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SteelSeries Rival 700 Gaming Mouse Review

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SteelSeries Engine 3 Software

Most of SteelSeries’ products have switched to their new all-encompassing driver suite, SteelSeries Engine 3.  A main launcher serves as the starting point for any compatible SteelSeries product.

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The My Gear tab will populate a list of attached peripherals that are compatible with SSE3.  We’ll take a look at the other tabs later, but the Library tab allows a user to set profiles that automatically launch with specific applications and the GameSense tab controls the GameSense functions (peripheral features that respond in real time to in-game events)  for compatible games.

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Devices that have firmware updates available will be labeled as such with a message directly on the My Gear tab.  Performing firmware updates is remarkably smooth and user friendly – simply click the message and follow the steps.

SSE3_1

Selecting your device (in this instance and throughout the rest of the screenshots, the Rival 700) will launch the appropriate configuration tool.  In the case of multiple devices (headset/keyboard/mouse), each configurator can run concurrently with the others.

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If it’s the first time you’ve connected a particular device, helpful tips and prompts walk you through need-to-know features and help get you oriented to the driver.
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The Rival 700 contains on-board memory and will prompt you to import the stored profiles into the Engine 3 software.  I especially appreciated this feature – as I use devices across multiple systems, the ability to retain profiles on a brand new install or instance saves a lot of time and frustration (not to mention realizes the main benefit of on-board memory).

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If you’ve forgotten the specifics of each profile, simply hover over the name and a quick overlay will show a summary of that profile – another very user friendly and appreciated touch.

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All settings are accessible from the main window.  Simply click the button or area that needs adjusting and a window will appear with the available options.

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Keyboard buttons/functions, media buttons, application launches, macros and mouse buttons are all available bindings for the buttons on the Rival 700.  Users can even adjust tactile feedback on specific button clicks with the Rival 700’s vibration motor.  Quick macros can be recorded directly from this menu…

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…or by using the standalone Macro Editor utility.  Delays can be adjusted after recording the macro (or set to a fixed amount).

SSE3_8Macro

Individual actions can be edited or deleted from the macro string.  This is a feature that is always welcome, especially with long or complicated macros.  Once saved, each macro can be programmed to a button press (or edited later) by selecting it from the list of stored macros on the left.

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Other than the buttons, the right side of the Rival 700 SSE3 configuration window contains options for setting acceleration, angle snapping, counts-per-inch and polling rate.  The defaults are adequate for most users and generally won’t need to be adjusted (other than CPI), but each function is described with intuitive graphics and controls.  It’s impressive that SteelSeries went a bit beyond the usual checkbox or slider to provide a very friendly user interface.

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The Prism RGB system used by SteelSeries is easy to use and shows most colors quite well, although I feel Roccat’s Tyon and Razer Chroma devices have slightly more vibrant yellows and blues.  Still, SteelSeries does a better job of diffusing colors which seems to allow for better blends and a wider range of distinct colors, and their illumination utility is far easier to use and quite powerful.  Clicking on any color zone of the Rival 700 allows a user to set multiple illumination effects (or static colors).  Most changes take effect immediately, and the previously-used colors cascade in order in the color picker section (making it simple to synchronize colors between zones or devices rather than remembering RGB values).  Even the preset patterns can be customized and adjusted.SSE3_11

We’ll get to GameSense in a bit, but the OLED screen can be configured directly through the Rival 700 driver as well.  Simply click on the OLED portion in the main window and a small Bitmap Editor window allows for easy editing – you can even draw directly on the OLED (changes take effect immediately).  Of course, preset .gif files and animations can be imported too – the utility will even resize images to fit the screen (with varying results of course – it’s difficult to compress an image to fit a 128px x 36px area).

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The real power of the OLED screen is revealed with any GameSense enabled applications.  However, this requires the application/game developer to integrate SteelSeries’ GameSense SDK into their specific game or app.  So far, only two games support the Rival 700 (with a mod for Minecraft that adds GameSense abilities).  If you play Dota 2 or CounterStrike: Global Offensive, you’ll be able to display game stats, kill counts, round timers and many more.

SSE3_14

The LEDs can be controlled by GameSense-enabled applications, just like the OLED screen and tactile feedback.  In-game events or statuses can be displayed through LED colors.  The example pictured (health) would be especially interesting to watch during tournaments; each player’s device would fade from green to red as the in-game health meter depleted.

SSE3_15Tactile events can be configured for compatible games too.  When the Rival 700 first launched, this was the only method available to set tactile alerts – clearly, this was a bit limiting.  It was more than a little unfortunate that this game-changing feature seemed doomed to suffer an early death, it’s very existence dependent on a game developer for integration.  Why not simply allow the user to program timers, just like macros, for each profile as they see fit?  Sure, it’s not as smoothly integrated as GameSense, but it’s much more accessible – making it much more likely that a gamer could actually use a feature that they paid for.

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Thank goodness that changed.  As of SSE3 version 3.8.3, the ability to custom program your own timers became an option.  A new window on the right (“Tactile Cooldown”) allows Rival 700 owners to set their own timers on a configurable button press.  Simply click “Add a timer”, choose the button that activates a configurable countdown, and the vibration motor will kick in after the set time.

This doesn’t work just for mouse button presses either; any button or keyboard press can be bound to activate a tactile cooldown.  This review would have gone very differently before this particular update.  I’m very pleased to see a defining feature of the Rival 700 become much more accessible; placing the control in the hands of the user instead of waiting on another entity to make use of hardware already purchased.


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