SteelSeries’ Rival 310 and Sensei 310 gaming mice reviewed

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.

 

The sensor

As I alluded to at the beginning of the article, the PixArt PW3360 has long been considered the best mouse sensor on the market. It boasts one-to-one tracking and no built-in acceleration, angle snapping, tracking latency, or tendency to lose tracking. I’ve personally spent quite a large amount of time with the PW3360 in the Rival 700 and 500, and it’s served me well and powered through every test I’ve thrown at it. Given that experience, I was skeptical when I first heard SteelSeries’ claim that its new TrueMove3 sensor is the only sensor with true one-to-one tracking.

I looked further into this claim, and it turns out that that the PW3360 also has the true one-to-one tracking advertised in the TrueMove3. The real difference is that it’s limited to a smaller CPI range. From 100 to 2,100 CPI, the PW3360 has pure one-to-one tracking. Beyond that range, the PW3360 has some jitter reduction, which means there is potential for some added latency beyond 2,100 CPI. The TrueMove3 extends the one-to-one tracking window out to 3,500 CPI. After 3,500 CPI, the TrueMove3 uses “advanced jitter reduction,” which purportedly doesn’t slow down response time. I have no idea whether or not the “advanced jitter reduction” is exclusive to the TrueMove3, or if it actually makes a noticeable difference.

Interestingly, the TrueMove3 actually has a lower CPI cap than the PW3360. The PW3360 can go all the way up to 16,000 CPI, while the TrueMove3 only goes out to 12,000. Honestly, this upper limit doesn’t really matter because no one actually plays with CPI that high, as far as I know, but it does make me curious as to why the TrueMove3 can’t reach CPI levels as high as the PW3360. If I were to make a wager, I’d guess the sensor is simply limited to 12,000 CPI because past a certain CPI, it’s difficult to accurately track input or reduce jitter. Inflating the maximum sensitivity could potentially harm SteelSeries’ claim that the TrueMove3 has one-to-one tracking.

Another intriguing question is whether or not it’s actually a good thing to not have jitter reduction past 2,100 CPI. Jitter reduction is obviously needed past a certain CPI, because SteelSeries would simply do away with jitter reduction if it wasn’t needed so they could claim its sensor has one-to-one tracking through the entire CPI range of the mouse. Maybe there’s a reason the PW3360 has jitter reduction past 2,100. Was some sort of advancement actually made that allows the TrueMove3 to have accurate tracking out to 3,500 CPI without jitter reduction, or are SteelSeries and PixArt simply pushing the limit in order to advertise a larger one-to-one tracking range?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to these questions. However, I did put both the TrueMove3 and the PW3360 through various tests in order to determine whether the TrueMove3 is a good sensor and whether it’s actually noticeably better than the PW3360. I ran all the comparison tests at both 1,000 CPI, my preferred CPI and within the true one-to-one tracking range of both mice, and 3,500 CPI, outside the PW3360’s one-to-one tracking range and the upper limit of true one-to-one tracking for the TrueMove3.

I first loaded up MouseTester, collected mouse data while moving the mice horizontally across my mouse pad at various speeds, and plotted the data as xCounts versus time. The plots below show the raw counts from the sensors and moving averages of the counts. The dots and lines should mostly resemble smooth ups and downs reflecting the back and forth movement of the mice across the mouse pad. However, no sensor is completely perfect, and I can’t move the mice perfectly smoothly across the pad, so there will be a few irregularities here and there.

I ran dozens of tests, but I can’t show all the graphs at once, so I’ve picked out graphs from each set of tests that are representative of all the graphs from each batch and the consistency you should be able to expect from the mice.

The first set of tests was run at 1000 CPI and showed mostly smooth curves, like the ones seen above, no matter the speed at which I moved the mice across the mouse pad. This comes as no surprise since these tests were performed within the true one-to-one tracking range of both sensors.

The second set of tests run at 3,500 CPI showed similar results to the first batch: largely smooth curves regardless of speed. Interestingly, MouseTester doesn’t show any noticeable difference between the TrueMove3 and the PW3360, even above the PW3360’s supposed 2,100 CPI cap for true one-to-one tracking. In fact, in of all my tests, more so at 3,500 CPI, I actually ended up with more irregularities with the TrueMove3 than the PW3360. This may be hinting at an answer to the question about whether jitter reduction is good to have above a certain CPI, but I’m far from certain.

It’s important to keep in mind that the time in these tests is counted in milliseconds. A few jumps and jagged edges in these tests don’t really translate to breaks in smoothness noticeable to the user. For the most part, the raw counts and averages from both sensors stayed in smooth curves, which is what matters.

I also used MouseTester to confirm that the max polling rate of the TrueMove3 is indeed 1000Hz. The graph above shows that the sensor updates right around once every millisecond.

I continued the comparison tests in Counter Strike: Global Offensive with raw input on and mouse acceleration off. I had to set the in-game sensitivity as low as possible for the 3,500 CPI tests so the crosshair wasn’t going wild with the slightest movements of the mouse. I first performed my standard one-to-one tracking test by placing two books at either end of my mouse pad and moving the mice horizontally back and forth between the books. I used bullet holes to make sure the the crosshair pointed at the same spot whenever pressed up against either book. I carried out this test in multiple in-game locations with varying distances between the walls and my character. The PW3360 and TrueMove3 both exhibited consistent one-to-one tracking at the two CPI levels tested.

I also couldn’t get either sensor to spin out and lose tracking, no matter how fast I moved the mice across the pad or violently slammed them down at odd angles. Before I exited CS:GO, I played some Arms Race matches with both sensors at 3,500 CPI to see if I could feel any difference between the two sensors. Once I warmed up to it, 3,500 CPI was fairly playable with the sensitivity cranked all the way down. Despite playing above the PW3360’s one-to-one tracking range, I wasn’t able to discern any difference between the PW3360 and the TrueMove3.

Lastly, I ran a simple test to make sure the TrueMove3 doesn’t have any built-in angle-snapping. Sure enough, just as I found with the PW3360, the TrueMove3 appears to be devoid of any innate angle-snapping. In addition to the various tests, I played a fair amount of Titanfall 2 and Overwatch with the Rival and Sensei 310. The TrueMove3 responded to my movements just as it should, and I never noticed anything unexpected or out of ordinary.

At the end of the day, as far as I can tell, the PW3360 and TrueMove3 are both excellent mouse sensors. Maybe there is some hardly noticeable difference between the PMW3360 and the TrueMove3 above 2,100 CPI that could give highly competitive gamers wielding a mouse with the TrueMove3 a minute edge over those with mice bearing the PWW3360. However, I don’t see any evidence of such a difference. Either way, both sensors are fantastic, and the average gamer looking for a mouse with a reliable sensor shouldn’t sweat it when picking between mice packing the PWW3360 and the TrueMove3.

 

Software

Those who have read my reviews of other SteelSeries products will know I’m a fan of SteelSeries Engine 3. The interface is clean and easy to use. There aren’t a bunch of settings hidden away in tabs that you have to go digging for. Everything is well labeled and intuitive. All the usual gaming mouse settings are present: CPI, acceleration, angle-snapping, polling rate, button bindings, and LED effects. The only standard setting missing is an LED brightness control. Thankfully, the LEDs aren’t too bright, but it’d be nice if SteelSeries would add that in.

You can set up game specific mouse configurations that will automatically take over when you launch a game and go back to normal when you exit the game. Esports players who use SteelSeries mice can make their configurations available for others to use, which is a neat extra feature. Neither the Rival or Sensei 310 feature the tactile alerts of the Rival 700 and 500, but the LEDs can be configured to respond to Discord, music, and in-game events in a select number of games. This isn’t a terribly useful feature, but it’s cool for those looking to up their RGB game.

Conclusions

The Rival and Sensei 310 are the first mice to come equipped with SteelSeries’ new TrueMove 3 sensor. The company made some ambitious claims about TrueMove3, stating that it’s the only gaming mouse sensor with true one-to-one tracking. While the TrueMove3 can’t really claim the title of the only sensor with one-to-one tracking, it’s certainly one of the best mouse sensors on the market. I didn’t notice any differences between the TrueMove3 and the already-world-class PixArt PMW3360 in my testing. Perhaps I’m just not leet enough.

However, a mouse isn’t just a sensor. Design is also an important factor, and the Rival and Sensei 310 have a few issues in this department. The scroll wheel in both mice is set a bit too low in their bodies for long scrolls, which can be annoying while surfing the web. That’s really the only problem with the Rival, but unfortunately, the Sensei has a couple more. Unlike the Rival, the Sensei feels sort of awkward in my hand. The side buttons are also too slim for my tastes, and the two main buttons rattle a bit. Mice are highly individual devices, though, and other gamers (and lefties especially) might find the Sensei’s ambidextrous shape more to their liking.

Nevertheless, both mice have many positives. Both mice feel solid and well built, yet don’t weigh more than 100 grams. They have wonderfully clicky buttons, a fantastic sensor, straightforward software, and a reasonable price. There’s a lot to like about these mice, but given the number of issues with the Sensei, I don’t think it’s worth shelling out $60 for. Both G.Skill and EVGA offer great ambidextrous mice for $10 less than the price of the Sensei 310. On the other hand, I think the Rival 310 is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a high-quality mouse with a great sensor and shape.

Comments closed
    • tay
    • 2 years ago

    Great review! Thank you.

    • RealPjotr
    • 2 years ago

    So I’m about to buy the Logitech G Pro or Sensei 310… anyone have any experience to share on this? I think I use what people call the “claw” grip, I don’t use my palm on the mouse, I move the mouse with my fingertips…

      • tay
      • 2 years ago

      You probably want a small mouse with a claw grip. Check here for more help.

      [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wqv6d5_GSI[/url<]

    • Cannonaire
    • 2 years ago

    You don’t see too many big review sites go this in-depth with actual sensor details and testing. Most of the time you only see subjective opinions on how the mouse feels to the particular reviewer.

    [b<]Great review.[/b<]

      • lem18
      • 2 years ago

      The detail is certainly welcome, but sometimes the subjective experience is far more valuable. For example, the laser sensors look good on paper (better than the optical sensors), but in practice are pretty rubbish (speaking from personal experience). They’ll have trouble tracking smoothly, and easily get confused depending on what surface they’re being used on. Optical has always been great for me .. laser hasn’t been.

        • Wall Street
        • 2 years ago

        I like the detailed reviews because most hardware reviewers tend not to play at a high enough level to have a really coherent view on a mouse from just feel alone. I believe that many hardware reviewers are likely to have <20% hitscan accuracy in FPS games and <50 APM in RTS games , so I don’t care for their subjective experience.

        • Cannonaire
        • 2 years ago

        I agree with you.

        What I meant was that he did some objective tests of the sensors instead of taking the specifications at face value. Then he backed it up with testing for any inconsistencies in actual play.

    • bitcat70
    • 2 years ago

    I’ve had the Rival 310 for a few months now. Just like in the article I like it overall but the scroll wheel could be better. For web pages: meh, whatever. I can live with that. But when using it to swap weapons in a game it can go too far or, more rarely, not at all. It’s a bit frustrating that I need to put mental effort into something that should be automatic. It just doesn’t have that solid feel, or click if you will. Long ago I used to have a mouse that was excellent in that regard. Just don’t remember which one it was.

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