Review: SteelSeries Sensei [RAW]

SteelSeries Sensei [RAW] (Credit:SteelSeries)
The SteelSeries Sensei [RAW] (rubber) is an ambidextrous mouse that delivers everything a good gaming mouse should deliver: comfort, performance, and utility—and it even does it at a reasonably wallet-friendly price.

[Note: This review is an old archive article from 2012, when the first SENSEI RAW was released.]

Although I generally liked the original flagship SteelSeries Sensei for its shiny technology and features when I first reviewed it, I took it to task for a glaring weakness: its shiny, glossy plastic construction.

Enter the [RAW]
The Sensei [RAW] strips out some of the Sensei’s high-end features and is actually available in two styles: glossy black or rubber. One of them (guess which) fixes the Sensei’s biggest weakness while delivering high-end gaming mouse comfort and performance.

The Sensei [RAW] features, as compared to the standard Sensei, basically boil down to the following:

  • It’s dumber. It doesn’t have its own 75Mhz ARM processor. You won’t miss it.
  • It’s uglier. It’s not shiny, nor does it have a 16+ million color customizable LED. The [RAW] comes in black, and only a single-color (white) LED.
  • It’s cheaper—because its uglier and dumber than its shinier sibling.

Lists like this are probably why I shouldn’t write feature lists.

Sensei RAW feature highlights & specifications
Here are the basic SteelSeries Sensei [RAW] features and specifications by the numbers, courtesy of SteelSeries.

  • 7 programmable buttons. Practically speaking it’s 2 (the 2 thumb buttons).
  • White LED lighting: DPI indicator, scroll wheel, and the SteelSeries Logo
  • Black glossy or rubber coating.
  • 125/250/500/1000Hz polling rate
  • Up to 5760DPI (dots per inch)
  • 2 DPI modes (“High” and “Low”)
  • Support for programmable macros and multiple profiles
  • APM (Actions per minute) measuring system
  • Weight: 90 grams (0.2 lbs)
  • Height: 38.7 mm (1.5 in)
  • Width: 68.3 mm (2.7 in)
  • Length: 125.5 mm (4.9 in)

It’s not a fetish
Why do I like rubber and hate glossy plastic? Because glossy plastic mice are smudge-magnets that look great but can (and do) feel ‘tacky’ after even short gaming sessions. In short, they look pretty and feel ugly.

Even SteelSeries marketing-ese says as much.The product page for the Sensei [RAW] states that the glossy Sensei [RAW] “…delivers a unique feeling, allowing the user to compete and win in style.” In this context, “unique” is code for “crappy” and the only positive point is looking stylish. They don’t mention the overwhelming desire to wipe your hands on your jeans and then bathe them in hand sanitizer after using the mouse.

Conversely, the rubber Sensei [RAW] “…features a rubberized, soft-touch coating that is hand-sweat resistant, which allows for exceptional grip and comfort even during the most frantic gaming sessions.”

Both Sensei [RAW] mice are functionally identical. One looks good, and one looks slightly less good but is sweat resistant and provides exceptional grip and comfort. Which would you choose?

Sensei RAW Performance
Don’t let my all smart-assery fool you, because the Sensei [RAW] (rubber) is an excellent mouse. It provides silky smooth performance and its cool rubber backside is a pleasure to palm. I enjoy using it immensely, and it’s easily one of the best Sensei mice you can own—and at a bargain price compared to the high-end version.

As a constant companion for Tribes: AscendSmite (closed beta), and a variety of other PC games, I found the Sensei [RAW] to be extremely comfortable and a pleasure to use—and truthfully, on a purely subjective level I’d swear the Sensei [RAW] just “feels” a little smoother than some of the other gaming mice I’ve reviewed. It might be the “High performance UPE material” that “covers 16 % of the mouse bottom to ensure maximum glide,” SteelSeries mentions on their Web site.

The Sensei [RAW] also offers advanced macros, so you can create complex macros composed of mouse clicks, key presses, and custom timing intervals. Practically speaking, you only get a couple buttons for macros (the thumb buttons), but it’s enough for many or even most games. If you want gobs of buttons and macros (for MMO, RTS, or MOBA type games), you should probably be shopping for a different style of mouse anyway. C

If I were to add my own personal wish list, I’d like to see an additional button behind the scroll wheel, more supported DPI levels (I usually like to have 3-5), and textured rubber on the sides like that found on the Razer Taipan. I didn’t desperately miss any of those features, nor do I think the Sensei [RAW] is lacking because it doesn’t have them. I have no use for the “Actions per Minute” measurement system, but if you like that sort of thing, the SteelSeries Engine software has it.

Overall – 8/10

In many ways, the Sensei [RAW] is the quintessential SteelSeries product. It provides just what you need and nothing that you don’t—and it does it all extremely well. The Sensei [RAW] (rubber) provides raw comfort and just enough extra functionality to make it a top contender in the ‘all-rounder’ category of gaming mouse And it’s worth noting that the Sensei [RAW] is fairly wallet friendly at $60—an excellent price point for a top-notch gaming mouse.


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