Readers who keep track of me (yeah, both of you) know that my favorite gaming mouse of all time is the SteelSeries Ikari laser mouse. Not only are there great professional touches, but the mouse is simple to use and provides effective features not found in any other gaming mouse… but still it could be better.
SteelSeries was on hand at PAX 09 to show off their new gaming mice, the Kinzu optical mouse and Xai laser mouse. These mice are superior to the Ikari in some respects, but some users will still prefer the Ikari for its comfortable shape.
One of the biggest claims that mouse manufacturers have today is that their mice are “completely driverless.” Steelseries makes this claim for the Ikari, and it is true, but you still can’t get full functionality of the mouse without installing the included software. The horizontal tracking, profile switching, and several other key features must be toggled using software.
These issues are resolved starting with the new mice from SteelSeries. The Kinzu optical and Xai laser have a smaller, ambidextrous form factor, but the electronics are greatly improved over the Ikari. Here’s the marketing poop directly from the company:
SteelSeries Xai is a tool – not a gadget. The SteelSeries Xai Laser Mouse features state of the art technology and groundbreaking technical specifications. The technology, shape, size, weight and surface of the SteelSeries Xai were designed with one purpose: to enhance the users performance. Research and development was done in clode cooperation with fulltime professional gamers from the USA, Europe and Asia.
The sensor offers huge improvement over current laser mice, processing 12,000 Frames Per Second at movement speeds of 150 Inches Per Second. This level of performance results in completely reliable tracking even during the most frantic and fast-paced games. SteelSeries Xai can be fully configured via a LCD menu system on the back of the mouse, while supporting advanced macro capabilities of up to 200 strokes per button programmable through the lean software.
The mouse is now more driverless. Not only can you adjust the dpi on both the X and Y axis directly on the mouse, but you can switch profiles and adjust FreeMove (horizontal sensitivity), ExactSens (hardware sensitivity settings), ExactAim (jitter correction) and ExactRate (ability to vary the USB polling rate). Still, there are some things that can only be programmed through software, such as complex macros and profile names. The LCD graphical display on the bottom appears improved, as well, as it seems to support more characters, and graphics (as was made obvious by displaying the SteelSeries logo).
The Ikari could only change the dpi settings on the mouse, but this new LCD display features a full menu system that allows you to change many settings without using the host computer. I wasn’t able to play with these mice for very long, but the SteelSeries rep quickly showed how to scroll through menu items and drill down and adjust their settings… all without using software.
Since practically all the settings are modified on the mouse, it should work perfectly with Mac and Linux machines… basically any device with a USB port.
The Xai has 8 mouse buttons, but two of them are basically mirrors of the thumb buttons, and are usually difficult to press with your pinky. One great improvement is the high/low LED indicator, which has been moved right above the center dpi toggle switch (the Ikari’s indicator was on the side of the mouse and was hard to see).
The SteelSeries Xai addresses most of the minor issues I have with the Ikari, and is a gaming mouse everyone should be drooling over. The main feature that should interest hardcore PC gamers is the “hi/low” dpi toggle switch. Most other gaming mice force you to toggle through 3 or more dpi settings, when most of the time gamers need to switch between “run for your life” mode and “precision sniping” mode. Toggling through these modes usually sacrifices grip on the mouse while switching, which is another reason why instant switching is critical for a professional gamer. Add a 5,000 dpi sensor and the ability to change just about every setting without software, and you have a definite winner.