Cable management is not something that could ever be listed on my C.V. under key skills. Despite being reprimanded for it at a young age, my cabling still resembles a jungle in a post-apocalyptic world. It was bad before I picked up a PSVR, but now it’s even worse — I was too scared to even look behind my television and unearth my headset for months, so it just ended up collecting dust. The Mantis from Bionik, a pair of headphones that attach to your headset to create something out of Transformers, looks to cut out some of the hassle with an ingenius design. It mostly works, but there are some significant drawbacks to the product; apt considering that the PSVR itself is an innovative but finicky bit of kit.
The first hurdle to overcome is the setup. The Mantis has two configurations: the default pads that just sort of rest on your ears or the cups that encapsulate them — that’s the one you want for true immersion. Switching them around, however, is a small nightmare with twisting and small parts to throw into the mix. The instructions enclosed aren’t particularly clear with those on the box itself probably offering the best solution. This will likely be a one-and-done deal, so it’s not something that you have to figure out every single time.
Once you have the headphones configured, it’s really smooth sailing from there. They simply clip onto the PSVR headset and can slide across the headband to line up with your ears properly, as well as the ability to push on the top of them to take them off your ear a cool touch, especially if you’re entertaining and have to try and keep conversation up. Those with the newer PSVR model will find it less painful (and less cable-y) to insert the headphone lead into the headset, but it’s still better in terms of dangling cables than usual for the original model, too.
After it’s all configured properly, you’ll be relieved to notice just how much more economical the new setup is in terms of cabling — you need to cut down on cables wherever you can with the PSVR. It’s also nice to not have to really mess around to get the headset cups to play nice with your ears when a bulky thing on your face is moving them around constantly. In terms of making things less of nuisance, the Bionik Mantis is certainly a winner.
However, as an actual headset, it’s really lacking. The audio is okay, but seems to be very high in treble and low on bass. This makes higher volume levels feel like they’re constantly peaking, or just slightly tinny. There’s no in-between: the headset always feels either too loud or too quiet with not much richness or depth to it, either. While this may not be a deal-breaker for a PSVR game that doesn’t rely heavily on audio — say, for instance SUPERHOT VR — it kills the appeal for use with Beat Saber or Thumper.
It’s also difficult to recommend the Mantis for basically any multiplayer game requiring teamwork as it doesn’t have a microphone. This may be have been to keep the costs and therefore the prices low (the Mantis is surprisingly affordable), but it effectively renders the headset useless for something like Firewall Zero Hour where comms are vital. Perhaps a newer version will fix this oversight.
And that’s how I have to sum up my thoughts on the Bionik Mantis: it’s a great concept not executed all that greatly in need of a more advanced iteration to really make it a worthwhile purchase. Considering its price range, these concessions may not matter too much to some, but if you’re wanting to feel truly immersed in a virtual reality world, you may have to contend with some irritating cabling for a bit longer.