Vortx Hands-On: This PC Gaming Gadget Blows (in a Good Way)

Say you've already got a huge, wide-screen gaming monitor and a great surround-sound headset. How could you possibly make your PC gaming experience any more immersive?

Enter the Vortx.

Created by Whirlwind FX, this $120 accessory is billed as "the world's first environmental simulator for PC gaming." In other words, it blows hot and cold air at your face based on what's happening on screen. Seriously.

At first glance, it's easy to mistake the Vortx for a simple speaker. The device has an unassuming black, cylindrical design, with little more than a power button, an intensity knob and an adjustable nozzle where the air gets blasted out. But when you start gaming, the Vortx is anything but subtle.

The device uses a variety of algorithms to blow warm and cool air at various intensities based on the colors and sounds appearing on your screen and coming from your speakers. The hardware is plug-and-play and will work with pretty much any content that's playing on your display, though you can tweak the air sensitivity and heat intensity using either the built-in knob or the Vortx Engine app.

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For the most part, Vortx works as advertised, creating some really cool moments in my various play sessions with it. The accessory really shone with Destiny 2; I felt gusts of cool air while running outside in the wind and rain, just before getting blasted with heat as I battled in a fiery corridor. As soon as I unleashed my special, burning, golden gun, the Vortx synced a burst of heat perfectly with every flaming blast.

The gadget added a similar level of immersion to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The steady flow of warm air I felt while trying to escape a cramped cave made the experience all the more tense, and I experienced an even greater sense of relief once I felt cooler air when I escaped. The Vortx also made the game's intro sequence extra intense, as I felt the rumbling winds as Lara Croft just barely escaped a helicopter crash.

The accessory really shone with Destiny 2; I felt gusts of cool air while running outside in the wind and rain, just before getting blasted with heat as I battled in a fiery corridor.

Some moments felt a little off; the air got especially hot even as I explored some pretty benign, brown caverns. But for the most part, the Vortx added an appropriate level of heat and cold during my tomb-raiding adventures.

The Vortx's effects were far less intense when I played fighting games such as Ultra Street Fighter IV, but the wind was still noticeable. I felt a nice blast of wind every time Ryu shot off a hadouken fireball, and I could feel the heat when Ken launched his signature flaming shoryuken uppercut. But in my testing, the Vortx played best with shooters and action games that had lots of environmental details — and lots of things happening on screen.

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One of my only knocks against the Vortx is that I can't see myself using it for hours on end. Sure, you can adjust the intensity, but even after a windy half hour of shooting aliens in Destiny, I was a bit exhausted.

There's one other thing to know about the Vortx: This thing gets loud. You probably won't notice if you're wearing a headset or cranking your speakers up, but the Vortx whizzes and whirs like and overworked PC when it's firing on all cylinders, so you might want to avoid using this device when your roommates are trying to sleep.

Still, if you're a PC gamer seeking maximum immersion, or if you just want a fancy new gadget to add to your RGB-laden setup, you might like the Vortx It's a wild and wacky accessory that pulls of its party trick quite well.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.