swap to Bluetooth mode. In my testing, I was able to get close to 40 hours of life from mixed use, which is still longer than most (though not all) gaming headsets on the market.

The headset also supports quick charging via USB-C, and it gets an impressive amount of mileage from just 15 minutes of charging. SteelSeries claims that you’ll get six hours of gameplay from such a short charging session. I put my unit on the charger and walked away long enough to make a sandwich and watch a quick episode of a show. By the time I came back, it was close to 50 percent, more than enough to get me through the rest of the day and then some.

The Arctis Nova 5X is also the first SteelSeries headset to support its new mobile companion app. I say “first” not because SteelSeries has promised to support other headsets, but because I badly hope it does. The SteelSeries GG app for PC may be a powerful tool to customize your game’s audio, but I found the companion app simpler and more enjoyable to use.