We didn’t start off very well on the software side of things. After a freshly downloaded copy of the SteelSeries Engine had installed, it kept asking us to “please connect a SteelSeries engine-compatible device to start”. Another install later with the mouse hooked up to our test machine during driver installation, the driver updated the mouse (changing the default LED colour settings on the rodent’s internal memory), but when the actual Engine booted we were left with the same error.
We went hunting for solutions to this issue on the net, and one Amazon forum user suggested installing to C:\Program Files (x86)\ rather than the default C:\Program Files\ on a 64-bit system, which fixed things nicely. You’ll also need to keep in mind that for now the software is not available for Mac, though support is coming soon - and you can always ‘pre-program’ your Sensei on a PC or laptop belonging to a friend and, due to the mouse's ability to store all its settings, they'll still remain on your Mac.
Installation hiccups out of the way, Engine is a sophisticated yet easy to use piece of software. You can create an infinite number of profiles or select one of the default ones, which include Starcraft II, Counter-Strike and League of Legends, created by some of those aforementioned professional gamers. You can then export/import, duplicate, rename, activate/de-active or delete these to your heart’s content, or store up to five of them on the mouse’s internal memory to take with you wherever you go. You can also set profiles to launch with a specific game EXE.
The LCD screen too is far more than just a gimmick. You can upload a custom bitmap to truly personalise your Sensei – though no-one will be able to see it unless they turn the mouse over, it’s still handy for identification at LAN parties. Where the screen really comes into its own, however, is in letting you customise every single aspect of the mouse’s performance sans PC, courtesy of the 32-bit ARM CPU beating at the Sensei’s heart. Just keep the CPI toggle pressed for a few seconds to active the menus and then use the scroll wheel for navigation. Like on the Xai, it all works beautifully.
The Sensei also offers a frankly ridiculous amount of sensor sensitivities, settings, optimisations and customisations. As mentioned, ExactSens allows you to alter the CPI from one to 11,400 (5,700 doubled) in increments of one. Incidentally, that’s from a 10.8 megapixel sensor which manages tracking of 150 inches per second.
ExactLift lets you determine mouse lift distance with far greater flexibility than the Xai, meaning you’ll get the ideal one no matter what your gaming surface. ExactAim is fairly self-explanatory, dynamically decelerating your cursor to allow for more accurate aiming (though curiously Steel Series' definition of this feature seems to have changed since the Xai, with an entry on its site still showing the is SteelSeries ExactAim? old explanation), while ExactAccel will do the opposite. FreeMove adjusts path correction, and there’s more; suffice to say that pretty much any setting you would want to tweak can be tweaked down to the finest detail.
Programming advanced macros is also as easy as it gets, and you can even alter the colour and font of the virtual buttons representing those on the mouse in Engine. Visually we prefer software from Logitech and Microsoft, but when it comes to flexibility SteelSeries is a top contender. Needless to say, the Sensei’s actual performance in gaming is flawless. To be quite frank, we suspect most gamers won’t even be able to approach the limits of what its hardware offers.
When it comes to value, SteelSeries’ latest gaming rodent can be found online for as ‘little’ as £60, at which price it has few ambidextrous competitors. If you’re right-handed there are more alternatives, and at that stage a lot comes down to personal preference and whether you need to extra performance the Sensei offers. Regardless, with all the features it offers its price is more than reasonable.
With the Sensei, SteelSeries has crafted a worthy successor to the excellent SteelSeries Xai. Although some might bemoan the lack of adjustable weights or grips, this mouse is very well balanced and about as comfortable as ambidextrous gaming mice get - and there’s plenty of LED bling this time round to satisfy our inner gamer. The Sensei also offers some of the best, most tweakable performance of any mouse available, aided by its powerful ARM CPU and superb sensor.