So many gaming mice today are the equivalent of mobile raves. They have bold styling, flashy LEDs, and light shows that would put most clubs to absolute shame. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but many gaming mouse are undoubtedly… bold… in their styling. Not every gamer, however, is into the glitz and the flash. If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say that most of them, in fact, probably aren’t. They want a straightforward mouse that works well and has a great set of features, but they’ll leave the pulsating LEDs to someone else. That’s where the SteelSeries Xai Laser Mouse comes into play.
For those of you that don’t know, SteelSeries has built quite the reputation for their high quality performance hardware like keyboards and wireless headsets. Their engineers are seemingly single-minded in their approach — simplicity on the outside with serious hardware under the hood.
Before we dive into the hardware itself, let’s take a look at the software that backs this mouse up. The software is divided into four separate pages, though you’ll spend most of your time on the first as that’s where you can do things like customize the buttons from pre-defined options.
The second panel has an absolutely insane number of hardware tweaks, allowing gamers to really fine-tune the Xai to their liking. You can change the polling rate, DPI, and even advanced features like FreeMove and ExactAim are found here. Strangely, even the LCD screen located underneath the mouse has adjustments for contrast and brightness on this screen.
Instead of loading the default Windows mouse control screen, SteelSeries has opted to create their own screen. Not only is this more appealing visually, but it actually makes tweaking the mouse surprisingly easy and painless. For newer gamers, this integration makes everything easier because all your mouse options are found on one screen.
The fourth page indicates the version of the firmware and software that is currently running on your machine, useful but not essential, especially considering SteelSeries includes an app to monitor for both hardware and firmware updates.
We did notice that, strangely, SteelSeries chose to hide the macro customization options. When you compare this choice with Microsoft, Logitech, and Razer, all of whom place macro customization front and center in their software, it seems rather strange. Truthfully, this omission (error?) might cause a few newbies to stumble around, but it isn’t hard to find and the editor itself is perfectly good at setting up your macro commands.
Other than some language oddities (SteelSeries opted for using CPI instead of DPI, a debate we can have later) and the odd macro placement, we really liked the software. Options were slightly limited for each button’s customization because there is only a single drop-down menu of options, but we still thought it was easy-to-use and friendly. We also were a fan of the instant “lefty mode” which immediately swaps the functionality of the mouse to cater to left-handed players. Yes, we FINALLY have a mouse for lefties!
The first thing we noticed about this mouse was how comfortable it was. Palm-grip users will be right at home with the mouse’s delicate contours and its nice shape which cups your hand perfectly. The rubberized texture really adds to the experience and makes the mouse feel natural in your hand.
The features SteelSeries managed to jam into this mouse is astounding. There are eight programmable buttons, a scroll wheel (vertical scrolling only), and a DPI-switching button. Six of the eight buttons support macro customization — buttons that do NOT support macros are the scroll wheel, the right mouse button, and the DPI button. A little bit of a disappointment, but six macro buttons is still impressive.
The DPI button is one of our favorites. Push it and you flip from your primary DPI to your secondary. Push it again and you’re back at the primary. An LED indicates which DPI you are currently using. It’s not as sophisticated as some other solutions out there, but the simplicity is nice and, during gaming, switching between 2 DPIs is usually all that is required. With a little trial and error, you can find the ideal DPIs for you and switching between them will be a breeze.
The lack of horizontal scrolling might be a deal-breaker to some, but we didn’t mind it. Most games don’t support horizontal scrolling, so we can’t fault SteelSeries for not including it in the Xai.
The lack of a dedicated profile switch, however, was more of an issue. If you’re a gamer that thrives on having the ability to easily switch between layouts, then this problem will be a big one. Setting the two buttons on the right-hand side of the mouse (for righties) to switch between profiles is less than ideal and, evidently, the Xai expects you to flip the mouse over and use the LCD screen in combination with the DPI button to get to the profile you want. Considering that most other gaming mice can jam as many as 10 buttons onto their mice, we were really disturbed to find the lack of a dedicated profile button.
The sensor itself was fantastic, working on a variety of cloth, glass, and anything else we threw at it. It delivered precise tracking without a hitch even with the DPI jacked all the way up to 5,000.
SteelSeries clearly put a lot of thought into this mouse and it shows. The rubberized surfaces, the careful layout of the menus, and the overall comfort and solid feeling of the mouse point to a product that is both well-built and well-designed. We really liked this mouse quite a bit, even though it doesn’t bring anything new or revolutionary to the table. It takes the no-frills approach to gaming and succeeds widely.
Steelseries Xai Laser Mouse