Some people don’t mind spending a few hundred dollars on a mouse. These are the same people who have the latest and greatest motherboards, graphics cards and CPUs in their PCs, super-high resolution LCDs with super-fast refresh rates, and copious amounts of Doritos and Mountain Dew on hand (not). The SteelSeries Sensei Wireless takes a tried and tested competition-grade mouse and makes it wireless.
What Is It?
The $129 Sensei becomes $229 when you cut that cord and move to the wireless version. For that extra hundred dollars, you get a fancy wireless charging pad that also functions as a wireless receiver for the mouse, milled out of an aluminium plate and some rubberised plastic.
The plate charges the Sensei Wireless with the help of three pop-up pins — place the mouse on the pad, the pins make connection with corresponding pads on the mouse’s base, and precious battery power is restored. This not-quite-inductive charging is so much more convenient than changing out AAs, or even plugging the mouse in directly.
What Is It Good At?
The Sensei Wireless is really solid. It may be built of plastic — corona treated (rubberised) plastic across the fingergrips and the entire top of the mouse, alongside some piano black plastic accents — but it’s strong plastic. The aluminium charging plate is the stronger of the two, but the mouse certainly feels like it’ll stand up to years of punishing use — like the Logitech MX518 I compared it directly to.
On any mouse, the scroll wheel is usually its weakest point, so it’s reassuring to see that SteelSeries has paid due care to the Sensei Wireless’s central spinner. There are noticeable detents as you scroll the wheel up or down — there’s no free-spinning mode, and you’re always able to feel the effect of the scroll wheel under your finger as action is replicated on screen. For a gaming mouse, this is an absolute necessity; a loose or free-spinning mousewheel means you’re probably going to miss that crucial weapon change in Counter-Strike.
In terms of wireless performance, the Sensei Wireless is solid and consistent. There’s no noticeable inherent acceleration in the sensor that SteelSeries has put in this device; this is a crucial element of purchasing a mouse if you’ll be using it for fast-paced twitch gaming. For everyday usage — browsing the Internet, scrolling away through documents, using the forward and back buttons on the Sensei Wireless’s side — I couldn’t ask for more. Bluetooth range is excellent, and I tested the Sensei Wireless out to 10 metres distance without a single jitter or drop-off in smooth mouse movement. If you don’t want wireless, you can connect the Sensei Wireless’s bespoke microUSB cord directly to the mouse and charge while using it.
The Sensei Wireless’s ambidextrous shape means it suits both left- and right-handed users. I tend to prefer ambidextrous mice rather than shaped ones — even though I use a MX518 every day — and this SteelSeries mouse is both the right shape and the right size for both of my (probably?) regular hands. The mouse itself measures 129mm long, 69mm wide and 41mm tall, not far off the size of the venerable Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse.
Installing SteelSeries’ Engine 3 software is optional, but highly recommended if you’re using the Sensei Wireless; it lets you change the colour of the mouse and charging plates’ full RGB LEDs, and even lets you sync your settings across different PCs and devices and installations with SteelSeries CloudSync. More importantly than any visual adjustment, though, SteelSeries Engine 3 lets you adjust the bindings of any button, or of the action of scrolling up or down.
With eight individual buttons on the Sensei Wireless — two on either side, left and right mains, the scroll wheel click and a secondary button behind the school wheel — there’s a lot of adjustment to be made. You can also set up macros to assign to a button, set up a CPI toggle to change sensitivity on the fly (quick-scopers rejoice), and choose between one of three preset battery usage modes.
Acceleration and deceleration rates can be set in software, as can polling rate, lift distance, angle snapping, smart sensor sleep; you can save all of these settings in individual configurations or use a one-size-fits-all option. There’s a massive amount of adjustment on offer for anyone that wants to use it, although the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless does an excellent job as a gaming peripheral straight out of the box, too.
What Is It Not Good At?
Straight out of the box, battery life with my Sensei Wireless review unit was a little iffy. It took two full charge and discharge cycles to get the Sensei Wireless up to its rated 16 hours of battery life — before this point, I got five hours and then six hours out of it. This is a minor annoyance; you’ll just need to give the mouse a bit of a burn-in before it reaches its full potential.
The wireless charging and syncing pad is also pretty big, which makes the Sensei Wireless a long way from portable — if you’re heading out to a LAN, you’ll need to remember to bring along the dock as well. It’s not a huge issue, but if you were comparing it to another wireless gaming mouse, that just might tip the scales out of favour of the Sensei.
It might be just the right size and just the right shape, but I do wish that SteelSeries had incorporated some kind of removable weight system for the Sensei Wireless. I know they add probably unnecessary complexity, but I found the mouse slightly too heavy for my playstyle in Titanfall — a title where I’m used to a slightly lighter, wired clicker.
Also, if you’re reading this review you’re already well aware of it, but the Sensei Wireless is pricy. $229 is a lot to spend on a mouse, even if it’s one that is very well built and versatile and software-customisable. If you do buy it, you’d better be ready to muck around with every single setting and feature to get your money’s worth.
Should You Buy It?
Do you need an expensive wireless gaming mouse? Maybe. The Sensei Wireless clearly sits at the fringe of a rational person’s price range for a mouse; it’s not hugely different from your garden variety Logitechs, and it’s not hugely different from the wired Sensei.
But by virtue of the fact that it’s simultaneously the most fully-featured and the most reliable wireless gaming mouse I’ve used, I’d buy one. I’d buy one expecting to last for a decade, sure, but I’m of the opinion that it’s worth the asking price (barely). If you can find it on sale, even better.