Hot ears. We’ve all had the same problem. You’re about six hours deep into a weekend gaming session and your lugs start to get steamy and itchy. The massive desktop tower by your feet is churning through the graphics of your AAA title of choice and consequently, it’s turning your room into a sauna. The things we do for love, eh?
Usually, you’d brush this annoying compromise off as one of the unfortunate tricks of the trade, but not anymore. No. For HP Omen have come up with a solution.
Enter stage left, the Mindframe headset. This provocative set of cans aren’t just providing you with a means to listen to footsteps in Counter-Strike, they actually claim to keep your ears frosty whilst doing so. ‘FrostCap’ is Omen’s title for its revolutionary active earcup cooling technology.
At first, I laughed at the absurdity of this feature, but now I’m a total convert. Let me explain.
FrostCap works by cooling the grille via which the sound enters your ears, and pushing the heat that usually is left to steam up your ears outwards. This means that your ears are kept at a wonderfully chill temperature.
It’s chilly to the touch, like brushing your finger on ice in the freezer. Don’t worry though, there’s nothing touching your ears and irritating you whilst the device is on your head. Think of your ears as being suspended in a mini-fridge whilst you game.
It’s not to the point where you notice it either, which I found to be fantastic. It’s such a neutral temperature that you don’t notice that your ears are cold. It’s more like the heat has been neutralized to induce comfort.
So, that’s the Unique Selling Point of the Mindframe headset. This is brand new technology and right now no other headset on the market does this. To the demographic that sorely needs this fix, FrostCap comprehensively delivers on the ‘cool ears’ promise.
If sweaty ears is a condition that regularly devastates your evenings in front of the keyboard, HP Omen is providing a technological rebuttal to that issue, and you should pick these cans up.
The rest of the populace, who see steamy ears as a minor but manageable annoyance, probably have more questions before they open up their wallets. Stay a while, won’t you? That’s what the rest of this review is for.
Let’s talk ergonomics. This headset is comfy, and that goes beyond FrostCap. Rather than having one headband, the Mindframe offers two, one hard and one soft. This means it’s tremendously adjustable, and warps to your noggin with ease. It means you’re never pulling on one side constantly to try and center it around your skull. It’s a more practical solution.
Due to the technology baked in it’s quite a chunky piece of kit, so I’m glad it sits nicely when you’re wearing it.
Weight balance feels great, and I never felt like it was weighing me down or primed to grip my head and cause migraines like other, less ergonomic headsets on the market. The earcup cushions are also made of a nice breathable fabric.
Most importantly, it’s not the dodgy fake leather that insulates your ears, causing the dreaded problem that FrostCap solves.
The best part about the headband is that there isn’t any thick metal material rubbing against your scalp.
It’s way less itchy, and again, delivers on the promise of a headset that you don’t have to think about once it’s on your head.
I thought the microphone was static and therefore would get in the way, but that was until I figured out the delightful ‘flip-to-mute’ feature, where you simply tug the mic up to your temple and it instantly cuts your comms.
This is a wonderful solution, much better than flicking a switch or (in worst-case scenario) navigating to the dreaded volume mixer on your PC. Usually by that point, the interruption has flooded into your VOIP of choice and you have to deal with the consequences. This feels way more natural.
The mic also boasts noise cancellation and feedback, which is a welcome feature. I tested it in my usual Discord servers with my gaming pals and they never complained. I also listened to the mic to check if it was competent, and it certainly is.
Don’t expect ‘Blue’ level mic quality, but it is certainly on par with other headsets in this price range, and won’t give you any problems. Delightful stuff!
In terms of sound, it’s not quite top-end, but it’s a very pleasant and confident listening experience with full 7.1 virtual surround sound.
Trebles sound pretty good, and you can certainly feel the bass reverberating in heavier songs, but it’s not quite up there with the best, sadly. If you’re buying it purely on audio quality, you might want to reconsider, but I feel that the other features do make up for this if you need them, especially if you’re not much of an audiophile.
However, the 7.1 will certainly give you a competitive edge in ‘footstep’ games like the latest battle royale and shooter titles.
I’m not going to give you some spiel about how it helped me win a chicken dinner, but it certainly helped me call out locations of enemies in a busy compound in PUBG, which my teammates did appreciate when they cleaned them up.
You can control the volume on the headset, and this was perhaps one of the points when I started seeing some of the cons of the Mindframe. There is only one ‘button’ on the set, and that’s the volume control.
Sure, it works, but, unless HP were going for some kind of minimalist aesthetic, it doesn’t make sense to be so limited with the button allocation. You can’t turn off the 7.1 surround sound either, which seems strange to me. There’s no real way of altering the audio in general, and I’m not sure why that is?
The accompanying software, Omen Command Centre, is rudimentary and doesn’t allow for any of the aforementioned audio tinkering, but it works! You can alter the intensity of FrostCap and change the RGB lighting if you want.
This isn’t something that excites me, so I didn’t really find myself playing with it, and settled for the stock red, which looks fine. Great to have the option for those who want to attune it to the vibe of their room, or perhaps match it with separate RGB lighting, but I’m far more interested about what’s inside the box here.
Speaking of boxes, if you’re one of those who factor in ‘the unboxing experience’ as part of your enjoyment of a product, I’m here to tell you that you’re crazy, but sure, it flaps open in a satisfying fashion and looks good!
So, let’s get to the point. This headset costs £179.99. That’s a lot of money for a headset, especially a wired one that doesn’t offer high-end audio, and has a few unfortunate compromises in its design.
Yet, I find myself a bit wrapped up in the allure of the Mindframe’s USP. I’m writing this review on my laptop, using a wireless set of cans whilst the product is out of reach in the other room. My ears are steamy after a long period of listening to Spotify, and I sorely miss the FrostCap cooling a whole lot, far more than I was expecting to.
I’ve been scratching my head, adjusting the headband and generally feeling quite uncomfortable.
The Mindframe solves all of these problems. I think the point to make is that if keeping your ears cool is as big a deal to you as it is is to me, you will get a lot of use out of this headset.
If not, you should probably look for something a bit more feature-complete in the same price range. As an individual product, it delivers on its promises and offers up some incredibly helpful technology in FrostCap, something I can’t believe we’ve only just come up with.
I hope it catches on in a big way, and as it’s the only way to experience it right now, I would totally recommend it to those prone to steamy lugs.
At the moment though, it feels like the headset needs a quick revision to solve some of its silly missteps before it can truly deliver the experience it desperately wants to offer.
It’s novel and interesting, but at the moment it feels like compromises have had to be made to service the amazing USP. Perhaps this can be fixed via the bundled software, but the limited nature of Command Centre doesn’t inspire confidence.
THE VERDICT – 4 / 5
• HP Omen’s FrostCap technology is a genius innovation that delivers. This is a game changer for the steamy-eared gamer.
• Ergonomic comfortable design, feels great to wear even after hours of use.
• The 7.1 virtual surround is brilliant for tense shooters, and the microphone comes with a few clever innovations
• Missing some basic features, like a 7.1 toggle and extra buttons.
• Sound quality does not match the price tag. Not for audiophiles.
• Software is very matter-of-fact and needs fleshing out.