EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid hands-on: More than just an excellent solution for gaming on the go
Even in 2021, many gamers still believe that earbuds and gaming don't have much in common. Until recently, most digital athletes and even casual gamers couldn't even imagine using wireless audio solutions. Thankfully, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is one of the products that can bring wireless earbuds into the gaming realm across multiple platforms. Although it cannot be considered cheap, it doesn't come with a scary price tag, either.
Today, we will take a closer look at this audio accessory that promises an excellent audio experience for gamers on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, mobile phones, as well as desktop PCs and laptops. Sadly, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is not compatible with the Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S consoles and the microphone is not active when using the USB-C dongle. Fortunately, there are quite a few strong points to make up for these issues, as we will see in today's hands-on review.
Box contents, design, build quality
Just as I was expecting, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid comes well-protected inside a box that looks great and feels solid. This box shows all the essential information and contains everything needed for long-term use in any scenario on the inside. In addition to the earbuds and the charging case, there is also a USB-C dongle (and even a protective sleeve for it), an adapter cable to use the GTW 270 with a PC, a charging cable for the case, three additional sets of silicone tips, as well as a few printed guides.
The design of the earbuds might not be out of this world, but it gets the job done properly and they don't fall off my ears when I do push-ups — an annoyance that I had to face while using many other earbuds. Some might not like the lack of touch controls, but I think that having a single control button placed slightly out of reach is an excellent choice in this case. After all, these are wireless earbuds focused on gaming, not on controlling the music that might be playing in the background. The case might be quite bulky, but it feels solid and looks great (at least if you enjoy a good matte black metal finish as much as I do).
For me, taking the earbuds out of the case can get quite annoying from time to time, but this is probably mostly due to my clumsiness. The case, buds, and accessories have a premium feel, maybe with the exception of the silicone protective sleeve for the dongle. I simply don't see its purpose and I'd rather like to get a carrying pouch for the charging case instead.
Before moving on, I have to mention the five blue LEDs on the case that look great and are very useful to indicate the battery level accurately, while many other brands use single multi-colored LEDs or even a single white LED that flashes when the battery level falls below a certain threshold.
Specs, features, real-life usage
In this case, I dare to say that numbers don't matter because the proprietary miniaturized EPOS audio drivers deliver the right sound in virtually all scenarios. However, those who are looking for artificially boosted low frequencies should just move on and pick something else. I should mention just a few highlights before moving on, such as IPX 5 water resistance, Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity for dual-channel and aptX via the USB-C dongle for single-channel, low-latency audio, up to five hours of autonomy on a single charge, and a total of 20 hours with the charging case.
Although the USB-C dongle provides a lag-free experience, after a few weeks of use I can say that the Bluetooth experience is also (almost) free of any delay, as Asphalt 9 feels incredibly snappy in both cases. When it comes to PC gaming, these wireless earbuds helped me fully enjoy multiple War Thunder and World of Warships battles without lag. What I love most is that explosions and shots are not boosted pointlessly, something that happens quite often with audio gear tuned for gaming nowadays.
For me, the most interesting parts about the audio experience provided by the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid are the music listening and virtual surround scenarios. All genres sound great, although EDM and hip-hop fans might feel the need for deeper and punchier lows. If I had to describe the sound provided by these earbuds in one word, that word is "accurate" and I think this should say it all. The virtual surround experience, on the other hand, might be hit or miss, but in most cases I discovered that enabling 7.1 audio when using the GTW 270 Hybrid on my PC added a pleasant sensation of depth, thus increasing the level of immersion into music, games, or movies.
I had no problems with the autonomy or default audio tuning, but both might receive further improvements via firmware updates in the future. The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid works with the Gaming Suite software for Windows that I used with other EPOS devices so far, so I could take advantage of the EQ presets that I already fine-tuned in the past.
In case you were wondering, connectivity is rock-solid and I never faced any random disconnects or crackling noises (seems like a rather frequent problem with Bluetooth earbuds, or maybe I was unfortunate so far). Battery life can already exceed the value mentioned in the tech sheet (I am now using the headset with firmware 7.3.55 and dongle with version 3.3.43). Now, the time has come for my final words.
The good, the bad, and the truth
While I was certain I would get at least a good piece of audio gear for gaming on mobile and PC, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid exceeded my expectations by far. There is no latency when using the USB-C dongle and even Bluetooth connectivity is noticeably snappier when compared to most of the other wireless solutions that I used so far. As I already mentioned, sound quality is excellent in all scenarios, especially for those who like a more neutral approach instead of audio tuning focused on bass. The use of upgradeable firmware in both the earbuds and the dongle is also a big plus in my book. Before moving to the weak parts of the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid, I have to mention one last time that the quality of the build and materials is excellent.
The EPOS Gaming Suite software seems to be unable to save the value of the Reverberation setting when switching from 2.0 to 7.1 and back, and it always defaults to 0. This isn't a big problem and I am sure that the team behind the program will address it sooner or later. I don't know about others, but I often have a hard time taking the earbuds out of the charging case. A future version of this product could come with an easier-to-handle design, or maybe I just need more practice in handling earbuds. Lack of Xbox connectivity and the fact that a PC user needs a separate microphone for in-game voice chat are the last two weak areas that I was able to discover.
Currently available in the US for US$149, down from a regular price of US$199, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is a piece of hardware that no mobile gamer should miss, but PC and console users should consider giving it a chance as well, even when they are just looking for high-quality wireless audio for music, podcasts, or movies in a compact package.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid closed acoustic wireless earbuds from EPOS free of charge for the purpose of testing.
EPOS (official product page, US English)