Steel Series Rival 700 Review – The Best Performing Optical Mouse?

Usman Pirzada
Posted Sep 12, 2016
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PRODUCT INFO

Rival 700 | Steel Series

January 5, 2016
Type Gaming Mouse (Optical)
Price $94.99

Review sample provided by the manufacturer.

Steel Series is well known for their rather diverse range of gaming products. The Steel Series Rival 700 is an enthusiast class product and lies firmly in the mid-high end spectrum of gaming devices. In this review we will be keeping the price bracket in mind and comparing it to similar products that we have tested. The Rival 700 is a next generation mouse in terms of the hardware involved, but its not just the use of high quality sensors which sets it apart from its competitors – its the seamless integration of great software that makes it worth the price tag.

The arena of gaming mice is one that has long been contested. Due to the amount of extreme variation in opinions, you can never be quite sure whether a certain mice is worth the premium you are paying for. Does anyone actually need all the extra CPI, and what’s this about acceleration? In this review of Steel Series’ Rival 700 gaming mouse equipped with an optical sensor, we will be covering all bases on everything to do with the tech involved as well as whether you are getting the best bang for your buck. Without any further ado, lets begin with an overview of the technical specifications:

Technical Specifications:

  • Steel Series Rival 700 Mouse
  • Pixart PMW 3360 Optical Gaming Sensor
  • Counts per inch: 16,000 CPI
  • Malfunction Speed: 300 IPS
  • Malfunction Acceleration: 50g
  • Polling Rate: 1000 Mhz/ 1 Ms
  • Zero Hardware Acceleration
  • MSRP: $99.99

The Rival 700’s optical sensor can be swapped with a laser sensor (sold separately for $24) in which case the specifications of the mouse become:

  • Pixart ADNS 9800 Laser Gaming Sensor
  • Counts per inch: 8200 CPI
  • Malfunction Speed: 150 IPS
  • Malfunction Acceleration: 30g
  • MSRP: $24

A Sensor-y Question: To Laser or Not to Laser

Right of the bat, the question becomes which sensor is preferable and while there is a greater debate surrounding this question the general answer is usually: the optical sensor. The first thing you should know is that technically speaking, both Optical Sensors and Laser Sensors are actually optical mice. The way modern mice work is that they have a tiny sensor (much like the CMOS sensor in your smartphone camera, but much smaller) which takes images at a very fast speed and feeds them to a tiny processor – which determines how the mouse has moved.

So called Optical Sensor mice usually use an LED to illuminate the surface for the sensor. Traditionally red light was used, since that was the most economical to produce and also the wavelength with the least diffraction in the visible spectrum (blue light technically has the most discerning power but has its own plethora of issues as well as the fact that blue LEDs are expensive). Nowadays however, optical mice are starting to move into the non-visible spectrum as well. Laser Sensors on the other hand utilize an infrared laser that is usually invisible to the naked eye – but perfectly visible to the imaging sensor. The use of invisible infrared light means that the mouse is able to work on much higher CPI numbers.

In the old days Optical mice were usually limited to 800 CPI whiles laser mice started from around 2000 CPI. The added resolution however, came with a caveat: due to the nature of a laser, the behavior of the pointer started to change on different surfaces as well as on different speeds. So someone out on the market looking to buy a mouse would have had to choose between the reliability of an optical or the high CPI of a laser mouse.

The Steel Series Rival 700 however, is testament to the fact that we have come a very long way from that. Boasting a CPI number of 16,000 this optical mouse offers the very best of both worlds. So how did the Rival 700 achieve this? Remember how I said that even optical mice are starting to shift towards the non visible spectrum? Well, that is exactly the path the Rival 700 takes. Of course it begs the question: how do you differentiate between optical mice and laser mice. Well, even though the spectrum of the light used tends to be mostly in the non-visible spectrum, the nature of the light is still that of a wide-band light source (think bulb). Where as laser mice, as the name indicates, use a focused laser which is a narrow-band light source. This distinction means that you still get the nature of a traditional optical mouse but with the resolution of a laser.

Unboxing, Contents and Build Quality

The Steel Series Rival 700 has a retail price of $94 (on Amazon) and ships in a multi layered box with a printed cardboard cover. The pictures of the box art can be seen above and Steel Series has used their iconic grey-black aesthetic to good use here. The printed box art cover contains a wealth of information on it including its tactile capability as well as the specifications of the default sensor.

The Rival 700 in all its glory

There are a total of 5 transparent plastic seals located on the box, which ensure that the package has not been opened. 2 of these are found on the top of the box and 2 at the bottom. Once you remove the cardboard cover which contains the box art, you can locate the final seal – which can be found on the side of the actual box. The inside of the box uses an interesting mechanic and opens up sideways to instantly showcase the Rival 700 in all its glory.

Unboxing Gallery with Annotations

The contents of the box inside the box inside the box (boxception?) reveal two wires and some documentation. The setup of the mouse is pretty straightforward and the manual contains translations of the complete process in multiple languages. Steel series has given gamers a beautifully sleeved black cable as the primary wire and also helpfully included a non-sleeved plastic wire as backup in case anything should go wrong with the original wire. Gone are the days where a broken wire would mean the loss of an expensive piece of hardware, now you can simply swap in the backup or failing even that – buy another for cheap from Steel Series.

The data port has a tiny switch which clicks into place once you insert the data plug. It needs to be pushed back if you want to remove the wire for any reason.

As far as the build quality is concerned, it is simply superb. Both wires (including the backup) have a gold plated end and feature sturdy construction. The entire mouse feels and handles like a premium product with the non-slip material helping in hour long sessions of intense gaming with sweaty hands. Unlike some other devices where a huge amount of custom buttons have been dumped onto the mouse, the Rival 700 only contains 3 custom map-able buttons – all of which are very very intuitive to use. There are two buttons just under the head in a horizontal orientation and a vertically oriented one just underneath them. Steel Series has also put in a small metal landmark to help navigate the buttons.

Both wires for the mouse are gold plated. One is sleeved, while the other is plain.

For me personally, the grip of the mouse was extremely comfortable – although this is something completely subjective and can vary from person to person. Those used to a very large claw grip might not feel entirely at home with this particular mouse. The tactile feedback itself is generated by a single motor but is readily customize-able. The sensor itself is of extremely high quality – and one of the best out there. The mouse also contains an in-built Steel Series Engine firmware for plug and play support although the full compliment of its features will not be available until the Steel Series Engine 3 software isn’t installed on your computer.

Software Support: Steel Series Engine 3 and GameSense

I’ll start with the review of the hard built software of the mouse. Previous iterations of mouse with in-built firmware haven’t gone really well. They are prone to constant glitching and can sometimes take a lot of time  to boot up. The Rival 700 however, has none of these defects. Not only does the in-built Steel Series engine is very fast to boot up – it does not disrupt the mouse’s productivity while it is doing so. The inbuilt LCD in the Rival 700 is also not a gimmick, if you want plug and play support and want to change critical settings such as the CPI Profiles or the Polling Rate, you can use the LCD to access the inbuilt software without installing anything on your PC.

You have a very wide variety of options to choose from the in in-built setting, CPI is adjustable up to 16000 as well as the polling rate, which can be changed from 125 Hz all the way up to a maximum of 1000 Hz. The lift cut off rate has two values and can be adjusted accordingly and finally – you can choose to turn the menu button (the one that brings up in the in-built menu) on or off. If you turn it off you can use it as a fourth map-able button that can be used in-game.

Moving to the Steel Series Engine 3 (should you choose to install it) you have a very wide variety of options and customization that you can load onto the Rival 700. As far as the actual functionality goes, you can set the CPI profiles form here as well as set the angle adjustment. Everything that can be changed from the inbuilt engine can be changed from here as well. As far as the customization of the lighting goes, you can set the hue as well as the lighting patterns from the control panel here.

Lastly, lets move on to GameSense. You might have noticed that I haven’t talked much about the tactile feedback feature of the mouse for quite some time now. This is because at the time of writing, the complete functionality of the haptic feedback is limited to just 3 games: Dota 2, CS:Go and Minecraft. If you are a gamer that falls into one of these categories then you are in luck but if you don’t, then unfortunately you will not be able to make complete use of the haptic feedback of the mouse. It might be possible to send up a custom configuration of rumble feedback delivered to the mouse as you would a normal controller – but since that would be pretty complicated to setup for an average gamer, we will be discounting that.

The Rival 700’s fantastic sensor allows it to work on a very wide variety of surfaces.

As far as support in the aforementioned games go, it is perfectly seamless. You can choose to get different kinds of haptic feedbacks for various events in Dota 2 and you can even configure the lighting of the mouse to mimic HP and mana levels of your heroes. The vibration feature has been specifically designed so it resonates upwards into the palm of your hand as to not be distracting. In these 3 games, GameSense offers a very vast amount of flexibility to users to configure the haptic feedback of the Rival 700.

So in conclusion, the in-built software support as well as Steel Series Engine 3 is amazing – all buttons are fully map-able and the GUI is pretty intuitive. As far as GameSense goes however, unless you are a die hard Dota 2, CS:Go or Minecraft gamer, you will unfortunately be disappointed in that regard.

Testing Methodology  – Putting Steel Series’ Claims To The Test and More

If this was any other site we would be giving you a subjective experience of how the good the mouse is in a different use case scenarios – but since you are reading WCCFTech, we aren’t going to do that. We have prepared a full compliment of benchmark suite dedicated to testing the hardware of the mouse and show you just how good the sensor actually is. We will be using an open-source benchmark available on GitHub. Let’s begin with the testing methodology:

We will be testing the mouse at two CPI settings, namely 800 CPI and 16000 CPI. The rationale behind this is that this scaling will cover pretty much all use case scenarios that lie in-between. Due to the mouse sensor becoming more sensitive as the CPI increases (which also means that slight distortion in the imaging feeds gets amplified into errors) the error rate of a mouse is usually higher at the top end. This is of course, not a fault in this specific product but how the technology works but various sensors can compensate for this problem to various degrees – and this is what we will be testing. We will be looking at the following aspects of the mouse:

  • X&Y Count against Time
  • X&Y Velocity against Time
  • Update Time/Interval against Time

The first aspect (X&Y Count) will look at how accurate the sensor tracking the horizontal and vertical displacement of the surface underneath the mouse. We will be checking that at both CPI levels and at different tracking speeds. Since this is usually in the first order, most mice fare pretty well here. Then we come to the rate of change of the X&Y Count – also known as X&Y Velocity and here is where we will start to see huge differences between the high quality sensor and a low quality one. Finally we are going to put to test the manufacturers claims of the Rival 700 supporting a 1000 Mhz polling rate and see just what exactly is the Update Rate that our benchmark detects at the highest polling rate.

So how do you interpret the graph? The waveform itself, and its amplitude will simply be displaying the mouse tracking me moving it in approximate square. Any changes or distortion in the waveform or amplitude simply mean I was not able to make a precise square. What we are really looking for are the outliers that are not part of the graph – these represent errors made by the mouse in judging where the surface has moved. So without any further ado lets begin:

First Order Testing: X&Y Count

The Rival 700 has one of the cleanest wave forms we have seen. In first order testing and at low CPI, most high quality mouse usually fare quite well – but the Rival 700 exceeds expectations even at 16000 CPI. In fact the only time we ever saw the slightest sign of any discrepancies was at very high tracking speeds and moderate CPI – and even then the outliers were negligible in nature. The first graph shows the waveform tested at 800 CPI and as you can see all plot points are perfectly in-line with the expected wave form.  There is no significant outlier present.

The second graph shows the waveform (of the same tracking movement) at 16000 CPI and the wave form is still completely clean. No outlier point was found in the testing.

The last one shows the waveform at very fast tracking speeds with CPI set at 1600  and it is here that you start to see the first signs of anything less than perfect tracking. While we can see a few outliers here and there it still remains one of the cleanest waveforms we have ever seen – I have a included a comparison with the Razer Mamba to show you what I mean at the end of the page.

Second Order Testing: X&Y Velocity

Now lets talk about the rate of change of the X&Y position that the mouse is tracking – in other words the X&Y velocity. Every single mouse will show you errors and outliers at this stage (since any discrepancy is amplified in second order testing) but the Rival 700 continues to exceed our expectations.

We saw very clean waveforms at 800 CPI with a few outliers, all of which were successfully ignored by the tracking system in the Rival 700.

As we moved on to the 16000 CPI level, the outliers increased in number as expected but the mouse still did a very good job of ignoring the misleading plot points. For fear of sounding like a broken record, I have to re-iterate that this is once again, one of the cleanest waveforms we have seen at the 16000 CPI level.

As far as fast tracking goes, the Rival 700 continued to impress us and the amount of outliers that were statistically significant (the red line near the end shows the tracking system incorrectly following a misleading plot point) occurred less than 0.0001% of the time – in other words, completely negligible.

Polling Rate Testing

Steel Series claims that the Rival 700 mouse can sustain a polling rate of 1000 Mhz across all use case scenarios but we have seen instances in the past where this was not true. We put the mouse to the test and it was able to sustain an update time of exactly 1 ms throughout our entire suite of tests – ranging from 800 CPI to 16000 CPI as well as fast and slow tracking speeds.

Benchmark Comparison to Other 16000 DPI Mice

Fortunately for our readers, we tested another 16000 DPI optical mouse (the Razer Mamba Review) with this custom benchmark suite a while back and that will allow me to show just how good the sensor on this device really is. Given below are the benchmarks from the Razer Mamba which is priced at $149 and is a wireless mouse (the fact that its wireless should have no effect on the X&Y Count and X&Y Velocity rates. It can theoretically have some effect on the reported polling rate so we are going to ignore that for this comparison):

Right of the bat, our readers can see for themselves, what I meant when I said that the Rival 700 has some of the cleanest waveforms I have had the pleasure of seeing. The Mamba was tested at 400 CPI level and still showed quite a lot of outliers with a relatively dirtier waveform. At slow speeds, it was able to ignore most of them but at high speeds, it showed a much higher number of inaccurate trackings.

Moving on to the X&Y Velocity, you can eyeball the amount of outliers present here as well and compare it to those of the Rival 700. The Mamba is one of the best wireless mouse out there and has a 5G Laser sensor but even it pales in comparison to the rock solid performance of the Rival 700. For most of the gamers out there a slight deviation from a 1:1 track wont matter, but if you want the best bang for your buck, or are a pro gamer who wants a true 1:1 tracking experience, trust us when we say this: You cannot go wrong with the Rival 700.

Parting Thoughts on the Rival 700

The Rival 700 is a great piece of hardware with some great software support. It has the added bonus of having GameSense (the core engine behind haptic feedback) but I wont really stress too much on it since unless your gaming portfolio is limited to a total of three games, its not going to help you much. At this point in time, and without support for more games, the haptic feedback feature of Rival 700 is pretty much a gimmick.

If SteelSeries were to spend some more time and resource on it however and make a general purpose interface for haptic feedback that is compatible across a wide variety of games – the Rival 700 would quickly become a legend among pointing devices. My only real concern is that of a very subjective nature. I for one, am completely at home with the design of the mouse but gamers who are used to a large clawgrip design might not be.

I will still happily give the Rival 700 a 9/10 as well as the Editor’s Choice Award because the simple fact of the matter is that in all our testing, the Rival 700 depicts the top 1 percentile of tracking excellence. The accuracy and reliability of the hardware and software is very impressive and I have no qualms in saying  that it has one of the cleanest tracking motions we have ever seen.

wccf-award
With malfunction speeds and accelerations far exceeding that of most devices on the market right now, you can crank up that APM as high as you want without worrying about your hardware not being able to keep up. Professional gamers usually look for a mouse that is as close to 1:1 tracking as possible and so far, the Rival 700 from Steel Series tops the list. In fact you would be hard pressed to find any flaw in its tracking capabilities at any level of CPI or playing speed. So if you are a gamer that is searching for a mouse in this price bracket with absolutely top of the line performance; you can’t go wrong with the Rival 700.

9.0

An exceedingly high quality optical sensor coupled with with great software and tactile feedback makes this mouse a must buy for anyone shopping in this price bracket.

Performance9.5
Value8
Design & Aesthetics9
Features9.5

Pros

  • High quality build.
  • Comfortable ergonomics.
  • Advanced optical sensor.
  • Exceptional software support with the Steelseries Engine 3.
  • Provides tactile feedback.
  • Can be customized using the in-built SSE.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • GameSense only works with three games: Dota 2, CS: Go & Minecraft.
  • Aesthetics and mouse grip preference might vary according to taste.
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