SteelSeries Rival 110 (Hardware) Review- The Core Essentials

SteelSeries Rival 110 (Hardware) Review- The Core Essentials

Instead of rolling out their next generation of gaming peripherals, SteelSeries has opted for a different approach by deciding to update their fan favourite products to match the current industry standards that consumers desire. Most notably, the Rival series of eSports-geared mice. This lineup contains a rich legacy of products that continue to be go-to recommendations from many prominent players in the field across multiple titles, including Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The subject of this review is the Rival 110, the cheapest mouse currently offered by the manufacturer that still contains the core essentials for competitive PC play.

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SteelSeries Rival 110 Professional Gaming Mouse (image credit: CGM Staff)

Starting with design, the SteelSeries Rival 110 features the same streamlined chassis as its previous iteration, the Rival 100. It’s understandable why there was no need to update the chassis because the Rival 100 is a very accommodating mouse for right-handed players that feels comfortable to use due to its small form-factor and low profile. Unfortunately, this still leaves left-handed players with the SteelSeries Sensei as the companies only ambidextrous offering. As is standard with Rival mice, the left and right sides of the mouse are covered with textured gripping to take advantage of the variety of grip styles players use. The only true weakness of this Rival 110’s design and 6-button layout is that the USB cable only uses a stiff sleeve instead of a more durable and flexible braided cable. This feels like the only real compromise that comes from the mouse’s affordable price tag of $49.99 CAD.

While the design of the Rival 110 has not been updated, the sensor certainly has. Previously the heart of the Rival 100 was a custom 3059-SS sensor, which had a max of 4000 CPI, 143 IPS, and 20g acceleration. This sensor has instead been swapped out for the new line of SteelSeries TrueMove sensors, which the company advertises as being the world’s first true 1-to-1 tracking mouse. The Rival 110 specifically uses the TrueMove 1 sensor, which touts specs of a max of 7200 CPI, 240 IPS, and 30g acceleration. These numbers can be hard to interpret for casual readers, but what these values equate to is a mouse that has no latency, pinpoint precision, and the ability to keep up perfectly with the quick flick movements of players who lower their DPI settings.

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SteelSeries Rival 110 Professional Gaming Mouse (image credit: CGM Staff)

Performance-wise I would rank the SteelSeries Rival 110 right up there with the likes of some of my favourite mice, such as the Logitech G403 Prodigy and the classic Rival 300. All three of these mice deliver a great pinpoint experience and feature the in-depth customization software required to fit the user’s personal needs. What makes SteelSeries products competitive-player friendly is that the user’s settings can be saved to the Rival 110 and taken anywhere on-the-go without the need for additional software or drivers. The Rival 110 may not have any of the innovative features of its more expensive brothers, but the mouse can still sync up with a variety of lighting effects using the SteelSeries Engine Software and other Prism Sync enabled products.

The SteelSeries Rival 110’s greatest strength is that it offers a fantastic 1 to 1 sensor experience to budget users at an affordable price. While I personally prefer mice with a bit more bulk and additional features, this mouse delivers the core essentials that every player requires from their hardware with no hassle. Users who already have similar hardware don’t need to upgrade and should wait for the next generation of gaming peripherals if they are looking for more innovation.

SteelSeries Rival 110 (Hardware) Review- The Core Essentials
SteelSeries Rival 110 Professional Gaming Mouse (image credit: CGM Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) Review

Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) Review

When budget peripherals advertise the fact that they offer all of the bells and whistles of the best in the market, it doesn’t take long for me to find deal-breaking compromises. Whether it’s poor build quality or cheap materials, some manufacturers are cutting corners on their mice and keyboards just so they can slap an attractive RGB sticker on the box. Thankfully, Creative hasn’t stooped this low and instead has developed a great duo of affordable gaming peripherals in their new Sound BlasterX line: the Siege M04 Mouse and the Vanguard K08 Mechanical Keyboard.

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Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) – images: CGMagazine

Now while it’s normal for me to review these products separately, I really like the idea of purchasing them as a bundle for new members to the PC ecosystem due to their software compatibility with the Aurora Reactive Lighting System and Sound Blaster Connect. This allows both the Siege M04 and the Vanguard K08 to sync up their RGB lighting effects and key maps, giving the user more customization options to consider for their personal setup.

Creative isn’t new to the world of mice, but they haven’t exactly developed one that was worth purchasing since the novelty value of the Fatal1ty 1010. The Siege M04 goes back to the fundamentals of what makes a quality mouse: proper balance, an accurate sensor, and an easy to grip form factor. I believe the Siege M04 will appeal most to users who love pear shaped mice, like the Razer DeathAdder.

The palm rest is high up, making hands naturally contort to a comfortable claw grip. The textured plastic on the side adds an extra bit of stability for the thumb to grip and allows users to easily make out where the three programmable side buttons are without needing to take their eyes off the action. While the Siege M04 weighs in a bit heavier than most competitors in this price bracket, the mouse glides smoothly on its four plastic feet with little effort. A spare set of feet is also included in the box should the user wear out the first.

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Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) – images: CGMagazine

The hallmark of the Siege M04 is definitely in its pinpoint accurate sensor, the PixArt PMW3360. While this name means nothing to a majority of readers, the facts are that the sensor has a native DPI of 12,000 and a polling rate of 100 Hz. These are valuable numbers that translate into a mouse that delivers a zero-lag experience to its users. In my experience of testing out the Siege M04 on the Destiny 2 Beta, the mouse delivered the same quality of control as I know with SteelSeries mice like the Rival 300.

There are two key complaints I have with the Siege M04; the largest one being that the DPI switch is raised instead of recessed. This design flaw can be a deal breaker for some users because their large hands can hit the switch during the middle of an intense game by mistake and throw them off balance. Thankfully the switch can be disabled via the Sound Blaster Control software, but it’s a shame some users will have to go without the DPI switch. Lastly, while I adore the vibrant RGB LED strip around the bottom of the Siege M04, the mouse loses a point for not being to change the colour of the front logo. Why this was done is a mystery, especially when every other company embraces this level of customization.

Moving on to the Vanguard K08, I’m pleasantly surprised at how much value Creative managed to pack into this mechanical keyboard. Not only does this bad boy have RGB lighting, but it even packs in custom house switches, USB passthrough, multi-media panel, and programmable Macro keys—all for $140 USD. At such a low price I thought there must be a major compromise for structure or stability somewhere, but there’s none to be found. The only noticeably cheap component is the included wrist rest, which is made of plastic and comes in at too sharp an angle to be of use to any user’s valuable wrists.

The custom house switches included with the Vanguard K08 are known as PRES switches and are co-designed with the help of one of the best switch manufacturers, OMRON. It’s refreshing to see that these aren’t attempting to copy the infamous linear experience of Cherry MX switches, but instead, deliver something unique to the market by executing a faster travel time than the traditional MX Reds. Creative accomplished this by lowering the travel distance from an industry standard of 4mm to 3.5mm. That might not seem like a big jump at first, but it does allow users to input more commands per minute than normal.

Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) Review 5
Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 (Mouse and Keyboard) – images: CGMagazine

For just over $200 USD for both, users are ready to get into the PC ecosystem with reliable gear that features all the bells and whistles of top competitors. Creative is looking to get a slice of pie in a very competitive price bracket and I believe they’ve satisfied the needs and wants of most users. While the two products compliment each other beautifully, if I had to go without one of them it would be the Siege M04. I feel that this mouse needs one more price adjustment to get it out of the intense battle between Logitech, SteelSeries, and Razer if it hopes to stand out from the crowd. The Vanguard itself is a great budget board and it’s hard to find a keyboard that delivers the same feature set for less.

Razer Lancehead (Mouse) Review – Another Winner

Razer Lancehead (Mouse) Review - Another Winner

Wireless devices have always held a tricky place in the world of gaming, especially professional gaming. While they allow freedom from wires, with that freedom comes a series of issues, such as connectivity dropping, missed mouse clicks, and the dreaded battery drain. Razer hopes to address these problems with the Razer Lancehead, the new wireless offering that manages to deliver on all promises while still maintaining that iconic Razer look and feel.

The Lancehead comes with a proprietary Adaptive Frequency Technology (AFT) in tow that will check for interference many times a second and will ensure the signal is always on the strongest frequency. This sort of technology is nothing new: it has been featured in many mice and other devices. But Razers offering appears to be far more robust, and able to adapt to the environment very well. Throughout testing, I never noticed any dropoff or issues with signal.

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Razer Lancehead Wireless Mouse (images via CGMagazine)

While I am not a huge fan of wireless mice, I have to admit the Lancehead has me convinced of the potential of the concept. From a crowded coffee shop to a busy office, the mouse never had an issue with signal. The wireless managed to maintain consistently, so much so I often forgot I had it wireless, rather than the optional tethered charging mode. It was impressive, and, apart from the Logitech G900,  showed a level of consistency I have not seen elsewhere. There is also the Lancehead Tournament edition, should you want the features without the wireless at a bit of discount.

Beyond the wireless technology, the Razer Lancehead has all you could hope for from a high-end mouse from a world leader like Razer.

The mouse offers a DPI of up to 16,000. The mouse can also detect up to 50Gs of acceleration and supports polling at 1000Hz. Now, in reality, the Lancehead has specs well above what most people may need, but it is nice to have it, and it will be future-proofed should you ever need that level of performance.

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Razer Lancehead Wireless Mouse (images via CGMagazine)

As with most new Razer products, the Lancehead supports Croma lighting. This will allow you to customize the lighting to your heart’s content, whether making it fit your style or just playing with the settings till you find something you like. It also supports all the Chroma apps that let software control the lighting of the mouse, tailoring it to the specific game you may be playing.

Visually, the Lancehead has that iconic Razer look. With a light gunmetal style colour scheme and an ambidextrous design, it will be at home in any gaming setup you may have. The soft rubber on each side ensures that no matter which hand you use the mouse with, you will have a pleasant experience. With a toggle in the Razer Synapse software, you can swap which hand the mouse is set for, ensuring left handed users will have little trouble setting it up to their needs.

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Razer Lancehead Wireless Mouse (images via CGMagazine)

Beyond the ambidextrous nature of the Lancehead, the mouse has all the buttons you would expect from a mouse at this price range. The scroll wheel works as intended, with the right amount of resistance to ensure a tactile wheel when in use. The side buttons and the DPI buttons are easy to use but never get in the way while gaming or just using the computer. Overall, Razer has put time and effort into the design of the Lancehead, and it shows with comfort and ease of use.

The underside of the mouse will reveal the hatch that allows you to store the 2.4GHz transmitter for travel, and the button to turn on and off the mouse. The cable is the typical braided cable one would expect from Razer with the ability to plug the Lancehead in directly should the battery be low, or if you just want to go wired for any particular reason.

Now if you are buying a Razer mouse at this level, you want to know how the gaming capabilities are, and I am happy to say that they are fantastic. The buttons all have a satisfying feel to them. From clicking in Diablo to shooting in Overwatch, it was all responsive and accurate. The scrolling of the mouse was smooth, and even when on the unideal surface of a coffee shop table, I never experienced any issues. There is a level of quality in the Lancehead that few mice can achieve. It is clear Razer knows what they are doing in the field, and they brought that knowledge base to bear on the Lancehead.

While everything hardware-wise was impressive, I am still not a big fan of the Razer Synapse software. While it does all it is supposed to do, and does it relatively well, with so many features reliant on it, it is one more piece of software you need to leave running while gaming. In reality, it never gave any noticeable performance hit to any of the games I was playing, but it is still one extra piece of software that needs to be running should you want to get the most out of the Lancehead.

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Razer Lancehead Wireless Mouse (images via CGMagazine)

For power users though, the Synapse offers a wealth of tools that allow you to customize the Lancehead to your heart’s content. From lighting to macros, it is easy to use and allows for some exciting and useful customizations for those who want to put the time and effort into it. It is also your source for all the lighting settings, which I will admit are quite fun to dive into.

Overall, the Razer Lancehead is a joy to use, and one of the best wireless mice currently on the market. The AFT works great, the feel of the mouse is second to none, and the lighting is just plain fun. While it comes at a hefty price ($140USD), the performance you get cannot be beaten. Razer has knocked it out of the park with the Lancehead, and if you are looking to upgrade or just looking to buy a high-end gaming wireless mouse, you can’t go wrong with this option.

Best of 2016: Hardware

Best of 2016: Hardware

For gaming, 2016 was truly a year of growth. The AAA space started to evolve in major ways, the indie scene produced some truly interesting gemss, and long-gestating passion projects finally saw the light of day. While there’s still much for developers and publishers to learn in practically every area of design and storytelling, this past year truly felt like a further maturation of this medium we love to get lost in, to lavish praise on, and to sometimes tear apart.

Here are some of the pieces of technology that grabbed us in 2016. The ones that pushed us to stepped back and admire how far technology has come.

To discover even more of the best tech of 2016, pick up the Best of 2016 issue.

Motospeed CK108 Mechanical Keyboard
(Reviewed by Cole Watson)

Motospeed CK108 Mechanical Keyboard (Hardware) Review 5

The Motospeed CK108 mechanical keyboard offers almost the same build quality and features as reputable brand names, for just a fraction of the price. If you’re a user who hasn’t experienced an RGB board because they always seem so expensive, or you want something that’s a better bang for your buck, the CK108 is definitely a top contender to consider when you make your next online purchase.

Lenovo Zuk Z2
(Reviewed by Brendan Frye)

Lenovo Zuk Z2 (Phone) Review 1

At the end of the day, the ZUK Z2 is an excellent phone at a fraction of the price of other flagship models. From the performance to the battery life, the Z2 feels premium. Combine that with a solid camera and a striking design, and ZUK has a winner on their hands.

Asus GL702M Gaming Notebook
(Reviewed by Cole Watson)

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The Asus Strix GL702M is a great gaming notebook for the student that can afford its $1399.99 price tag. Unlike previous years where notebook performance would only improve marginally, the inclusion of desktop dedicated hardware has made a substantial difference in the results of this machine.

 Roku Express Plus
(Reviewed by Cole Watson)

Roku Express Plus (Hardware) Review 4

The Roku Express Plus has access to all of the 2,500+ apps and channels offered on the Roku Platform. Whether you’re in the mood to watch movies, TV shows or anime, this device streams them all.  The Roku Express Plus may be weaker then its Streaming Stick brother, but it still delivers one of the most accessible and fluent content viewing experiences on the market.

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse
(Reviewed by Cole Watson)

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review 2

 The Rival 500 is a great eSports oriented mouse, and comes high recommended for that set. While it is more geared towards MOBA and MMO players, the Rival 500 is great feeling mouse that you can use across all titles in your Steam library, unlike the niche Razer Tarturus.

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review

The moment I laid eyes on the Razer Tarturus keypad, the only thought that went through my head was, “that sure looks stupid.” I get its purpose, of course – people into MMO’s and MOBA’s want to improve their performance by making all of their hot keys in an easy to reach place. Still, there has to be a better peripheral for the job. Enter the SteelSeries Rival 500, the first 15-button mouse designed to fit the natural form factor of the human hand with no discomfort to speak of.

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review 1The Rival 500 has a very appealing design. At first glance it appears to be the shorter, fatter brother of the Rival family due to it’s wide looking appearance, with none of the noticeable heft featured in the previously reviewed Rival 700. The 15 clickable buttons are located all across the body of the mouse, specifically seven located in reach of your thumb and eight on top for the index and middle finger to interact with. Shooters may be the titles that require the most precision from mice sensors, but SteelSeries continues to deliver their best by providing MOBA and MMO gamers with a 1:1 input sensor that can go as high as 16,000 CPI.

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review 2

As is the case with all SteelSeries mice, the Rival 500 can be programmed with the Steel Engine 3 software. It’s here you can set up key and colour profiles before you jump into a game. The mouse also features the same tactile alerts system used in the Rival 700, which you can program to alert you when your health is low, the moment you level up or even when your mana is depleted. However, there is a catch to this feature that I hate to mention again. One of the worst parts about the new features to the Rival 500 and 700 are that they can only be used in three select games, DOTA 2, CS:GO, and a modded version of Minecraft. SteelSeries hasn’t added a single title to the Gamesense library since I reviewed the 700 and that really disappoints me.

SteelSeries Rival 500 Gaming Mouse (Hardware) ReviewThe largest worry I can see readers having with the Rival 500 is the fear that they may misclick something in the middle of a game. Thankfully, I can report that this worry is completely averted. Despite having such a large number of things to click, they are all spread out evenly and require a solid amount of pressure before they activate. One of the most interesting experiences I had with the Rival 500 was setting up the mouse so that everything I needed to interact with in DOTA 2 could be handled with just my right hand. Due to my poor muscle memory, my configuration was a hilarious disaster to play with, but for smarter players who can map the mouse properly to their needs, I can easily see MOBA diehards just using their right hand to play the entirety of their games.

The Rival 500 is a great e-sports oriented mouse, and comes high recommended for that set. While it is more geared towards MOBA and MMO players, the Rival 500 is great feeling mouse that you can use across all titles in your Steam library, unlike the niche Razer Tarturus. I’m still really disappointed that SteelSeries is neglecting to improve the selection of titles that players can use their new mouse’s features on, but I have to admit that the superb execution of this models concept is award worthy. Ditch the gimmicky keypad that makes you claw at hotkeys and just pick this darling up instead.

SteelSeries Rival 700 Mouse (Hardware) Review

SteelSeries Rival 700 Mouse (Hardware) Review

After I built my computer, one of the most challenging things I had to purchase was a mouse. I wanted something with durability, a natural feeling form factor for my hand, and most importantly, a high quality sensor. I found all of this in my SteelSeries Rival 300 when I purchased it a little over a year ago. Now the SteelSeries Rival 700 made it’s appearance as the new flagship kit to purchase, and I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse because this mouse improves on my Rival 300, which I’ve enjoyed until now, in every way imaginable.

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Starting with the unboxing, the SteelSeries Rival 700 comes packaged with two interchangeable USB cables, one standard cable, and one braided which you can use depending on your personal preference. The feeling that stands out immediately when you actually hold the mouse is its weight. While it only weighs about a third of a pound, the SteelSeries Rival 700 feels like a brick compared to the 300 due to it’s metal plate and hard plastic body. Despite the added heft, the SteelSeries Rival 700 still glides around the pad like a dream, and I never felt encumbered when I needed to flick the mouse during a firefight. The only thing I really had to get accustomed to was the rise in the height of the body where my palm sits, but that awkwardness was fixed by the end of my first game session.

 

SteelSeries continues to deliver an amazing quality optical sensor with every kit they produce. The Rival 700 can achieve a max DPI setting of 16,000 and features literally zero hardware acceleration, meaning that your movements in game are exactly 1:1 to the movements you input through the mouse. This amount of precision has always been the largest appealing feature of SteelSeries mice to me, and it makes a considerable difference in multiplayer shooters when you’re hunting for head shots.

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Aside from it’s solid construction and precise sensor, the SteelSeries Rival 700 has a number of interesting new gimmicks to play around with in the SteelSeries Engine. On the left corner of the mouse there is a mini OLED screen that you can program to showcase a variety of cool effects, simple animations or even the latest dank memes you’ve been sharing on social media. The mouse also features tactile alerts, which trigger whenever programmed events occur like becoming blind from a flash bang, or the moment a cool down finishes. While it’s not the most immersive feature I’ve ever experienced, I preferred to use the tactile feedback as an informative tool, and in that aspect it helped improve my game in DOTA 2.

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Unfortunately, the large breath of effects may be fun to play around with, but the pool of titles you can actually use them on is incredibly shallow. Currently the Gamersense app in the SteelSeries Engine only supports Counter-Strike, DOTA 2 and a modded version of Minecraft. This is the biggest disappointment I have with the Rival 700 because I expected more from it, which says a lot about how much I enjoyed these unnecessary gimmicks. With no idea if SteelSeries plans to expand the feature in the future, I would’ve liked at least a couple more supported games at launch to showcase the numerous effects.

The SteelSeries Rival 700 is a piece of kit I already sorely miss from my collection of gear. My 300 feels like a cheap toy in comparison, I no longer have my cooldown times on lock and I miss seeing Nick Cage’s stupid face whenever I get killed by my opponents. The experience I had with the 700 may have been short, but it was certainly some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a gaming mouse.

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum (Hardware) Review

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum (Hardware) Review

I make no secret of the fact that I use Razer peripherals almost religiously, so it should mean all the more when I come right out and say that the Logitech G900 Chaos is an astonishing mouse. I’ll concede that it’s not quite right for my grip style, as I favour wider mice with a high arch, like the Razer Deathadder, or the ASUS Gladius, but the G900 Chaos has an excellent form factor. And given that it’s a truly, fully ambidextrous wireless mouse, I’m flabbergasted that it fits so many different grip styles.

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum (Hardware) Review 6Logitech really does appear to have thought of everything when it comes to the G900 Chaos. For starters, the ability to swap the thumb buttons from one side to the other is the crux of the mouse’s claim to be ambidextrous, but of particular interest is that, should users desire, they can actually enable all four buttons (thumb side AND pinky side) for use at the same time. It’s so obvious, but so easy to overlook—genius! That sort of simple, elegant approach to engineering runs throughout the whole package, as well. The mousewheel can be unlocked with the click of a button, allowing it to spin freely on ABEC-quality bearings—awesome for scrolling through walls of text and endless pages of reddit alike. The wireless receiver is the now-typical miniscule nub of a USB adapter, which keeps it nicely out of the way when plugged into a laptop. When necessary, though, it can be plugged into an adapter about the size of a small flash drive, which allows the full-length micro USB cable to extend it up to six feet from whichever port it calls home. And when not serving the duties of powering the wireless receiver, that same cable doubles as the charging cable for the mouse. All in all, a clever little setup.

As for form factors, the G900 reminds me an awful lot of the original Razer Diamondback. It’s a bit taller and a bit shorter in overall length, but it’s quite similar otherwise. There’s also some pretty aggressive profiling under the thumb buttons to allow for a very sturdy grip. And because the mouse is mirrored perfectly along the centre line, it allows for the sort of grip that really inspires confidence. The toggle for unlocking the mousewheel is conveniently close, but I never found myself bumping it with any of the usual claw, fingertip, or full-palm grip styles. The two DPI adjustment buttons beneath that are a bit out of the way, but not unreasonably so.

I do appreciate the Spectrum feature as well, which allows users full control of the mouse’s coloured lighting, even if I don’t much care to use it personally., The Spectrum can be changed in the Logitech software controller that accompanies it. Similarly, the software suite allows for the usual surface tuning for mouse mats, and adjustment of the standard, as well as incremental settings for DPI when the adjustment buttons are used. And while it only sports five selectable profiles, this is balanced out by the ease with which any one of those can have a limitless number of DPI presets for quick-selection. t.

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum (Hardware) Review 7The battery life of the G900 was also quite impressive. The documentation claims around 24 hours, and, rather unusually, I seemed to actually get at least that much—provided I remembered to turn the mouse off when not using it. It’s also surprisingly light for a wireless mouse, though not so much that it feels cheap or tries to run from you when you’re using it.

Finally, we come to what is, without a doubt, the most astonishing thing about the mouse: its sensor. I’ll come right out and say that no one will ever, EVER need a 12000 DPI sensor in a mouse—ever. In fact, after in-game software translation, most players will find themselves somewhere between 400 and 1800 DPI, with even extremely twitch-oriented players settling around 2100 DPI. But, that aside, the Pixart PMW3366 sensor in it is probably the best I’ve ever used—and that was my opinion of it even before discovering that it’s just about the most highly-praised optical sensor in history. Between its accuracy, lift-off distance, ability to ignore hairs and fibres stuck in a fabric mat, and polling and tracking rates, I truly can’t praise it highly enough.

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum (Hardware) Review 5Which brings us nicely to the nasty business of price. At $200CAD, the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum is no bargain by any stretch of the imagination. And given that it’s not quite perfect for my grip style, and I like a heavy right-click (which is obviously not feasible to have in an ambidextrous mouse), I don’t see myself switching to it. But in its wake, my blastproof Deathadder feels strangely inadequate by comparison—especially when it comes to its optical sensor. If it weren’t for my absurdly specific needs from a mouse, I therefore wouldn’t hesitate to snatch up a G900 Chaos. All things considered, it’s easily among the best mice on the market right now. With regards to ambidextrous mice, I’d stake my name on calling it THE best.

Mad Catz R.A.T. Pro X Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review

Mad Catz R.A.T. Pro X Gaming Mouse (Hardware) Review

The R.A.T. Pro X is a curious mouse, wouldn’t you say? I mean, just look at it—it’s one of them new-fangled customizable jobs that looks more like it’s out to kill you than bend to your whim. In truth, it took me a while to find a combination of parts and settings that was comfortable for me, but thanks to all the extra swappable bits it comes with, I did finally manage. And once I did, I was quite surprised by what Mad Catz had produced.

Wait, Mad Catz?! You mean those guys who make crappy aftermarket game controllers? I fear I may be showing my age a bit with this, but to me, Mad Catz is known for laughably poor peripherals. My, how things have changed.

madcatpromouseinsert2I’m going to come straight out and say that the Pro X is too wide for my grip style in FPS games. I’m used to gripping my mouse with just my thumb and ring finger. I love the Pro X, but it’s got no ass, and that means I can’t balance it against the heel of my palm when lifting it up and using the browser buttons to key TeamSpeak at the same time, so it just doesn’t quite work for me. But even still, it was immediately apparent when I first touched it just who this mouse is being marketed to: fans of the legendary Logitech MX500.

I’ll confess I was never onboard with the MX500 hype train, but I’d never attempt to refute its popularity, and I only needed to touch the Pro X but once for it to evoke memories of that iconic form factor. Only now, it comes with a load of swappable and customizable parts, and more software features than I can wrap my head around.

First off, there’s the look of the thing. Normally I hate adjustable mice; they never quite fit right, and they look a bit…angsty. Maybe it’s the colour scheme, or the speed holes in one of the palm rests, or the (what appears to be genuine) carbon fibre detailing on the two different thumb wrests, but the Pro X really reminds me of classic Fox Racing chest protectors. It’s a bit like an old friend—it just looks right somehow. Like the similarities to the MX500, I’m sure it’s no coincidence. The braided cable is a huge winner with me, as well. As are the second set of feet for it, which are an ultra-low friction ceramic material that absolutely wipes the floor with any of the best Teflon feet I’ve ever used. Oh, and how’s this for a party piece: the sensor is modular and can be swapped out with a new one when it comes time to upgrade.

I feel Mad Catz may have shot themselves in the foot on that one, though. There are two optional sensors you can order at the moment, and undoubtedly more on the way, but the packed-in Philips one is already absurdly high-spec. It’s an 8200 DPI twin-eye laser sensor, and frankly, that’s already overkill. Most serious gamers play somewhere between 400-1800 DPI. Most pros are below 800, with the vast majority at or around 400. In theory, higher DPI sensors mean better precision with lower DPI settings, but in practice, the interpolation between CPI and DPI is rarely scaled with lower sensitivities, instead opting for the easier 1:1 which conveys no benefits on lower settings with higher-resolution sensors. The DPI race has distracted most gamers from the real matter of how manufacturers translate CPI.

Regardless, the performance of that Philips sensor has been pretty solid in my experience. Though I do find it picking up quite a bit of noise from the QCK+ I play on, and the sensor damping setting designed to eliminate that leaves the mouse feeling like it’s not a “raw” input. I much prefer Razer’s surface calibration options, if I’m honest. The overall feel and build quality of the mouse is equally solid—a surprise, given how patchwork most customizable mice feel (including previous R.A.T.s I’ve used). And while the form factor left me favouring my Deathadder for shooters, the well-placed precision aim button, with its customizable DPI setting, meant I now favour the Pro X in something like MechWarrior Online where such a feature finds a very niche appeal.

While I think certain features like the ability to push the mousewheel to the left or right to trigger two additional inputs is clever, in practice, it requires two hands, so I could stand to lose that. But being able to swap the grip material for that mousewheel is amazing, and the ability to adjust the force required to scroll it is a Godsend. It still fails to reach all possible markets, as is evidenced by the fact that it’s too fat for my liking, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t gimmicky. Crucially, though, for the first time with one of these customizable mice, I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t a great mouse in its own right. The Pro X does an awful lot of things right, but given that it’s $200, I’d have to side with the ASUS Gladius, as that does everything right. But that being said, Mad Catz are doing things with this mouse that will definitely catch on in the market, and for that reason alone, the Pro X is one of the most important mice to hit the market in a very  long time.

ASUS Gladius Mouse (Hardware) Review

ASUS Gladius Mouse (Hardware) Review

The Gladius is the new mouse offering from ASUS and the first to carry their prestigious Republic of Gamers badge. Moreover, it is the physical embodiment of everything I’ve come to trust, respect, and adore about the ROG line. Simply put, it’s the best gaming mouse I’ve ever used. That’s high praise from someone who’s been using the Deathadder series of Razer mice for the last eight years.

Having spent quite a thorough amount of time with it, from RPG gaming, to Photoshop work, to the new Unreal Tournament, I’ve yet to find a single flaw with its design. It really does seem like they’ve thought of everything when designing it and the attention to detail with the Gladius simply boggles the mind. Sure, things like the 6400dpi sensor, the braided cable and the Teflon feet are par for the course with modern gaming mice, and the hyper-responsive switches and excellent button placement can be expected from a really serious one, but it’s the extras that really set the Gladius apart.

For example, the software suite, known as the Armoury has the usual things like button reprogramming, sensitivity and polling rate control, as well as lighting control, but I’ve never before seen an option to independently change acceleration and deceleration settings. Nor have I seen built-in adjustable “angle snapping” that subtly corrects mouse movement to keep from straying away from the vertical or horizontal axes when moving along them. Hell, that’s bordering on cheating. It’s also the first mouse in the world to offer a polling rate of 2000. That’s two thousand positional updates a second that the mouse can send to your PC, which is double what any other gaming mouse currently offers. Finally, while I have seen mice that can be calibrated to specific pads, it’s the first time I’ve seen one that has the option to learn a custom surface. Oh, and the mouse itself has internal storage to save your favourite profile so you can bring it with you without needing the software. How have I not had that in my life before now?!
asusgladinsert3Fancy software isn’t all that the Gladius brings to the party, though, as most ASUS products come with some extra goodies in the box that show just how much thought has gone into their hardware. The Gladius takes this to a whole new level. The cable from mouse to PC is detachable and can be replaced by an included three foot version for use with laptops so you don’t have a full six feet of slack jamming up your workspace. There’s a mesh carrying pouch to tuck everything into when you’re travelling. Even a spare set of those frankly amazing Teflon feet have found their way in there. Along with the ROG stickers, I was thinking that all of these things were pretty damn generous. It was all starting to make me feel quite special, if I’m honest. Then I discovered one last pack tucked into the box. ASUS provides an extra pair of switches with every Gladius purchase. I’m simply without words on this one. Killing switches is one of the very few ways to write-off a mouse, and in all my life I’ve never managed such a feat. ASUS stands so proudly behind this mouse that they’ve added not one, but two replacements in each box, along with the instructions on how to swap them out, should you ever need to. That stretches into undercutting their own sales. That’s sheer lunacy. That’s setting a new bar for customer satisfaction. In a nutshell, that’s what elevates ASUS products above all the rest.

I wonder if anyone will notice if I don’t return it…

 

SteelSeries Rival Optical Mouse Review

SteelSeries Rival Optical Mouse Review

Let me start out straight away by saying I had troubles setting up the Rival and I cannot, with 100% certainty, say that it was not a fault of my computer. For the purposes of this review, I will not fault it for this. It is a fact of PC gaming life, though, that small issues like this are bound to pop up from time to time.

I was excited to get my hands on the Rival. It says all the right things on the box. A 6500 DPI sensor, which for whatever reason, they refer to as CPI. A 1ms response time. 200 inches per second of polling and 50G of acceleration. A rubberized anti-sweat coating, on-the-fly profile switching, textured grips, and even some fancy lighting to boot. All pretty much par for the course then.  There were some non-standard features, too, like the new switches used in the left and right buttons, 16.8 million customizable colour settings, and a 3D printable nameplate in the rump that interested me.

steelseriesrivalinsert1 After playing around in the SteelSeries Engine to set up my response and tracking rates, lighting colour of choice and second profile for sensitivity and control, I immediately set about testing those new switches. It may sound nerdy and dry, but responsive switches make a huge difference in gaming and the Rival didn’t disappoint, providing surprisingly tactile feedback to each individual click. I could also feel the precision of the high DPI sensor, and found myself grinning in amusement with the setting that would defer deviant motion in the mouse to allow you to track along axes without error, even though I find it dangerously close to cheating.

Things were looking good for the rival until I started gaming. At first I thought the mouse wheel was snug, but it was snug in places, and loose in others. Half the rotation was frustratingly tight, and the other half was smooth to the point of allowing overrun.  A visual inspection revealed no obvious defects, but it was more than enough to deter me from even using it during normal web browsing, opting instead to drag scroll bars around like some sort of savage.

The feet weren’t very low-friction, either, and had noticeable warping in them. Even after twenty hours of wear on them, they still didn’t glide well. They also made quite a bit of noise, which was echoed through the mostly hollow interior of the mouse. I was beginning to feel that this wasn’t a precision engineered product and started wishing I could trade that 3D printable nameplate for some decent Teflon feet, and wondering how many of those millions of colours I would have to sacrifice for a braided cable that wouldn’t keep getting snagged every few minutes.

Ergonomics are incredibly personal and subjective but I found the profiling on the right side of the mouse to be a little off, causing my pinky and ring finger to lay against each other. I’m not one of those sweaty hands types, but between that, and the stubbly rubberized grips, I noticed the fingers I grip the mouse with were always clammy. I also found the body of the mouse to be too long for me.

Objectively, the browser buttons are too far forward of the centre of balance, and gripping to use them leaves the profile switching button impossibly far back to use while playing. These problems force an awkward grip style that compounds the issue of terrible lift-off distance. I found the mouse would often keep polling at five or six millimetres off my control surface. That’s three times what most gaming mice boast. steelseriesrivalinsert2

There seemed to be a serious disconnect between whoever designed the mouse, and its intended market. For a supposed gaming mouse, one that proudly labels on the box the professional teams that use SteelSeries products, it felt like no real gamers had their hands on it before it shipped. None of these flaws actually ruin a gaming experience, but is that the measure by which we should judge a product, based on whether or not it hindered our enjoyment? During the time I spent using it, I did find myself adapting to many of the flaws found in the Rival, but no part of the mouse inspired me with confidence, and that’s not a product relationship I want to pay money for.

Throughout my time with it, my mind kept returning to the irony of the name Rival. It definitely didn’t feel like a rival for other gaming mice in its price bracket. What it felt like was a catch-all that largely misses the gamers it markets itself to. The Rival feels like it was designed for the iGeneration that can be easily swooned with pointless bells and whistles with some added namedroppability. People who buy performance peripherals don’t care about customizable lighting, or 3D printing a nameplate that’s hidden under their hand, they care about performance, and the Rival simply fails to deliver.