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SteelSeries' Rival 310 and Sensei 310 gaming mice reviewed

Who's the one-to-one-iest of them all?

No sooner had I finished writing my review of the SteelSeries Rival 500, in which I hailed the PixArt PMW3360 as "the current king of mouse sensors," than the company contacted me with information on a new sensor it developed with PixArt: the TrueMove 3. SteelSeries claims this gaming mouse sensor is the first on the market with true one-to-one tracking. Of course, mouse sensors don't do you any good unless they accompany a mouse, so SteelSeries has cooked up two new mice equipped with the TrueMove3: the Rival 310 and Sensei 310. I got ahold of these two new rodents as soon as I could and have been running them through a number of rigorous trials at our top secret TR labs testing facility.

Rival on the left, Sensei on the right

Jumping right in, the two mice are primarily made of sturdy plastic. Strips of patterned rubber gird the scroll wheels and sides of the mice. The plastic has a matte black finish and a very slight texture. This texture is almost unnoticeable, but it can help keep your hand from slipping off the mouse when it gets sweaty. The texture also works together with the matte finish to mitigate sweat marks and fingerprints from accumulating on the surface of the mouse.

For the most part, the build quality of the mice is first-rate. They certainly feel solid in the hand. However, the Sensei's two main buttons have a bit of rattle, though it isn't noticeable while gaming. You'd have to pick up the mouse, remove your fingers from the buttons, and give it a good shake in order to hear it. Regardless of whether the rattle is present during standard use, the mouse gets a mark on build quality from me for having any rattle at all. Fortunately, the Rival doesn't have any rattle to be heard, no matter how hard I shake the mouse.

All the buttons on the top of the mice, including the CPI switch and middle mouse button, feel satisfyingly clicky. The scroll wheels have a decent, middle-of-the-road scrolling action. It isn't a super deep-feeling or chunky scroll, but it's considerably better than the light, almost completely smooth scroll of the Rival 500. Each step is fairly distinct and noticeable. I'm pretty happy with it, but those who prefer super chunky scrolling actions may find the scrolling action of these two mice disappointing.

What I do find annoying is the height of the scroll wheels. The wheels don't stick very far out of the mice, so I'll occasionally attempt a long scroll down a webpage only to find that my finger will be forced to preemptively stop turning the wheel. I didn't run into this issue much unless I was loosely gripping the mouse farther back than I usually do, but that's problematic for grip styles set farther back. Maybe some people like low profile scroll wheels, but I'm a fan of scroll wheels that protrude quite prominently out the top of the mouse for easier long spins.

While I ultimately steered readers away from the Rival 310's older brother, the Rival 700, I'm still a big fan of its two main side buttons and shape. Thankfully, the Rival 310 is a worthy successor in these two areas. SteelSeries definitely didn't cheap out on the side buttons. The mouse has high quality switches with gratifying clicks. The buttons themselves are large enough and positioned well enough that I don't think anyone will have issues reaching either button, regardless of hand size and grip style. There is also plenty of space underneath the buttons for your thumb to rest comfortably without accidentally pressing either button.

The shape differs a tiny bit from the Rival 700, but it took me very little time to grow accustomed to it, and I've been loving it since. I actually think it feels better than the Rival 700, because it's minimized the slight angle on the 700 that digs a bit into the bottom left corner of my palm. Overall, I think it has a fantastic shape.

I'm able to use all grip styles with the mouse, though its body is fairly long. That means a fingertip grip may not work for some, depending on how far forward they grip mice and the size of their hands. It's a medium-sized mouse that leanas toward large, thanks to how long it is. It fits my hand perfectly, but my hands are on the smaller side, and I tend to prefer larger mice. It's always a good idea to test out a mouse before purchasing it to get a feel for these things on your own.

Unfortunately, the Sensei 310 doesn't quite fit into my hand in the same way the Rival 310 does. The switches under the side buttons are just as high quality as those in the Rival, but the buttons are much smaller—and in my opinion, too much so. They're so slim they can be difficult to use until you grow accustomed to them. Even then, they're small enough that I think some people will have difficulty reaching them depending on their hand size and grip style.

In many respects, the Sensei is the ambidextrous version of the Rival, side buttons aside. However, I can see why SteelSeries might have wanted to put smaller buttons on the Sensei. Since there are buttons on both sides, you don't want to be accidentally hitting the buttons on the side of the mouse your thumb isn't on. I haven't ever unintentionally triggered any of the side buttons on the Sensei, but other reviewers have. Larger buttons could make for a higher probability of accidental clicks, though if I hold the Rival 310 in my left hand, the bigger buttons don't seem to present that issue.

Unfortunately, the side buttons aren't the only area in which the Sensei falls short of the Rival in my hand. Most of my fingers feel at home on the Sensei, but my ring finger feels sort of awkward. Since the mouse is symmetrical, I have the same problem if I switch to my left hand. The mouse has a fantastic shape otherwise. If I put my middle finger on the scroll wheel and my ring finger on the right mouse button, the mouse feels great, but not many people grip their mice like this.

I have one quick note on the forward-facing tails of these rodents. Braided cables seem to be all the rage among gaming peripherals, but the Rival 700's braided cable has actually been a minor source of frustration for me because it isn't adequately bendy.  I was pleased to see that the Rival and Sensei 310 ditched the braided cable in favor of sufficiently flexible rubber cables. The rubber coating never caught on my desk's surface, and the cables were happy to contort into whatever shapes were required to allow the mice free movement without any resistance.

Listed below are the main specifications of the Rival and Sensei 310:

  Rival 310 Sensei 310
Dimensions (LxWxH) 5.02" x 2.76" x 1.65"
(127.6 x 70.1 x 42 mm)
4.93" x 2.77" x 1.54"
(125.1 x 70.4 x 39 mm)
Weight 3.1 oz (88 g) 3.2 oz (92 g)
Max CPI 12000 CPI 12000 CPI
Sensor type Optical (SteelSeries TrueMove3) Optical (SteelSeries TrueMove3)
Switch type Omron Omron
Switch life 50 million actuations 50 million actuations
Programmable buttons 6 8
Max polling rate 1000Hz 1000Hz
DPI switching levels 2 2
Shape Right-handed Ambidextrous
Cable length 6.5'(2 m) 6.5'(2 m)
Price $59.99 $59.99

Both mice are under 100 grams, putting them on the lighter end of the weight spectrum. FPS players in particular tend to prefer lighter mice. One of the issues with the Rival 700 is how heavy it is, so it's good to see a lighter Rival. The mice share a $60 price tag, as well. That's a pretty reasonable price for high quality mice. However, the rattle in the Sensei 310 makes it feel a little cheaper in use than the Rival. Let's see whether putting the mice to the mat can tell us more.