The design of the SteelSeries Rival 5 mouse is, apparently, based on a chameleon. Its colour-changing lights—in response to in-game events, for some titles—are certainly part of this, but its most chameleonic qualities lie in its “multi-genre” appeal. Where a lot of gaming mice try to specialise, sticking dozens of side buttons on an MMO mouse or emphasising light weight and precision tracking above all else on an FPS mouse, the Rival 5 is something of a jack of all trades. And while it might not be the master of any particular arena—if you really want the best-performing mouse for a particular genre, you’ll always want to go down the specialist route—it does a more than adequate job across the board, making it an easy recommendation for anyone who plays a wide variety of games.
Weighing in at 85g, the Rival 5 is relatively lightweight. It glides around effortlessly, with none of the fatigue and cramping that can set in with a heavier mouse, even in a marathon, multi-hour play session. But it also feels sturdy under the hand, and can keep up with the frantic, energetic movements that often come with playing fast-paced games. It’s incredibly responsive, too, with customisable sensitivity of up to 18000 DPI, and a polling rate of 1000 Hz. I’ve never had any issue with precision, even in the heat of the moment—helped by sensors that disable movement as soon as the mouse is more than a couple of millimeters off the surface, allowing you to quickly and easily reposition on the fly.
The grip is comfortable, sitting nicely under the hand with ample space to rest the palm while still keeping fingers at the ready on all its buttons. It’s right-handed only (sorry, lefties), but the side buttons are situated nicely above and in front of a nice thumb rest panel, avoiding the accidental side clicks that can come with less optimal layouts. All in all, the Rival 5 feels great to use: light, sturdy, responsive, and comfortable, with nice button placement that keeps its nine buttons readily accessible without much straining to reach or accidental clicks.
That said, a couple of the buttons are slightly awkward. Button 9, in particular, sits slightly behind the scroll wheel on the top of the mouse, requiring a mildly uncomfortable bend of the middle finger if you want to hit it without moving your whole hand. By default, it’s the button that lets you switch between DPI presets, so it’s not something you’ll be hitting all that often, and it can still be useful for non-urgent actions that aren’t frequent but still crop up often enough to be worth having on the mouse, like a shortcut to your inventory in an RPG. Buttons 6 and 7 are a joint “flick” type setup that operates a bit like a lightswitch: press down for 6, and use your thumb to sort of flick it upwards for 7. It feels a little odd, at first, but once you get used to it, it works well enough—and is a rather ingenious way of squeezing an extra button into the mix without taking up much extra real estate.
Those nine buttons are a big part of what makes the Rival 5 work so well as a hybrid-genre mouse. The layout is such that in games where you don’t want lots of unnecessary extra buttons getting in the way, like shooters, they don’t; you can comfortably use the ones you need and ignore the rest. But there are also enough extra buttons to be a big help in games like MMOs and MOBAs, that typically have a lot of abilities. Even if you leave Button 9 at its DPI-toggle standard, the five side buttons work well for setting up an array of frequent-use attacks and “Oh shit!” buttons—those abilities you need to be able to pull out in an emergency with as little reaction time as possible. It’s a nice balance.
The Rival 5 comes with some decent customisation options through the SteelSeries GG software. Each profile you create has five different sensitivity levels to toggle between, each of which you can manually set to anywhere from 100 to 18,000 DPI. And while I can’t imagine ever needing five different levels for one game, it’s nice to be able to have a “generic” profile with a few different options for different tasks, or to be able to flick between high sensitivity in-game and something a little lower for menu navigation. You can also adjust acceleration and deceleration, lower the polling rate from the 1,000 Hz default, and adjust the level of angle snapping to help when you’re trying to move your mouse in straight lines.
Button mapping includes all your standard keyboard and mouse keys, as well as things like media keys, standard OS shortcuts like copy and paste, and even application launches. Each button offers a variety of options for different behaviours: a standard single click, rapid fire while held, repeat a set number of times with each click, toggle rapid fire, or toggle a button-held state, with the ability to manually set things light repeat delay and whether a single click activates when the button is pressed or released. You can also create more complicated custom macros using a fairly straightforward macro editor. The whole customisation interface is intuitive and easy to use, with helpful tooltips for each setting if you want a bit more information.
I found the illumination settings a little trickier to wrap my head around—the settings get pretty granular with things like waveforms and cycling patterns—but the payoff is worth it with near limitless possibilities for creating different display schemes for the Rival 5’s RGB lights. Ten different light-up areas can each be configured individually, to display either a steady colour, a pulse, or a cycle of different colours. You can also set up some illumination that reacts when you press a button, and with some free plugins, the Rival 5 can respond to in-game events for some games, like League of Legends and Minecraft.
What really rounds out the customisation suite and the Rival 5’s chameleon-like qualities is the ability to create multiple config profiles and tie them to different apps, so the mouse automatically switches whenever that software is the active window. It’s not limited to start-up, either—if you tab between different apps with different profile settings, the mouse will switch accordingly. This isn’t unique to the Rival 5, but it still rounds out the whole “multi-genre” deal by making switching between profiles as effortless as possible.
(And honestly, even though it’s nominally a gaming mouse, having dedicated profiles with custom shortcuts for things like Photoshop, or even just cycling through browser tabs with the side buttons, is a godsend when you can just set and forget the profile switching. The Rival 5’s versatility goes beyond just games.)
What all this means is that, unless you desperately need a mouse designed specifically with one genre in mind, the SteelSeries Rival 5 is an easy recommendation. Its ergonomic design, light weight, responsiveness, and clever button layout make it play nicely with everything from the precision demands of an FPS to button-heavy MMOs right of the box, and a wealth of customisation options mean you can tailor the mouse to the different demands of each game you play. It’s also relatively affordable as gaming mice go, with plenty of bang for its buck in terms of both performance and versatility. If you want a mouse for everyday use that can do everything and do it well, the Rival 5 is a great choice.
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