Fantastic when it works and incredibly frustrating when it doesn't, the AW920H could stand to be a lot more user-friendly. Capacitive touch controls for its audio sound great on paper, but less so in practice. Despite delivering where it counts, there are one too many issues for me to fall in love with this headset.
- Delivers fantastic audio when it works properly
- Long battery life
- Active noise cancellation works well
- Touch audio controls are practically unusable
- Audio would not play correctly at first
- Design is unappealing
- Microphone wouldn't work
I reviewed so many headsets over the years that they tend to blend together. It's not often I come across a headset that leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but Alienware's AW920H did just that.
It's unfortunate because it's meant to be a premium headset that delivers a similarly premium experience, but it instead falls short by missing expectations. A dud microphone, nearly unusable volume controls, and an odd design hurt what should be an excellent headset on paper.
It's a shame because this seems to be one of Alienware's few forays into the premium headset space recently — not including Dell's other headset lineups — and it was a swing and a miss.
Alienware AW920H: Price and availability
Alienware debuted its AW920H headset at CES 2022, with its Lunar Light model launching a month later in February 2022 for $200. A Dark Side of the Moon color variant, which comes in all black, released in April at the same price point. These are the only two colorways available for this headset at the moment.
Besides Amazon, it looks to be available for purchase on Dell's own website. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it can't be found on online storefronts like Best Buy or Walmart.
Alienware AW920H: What I like
Active noise cancellation goes a long way in providing a better audio experience all around. Even with construction going on right outside my apartment for a few days, ANC noticeably reduced the noise; so much so that it was difficult to tell there was any construction at all.
With a quick toggle, ANC can be turned on and off at a moment's notice, giving you a good sense of its actual effects. The white background noise it delivers is easily tuned out, and completely unnoticeable when audio is actually playing over the headset.
|Frequency response||20 Hz-40 kHz|
|Battery life||Up to 55 hours (Bluetooth), or up to 30 hours (2.4GHz)|
|Active noise cancellation||Yes|
Aside from its active noise cancellation, I don't have too many good things to say about the AW920H. The audio experience is about what you'd expect from a headset at this price point, meaning it's great. I have no issues on that front because everything sounds wonderful coming through the earcups. That's arguably the most important aspect of any headset, so it at least excels where it counts.
Its 55-hour battery life over Bluetooth also beats out some of the competition, and it means you won't have to worry about charging it up very often.
Alienware AW920H: What I dislike
I have mixed feelings about the AW920H's earcup design. The flat side accented with a glossy black finish definitely lends itself to the "alien" name, but I think it makes me look like an airline pilot more than anything. I can appreciate wanting to stand out among other headsets, but this one draws the eye in unappealing ways.
Its aesthetic was just the beginning of my troubles with the AW920H. Though it's built to be used wirelessly on PC and mobile, it can connect to PS5 through a 3.5mm jack.
As soon as I tried to do this, I immediately noticed that audio wouldn't play out of the right earcup at all. I then tried to connect it to my PC via the wireless 2.4GHz dongle and found the same issue; no audio in the right earcup. Only when I swapped back to the 3.5mm connection on PC did audio finally play correctly on both sides. Not off to a great start. Alienware has since contacted me about the issues and sent me a new headset unit, though this particular problem still remained.
When I attempted to connect it to my PC over Bluetooth, I had similar issues. Audio wouldn't play at all at first, and I needed to fiddle with my PC settings to get it to work. Whereas other headsets would connect over Bluetooth and be fine right out of the gate, Alienware's AW920H stumbled quite a few times.
The audio controls are built in such a way that they are capacitive through the right earcup. Swiping on the earcup, in theory, will adjust the volume up and down. In practice, I found these controls to be just about unusable. They worked maybe one out of every 10 times I tried, and it never seemed to be in the same area or with the same pressure.
Sometimes I even needed to swipe with two fingers to get it to work. Most of the time I sat at my desk looking like an idiot as I clawed at my headset. And when they did work properly, they were imprecise. The new unit I was sent seemed to resolve this issue, as the touch controls were responsive.
Though there is an inline control on the 3.5mm cord, it only works to mute and unmute the microphone, so I had no saving grace when it comes to audio, unless I did it through my PC or PS5 settings manually.
Attempting to use the microphone painted a familiar picture as well. I tried to record myself over Audacity, and despite the microphone being connected, turned on, and selected in Audacity, it wouldn't pick up any sound. It has a nice red LED on the tip to indicate when you're "properly" muted though, so there's that.
On the new unit I tested, the microphone worked fine over Bluetooth, but not so great over the 2.4GHz dongle. It produced a loud garbled static noise until Alienware support sent me links to the correct drivers to update. This, again, solved the issue.
All of this added up to make for an incredibly frustrating experience. When it works, it works just fine. But I shouldn't need to jump through hoops and cross my fingers and hope it works properly. The capacitive touch controls for its audio were especially disappointing.
Maybe other people will have better luck with it than I did. As it stands, the user experience needs some rethinking.
Alienware AW920H: The competition
If you're looking for a PC headset, you can't go wrong with the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. It's one that I still use to this very day for meetings and podcasting, and it hasn't let me down.
It sports a comfortable build that I can wear for hours with my glasses without feeling pressure, and on PC it supports THX Spatial Audio for 7.1 surround sound. What makes it even better is that it's still one of the best PS5 headsets out there too, despite not supporting surround sound on console.
For something extra premium and insanely pricey, there's the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro. It is by far one of the best headsets I've ever used, and the GameDAC Gen 2 is a game changer when it comes to audio controls. At $350 it can be a tough sell, though. If you'd rather save some money, you can opt for the wired version for $250. It cuts out 2.4Ghz and Bluetooth support, but it's still just as high quality.
There's also the Logitech G733 headset for people who want something more colorful with RGB lights. With colorways including lilac, blue, white, and black at around $150, it's both stylish and affordable. In my time with it, I especially appreciated its near 29-hour battery life and its long wireless range of 65 feet, allowing me to walk around my apartment without worrying about disconnections.
Alienware AW920H: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You like its unusual look.
- You want a headset with active noise cancellation.
- You need Bluetooth 5.2 and 2.4GHz wireless connection options.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want a headset that works straight out of the box with no fuss.
- You want physical buttons to control your audio.
- The headset design is a turn-off.
While it's great for listening to audio, just about every other part of the experience with the AW920H is a frustrating mess. "Plug-and-play" this is not. I can appreciate adding features like active noise cancellation along with Bluetooth 5.2, but when it's difficult to control the audio volume, and the mic hardly works, it's not worth $200.
I could very well be an outlier in my experience with the AW920H. There are other people who have had a better time with it than I've had, and maybe you'll be a lucky one if this is something you're interested in. Based on my time with it, I just can't recommend it when there are other headsets out there that are better, and more affordable.
Too many issues make this headset hard to recommend to anyone, but maybe someone will have better luck than I did. In my experience, the user experience just isn't worth the price.
This review was originally published on Aug. 13, 2022. It was updated on Sept. 12, 2022 with the following changes:
- Noted that Alienware has since contacted me about some of the issues I was having and sent me a new headset.
- Updated that the touch controls on the new headset work as intended.
- Noted that while I still had issues with the microphone, a driver update resolved these.
- Clarified that I still had an issue when initially connecting the new unit over 3.5mm.
Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.
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