PC gaming can be an expensive hobby. Unless you’re spending big, outfitting your gaming rig often means making trade-offs to come away with the best bang for your buck. With the Rival 3 gaming mouse, SteelSeries wants to save you the trouble by delivering a high-performance gaming mouse that doesn’t break the bank. Retailing for only $29.99 (see it at Amazon), it’s affordably priced – but does it compete with the big boys costing two or three times as much?
Design and Features
The Rival 3 is a simple six-button mouse. At $29.99, this is what I expect to see since any more than that usually comes with a higher price. It features an ambidextrous design, so the left and ride sides are mirrored, but with the thumb buttons positioned on the left side, it’s best suited for right-handed gamers.
The Rival 3 is a mid-sized mouse that’s 120.6mm long, 67mm wide, and 37.9 mm tall. In the picture above, I have it positioned between the Logitech G502 Hero, a larger gaming mouse that’s easy to palm grip, and the G305 Lightspeed, which is middle-to-small sized and perfect for claw and fingertip gamers. The Rival 3 fits almost perfectly between them but feels very different in the hand compared to either.
Compared to either of the Logitech mice and even my beloved Razer Viper, the Rival 3 is much more suited to claw or fingertip grips. The sculpting of the mouse drops off sharply after the peak of its arc which made me feel like the heel of my hand was dragging on my desk if I used a palm grip. It’s very similar to the Glorious PC Gaming Race Model O with how it feels in the hand. The shorter heel was a problem at first because I shift between grip types. It turned out to be a good thing, however, because being forced into a claw grip made me feel more agile in shooters
The Rival 3 isn’t what I would consider an ultralight, but at 77 grams, it’s still a very lightweight mouse that felt like an extension of my hand. SteelSeries didn’t follow the recent trend of filling the mouse’s frame with holes and instead went with a normal, very sturdy, matte black frame. Even though it’s lightweight, the mouse doesn’t flex when squeezed. I had that problem with my hole-filled Cooler Master MM710 and G-Wolves Skoll mice and even triggered side buttons by mistake because of it. If a little extra weight makes for a more reliable mouse, that’s a trade I’m willing to make.
Under the hood, the Rival 3 is packing SteelSeries’ TrueMove Core optical sensor. It’s a scaled-back version of its premiere TrueMove3 sensor found in the high end of the Rival series. It’s clear that the sensor is one of the ways that SteelSeries kept the price so reasonable. It features a lower maximum DPI of 8500, which is a far cry less than the 20,000 found in flagship mice like the Razer Basilisk Ultimate (though is still quite high). It also features a lower maximum speed of 300 inches per second and 35G acceleration versus the 350+ and 50G offered by the TrueMove3. The polling rate used is the same 1000Hz standard found in most gaming mice.
These are smart trade-offs because, while the TrueMove Core may technically be less capable, in real-world gameplay, I wasn’t able to notice any difference at all. DPI is the one exception but 8500 is still unusably high for me and should still be sufficient for gamers who prefer high DPI and low sensitivity.
SteelSeries trimmed down the sensor but they didn’t cut corners with the switches. The triggers use the same mechanical switches found in the company’s most premium gaming mice. The clicks are quieter than those in Logitech G gaming mice but offer tremendous durability at 60 million clicks. Compared to the G Pro Wireless, that’s an additional 10 million clicks for one fifth the price.
With such a limited button count, programmability is less of a concern – but that doesn’t mean SteelSeries skimped on options. Inside the SteelSeries Engine, you’re able to customize your DPI and save up to five onboard profiles, adjust acceleration, and assign macros and shortcuts to each button. SteelSeries really made programming simple yet full-featured with an assortment of Windows shortcuts, keyboard functions, and media buttons to choose from.
The software also allows you to customize the mouse’s three lighting zones. The presets are limited but I was impressed at how customizable the lighting was within the ColorShift preset. I enjoyed being able to set my own gradients for how the colors would blend for each section. The whole process was very intuitive and I had a mouse that matched the rest of my setup within just a few minutes. If you have other SteelSeries peripherals, you can also match lighting effects using PrismSync.
The most important quality of any gaming mouse is how it performs in games, and it’s here that the Rival 3 really earns its kudos. I test my mice in shooters and, recently, I’ve added Adobe Photoshop into the test rotation as well. What I look for in gaming mice is precision and responsiveness, elements that are absolutely essential in competitive titles like Apex Legends. Being able to draw pixel-perfect lines and curves is equally important, and Photoshop helps to show just how reliable a mouse sensor is.
Despite slightly lower on-paper specs, the Rival 3 proved to be incredibly capable. It never once felt less than accurate, whether I was playing Apex, Battlefield V, or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. If I missed a shot, it was because my aim was off. I could switch between my Razer Viper Ultimate and the Rival 3 without missing a beat.
The same was true in Photoshop. I was able to easily trace shapes without experiencing any kind of snapping or filtering to interrupt my workflow. The TrueMove Core holds up where it matters most and delivers amazing accuracy for the price.
That isn’t to say the Rival 3 is perfect. I wish SteelSeries had outfitted it with PTFE for a slightly faster glide, and I’m always a fan of braided cables instead of rubber for aesthetics and flexibility. Both of these are nitpicks, however, because the glide is still exceptionally smooth and the cable is remarkably flexible.
The SteelSeries Rival 3 is available now for $29.99 at major retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM