Here we have the SteelSeries Sensei a Pro Grade laser mouse featuring (amongst other things) a 5700 CPI (that’s Counts per Inch) sensor. The mouse features 7 programmable buttons (although 2 of these are on the right side of the mouse, to support the ambidextrous design).
This is the standard edition, there is also a RAW Edition that does away with the processor, the LCD menu system and the on-board memory and is available in 2 versions (one with a rubberised soft-touch surface & one with a smooth glossy surface), in addition to this there is a Fnatic Special Edition. All of these can be seen here. At the time of writing the retail price for the SteelSeries Sensei is approximately £75.
Take a look beneath the Velcro secured front flap and you will get to see the Sensei, a mouse that looks somewhat like many other mice apart from that glossy metallic finish of course. This is not going to be easy to photograph!
Some notable features (other than the aforementioned 5700CPI sensor) is the ambidextrous shape, the illumination options (16.8M colours!) the LCD menu, and not forgetting the on-board 32bit ARM processor!
In the box you will find the mouse itself, a Quick Start Guide, a SteelSeries Product catalogue and a sticker.
The most striking feature (until you look at the base!) of the SteelSeries Sensei is the glossy metallic surface. It’s a difficult surface to describe as it’s neither high gloss chrome or matt/dull, it does however seem to feature a higher level of grip than you would expect from such a surface, I like it!
The shape of the mouse is pretty standard (that’s no bad thing BTW) and is also ambidextrous in its design. It is quite long (encouraging more of a palm grip) and also very light (105 grams) and when in the hand appears to be extremely comfortable. At the back of the mouse is an illuminated SteelSeries logo that has been etched into the surface, this is really smart and the lighting can also be controlled via the SteelSeries Engine software, apparently you can choose from 16.8 million colours!? hmm…
The mouse features 8 buttons of which 7 are programmable, although the thumb buttons are duplicated left and right due to the ambidextrous design, so really there are 5 programmable buttons for normal use (unless perhaps you hold yours with both hands!). These buttons are left and right, the 2 thumb buttons and the clickable scroll wheel. The eighth button, at the back of the scroll wheel, is for switching between 2 user definable CPI settings. Both the Scroll wheel and the CPI button are also illuminated and the lighting is user-definable via the SteelSeries Engine software.
The Sensei also features a braided cable (approx 1.9m), that seems a little heavy and stiff in comparison to others that I have seen in the past.
Underneath the mouse things start to get even more interesting, first lets cover the sensor. The 5700 CPI (Counts per Inch) laser sensor can also be doubled up to a whopping 11400 CPI (now that’s high!) and the mouse also features SteelSeries’ additional technologies ExactLift, ExactAim, ExactAccel and ExactSens (see below for more details).
SteelSeries ExactLift gives you the ability to customize the lift distance. This has a number of practical applications, most importantly it allows you to fine-tune the mouse to your preferred mousepad or mousing surface. Not all surfaces are equal. Surfaces are made of many different types of materials and those different materials have different qualities. They can be reflective, rough, smooth… the list goes on. All of these factors will influence the lift distance of a normal mouse; with the Sensei, we put a whole new dimension of control in your hands.
SteelSeries ExactAim will allow you to be more precise. Headshots anyone? As you slow down your cursor the mouse will decelerate even more allowing you to focus on your target.
SteelSeries ExactAccel does just the opposite as ExactAim. As you increase the speed of your mouse movement, ExactAccel will accelerate your movements even faster in order for you to move across your game or page faster.
SteelSeries ExactSens allows you to control how fast your pointer should move by adjusting your CPI in increments of 1 between 1 to 5,700 CPI. This means, the SteelSeries Sensei offers you true hardware based sensitivity settings, freeing you of interpolation from game software. To really get the full benefit from ExactSens you need to deactivate any cursor acceleration and set your sensitivity settings in-game (sensitivity 1 or adjust your sensitivity slider to lowest possible setting) and on your operating system to default. You can use the CPI calculator below to find the value that resembles the cursor speed you are used to, giving you a good starting point for tweaking your sensitivity to perfection.
What’s that on the underside of the mouse at the back (well as you asked!). That believe it or not, is an LCD display! Through this LCD display (using the thumb and left click buttons) you can program the settings of the mouse (without the need for additional software). You can create and save profiles, customise CPI settings and make alterations to the various Exact (Aim, Lift etc.) technologies of the mouse. This makes the Sensei highly portable and allows you to use a fully customised mouse setup on any PC with the need for installing drivers or software, nice!
In addition to this, the display logo shown is also fully customisable, so you can have your own logo (imported via a BMP file) featured here if you are so inclined.
So, as far as first impressions go, the SteelSeries Sensei seems to have ticked all the right boxes, well almost, I still have some concerns of the weight and stiffness of the braided cable (although this is a minor point).
The SteelSeries Sensei connects by way of a single USB connector, note the addition of the Ferrite core (a ferrite bead is a passive electric component used to suppress high frequency noise in electronic circuits (thanks Wikipedia)).
Once into Windows it was necessary (as per instructions) to download the latest SteelSeries Engine software from the SteelSeries website, as it is not provided in the box.
SteelSeries Engine (Version: 2.1.745.30961)
Firmware Version (225)
The SteelSeries Sensei was tested using my rig as a platform; running a fresh install of Windows 7 64bit (service pack 1) with all necessary drivers installed. See above for the additional SteelSeries related drivers and software that were also installed.
The following games were used during testing:
Playing games like Battlefield 3 means that you will rely heavily not only on your own considerable skill but on the performance of your gaming peripherals. So the mouse is a rather key part of that setup, you don’t want those close range frantic fire firefights or those long range sniper shots ruined by a glitch with your mouse (although a good workman always blames his tools, of course!).
The shape of the mouse proved to be very comfortable indeed (although I would say that it is more optimised to the palm style of grip), even over long periods of gameplay my hand (right hand) never experienced any form of discomfort. The 2 thumb buttons are well placed and both are easily activated, with the back one falling closest to my thumb when the mouse is gripped. The thumb wheel has a good weight to it with noticeable click points allowing for precise actions. So as far as comfort is concerned the Sense is an definitely an A+.
The default setup of the Sensei sets the lower of the 2 user-configurable CPI settings to 1600 and the upper to 3200. I found the default low setup to be perfect for me while playing games such as BF3 and I had to make no additional adjustments to get the mouse feeling just the way I wanted it to. In game the mouse performed flawlessly, similar to the recently reviewed Cyborg R.A.T. 9 all mouse movements whether slow, fast, long or short tracked beautifully, but in the case of the Sensei we are of course connected via USB.
I would have preferred the Sensei to have more than two selectable CPI settings as this often comes in handy, but I admit that most of the time I just switch between two (my default and a high setting), there also seems no way of changing your profiles on the fly (without turning the mouse over (but more on that later!)).
In use I also found (as I thought I would) that the braided cable IS a little too stiff and heavy for my liking, although this is a minor point it would be nice to see this modified in future versions.
Overall though the performance of the mouse is as good as any mouse I have tested, in fact it may even be the best! Now let’s take a look at the software…
The SteelSeries Engine software available via download only is where you will find all of the Sensei customisation (other than the LCD screen on the base!). Out of the box (well via the web really) the software offers a variety of pre-configured profiles should you wish to choose them (via the menu on the left). The software enables you to manage button assignment, create macros, create & modify profiles and change a wealth of the mouse’s sensing technologies.
On the first Buttons tab you can change the 7 button assignments as well as record macros and assign those macros to any of the 7 buttons. On this tab you can also switch the mode of the mouse into Left-Handed Mode.
The On Board Profiles tab allows you to mange the Profiles stored on the mouse, up to 5 are supported. It was here that I ran into a bit of an issue (and to be fair the only issue), this is due to the fact that you can also manage profiles via the on-board LCD display. It would appear that if you modify your profiles via the LCD display while the mouse is plugged in the mouse can get out of sync with the software. This becomes apparent as simple settings in the SteelSeries Engine software (like changing colours) stops working! The solution is relatively simple just unplug the mouse and plug in again…
I contacted SteelSeries regarding the issue and after some great tech support (thanks SteelSeries) this is what was stated. ‘The on-board profiles that you access through the LCD screen are generally incompatible with the SteelSeries Engine. The LCD screens are usually meant for when you want to take the Sensei away from your main computer, over to another computer that may not have the Engine installed on it.‘
Now although I understand that the LCD display is not meant to be used in conjunction with the SteelSeries Engine software, I feel that there should be something to stop the end-user doing this, otherwise you can get yourself in a situation where you think the mouse has become defective!
The Settings tab is where you can adjust your CPI settings, SteelSeries’ Exact technologies and polling rates etc. Here you can also modify the on-board LED lighting of the Sensei (4 areas can be changed) and it’s worth noting that although 16.8M colours are claimed some colours just come out pink! In the settings tab you can also add your own logo/bitmap to the LCD display (128×32) which is a nice touch.
Most of the adjustments I did not change and to be honest I didn’t change anything for 2 main reasons: (1) I didn’t have to, and (2) I didn’t really know what I was changing… The software, as it has a large amount of customisation, really needs some kind of on the fly help or tool-tip text to provide a little more guidance.
The Properties tab allows you to name your profiles and to assign them directly to a specific game/exe.
Finally the Statistics tab provides a recording facility to monitor mouse clicks, I have to confess that I’m unsure why you would want to do this, other than to prove the mouse was working correctly…
I feel that I have written rather a lot about the software and not so much about the mouse, this is down to the fact that the SteelSeries MOUSE is so close to perfection, and with a few more tweaks to the software/firmware then that could be close too. This really is a great mouse and to be honest I would be more than happy to be using the SteelSeries Sensei mouse as part of my own setup, in fact I might just do that!
What we have here is a mouse with great comfort, awesome performance and good software, there are really only a couple of minor chinks in its armour and as I write this I feel that I’m already being a little unfair. The chinks are as follows: The software/firmware needs a little work (but please, please don’t change the way the mouse operates!) the cable is a little stiff and heavy and I would have liked a couple more CPI presets!
Of course the other issue for some will be the price. At the time of writing the retail price is approximately £75 and that’s not cheap, but damn it IS good. This is the best wired mouse that I have come across to date, only you can decide whether it’s worth it…
N.B. At the time of writing Ebuyer are selling the SteelSeries Sensei for £53 (link here).