SteelSeries Sensei Wireless Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software

As I have stated in the beginning of this review, the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless is more than just a wireless version of the corded Sensei. While the basis of its design is fundamentally identical -- such as its ergonomic ambidextrous shape and button placement locations -- a number of things have been modified and upgraded in the process. The original SteelSeries Sensei came with a highly reflective "foggy mirror" finish with black sides; the Sensei Wireless we have here today is a changed animal with a brand new skin. Its surface material is composed of matte soft touch paint, with a glossy strip running the perimeter to give its look a bit of an aesthetic lift. The peninsula surrounding the scroll wheel is real metal, which is literally cool to touch. At the back, the SteelSeries logo is illuminated by a 16.8 million color LED; more on this later.

Measuring in at 129mm depth, 69mm width, and 41mm height, the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless is pretty standard when it comes to physical dimensions. Its 120g weight is also really light. In fact, it is a whole eight grams lighter than the SteelSeries Rival. Considering the Sensei Wireless needs to hold a battery inside, whereas the Rival does not, this is pretty impressive. In fact, it is only eighteen grams heavier than its corded counterpart. Generally speaking, 120g 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 Sensei Wireless still fits quite well. This is quite a pleasant surprise for an ambidextrous mouse. 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. Overall, I found the Sensei Wireless very comfortable to use, and maintains great control and grip, even if your hands are particularly sweaty during the summer.

While the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless is no light show master compared to the SteelSeries Apex keyboard, it comes with two independent illumination zones on the mouse itself. These two zones are the mouse wheel and the SteelSeries logo at the back. The LED lights 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), Breathe (Fade in and fade out), and Battery Status. My favorite will have to be Battery Status. It will glow green between 30% and 100%. Below that, it will switch to orange until it hits 10%. Once we are 10% or lower, the LED will turn red. If you find any kind of lighting distracting, you can turn the lights off completely. One minor complaint is the SteelSeries logo's illumination intensity is not uniform; it is noticeably darker at the top when in use.

SteelSeries does not advertise the brightness level adjustment of the LED lights on the Sensei Wireless. However, like the Rival, you can do so indirectly by decreasing the intensity of the RGB channels, which reduces its illumination power. If backlight intensity can be played around directly in software, it will definitely be a welcomed feature.

The SteelSeries Sensei Wireless comes with more than enough buttons for the most enthusiasts out there. Obviously, it is no Func MS-3 Revision 2, but coming from the Logitech G500, a mouse I have been using every day for the last four years, I am not complaining. Combined with the previous image, you can probably spot besides 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 right side is a mirror image of the left by having two addition buttons in this location. A small non-user configurable LED located between the scroll wheel and the sensitivity toggle switch shows the charge and connect status in red and blue, respectively. 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. As always, you can remap any one of them in software to your heart's desire.

Beneath the buttons, the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless features proprietary switches that have a rated lifetime of thirty million-plus 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. In general, I found the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless is a very well built mouse; everything feels masterfully solid to behold. I also have no issues accidentally engaging buttons by accident, but this is probably more of a combination of my grip style in conjunction with the button resistance than purely by engineering ingenuity by SteelSeries.

One of the biggest highlights of the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless bundle will have to be its charging base, which doubles as its wireless transceiver as well. Now, it is not an inductive wireless charger, but it is almost as cool as having one. Three metal contacts at the bottom work its magic. The charging base's solid metal construction is substantial and beautiful to behold; an LED lights up the perimeter of the pad where the mouse is to be placed for juice replenishment. It is actually extremely cool looking in action. A photo of this in the works can be seen on the next page of this review. The bottom of the charging pad is covered by a rubber layer, so it will not slip on your desk. Like the mouse itself, the LED strip can display 16.8 million different colors, and can be configured in software. Similarly, you can also choose from three different lighting effects. These are Steady (Shows a steady color), Breathe (Fade in and fade out), and Battery Status.

The metal charging base connects to your computer via a braided USB 2.0 cable. Unfortunately, this means if you want to charge your mouse at night with your PC turned off, the only way to do so is if your motherboard has an always on USB port. I think an external power supply will be very useful here. If you want to use your SteelSeries Sensei Wireless in corded mode, you can connect it directly to the front of the mouse and engage the lock, so having a braided cord is actually functionally relevant in this setup. 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 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 Sensei Wireless.

A shot at the bottom of the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless laser mouse. There is no more LCD display like the original Sensei, but I do not think you are missing a whole lot in my personal opinion. A hardware on/off switch is present, along with a "Connect" button to correspond to the one at the bottom of the charging base. The three metal charging contacts can also be spotted. Keeping the plastic base gliding above your mousing surface are PTFE feet at each corner of varying sizes; 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 Sensei Wireless is powered by a Pixart ADNS 9800 laser sensor capable of up to whopping 8200 DPI (CPI in SteelSeries language) sensitivity, but can drop as low as 50 DPI for those who want it. This is the same sensor used in the Tt eSPORTS Level 10 M I have reviewed in January 2013. 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 Sensei Wireless 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.

The Sensei Wireless works along with the latest version of SteelSeries Engine 3, which is a 50.4MB download from SteelSeries' website at press time. 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. If your mouse did not already ship with the latest firmware, it will prompt you for an update.

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 Sensei Wireless. 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 or right 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", "Base", 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.

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. Other features include a sleep timer, which defaults to fifteen minutes. To reactivate the mouse, you will need to click any button. Other adjustments include battery saver settings, acceleration/deceleration, angle snapping, lift distance, and polling rate. All in all, 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