Steelseries Rival review– Pixel perfect precision

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Over the years, gaming mice have become increasingly ridiculous, adding all manner of superfluous feature and button so that it very nearly requires a degree in engineering just to hold one. Sometimes, a simpler approach is not only necessary – but welcome. If you’re looking for a gaming mouse that nails the fundamentals but forgoes the superfluous, look no further than the Steelseries Rival.

Steelseries’ latest mouse is the first purely right-handed mouse to come from the company in quite some time, eschewing the lefty-friendly ethos the company’s fostered for so long. If you’re right handed, that’s okay, because the Rival is a decidedly comfortable mouse to use, provided you’re one of those who rest his hand on the mouse instead of opting for a claw grip.

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As far as looks go, it’s a simple yet elegant design, harking back in many ways to Microsoft’s first optical wheel mouse (a mouse that served me great use for no fewer than 12 years, by the way). Don’t let the simplicity of its design fool you though. The mouse is coated with a silky-smooth matte finish that negates sweaty hands, while the sides of the mouse are padded with a nifty non-stick rubberised surface making it easy to grip. It’s also got two additional buttons on the left side where your thumb sits, giving you easy access to backwards and forwards buttons for browsing, though, like all the other buttons, they are easily programmable to do just about whatever you’d like.

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The feet are made from non-stick PTFE – the same stuff that coats your teflon frying pan, making it non-stick – which ensures that it glides smoothly across just about any surface.

As is common with almost all new Steelseries products, it features programmable, 16.8 million colour illumination. Here, it’s visible in the logo and in the scroll-wheel. The Rival also allows you, should you have access to a 3D-printer, to customise the mouse by replacing a little rubber inset with something of your own design. It’s entirely pointless if you ask me, but those who really like to make the things they buy their own will get an odd subversive kick out of it. Templates for the printing are available from Steelseries, but I think it’s something that’s not going to be used by too many people.

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What makes the Rival really stand out though is just how customisable it is where it matters. It’s an incredibly precise mouse, using the Pixart PMW3310 optical sensor which has precisely zero hardware acceleration giving you a true 1:1 physical movement to onscreen movement ratio. That means the Rival offers pixel-perfect precision, and in my own tests using the Enotus Mouse Testing software, I got a reported accuracy of 99.8%. On top of that, it does that with very low input lag; just 1ms.

Of course, should you wish to use mouse acceleration you’re able to do it via the Steelseries Steel Engine 3 software, which allows you to increase or decrease acceleration and polling and tweak it all to your heart’s content. There’re also options for angle-snapping, which predicts where you’re moving your cursor and helps you move in straight lines. It’s handy for sniping, or artwork – but annoying for just about everything else. There’s an additional button below the wheel that allows you to switch CPI settings on-the-fly, giving you quick access to precision aiming or faster movement. The software allows you to customise those two presets, going all the way from a slow-as-Darryn 50 CPI, all the way up to a supersonic, way-too-fast-for-human-beings 10000 CPI.

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It’s really quite an exceptional mouse for its price bracket. Positioning itself as a competitor to the Razer Deathadder, the Steelseries Rival has a similar local RRP of R699. In truth, they’re both very similar mice offering very similar specs and features – though I have to say I favour Steelseries’ new Steelseries Engine 3 a little more, thanks to its polish. If you’re in the market for a new gaming mouse that’s affordable and isn’t confusing, but still packs in all those gamer-centric options, you’d do far, far worse than the Rival.

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It’ll be available this Friday from Look and Listen stores, I’m told, at a price of R699 – which is about R300 less than our Australian chums have to pay for the thing.

Specs at a glance:

OPTICAL SENSOR

– 50 to 10000 Adjustable CPI
– 1ms Response Rate / 1000Hz Polling Rate
– 200 Inches Per Second (IPS)
– 50Gs of Acceleration

PROPERTIES

– 6 Programmable Buttons
– 16.8M Color Illumination w. 2 Zones
– Soft-touch coating
– Injected rubber side grips
– Cable Texture: Soft Rubber Cable

STEELSERIES SWITCHES

– > 30 Million Click Durability

SIZE & WEIGHT

– Weight: 128 grams (0.28 lbs)
– Height: 40 mm (1.57 in)
– Width: 70 mm (2.76 in)
– Length: 133 mm (5.23 in)
– Cable Length: 2m (6.5 ft.)

Last Updated: December 9, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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