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.
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.
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.