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SteelSeries' Rival 500 gaming mouse reviewed

Tactile feedback goes fat-free

Earlier this year, I took an in-depth look at the SteelSeries Rival 700. That mouse could deliver tactile alerts using its GameSense software. I enjoyed having force feedback in a mouse, but that useful feature was held back by a few gimmicks and a high price tag. I suggested that those wanting to get their hands on mouse-based tactile feedback should check out the cheaper Rival 500. However, I warned that I hadn't tried that mouse out for myself, so I couldn't speak to its quality. I didn't want to let that blind recommendation stand, so I asked SteelSeries if it'd send us a Rival 500 for testing. The company assented, and I'm now back to report on the Rival 500 after some first-hand experience.

The Rival 500 comes in matte black with a textured rubber coating on the sides of the mouse to help with grippiness. The entire mouse feels solid and well built. I couldn't produce any rattling or other untoward sounds when I shook it. The only worry here is that the textured sides have the possibility of wearing out over time. The mouse feels good in my relatively small hand and can work for all grip styles, though this all depends on the size of your hand. The Rival 500 measures in at 4.7" x 3.1" x 1.7" (LxWxH), and it weighs in at a beefy 129 grams. 

Other than the two standard buttons, the top of the mouse features a CPI switch and three extra buttons. The two main buttons and CPI switch have satisfying clicks. However, the same can't be said for the three extra buttons adorning the top edges. The extra buttons have a hard, plasticy feel when pressed and are harder to push down than the main buttons. They don't feel bad, by any means: there is certainly enough feedback to know you've pressed each one. The actuations just don't feel as nice as those of the other buttons on the mouse. Thankfully, the extra buttons are far enough from the center of the mouse that you won't accidentally press them, but they're also not far enough from those clickers to make them awkward to reach. The stiffness of the buttons helps prevent unintentional clicks as well. They are also slanted towards the center of the mouse, which makes them a bit easier and more natural to access.

One of my small gripes with most gaming mice is that their scroll wheels often aren't capable of side-to-side scrolling. Not many applications or web pages can be scrolled this way, but I like to have a mouse that supports this movement for when it does work. As you may have guessed, I bring this up because the scroll wheel in the Rival 500 can move side-to-side. The wheel clicks nicely in both its straight downward and side-to-side motions, but the scrolling action feels too loose for my tastes. Stronger detents would help the wheel feel much more precise.

The left side of the mouse is where all the action happens. The six buttons arrayed on the side of the mouse are plenty to keep gamers' thumbs busy. I'm quite happy with the side button implementation. Unlike the three extra buttons on the top of the mouse, the six side buttons are just as delightfully clicky as the main buttons. The bottom two buttons extend out from the mouse and must be pushed downwards, but it's not an unnatural motion to perform.

One of the buttons is actually a separate panel at the back of the central depression on the rodent. The idea here is that you push in on the button with the joint of your thumb. My main mouse, the Corsair M95, has a similarly-positioned button, so I'm used to using the joint of my thumb to push it. I can reach all the buttons perfectly with a palm grip, but not everyone has the same hand size or grip style. Other reviewers have had issues reaching all the buttons, though.

A switch resides on the bottom of the mouse that immobilizes the two lower buttons for those who prefer fewer buttons. The two buttons are effectively thumb rests when they're locked in place. The optical sensor can also been seen from the bottom of the mouse, but we'll cover that later.

Similar to the Rival 700, the Rival 500 has a slot for custom nameplates. At the very back of the mouse is a rubbery insert brandishing the Rival brand. This little piece can be removed and replaced with your own 3D-printed nameplate. While the majority of people don't have direct access to a 3D printer, it's still neat little bonus feature. As I mentioned in my Rival 700 review, I could totally see people going to tournaments or LAN parties with mice bearing their gamertags.

Here are the key specifications of the Rival 500:

  Rival 500
Dimensions (LxWxH) 4.7" x 3.1" x 1.7"
(119 x 78 x 43 mm)
Weight 4.6 oz (129 g)
Max CPI 16000 CPI
Sensor type Optical (PixArt PMW3360)
Switch type SteelSeries switches
Switch life 30 million actuations
Programmable buttons 13
Max polling rate 1000Hz
DPI switching levels 2
Shape Right-handed
Cable length 6.5'(2 m)
Price $79.99

Surprisingly, despite being fatter and loaded down with many more buttons, the Rival 500 is actually slightly lighter than the Rival 700. Even so, it's still on the heavier side when it comes to gaming mice. FPS players tend to prefer mice under a hundred grams, but the Rival 500 falls into the MOBA-and-MMO mouse segment, which is primarily populated by heftier rodents. The Rival 500 is also $20 cheaper than the Rival 700, though the $80 price tag is still a bit up there for a gaming mouse. That said, it's still in the same price range of other MOBA-and-MMO mice.

One final note: SteelSeries advertises the mouse as being equipped with fifteen different buttons. This is true if you count the scroll wheel side movements, but those aren't programmable in the software, so I've listed the mouse as having only thirteen programmable buttons. Let's see how SteelSeries lets users program those buttons in software now.