SteelSeries Rival 100 Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software

Unlike my colleague Aaron Lai, I do not cover a whole lot of mice here at APH Networks. That said, I have reviewed one in the Rival lineup before; namely, the original SteelSeries Rival back in April 2014. The SteelSeries Rival, later rebranded as the Rival 300, was based off an almost-ambidextrous design that is tilted slightly for right handed users. The Rival 100 we are looking at today is a basically ambidextrous mouse that can accommodate multiple gripping styles. The reason why I say it is "basically ambidextrous" is not due to the shape of the shell, which is symmetrical, but rather the fact there are buttons on the left, and not the right. Due to the size and nature of the mouse, I found it better for those who prefer to handle their mouse with their fingers, but those looking for a palm grip certainly will not be left disappointed.

Measuring in at 120.6mm deep and 67.13mm wide, the SteelSeries Rival 100 is pretty standard, if not slightly compact, when it comes to physical dimensions. The 120g weight of SteelSeries's pointing device is not adjustable, so you will need to deal with whatever the company thinks is the best for you if this ends up on your desk. 120g is pretty light, which makes it suitable for a wide genre of games, and I am pretty happy with the weight. Based on these numbers, you can see the mouse is built for small to average sized hands. I am a palm grip type user myself, and impressively, the SteelSeries Rival 100 fits quite well. Just for fun, I gave it a claw type grip, and it is even better to use. My hand size is pretty average, so this is good news for majority of the users. Its surface material is composed of a matte soft touch paint, while both sides are made out of a textured rubber grip. All surface material is part of the unibody shell; in other words, they are not simply stickers -- the surface is molded this way from the factory. Overall, I found the Rival 100 very comfortable to touch, and maintains great control and grip even if your hands are particularly sweaty during the summer.

Unlike the SteelSeries Rival 300, the Rival 100 does not feature interchangeable nameplates at the back.

The SteelSeries Rival 100 does not come with a whole lot of buttons, but it does come with what most people will use every day. Combined with the previous image, you can see besides the standard left click, right click, and clickable scroll wheel, there is a forward and back button on the left (Which is arguably standard nowadays), and a sensitivity toggle switch on top. The mouse allows only two sensitivity settings to be saved per profile, so having a sensitivity toggle switch rather than an increase and decrease setup makes quite a bit of sense.

Unlike its bigger brother, the SteelSeries Rival 100 does not have any specially advertised switches beneath the buttons. Still, I found them to be pretty good. I have it right next to my Sensei Wireless as we speak. Comparatively speaking, SteelSeries' flagship mouse clearly delivers crisper, sharper, and more distinct clicks; the more value-oriented Rival 100 is a little more mushy. Of course, I am just being picky here. The Rival 100's clicks are still quiet, yet audible; giving it a adequately substantial feel. The switch's response is still distinct, and can be considered to be clean. Overall, the SteelSeries Rival 100 is a very well built mouse; everything feels rightfully solid to behold, especially for the price.

The SteelSeries Rival 100 features the company's Prism RGB illumination system. There is only one illumination zone; where the mouse wheel and the SteelSeries logo at the back are always lit the same color. The LED light can display 16.8 million different colors, and can be configured in software. Different lighting effects can be set for different profiles. You can also choose from three different lighting effects for each zone. These are Steady (Shows a steady color), ColorShift (Automatically cycles between colors), and Breathe (Fade in and fade out). Personally, I found anything other than Steady to be quite distracting, but this is really a personal preference. If you find any kind of lighting distracting, you can turn the lights off completely. The brightness can be adjusted by decreasing the intensity of RGB channels, but SteelSeries does not advertise multiple brightness levels on the Rival 100 in the first place.

A shot at the bottom of the SteelSeries Rival 100 optical mouse. Keeping the plastic base gliding above your mousing surface are three PTFE feet in total; also known as Teflon to the common man. In Organic Chemistry, ethylene/ethene indicates a carbon-carbon bond; with two carbons and a double bond (C2H4). Tetrafluoro replaces four hydrogen atoms with fluorine atoms, making it C2F4. In non-scientific terms, 'poly' just means a bunch of them linked together.

The SteelSeries Rival 100 is powered by a Pixart 3059-SS optical sensor capable of up to 4000 DPI (CPI in SteelSeries language) sensitivity. The 3059-SS is built off the 3050 with an optimal low lift off distance and tracking performance. There are eight allowed sensitivity settings; this includes 250, 500, 1000, 1250, 1500, 1750, 2000, and 4000 CPI. There is no fine tuning; so if you want 800 CPI, you are out of luck. It promises true 1:1 tracking with zero hardware acceleration. 1000Hz polling rate is standard, but can be lowered to 500Hz, 250Hz, or 125Hz. There is no onboard memory, so any custom settings you make will be saved on your hard drive. Thankfully, you can synchronize it to the cloud, but it will require you to install SteelSeries Engine on every computer you plan to run the Rival 100 on. Since most people are quite happy with custom software running on their computer, I think it is a pretty sensible alternative to having onboard memory.

A 1.8m rubber cable leads out from the front of the mouse via an short cable guide. For a mouse that retails for about $40 at press time, this is definitely an acceptable compromise, especially we can see how well built the Rival 100 is. A braided cable, beside aesthetic purposes, also has lower friction than rubber coated cables for performance benefits, but in most cases, it is not a big deal. The Rival 100 connects to your computer via a standard, non-gold plated USB connector. When we bring about the question of whether gold plated connectors are actually useful or not, let us just say if it was the actual pins, then possibly -- since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer, but on a digital signal level, we must understand it is a discrete one or zero; so if anyone tells you they can tell the difference, you can definitely defeat their theory with a double blinded test. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see on the plug, I would like to point out it actually does not make any physical contact electrically with your computer. In other words, it is nice to have, and it is pretty to look at, but it is not anything significant on a practical level. The lack of a gold plated USB connector will not have any performance impact on the SteelSeries Rival 100.

The Rival works along with the latest version of SteelSeries Engine 3, which is a 82MB download from SteelSeries' website. This is the cloud enabled version, which prompts you to sign in or sign up when you first start the program. I think it is pretty useful to be able to synchronize settings to your account over the internet, so I will have to definitely give the company props to such a feature.

The main screen of the software has two tabs. The first tab, labeled Gear, shows all your compatible SteelSeries device. The second tab, Library, allows you to automatically switch profiles when certain programs are launched. Our screenshot above shows the configuration screen for the SteelSeries Rival 100. The graphical user interface is basically separated into three columns; the left side allows you to configure the function of different buttons, as labeled on the photo of the mouse in the middle column. Hit the Launch button next to the Macro Editor, and a new window will pop up to allow you to record your own macros. You can also configure the function of the buttons by clicking on the labels of the mouse itself. You can switch to a left view from the default top view of the mouse for a better view of the two side buttons. To switch between profiles, or create new profiles, simply hit the "Configs" button at the bottom, and a fourth column will slide in from the left, as shown in our screenshot above.

As far as lighting effects are concerned, the little square labeled "LED" at the bottom will pull up a dialog box for setting up illumination color and effect. As I have mentioned earlier on in this review, you cannot control the brightness of the LEDs directly; you will have to decrease the intensity of individual RGB channels manually to get a similar effect. SteelSeries does not advertise multiple brightness levels on the Rival 100 in the first place, so I cannot count this against them as a flaw.

Lastly, the right column features a bunch of mouse characteristic controls, which should be pretty self explanatory. Simply drag the sliders and dials to configure to your heart's desire. You cannot enter the sensitivity value directly into the field located at the center of the CPI meter, as you are bound to eight presets only, which is 250, 500, 1000, 1250, 1500, 1750, 2000, or 4000 CPI. Overall, I found SteelSeries Engine 3 to be very straightforward and intuitive to use. The graphics are also quite appealing to look at, making the overall experience very good.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Performance Tests
4. Conclusion