SteelSeries Rival gaming mouse review – back to basics

[Originally posted to my PC gaming column at]

The SteelSeries Rival gaming mouse sticks to ‘the basics’ and provides a capable, comfortable and colorful mousing experience. And if you have a 3D printer, you can even name it.


The SteelSeries Rival is a mid-level optical gaming mouse that delivers all the features you’d expect at a reasonable (around $50-$60) price point. [NN9-]

SteelSeries Rival gAming mouse features

  • 50-6500DPI, adjustable in 50DPI inCrements
  • 2 sepArate DPI settings (low/high)
  • Adjustable polling rate: 125Hz/250Hz/500Hz/1000Hz)
  • 200 Inches Per Second (IPS)
  • 50Gs of Acceleration
  • 6 Programmable Buttons
  • 16.8M Color Illumination with 2 independent zones (logo/scroll wheel)
  • Soft-touch coating and textured rubber side grips
  • Soft Rubber Cable
  • 30 Million Click Switch Durability


  • Weight: 128 grams (0.28 lbs)
  • Height: 45 mm (1.8 in)
  • Width: 70 mm (2.76 in)
  • Length: 133 mm (5.23 in)
  • Cable Length: 2m (6.5 ft.)


With nary a whiff of shiny, glossy, smudgy, sticky plastic in sight, the all soft-touch rubber Rival sports a subtle right-handed curve in a form factor that’s a little larger than its siblings (the SteelSeries Sensei and the SteelSeries Kinzu).

It’s definitely a good choice for gamers with slightly bigger hands, or who just like a large mouse under their fingertips. Textured side grips (which I’m also a fan of) ensure you always maintain a cool, firm grip on the Rival.


The SteelSeries Rival is a straightforward right-handed gaming mouse with 3 extra buttons (4 counting the scroll wheel) that can be customized with macros or keystroke replacements.

The buttons are generally well-placed and within easy reach—at the very least, there aren’t any that require a significant amount of finger acrobatics to reach and press. The top-mounted button behind the scroll wheel is a little on the small side. The rear thumb button is about twice the width of the forward button and rests naturally under your thumb. You may need to stretch a little to reach the forward thumb button.

One interesting novelty for the Rival is the ability to change out its rear name plate. It comes with an alternate one already in the box, but you can also print your own—if you happen to own a 3D printer anyway. SteelSeries promises that more information on how to do this will be published on their Web site.

Great software

The new SteelSeries Engine 3 software not only looks better than the SE 2.0, it has a greatly improved and more intuitive user interface. With it you can do all the things you’d expect to do: adjust the Rival’s two DPI settings, acceleration/deceleration characteristics, and (of course) create and assign macros to its extra buttons.

The macro editor is arguably among the best you’ll find in gaming mouse software.  You can record timings, define standard timings, or customize timings. It also records mouse clicks (a nice touch). Once a macro is recorded, you can right-click on the elements in the macro (such as a key press or timing delay) to change or delete them.

Bad software!

Unfortunately, despite the improvements in the SteelSeries Engine 3, it’s also not fully compatible with all SteelSeries peripherals. I could understand this limitation where older peripherals might be concerned, but SE 3.0 didn’t even recognize the SteelSeries Apex keyboard connected to my system.

I checked with SteelSeries and (unfortunately) they confirmed this limitation. To work around the problem you have to run both versions of the SteelSeries engine, but this workaround didn’t work reliably. Frequently I could access the Apex keyboard through the SteelSeries Engine 2, but attempts to access or open the SteelSeries Engine 3 to change mouse settings flat out failed (sometimes).

This is something that SteelSeries will presumably fix in the future—perhaps when they add another forthcoming feature to their engine: the ability to create and sync cloud-based device profiles and settings (much like Razer’s Synapse software).


Tracking (as expected) is smooth and flawless, although this is usually the case. Although the Rival performed well on the Mionix Ensis 320 metal mouse mat, it beautifully and lightly sailed across my bright white desktop even better–well enough to make me consider losing the Ensis 320.

The scroll wheel is a little “lighter” than I prefer but not overly loose, so it strikes a reasonable balance between gaming and surfing/scrolling. My natural  grip position (a “claw” grip typically) makes the forward thumb button a little hard to reach.

Overall 4/5 Stars (5/5)

The SteelSeries Rival is a fantastic mouse that gets virtually everything right. For now, I deducted a star only because I’m irritated that the SE 3.0 software doesn’t work quite properly yet.

I know software development can be a fickle mistress, but releasing unified drivers for a new peripheral that don’t work with another new peripheral seems like a boneheaded (SteelHeaded?) maneuver.

Once this issue is sorted out—or if it’s not one that will plague you to begin with—consider this a hearty recommendation for the SteelSeries Rival.


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