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SteelSeries Rival 700 review

SteelSeries’ slick Rival 700 is everything you want in a gaming mouse, and more

Steelseries Rival 700
SteelSeries Rival 700
MSRP $99.99
“The SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse raises the bar with great design and a slick OLED display.”
  • Tactile feedback in your palm
  • Modular design
  • Deep customization capabilities
  • Built-in OLED screen
  • No left-handed model

PC gamers have three main weapons in their arsenal: the PC, the keyboard, and the mouse. The optimal experience is when all three are in harmony, and that’s why you see companies like MSI, Corsair, and SteelSeries busily banging out hardware that not only helps immerse gamers, but enhances the experience with new elements such as customizable keys and high-durability switches. The $100 Rival 700 gaming mouse from SteelSeries does just that.

The Rival 700 is built for right-handed gamers, but there’s nothing outstanding barring its use by the left-handed crowd. It sports the two standard mouse buttons on top, divided by a mouse wheel that also serves as a third clickable button. Behind the wheel is a button defaulting to two pre-set Counts Per Inch (CPI) settings, which can be modified using ranges between 100 and 16,000 to adjust sensitivity of the mouse.

But that’s not all. On the side, SteelSeries has inserted one programmable button that resides near the user’s thumb tip, and two horizontal buttons behind it that are also customizable. Technically, users can assign actions to the wheel’s Scroll Up and Scroll Down functions, thus creating a makeshift nine-button setup.

A sleek design only right-handed gamers can fully appreciate

To the left of the B5 “thumb” button is a customizable black-and-white OLED display with 128 x 36 resolution. This is great for giving the mouse an individualized touch by creating static logos in or animations that run at 10 frames per second. SteelSeries provides a batch of pre-generated images and animations towards the bottom of the product page here.

As for other physical attributes, a textured panel resides under the thumb area, and a larger textured panel on the right side promotes better, tighter contact for the ring and pinky fingers. The area where the palm resides includes the RGB-lit SteelSeries logo, and a removable rubbery nameplate that can be customized with 3D printed files provided by SteelSeries here. Those two little orange prongs on the thumb panel are similar in purpose to the protrusions seen on the “F” and “J” keys on a keyboard, in regard to finger placement.

Finally, on the bottom, users will see two smooth, protruding Teflon feet towards the front, and one longer foot on the back, promoting smooth, unrestricted movement across a desktop surface. Also worth note is the optical sensor area, which is removable and held in place using four screws. This is one of the company’s big selling points with the mouse, as it’s possible to swap out the provided optical sensor for the PixArt 9800 laser sensor ($25).

Customize gameplay through modularity and profiles

That said, here are the hardware details of both sensors. Note that Counts Per Inch describes how many times the sensor reads the surface for every inch it is moved.

PixArt PMW3360 PixArt ADNS-9800
Sensor type: Optical Laser
Counts Per Inch: 100 to 16,000* 100 to 8,200
CPI Step Size: 100 50
Maximum framerate: 12,000fps 12,000fps
Lift Detection: 2mm to 3mm 1mm to 5mm
Speed: 300 inches per second* 150 inches per second
Acceleration: 50g 30g
Polling rate: 1ms (1,000Hz) 1ms (1,000Hz)
Tracking accuracy: 1:1 1:1

Note that the Rival 700 product page lists the CPI max as 16,000 (as does the SteelSeries software), and the tracking speed as 300 inches per second. However, PixArt’s website only lists the PMW3360DM-T2QU optical sensor, which states a maximum CPI of 12,000, and a speed of 250 inches per second. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the laser sensor on hand to test, but choosing optical over laser is generally just a matter of the default gaming surface.

Optical mice use a red or infrared LED to illuminate the surface for tracking. Laser mice rely on a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) to illuminate the surface, which provides better sensitivity because it uses a different wavelength of light capable of digging down into the surface. This enables better tracking on surfaces like the couch cushion, where an optical mouse sensor rarely works well.

Outside the swappable sensor feature, owners can also swap out the included cover for one of two provided in the company’s two-pack sold for $15. The cover, which shelters the LED illuminating the SteelSeries logo, easily pops off.

Custom switches for custom feel

As for the switches used in the Rival 700, the mouse relies on a proprietary SteelSeries switch design. We couldn’t get the company to cough up any technical details other than a rating of 30 million clicks. There’s an audible click under the two main buttons, but the noise is soft enough to not sing over the loudest of mechanical keyboard switches.

The last physical detail to cover is the included USB cable, which thankfully is detachable. The Rival 700 package includes not one but two cables. There’s a non-braided cable measuring 3.28 feet, and a braided version measuring 6.5 feet. Long and braided is usually the best way to go, but gamers playing on a laptop may opt for the shorter, more flexible cable.

Assign customized profiles with ease

Once the mouse is plugged into the PC, the next step is to download the company’s SteelSeries Engine 3 desktop software. This is where users get into the meat of the mouse by using tools to customize the lighting, assign commands to the buttons, create custom profiles that launch with a specific game, and more. And if we didn’t mention it already, this is where users deal with the tactile feedback feature, too.

For starters, the program provides three main interfaces. My Gear can customize all SteelSeries devices connected to the PC. The Library catalogs game-specific profiles. And GameSense edits pre-programmed profiles supplied for the three games that “officially” support the tactile feedback feature — Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and a GameSense-enhanced version of Minecraft.

So, what about all the other PC games on the market? They can use it, too, after editing a few settings. Thus, Fallout 4 players who want to feel the firing effect of shooting a gun can do so. The user would select the appropriate firing button (such as Button 1), turn on the “Vibrate on click” feature, and choose one of the effects in the “Vibration” drop-down menu: Strong Click, Sharp Click, Soft Bump, Double Click, Short Double Click, Triple Click, Buzz, Long Buzz, Sharp Tick, and Pulsing (we chose Long Buzz). Likewise, if players use the mouse to jump, then Button 2 could be set with the Triple Click vibration effect. The result would be the firing button triggering a long buzzing felt by your palm, and the jumping button causing three short pulses.

The mouse gets rather touchy

Users can also assign tactile cooldown timers. For instance, suppose the player uses a specific spell in a role-playing game, and the spell’s assigned button already has the Long Buzz vibration assigned to it for that “casting” tactile feel. However, the spell requires a cooldown before it can be used again. That’s where the tactile cooldown comes in.

The Rival 700 is one of the best PC gaming mice we’ve seen.

The Tactile Cooldowns panel resides to the right of the mouse diagram in the software. Within the panel is an “Add Trigger” button that, once activated, pulls up a small popup. Users assign the timer to the desired mouse button, specify a countdown in milliseconds, the vibration effect, and when the timer begins. There’s also an option to reset the cooldown each time the player hits the assigned mouse button.

In this way, users can add tactile feedback to any installed PC game, whether it’s a first-person shooter, first-person RPG, strategy game, racing game, or so on. The resulting assignment will send a vibration through the user’s palm as it rests over the glowing SteelSeries logo.

Digging into custom profiles

Users can do more than just assign buttons for tactile feedback. On the right side of the profile editing window are two sensitivity dials for the CPI toggle button. Note that because there are only two settings, users won’t toggle through multiple sensitivity steps, as seen with other PC gaming mice. Instead, users are limited to just two, so experimenting is necessary to determine the best two CPI steps for the assigned game.

To the right of the CPI panels is a single panel for editing the acceleration and deceleration rates, one for adjusting the angle snapping, and one for adjusting the polling rate. That latter setting is the speed in which the mouse sends data to the game to process.

Acceleration and deceleration essentially speeds up or slows down the time it takes the mouse to go from a total standstill to the current CPI speed maximum. In other words, the lowest acceleration and deceleration settings will provide consistent movement, whereas higher settings could cause dynamically different on-screen movement, despite physically moving the mouse in a consistent manner.

Steelseries Rival 700
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

As for angle snapping, that feature essentially pushes mouse tracking into a straight single-pixel line. It’s the antithesis of twitch-based accuracy when playing first-person shooters, but would be good for games that rely on horizontal shooting like sniping, versus “twitchy” reactive gameplay in first-person shooters.

With each customizable profile comes the ability to create and assign macros to any button on the mouse. This is made available at the bottom of the Action button assignment list, and launches a recorder for gamers to input their string of keys. So, if gamers want to take a screenshot using Nvidia’s in-game tool, they would click “Start” to begin recording, type ALT+F1, click on the “Stop” button, and rename the macro accordingly. Users then select the mouse button that will use the macro, choose “Macros” in the pull-down menu, and then select the just-created macro. Users can even option to “vibrate on click” before hitting the “Done” button.

Get that polling rate under control

The big question, of course, is how the Rival 700 performs. In our benchmarks, the mouse tracked a resolution of 1,200 dots per inch when moved four inches in a single direction. The benchmark also displayed an 894Hz polling rate, a max counter value of 14 points, and a maximum speed of 32 inches per second (39,086 points per second). Note that during the test, the CPI setting resided at 1,100, backing the benchmark’s rounded 1,200 DPI result.

The mouse has tactile feedback, RGB illumination, a distributed weight system, modular design, and more.

When loading up DOOM, the appropriate profile becomes active so that the game provides unofficial tactile feedback in all the right places. Again, to get the optimal precision for each game/profile, players will need to experiment with the two CPI settings to hit the sweet spots for twitch shooting and steady sniping, because players can only select between two CPI options on the fly.

However, we need to touch base on the polling rate setting for just a second. There’s a slider for a reason, as not all games can handle a high polling rate correctly. Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament 4 pre-alpha is a good example, as it performed horribly with the mouse set at 1,000Hz. The game consistently paused for one or two seconds with each movement of the mouse. We thought the graphics settings were set too high on our GeForce GTX 1080-based setup (even though they basically matched DOOM) until we plugged in a second (dusty) mouse, the Razer Mamba from 2013.

While using Razer’s mouse, we experienced no pauses and saw fluid gameplay no matter how we moved the viewpoint or how fast. Move the Rival 700, and we continued to see stutter-stop gameplay. On that note, we turned down the polling rate on the Rival 700 quite a bit, and eventually settled on the lowest rate possible, which was 125Hz. The mouse suddenly matched the fluid gameplay seen with the Razer Mamba. To make sure it wasn’t a problem with the Rival 700, we loaded up DOOM with the polling rate cranked back up to 1,000Hz, and saw no stuttering issue whatsoever.

A typical warranty with a hard-to-read website

Finally, on the warranty front, the product page doesn’t provide any information. Instead, customers must dig into the support section of the SteelSeries website to get bits of information. In one brief paragraph, the company states that all products have a one-year warranty in the United States that only covers manufacturing defects. Thus, if you take advantage of the cool modular features provided with the Rival 700, you’re on your own if something happens during component swap-out process.

Our Take

The Rival 700 is one of the best PC gaming mice we’ve seen in a long time. Even forgetting the fact that it provides tactile feedback and swappable components, it just feels solid and precise when we’re getting our frag on in Doom and Unreal Tournament 4. It’s backed by the company’s desktop software, for creating five profiles that can be assigned to individual games. The only real beef we have with this mouse is that there’s no version for left-handed gamers.

Is there a better alternative?

The Rival 700 competitors include the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum, the Roccat Nyth, the Razer Mamba 2015 edition, and the Logitech MX Master. Of these, the Razer Mamba is the only one we might pick over the Rival 700, but the Mamba doesn’t have the feedback or customizable sensor features found in the Rival 700.

How long will it last?

Sinking $100 into this peripheral should be a sound investment, although there will be plenty of competitors raising the bar with new features and capabilities. Still, a mouse providing tactile feedback is not something you’ll pull off the Walmart shelf as of late, and should become standard issue soon.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely. You can’t go wrong here. The Rival 700 has programmable tactile feedback, RGB illumination, an equally distributed weight system, a modular design, and so on. There’s even a built-in OLED panel for displaying your custom logo or animations. The only drawback is that SteelSeries doesn’t sell a left-handed model.

Editors' Recommendations

Kevin Parrish
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then…
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