SteelSeries Rival Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software

After reviewing the Func MS-3 Revision 2 a few weeks ago, we are now back with another mouse review from Yours Truly. While the Func is, in every way, a palm centric mouse, the SteelSeries Rival carries a philosophy closer to the Logitech G500 than the MS-3. On the other hand, to say the Rival is between the G500 and MS-3 will be quite inaccurate, because the contour shape of the SteelSeries is actually much more conservative than the Logitech. To give it a fair analysis, I would like to say the SteelSeries Rival is based almost off an ambidextrous design that is tilted slightly for right handed users. Therefore, while you can never get away with holding the Func MS-3 in a claw grip, the Rival, while designed mainly for a palm grip, can easily accommodate those who prefer to handle their mouse with their fingers, if so desired.

Measuring in at 133mm depth, 70mm width, and 45mm height, the SteelSeries Rival is pretty standard when it comes to physical dimensions. Unfortunately, the 128g 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. 128g is pretty light, which makes a lot of sense for what this mouse is designed for -- first person shooters. 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 the SteelSeries Rival 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 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 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", but a second one that says "SteelSeries" is included out of the box, as I have alluded to earlier. 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 not just for the user to be able to switch between two piece of rubber that says "SteelSeries" and "Rival", but rather, it 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.

The SteelSeries Rival 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.

Beneath the buttons, the SteelSeries Rival 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. 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 pretty decent. The clicks are pretty quiet, yet audible; giving it a substantial feel to it. They click cleanly with proper response to follow, which is a desirable trait. Overall, the SteelSeries Rival is a very well built mouse; everything feels rightfully solid to behold.

While the SteelSeries Rival is no light show master compared to the SteelSeries Apex keyboard, 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 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 personal preference. If you find any kind of lighting distracting, you can turn the lights off completely.

One thing I did not like is SteelSeries advertises "four brightness levels". You actually cannot set the brightness directly in software, which is quite misleading. Obviously, you can decrease the intensity of the RGB channels, which reduces its illumination power, but this is more of a manual approach to a feature that is implied to be automatic. I would like to see SteelSeries append a software update to include this feature directly in the future.

A shot at the bottom of the SteelSeries Rival optical mouse. Keeping the plastic base gliding above your mousing surface are small PTFE feet at each corner; 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 is powered by a Pixart PMW3310 optical sensor capable of up to whopping 6500 DPI (CPI in SteelSeries language) sensitivity, but can drop as low as 50 DPI 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. 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 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 2m rubber cable leads out from the front of the mouse via an short cable guide. For a mouse that retails for about $60 at press time, I found it rather surprising the cable is not braided. A braided cable, beside aesthetic purposes, also has lower friction than rubber coated cables for performance benefits. It 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's 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.

The Rival works along with the latest version of SteelSeries Engine 3, which is a 45.8MB 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 second thing it does when you first open SteelSeries Engine 3 is prompt you to update the Rival's firmware; unless, of course, your Rival is shipped with the latest firmware already. For some reason, it failed on first attempt for me, but a quick unplug and replug fixed the problem.

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. 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 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. 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. Since SteelSeries advertises as having four brightness levels for the Rival, the lack of a direct intensity control in software is a pretty critical omission in my opinion. This is definitely something that can be easily fixed in software.

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.

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