Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
The SteelSeries Rival 500 I am covering today once again completes my portfolio of products in the SteelSeries Rival lineup. I do not miss a bit in taking one in the moment they are released. The first was the SteelSeries Rival back in 2014, which was later rebranded as the Rival 300, followed by the Rival 100 earlier this year. The flagship Rival 700 was covered a few months ago. The Rival 500 we are reviewing today, as its name suggests, covers the middle ground in price between the Rival 300 and Rival 700. Besides price, this mouse actually fits into its own niche as an MOBA/MMO device. Think of it as a wide body Rival 700, which comes in a relatively conservative contour shape, equipped with a whole lot of side buttons tacked on. It is molded into a nearly ambidextrous design that is tilted slightly for right handed users. Therefore, while you can never get away with holding products like the Func MS-3 in a claw grip, the Rival 500, while designed mainly for a palm grip, can easily accommodate those who prefer to handle their mouse with their claw or fingers, if so desired.
Measuring in at 118.75mm depth, 78.34mm width, and 43.34mm height, the SteelSeries Rival 500 is pretty wide when it comes to physical dimensions. The 129.7g 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. 129.7g is pretty light, which is very reasonable for a MOBA/MMO mouse. Based on these numbers, you can see the mouse is built for average to larger sized hands. I am a palm grip type user myself, and the SteelSeries Rival 500 fits quite well. Just for fun, I gave it a claw type grip, and it is not bad to use it at all. My hand size is pretty average, so this is good news for majority of the users. Its surface material is composed of a textured anti-sweat finish, while both sides are made out of a textured rubber grip. The side grips are made out of a blend of double-injected rubber. All surface material is part of the shell; in other words, they are not simply stickers -- the surface is molded this way from the factory. Overall, I found the Rival 500 very comfortable to touch, and maintains great control and grip even if your hands are particularly sweaty during the summer.
At the back if the mouse is an interchangeable nameplate. By default, it says "Rival". The nameplate is held in the mouse by friction only, so if you want to swap it out, simply pry it out with your fingernails. The main marketing call for the interchangeable nameplate is you can make your own with a 3D printer thanks to an included model. I am willing to bet 99% of the users who have this mouse do not have access to a 3D printer, and 99% of that 1% who does have access to a 3D printer probably do not know how to use it, or will not bother to make a custom nameplate, but this is a story for another day.
To say the SteelSeries Rival 500 does not come with a whole lot of buttons is an understatement. With fifteen buttons, you might be able to count all of them with your hands... if you had three of them. Combined with the previous image, you can see besides the standard left click, right click, and clickable scroll wheel, there is a sensitivity toggle switch on top, two beside the left click, one beside the right click, and six around the thumb. Yes, you read that right -- six. The section with the orange nub is the only part around the thumb that is not clickable. I think SteelSeries has done a great job in making this happen. The dead button is a natural pressure point for a standard grip, and making it not clickable is a wise choice. The rest are all within easy reach of your fingers, but will not be easily actuated by accident. If that ever becomes a problem, the two along the bottom can be physically locked out by a switch at the bottom of your mouse. This is a vastly superior design compared to mice with a grid layout. Furthermore, the Rival 500 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.
Beneath the buttons, the SteelSeries Rival 500 features proprietary switches that have a rated lifetime of thirty million clicks. The aim of these switches is not just reliability, but also a subtle audible mouse click in conjunction with quick and tactile responsiveness. To further improve the user experience, the left and right click buttons are built with a special reinforced plastic. Not only does it improve durability, but also help to evenly distribute the force of each click. Obviously, these wordings are straight out of SteelSeries' product description, the real question is, are they any good in real life? Personally, I found them simply excellent. The clicks are subtle yet audible; giving it a substantial feel to it. They click very cleanly with proper response to follow, which is a desirable trait. The clicking sound is a little deeper than the Rival 700, but mostly the same thing nonetheless. The travel is a little longer than other mice I have owned, other than the Rival 700 that features the same switches, but its crisper and more distinctive actuation makes it even better than the Sensei Wireless in my opinion. Overall, the SteelSeries Rival 500 is a very well built mouse; everything feels rightfully solid to behold.
The SteelSeries Rival 500 features the company's Prism RGB illumination system. It comes with two independent illumination zones. These two zones are the mouse wheel and the SteelSeries logo at the back. 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 four different lighting effects for each zone. These are Steady (Shows a steady color), ColorShift (Automatically cycles between colors), Multi Color Breathe (Fade in and fade out between colors), and Trigger (Color changes on button activation). Personally, I found anything other than Steady to be quite distracting, but this is really 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 500 in the first place.
New to the game are Tactile Alerts. Like the Rival 700, The Rival 500 has a vibration motor, sort of like your cell phone, that can vibrate in different preset patterns to provide you with information. Tactile Alerts can be bound with button actuation in addition to preset countdown timers. In order to prevent the vibrations from affecting your pointer precision, the pulses are directed up and down rather than left and right. To see if it actually works as intended, I tested it to find absolutely no unintended lateral movement even at 16,000 DPI sitting by itself with the vibration motor active. It is funny how in 2016, the age old force feedback feature has finally found its way onto a mouse, haha. SteelSeries has done a great job at implementing it properly.
A shot at the bottom of the SteelSeries Rival 500 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 500 is powered by a PixArt PMW3360 optical sensor capable of sensing up to a jaw-dropping 16,000 DPI (CPI in SteelSeries language) sensitivity, but can drop as low as 100 DPI at 100 DPI increments for those who want it. It promises true 1:1 tracking with zero hardware acceleration. 1000Hz polling rate is standard, but can be lowered to 500Hz, 250Hz, or 125Hz. According to the specifications, it lists onboard memory for profile storage, but I do not see such a correspondence in software. Thankfully, you can still synchronize it to the cloud, but it will require you to install SteelSeries Engine on every computer you plan to run the Rival 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 2.0m rubber cable leads out from the front of the mouse via a short cable guide. For a mouse that retails for about $80 at press time, I am a little surprised at the lack of a braided cord. A braided cable, beside aesthetic purposes, also has lower friction than rubber coated cables for performance benefits. The Rival 500 connects to your computer via a 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 500.
The Rival 500 works along with the latest version of SteelSeries Engine 3, which has gone down to a 76.6MB download from SteelSeries' website (At peak, it was over 100MB). It will prompt you to sign in or sign up when you first start the program. I like the fact you can synchronize settings to your account over the internet, so I will have to definitely give the company props to such a feature. The second thing it does when you first open SteelSeries Engine 3 is prompt you to update the Rival 500's firmware; unless, of course, your Rival 500 is shipped with the latest firmware already.
The main screen of the software has three tabs. The first tab, labeled My Gear, shows all your compatible SteelSeries device. The second tab, Library, allows you to automatically switch profiles when certain programs are launched. The third tab, GameSense, is where you configure compatible games such as CS: GO or Dota 2 for illumination and tactile alerts. Our screenshot above shows the configuration screen for the SteelSeries Rival 500. 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 next to "B3" and "Logo" will pull up a dialog box for setting up illumination color and effect.
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 can enter the sensitivity value directly into the field located at the center of the CPI meter, which is quite convenient. 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.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Performance Tests