Steelseries Rival Review

Big things come in small packages, they say; a central theme of life seems to be that appearances can be deceiving. This works for better and for worse, and I’m sad to report that this mouse firmly leans towards the “worse” side of that equation.

I was happy to receive the SteelSeries Rival from Ted a couple of weeks ago; my recent upgrade to a Retina Macbook Pro left me needing a mouse capable of keeping up with all the XCOM and Borderlands 2 I’ve been playing recently, and would not be painful to use for coding and office tasks.

First Impressions

Our story starts on an excellent foot – the Rival is to all outward appearances an excellent piece of gear. The mouse has a decent heft to it that makes it feel spry without requiring too much force to pick it up from the surface to adjust, and the matte finish on the surfaces gives a great amount of grip. The 3D-printable nameplate below the wrist makes for a nice touch.

SteelSeries’ website ( is well-designed and the drivers / customization engine are easy to find, but for some reason their site wants me to go to the US-specific version of their site, which does not have the Rival (or at least the link they auto-direct me to 404s). These disconcerting “looks good at first sight but ultimately seems off” feelings continued throughout my review time with the mouse.

Sensitive Matters

The Rival is an optical mouse, which already puts it off on a bad foot compared to real laser gaming mice but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mouse that has this much trouble with surfaces. I tried it on my desk at home, my kitchen countertop, the aluminum surface of my Macbook itself, and finally on a mousepad borrowed from my roommate.

Only the last one seemed even faintly OK – it seems like even the tiniest imperfections in the surface lead the mouse to jerky, erratic operation, leaving it mostly unusable. If you’re a gamer and you’re getting this mouse, then you likely already have a bitchin’ mousepad, and you should be fine, but laptop users like myself will likely find themselves frustrated.

Pokin’ Around in the Engine

The SteelSeries Engine software is pretty easy to find, especially given that a URL for it is given on the mouse cable itself.

The settings pane itself offers a wealth of customization options; you can tune everything from the mouse’s polling rate to the colours of the LEDs near the scroll wheel and on the SteelSeries logo on the wrist area, to even re-mapping buttons on the mouse to do as you will.

A button on the top of the mouse allows you to toggle between two DPI modes, which can be tuned independently of each other.

I could find no amount of tuning that would help the mouse be less jerky on non-mousepad surfaces, though, which left me disappointed.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that settings in the Engine carry over even when I switched between Windows and OS X – set once, use everywhere.

Final Thoughts

The SteelSeries Rival is a decently well-built mouse that laptop users like myself will absolutely hate because we cannot take it with us, or have to drag an annoying mousepad along. For anyone who can use a pad, it’s a responsive mouse with a good amount of options for customization and tuning, and I can tell that thought and consideration went into its design.

But the seams show a little too much, and in this reviewer’s opinion, you’re better off spending a little more money on a higher-quality laser mouse.

6/10+ Customizations stay when switching OSes
+ Wealth of customization options and colours
+ 3D-printed nameplate is a cool idea
-Needs sensitivity training for non-perfect mousepad surfaces

Available for: PC, Mac

Version Reviewed: Mac


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