Top critical review
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Ticks 9 boxes out of 10 but gets the last one horribly wrong
on 8 April 2012
I suggest reading my review of the Steelseries Xai before reading this, as I talk about many issues which are common to both mice. I also refer to many improvements the Sensei makes over the Xai and it is important to have that context so you can make up your own mind and decide whether or not this mouse is for you.
1) Superficially the Sensei looks like a Xai but it is in fact a very different mouse. The scroll wheel is the most noticeable difference and I note that on the Xai it was loose, felt hollow and it rattled when you picked up the mouse and shook it. The Sensei scrollwheel is firm, chunky and does not rattle, nor does it have any sideways movement. This mouse is also substantially heavier than a Xai but the shape and size is identical. The left and right click action is a little bit firmer than the Xai but still not as firm as a Deathadder which can be a little bit bone shattering if you have do alot of clicking.
2) I had issues with the Xai not tracking well on cloth pads like QcK+ and QcK mass. I have not been able to confirm if the sensor is different and indeed I was led to believe that the Sensei has the same sensor as the Xai. Nevertheless I can confirm that this mouse has no tracking issues whatsoever on cloth pads (which means I now have a redundant 9HD, seeing as I prefer using cloth pads anyway).
3) The UEFI compatibility problems I had with the Xai are now gone and I continue to be impressed with Steelseries' after sales support. I reported an issue some months ago with Steelseries Engine when "left handed" mode was enabled, which would reverse the mouse buttons when waking up your computer from hibernation or a sleep state. I am happy to report that this issue was promptly fixed about a week after I reported it and Andrew (Steelseries) notified me of same. So I would add his name to the list of Steelseries support staff that I named in my Xai review that continue to be great ambassadors for the company. It is rare to see companies maintain such closeness with their customers and keep their professionalism so long may it continue.
1) The top is not metal as the promotional material for the Sensei [RAW] may lead you to believe. It is in fact plastic with a coating of silver paint and a very thin finish, and it has some issues which appear to be common to silver painted plastics. The first is that it wears very quickly, especially around sharp edges where the paint and finish have started come off after only 5 months of light use. Some of the sharp edges also look frayed. I first noticed this in low light since the wear exposes the translucent plastic underneath and the LED light shines through the gaps.
The silver top is also the most unbelievable dirt and grime magnet and it will accumulate hand gunk in a way that I have never seen before. Even the Deathadder's infamous glossy plastic sides are nothing compared to this. You will need to maintain a very tidy desk and clean hands or hand cheese will cake visibly on the top within a matter of days. I would also like to state that I am a compulsive hand washer and I am nevertheless alarmed at how quickly the mouse becomes sticky. If you have a messy desk or you eat at your desk then you will need to come to terms with the idea that Sensei will look and feel dirty in very short order.
2) You can change the colour of the LED light using a number of presets or by opening up an RGB colour space and selecting a custom colour. If you like having control over how your mouse looks then this is a nice feature but there are problems with it. The RGB colour space doesn't tell you the Red Green and Blue values so getting the same colour for the scroll wheel and logo would appear to be a difficult task.
As it turns out, it isn't difficult at all because you have very limited control of light colour, even if the Steelseries Engine software indicates otherwise. White light appears with a purple tint and if you attempt to change the colour to dark grey it still looks white with a purple tint.
Notes on positive acceleration:
I again refer to my review of the Xai and can confirm that the Sensei is not noticeably different in this regard.
Notes on the side buttons:
The side buttons are quite small in contrast to those on Intellimouse 1.1 which are...huge. The Intellimouse 1.1 had highly usable side buttons on both sides of the mouse, using a variety of grips or an inconsistent grip. It is possible to use the Sensei's side buttons on both sides but you need to grip the mouse in a very specific way and your grip needs to remain consistent. Depending on how you grip your mouse you may or may not find this easy. I'm left handed and I personally found it difficult to click the left side buttons with my little finger. I found it slightly awkward to click thumb mouse button 2 without accidentally smashing thumb mouse button 1.
This is so very close to being a 5 star product and I do not give that one up easily. I would say that if this mouse had the same rubberized top as the Xai or a hard wearing plastic then it would be very close to that elusive 5 stars. It took over a year of incremental improvement but for the most part, it ticks almost all of the right boxes.
Aesthetically it is a striking mouse (and it looks far better when its on your desk than it does in promotional shots) but I am disappointed in the painted/finished top which is rapidly deteriorating. Those who are used to mice like Intellimouse 1.1 and Logitech RX250 (the no frills wysiwyg mice of their day) will also be dismayed at how little expense has been spared to make an aesthetically pleasing mouse where the aesthetic quickly deteriorates. Why put so much effort into the look of the mouse when this is inevitable?
This isn't an issue if you buy a hard wearing no frills mouse because you know what you are getting and you know it will look the same 2 years from now. I still have my Intellimouse 1.1 and whilst it is a pain to use on a Windows 7 desktop on large, high resolution monitors and multi monitor displays (due to the low DPI), it has not only survived over 5 years of use and abuse, but it looks pretty much the same as when I bought it. Its just a little more yellow. If theres anything you can say about 1.1, its this: it was made to be used for a long time and it shows very little signs of wear, even after years of heavy use. The same cannot be said of the Sensei.
I feel that those who take issue with the silver plastics on the Sensei should look into the Sensei [RAW], which has a rubberized coating or a glossy plastic top. It is just unfortunate that Sensei [RAW] is not available for purchase until June 2012. I've generally had mixed to good feelings about Steelseries mice but I have gotten enough goodwill from the company that the prospect of picking up a [RAW] so soon after the Sensei doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. If you don't care about the paint/finish stripping away, then everything else is either retained from or improved upon the Xai.
For everyone else looking at mice of this shape, size and specification, I would tentatively suggest waiting for Sensei [RAW]. I would consider it a good trade to swap the balance of features between this mouse and Sensei [RAW] for a top that is made from a hard wearing plastic that isn't painted and finished. If the top must be finished (for protection), then at least make the finish thick and hard enough to do its job. This goes to the very heart of mouse design - however you build it, it has to reasonably withstand daily contact with your hands. If it must be gilded with metallic paint and finished then the finish must be thick enough to protect the painted surface underneath. To do otherwise is to put form before function.