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SteelSeries Rival 5 review: A feature-rich gaming mouse without the high cost

When it comes to competitive PC games, different genres call for different setups. What’s best for a fast-paced first-person shooter may not be ideal for a MOBA with a myriad of actions to keep track of. To address this quandary, SteelSeries has introduced its new Rival 5 gaming mouse, which it describes as a “chameleon” that can adapt to anything.

The Rival 5 delivers on that design philosophy with nine programmable buttons, including five quick-action buttons on its left side panel. Combine that with a lightweight design, a solid 18,000 DPI sensor, and some flashy RGB lights, and we’re talking about a feature-rich wired mouse at an impressive $60 price point, making it competitive with some of the best gaming mice. The valiant all-in-one approach isn’t without its share of quirks, though.

Low price, high quality

The SteelSeries Rival 5 gaming mouse's switches.

With SteelSeries’ lofty promise of a multipurpose gaming mouse that’s built for several genres, the $60 price tag might cast some suspicions. Fortunately, the Rival 5 isn’t messing around when it comes to tech. It sports SteelSeries’ TrueMove Air sensor, which packs a punch at this price point. The most important statistic to know is that it’s an 18,000 DPI mouse, which allows for accuracy and precision.

As someone who plays a fair amount of fast-paced shooters, it certainly passes the “twitch test.” I’m someone who tends to panic shoot, where I round a corner without keeping track of radar only to come face-to-face with an opponent for which I am woefully unprepared. Those scenarios call for a fast mouse that’s as reactive as the player using it. The Rival 5 delivered in those moments with quick speeds and no noticeable delay.

Every click feels deliberate and responsive.

To top that off, the Rival 5 features “next-gen” Golden Micro IP54 Switches, which are a high point. They’re rated for 80 million clicks and promise upgraded dust and water resistance. In my tests, I didn’t notice any double clicks or missed inputs. Every click feels deliberate and responsive. They’re relatively quiet switches compared to other gaming mice I’ve used, making this a strong option for content creators who don’t want extra sounds sneaking into their microphone recording.

Where’s the button?

The SteelSeries Rival 5 gaming mouse's side buttons.

While the Rival 5 excels in power, its design has a few eccentricities that mostly have to do with its five-button side panel layout. There’s a single long button at the top of the mouse, which functions as two buttons depending on which side is clicked. Directly below that, there’s another button row, but this one is split into two. This close proximity and the slightly different interaction creates a bit of confusion in fast-paced situations.

In testing it with Destiny 2, I had my cast ability, menu, melee, and grenade mapped to each button. When I went to put down a healing rift, I’d often click the wrong side of the top button and open my menu instead. Sometimes when I’d go to melee an opponent, I’d find that my thumb was one row up, causing me to cast my rift instead. It took me a few matches to really get the hang of the nuances, and even then I was always a little nervous when going for a click.

The fifth button is farther down and toward the front of the controller, but its placement also feels a little off. In my normal resting position, my thumb couldn’t reach it. I’d have to hike my hand up to get to it, pushing my other fingers well over the top switches. In that position, my thumb was no longer in a place where I could really hit the back two top buttons. It requires a lot of scooting back and forth, or perhaps a really long thumb.

It took me a few matches to really get the hang of the nuances.

That’s more a matter of nuance than anything. For the price point, it’s hard to argue with a mouse that offers nine total programmable buttons. That’s something that would usually take buyers up an extra price tier. It just feels a bit more suited to slowed-paced games than something as quick as a shooter. It’s not quite a chameleon.

Extra, extra

The SteelSeries Rival 5 gaming mouse's lighting effects.

The Rival 5 has plenty of positive design considerations to counterbalance its quirks. For one, it’s a relatively light mouse at 85 grams. That allows it to glide around with ease, which pairs nicely with the TrueMove Air sensor. The mesh cable is also a nice touch, reducing drag and adding to that smooth feel. The comfort factor will vary from hand to hand — I found that it sloped just a little too far back for my liking, digging my palm into my desk — but the grooved switches feel especially pleasant here.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a “gaming mouse” without lighting effects. The Rival 5 features two bright (and too bright) RGB strips on the top. Those who really want to customize their setup can download the SteelSeries Engine application, which will allow them to tweak lighting as well as program macros. Is an RGB glow going to make or break a mouse? Certainly not, but it’s one of the many subtle perks that makes this stand out among competitors at this range.

For those looking to pack as many features as they can into a low price point, the Rival 5 is a solid option. The Razer DeathAdder V2 and Logitech G502 Hero are the clear competitors here, and the Rival 5 holds its own against them. While the side button panel could use a rethink in future models, there’s a lot to toy around with when it comes to customization here. Pair that with some strong hardware under the hood, and you’ve got a $60 mouse that’s mostly punching above its weight class.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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