Reviews

Steelseries Rival Optical Mouse – Review

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The Numbers:

OPTICAL SENSOR
- 50 to 6500 Adjustable CPI
- 1ms Response Rate / 1000Hz Polling Rate
- 200 Inches Per Second (IPS)

- 50Gs of Acceleration

SIZE & WEIGHT
- Weight: 128 grams (0.28 lbs)
- Height: 45 mm (1.8 in)
- Width: 70 mm (2.76 in)

- Length: 133 mm (5.23 in)
- Cable Length: 2m (6.5 ft.)

Mice. Mice everywhere. Not the furry kind intent on making stereotypical teenage girls in movies scream, you understand, but the more plastic kind, the kind designed to for playing games and fragging enemies. There’s no shortage of these devices on the market, many of which claimed to be aimed squarely at gamers and boasting an assortment of numbers that generally succeed more in baffling potential customers than actually helping them make an informed decision. It’s a confusing world, out there.

In truth I have something bordering on an obsession with mice, a weird desire to try out as many of them as I can, constantly in search of that perfect union between technology and hand. Today I’m taking a look at Steelseries latest offering in the form of the Rival, a powerful optical beastie that isn’t perfect, because perfection is an unattainable and ever-changing goal. It is, however, very, very good.

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When it comes to comfort the Rival doesn’t manage to claim the padded throne, that accolade being retained currently, in my eyes, by the Drakonia Black, but still holds its own well enough. The design is relatively straightforward with a sleek build that’s geared towards right-handed players, so if you’re one of those bizarre lefties then you might want to look elsewhere as sadly no plans seem to be have been announced to create a southpaw variant. The Rival is quite long while the back of the mouse sweeps into a lovingly curved hump that falls off slightly toward the right so that it fits the hand more naturally. Meanwhile the anti-sweat matt black finish provides a good, soft feeling, which is bolstered by the textured grips on either side of the mouse. The end result of all this lavished attention is quite nice, remaining comfortable even after several hours of solid, hard usage.

One complaint I will level at the Rival, though, is that when using a standard palm grip my pinky finger tended to hang over the side, sliding along the mat like an upset child being dragged along the floor of ASDA by a clearly sleep-deprived parent. This is actually a problem I have with many mice, one which has been solved by other companies through the simple expedient of introducing a curved wing for gamer’s fingers to rest on, but for whatever reason this seems to be a practice not yet widely adopted. What, is my pinky simply not worthy of your attention? It may be the smallest of the fingers, but it’s just as noble.

In terms of buttons the Rival boasts seven of the task-achieving things, each of which can be programmed using the downloadable Steelseries Engine, which we’ll come back to later and discuss in far more detail. In a somewhat surprising move Steelseries have opted for a soft, quiet feeling to the main right and left buttons situated atop the mouse, creating something that almost feels…luxurious. At first this was a little disconcerting as years of gaming have left me naturally attuned to a far louder click which announces whether or not I’ve pressed the button correctly and how many times I’ve done so, but after just a short amount of usage I began to appreciate the Rival’s quieter nature, especially when simply browsing the Internet, although I did run into the occasional problem in the form of accidentally double clicking when the action was heated. This, I must stress, though, was very, very rare occurrence. It was, in all honesty, quite likely my own fault as well, as I’ve often been somewhat over excitable when it comes to shooting people in the face. Squeezed between the left and right clicks is the standard-issue wheel which sports a decent scrolling action, being smooth enough for everyday use whilst still having enough control for doing things like swapping weapons in the middle of a heated match. The wheel can, of course, be clicked as well. Sitting just behind that is a button for quickly switching between DPI settings on the fly, although sadly you’re limited to just two presets at any given time. Meanwhile to the left-hand side of the mouse reside a further two buttons, the first of which is quite sizable cin comparison to those seen on other mice and falls neatly under command of the thumb. The second button proved to sit a little too far away for my taste, though, requiring a stretch of the thumb in order to catch the very edge of it, a clear disadvantage in some situations though it must be said that I’ve had this problem before with other mice and so the fact that I don’t have very large hands must be taken into account. Both of these buttons have a far louder click in comparison to their brethren atop the Rival, but generally feel quite nice to use.

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As for the build quality I can’t find anything in particular to moan about, which is something of a let-down as I’m actually in quite a bad mood and could have done with waving my finger at some imagined slight. At 128g the mouse hits the sweet spot in terms of weight for me, feeling light enough to throw about at speed with enough heft to provide a reassuring sensation. Give it a squeeze or two and everything feels absolutely solid and well-made.

The horrible fact about reviewing gaming mice is that at this level of technical performance it’s damn near impossible to declare one product better than another, because the differences are so small that humans struggle to register them. At the heart of the mouse is the Pixart PMW3310 optical sensor which makes bold claims to having 1:1 tracking and absolutely no hardware acceleration. The Rival boasts a polling rate of up to 1000Mhz for response times of just 1-millisecond, and has a maximum CPI (DPI) of 6500,  a considerably higher number than I can justifiably imagine anybody actually using, but is nonetheless noteworthy for being an impressive maximum for an optical mouse. But in the harsh light of reality these stats mean so very little when attempting to compare performance through fingertips. A polling rate of just 125Mhz compared to a mouse with 1000Mhz is obvious, but try to feel the difference between 500Mhz and 1000Mhz and it’s simply not possible, or at least to me. Can I claim the Rival is better than the Drakonia Black in performance? Or the Steelseries Guild Wars 2? Or the DeathAdder? No.

What I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt is that the Rival is a precise, responsive piece of technology that never once let me down, delivering pinpoint accuracy and perfect tracking at all times. There are numerous pieces of software that can measure the exact statistics of a mouse’s performance to be compared with those from other devices, but that would be a pointless errand. You’ll never notice the difference, I bet, between relatively specced offerings. No, I’ll just tell you that I simply can not fault the performance of Steelseries latest mouse, having tested it thoroughly through a mixture of the newly released Loadout, Far Cry 3, Call of Duty: Ghosts and more. The only thing that ever resulted in my demise at the hands of my foes was my own lack of skill, speed and precision, the mouse itself presumably smirking at every downfall, contemplating how in the hands of a more God-like gamer it could dominate any battlefield.

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Previous Steelseries mice did have  a notable problem with positive acceleration, which for those not in the know essentially boiled down to the mouse cursor moving differently depending on the speed, resulting in sometimes inconsistent tracking. For the Rival, though, this problems seems to have been completely abolished, leaving in its wake fantastic performance. It was, and is, quite simply, a lovely mouse to game with.

You may have also noted that most of my testing has been in shooters, and rightly so. Those who spend more time playing RPGs, MMOs or even RTS games may wish to opt for a mouse with a higher button count in order to make the most of macros. With its sleek design and button-count the Rival felt, to me, to be naturally attuned to the shooting genre.

The Rival allows for plug and play, so you can rip the mouse straight out of the packaging, whack in the USB and game away, but to take complete advantage of the product its best to install Steelseries custom engine, which sadly doesn’t come packaged on a disc with the mouse itself. Acquired by visiting the official website the Steelseries Engine 3 features a neat, simple layout that saves fuss by ensuring everything is clearly presented to the user, and it’s from this magical little piece of software that you can merrily fiddle with the CPI, using pleasingly small increments of adjustment , change the polling rate, alter acceleration/deceleration and tweak the angle snapping function. The Engine also contains a pretty comprhensive macro creation suite where you can play to your hearts content, recording length of time of buttons being held, delays and more. The Steelseries Engine 3 is pretty much impossible for me to find fault with at this point, so I tip my hat to its creators.

As is becoming a far more common feature these days the Rival also allows for automatic profile switching, which changes the mouse’s settings to your own designated preset selection when firing up a certain application. Obviously this means you could, for example, have it swap to a higher DPI setting when it detects Counter Strike: Go being started. In particuilar it’s handy for jumping between games and programs where you commonly utilise different macros.

For those that enjoy a bit of showmanship the Rival does have customisable lighting options, the Steelseries logo on the back of the mouse and the edges of the scroll wheel coming alive with whatever color light you opt for through the Steelseries Engine. And this naturally brings me to the aesthetics of the mouse, a topic that is naturally fairly hard to write about. The fact of the matter is that Steelseries have gone for a pretty understated style for the Rival, with the sole exception being the lit-up logo, but even that can be turned off if you wish to retain a more streamlined look. With its easy black paint job and elegant shape I find myself rather attracted to the Rival, as it seems genuinely comfortable in its own basic sleekness, aloof of that over-designed stuff that a lot of companies seem to think all gamers want. I’d go so far as to say the Rival looks classy, or as classy as a mouse can ever be.

Rather strangely Steelseries have opted to include a second nameplate for the back of the mouse which they claim can have the owner’s name engraved on it using a 3D printer. Considering that 3D printers at home aren’t exactly prevalent at the moment I’m not sure how many of these will ever get used for their intended function, but it’s a fun nod from Steelseries nonetheless, even if the cynical recesses of my soul are loudly proclaiming it to be a waste of money that bumps up the overall retail price, if only by a small amount.

As you may have already ascertained from this review there’s little I can actually fault with the Rival; it really is a damn good mouse, both decently comfortable and powerfully capable. There’s a few things I’d have liked to have seen added, such as more curvature on the right-hand side of the mouse’s body to provide finger support, but these are relatively minor complaints, though still, I feel, justifiable ones. I’ll go out on a limb here and say the Rival is Steelseries’ best mouse to date, which is why it has become my current favorite.

The Good:
+ Lovely to look at.
+ Performs like a dream.
+ Easy to use software.

The Bad:
– Pinky can drag when using standard palm grip.
– Er.

The Verdict: 4.5/5 – Great, bordering on awesome.
Though it’s not quite the mouse to end all mice, the Steelseries Rival easily ranks amongst the best that money can buy.

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